If there is one happy place in Spiti valley that I might visit again and again and again, it would be Pin Valley National Park. Mountains in Spiti valley are huge and mighty and mostly barren. We can see terraced pea farms sprinkled all around the villages but Pin valley is like the ultimate centre of farming. The valley is lively with plenty of green farms, maize swaying around in the wind, villagers toiling in the fields, little birdies chirping around and kids happily playing together. There is so much love in the air. And that scenery is too good for the soul. I was like constantly smiling at Pin valley cause the place has that kind of vibe. Or maybe I was seeing too much of barren mountains that I got excited like a kid when I saw the blanket of greenery 😀 So I wanted to write this post with just photos from Pin valley. The Pin Valley National Park is famous for many reasons in Spiti Valley but I did only a day visit and sharing my happy day with you guys.
Just after visiting the Dhankar Monastery we moved on to visit the Pin valley. The host of our homestay in Kaza had already told me how beautifully green it is. I could not imagine the magnitude of it though. The plan was to stay at Mud village at Pin valley. I had heard a lot about it and wanted to spend a night there. However, this time I was travelling with a couple of backpackers and they unanimously voted to halt the night at Kaza itself cos it was football world cup season and bonds had already been formed over the TV at the homestay. So even though we got packed and all that, we asked the lady of the house if we can halt for one more night and she was happy to accommodate. So off we went on a day trip to Pin valley.
On the way from Kaza to Tabo is the deviation to Pin valley. As you cross the bridge and drive on the road to Pin valley, an arch welcomes you. From then on Pin river starts to come along and you try to trace her to her roots. The Pin river joins the Spiti river which you can observe from Dhankar fort as well as when you take the diversion to Pin valley. But she did not have much water and we got down at one place where the bank was low enough for us to get into the river. The wet sludgy mud showed that river must have recently dried up there. The valley looked much more mighty with mountains towering on either side and you feel like a dwarf standing there. But the debris in the riverbed was really worrying. From villages where not more than 1000 people live, so much debris was flowing down the river and the plastic was all around. All I could think of was incoming tourists must have left it.
Contents - Read all the way though.
Kungri Gompa Spiti Valley
Driving further down comes the first sign of peas farms and people and kids playing around. It was almost noon or past noon and maybe it was a lunch break for all the kids were out on the streets. And just above we could see prayer flags fluttering. And that’s when I got to know about Kungri Monastery, the only monastery in the region. Am always up for monasteries and the stories behind them so we decided to take a turn and go up the road to the monastery. Farms surrounded the place and as I climbed the steps the huge monastery came into full view.
There was no soul as I peered at the locked doors of the prayer hall. It also housed the monks quarters and curious faces peeped out of the window. I was wondering if I should wave at them, or smile, or shout aloud asking to open the door. As soon I saw the paintings on the outer walls I realised it belongs to Nyingmapa order of Buddhism. Nyingmapa is one of the oldest forms that come under the teaching of Indian Guru Padmasambhava also known as Guru Rinpoche. You can see more of these in Bhutan. Everywhere else in Spiti valley like the Key monastery or Dhankar where of Gelugpa sect which is a much newer form of Tibetan Buddhism. Considering it is from Guru Rinpoche times the monastery should be very old but it seemed pretty new.
As I was reading the paintings on the outer wall a young monk ran down past me from one end of the quarters to the other, and then to another room, outside the monastery door, came in gave a shout to the peeping monks and ran out again and victoriously came with the key 😀 I was super happy that I could now get to see prayer hall. It was colorful with silk portraits depicting Buddhism hanging around, walls painted with stories, racks and racks of figurines of Buddha and the main deity looking down at you with the calm face. The young monk was waiting for us to leave so he could lock the door. And just like I had thought, this was a renovated monastery and the older one was outside the quarters but within the complex. The monk disappeared and when I came around to the old monastery it was locked. From outside it looked like a small couple of rooms. The maize farms were swaying by and I couldn’t wait any longer to go further into Pin Valley.
Pin Valley National Park
So the entire area is called as Pin valley national park. Has many villages spread around. The valley comes beautifully alive in July August with all the flowers. It is the beginning of the farming season and the plants come alive with flowers. The park is known for sighting snow leopard and a lot of tourists come here looking for snow leopard. If you are lucky, you might also be able to spot the elusive Himalayan Ibex. A lot of guest houses are named after ibex and snow leopards and they offer to take you on expeditions and treks. And of course good for birding too. The Himalyan Chough was flying around waiting to peck food from people’s plate. I call Chough as the crow of Himalayas. You would have spotted these birds easily, they look and caw like crows but have a yellow beak.
Pin valley is all about little birdies flying around. It was noon but the wind was pretty chilly and strong. And there were so many small birds flying around. They were not able to fly against the current of wind and it was pure entertainment to see them take off in the sky and get blown away by wind and they land somewhere else 😀 The Snowfinch had set nest on rooftops and would come out to say hi quite often. And then there were house sparrows fighting with each other. I cannot tell you how happy I was. It was a slice of heaven to just sit there and watch.
Mud Village, Pin Valley
Mud village is the last village in Pin valley. It is quite a popular spot for trekkers and wildlife lovers alike. Can I tell you this village is obsessed with chocolate 😀 Every homestay and cafe here was selling stuff made out of chocolate and nutella, including chocolate momos and chocolate rotis. The prominent guest houses in Pin valley appeared to be Tara guest house, Ibex homestay, Pin Parvati guest house. They all were close by cos Mud village is like just one street. So the choice of a guest house is purely based on how much you can afford. We did not stay there but sat for lunch at Tara guest house. After slurping on a bowl of thukpa, decided to walk around the village.
The village was filled with farms and small mud houses. It is easily the prettiest village I have seen. Look at the pictures for yourself.
Pin Valley National Park Trek
So obviously me and trek are like east and west. And I did not take any treks here. But pin valley national park is known for many treks around. Even to spot ibex and snow leopard, one needs to trek around the village to spot the animals. With the Great Himalayan National Park on one side and the Rupin Bhabha valley at another end, there are two famous trek paths that people opt for. One is the Pin Parvati pass trek which is a walk from pin valley and joins somewhere near Kheerganga. And then there is Pin Bhaba pass trek connecting Pin to Kinnaur valley. Interestingly these challenging treks are a way of life for many villagers and have been trading routes in the past. Just a word of caution that these treks are not easy and requires fitness level. Especially because these are high altitude treks.
Where to stay?
You can as well walk into the village and book, am pretty sure you should be able to find stay options. The other option is a day trip from Kaza like I did. Am pointing to few homestay options at Kaza here, choose your pick.
To book your stay at Kaza – Click here
How to Reach Pin Valley
Pin valley is reachable from Kaza town. Drive from Kaza towards Dhankar monastery. And you will come across a bridge that cuts across the Spiti river. From then on once you cross the river it is one road to Pin valley. The pin river will take care of taking you to the pin valley. The drive is scenic and pin river follows you all around.
Read more on How to Reach Spiti Valley here
Best Time to Visit Pin Valley
Am not a lover of cold weather and that is one of the reasons why I have not set on a Snow Leopard expedition. I was there in July and it was still cold and chilly even during the day times. Note that Kaza was not as cold as Pin. Pin is best visited from June to October. It does not receive much of rain but reaching Spiti during monsoon is tricky due to landslides. If you want to enjoy harsh winter, the rest of the months is your cup of tea.