If there is one happy place in Spiti valley that I might visit again and again and yet again, it would be the Pin Valley, National Park. It is so alluring!
Spiti is all about mountains. They are huge and mighty and are mostly barren. The Pin Valley is in stark contrast to it. It is the ultimate centre of farming.
The valley is lush 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. The natural scenery has a calming effect on the soul. I was constantly smiling throughout my travel in the Pin valley. Its vibe is such. Or maybe after seeing too many barren mountains, I got excited like a kid when I finally saw the blanket of greenery.
So I wanted to share this post and photos from the splendid Pin valley for you to enjoy. It would also serve as a travel guide on how to tour around Pin valley, Himachal Pradesh. The Pin Valley National Park is famous for many reasons, but I can only share what I did in a day’s visit.
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. However, I could not imagine the magnitude of it.
The plan was to stay at Mud village in the 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 stay the night at Kaza. Do you know why? Because the Football World Cup season was going on and they could not afford to stay away from the television of the homestay at Kaza.
On the way from Kaza to Tabo, there is a deviation to Pin valley. As you cross the bridge and drive on the road to Pin valley, you see the Pin river and drive all the way along until its origin.
The Pin river merges with the Spiti river. This can be observed from the Dhankar fort as well as when you take the diversion to Pin valley. The river, however, did not have much water, and we even got down at one place where the depth was low enough for us to get into the river. The wet sludgy mud showed that the river must have recently dried up there.
The valley looked even mightier with the mountains towering on either of its sides, and you feel like a dwarf standing there.
The debris in the riverbed was really worrying. It was an environmental hazard. The villages housed only about 1000 people, but the river was full of tonnes of plastic and other waste. The huge influx of tourists must also have left a great deal of waste behind.
If you are reading this, it is an earnest plea that you respect the place and do not litter around—kindly travel, keeping in mind the place's beauty.
Kungri Gompa Spiti Valley
Driving further down, we saw the first sign of pea farms, people and kids playing around it. It must have been a noon or a lunch break for all the kids who were out on the streets.
We saw the typical Buddhist prayer flags fluttering. Soon, I got to know about the Kungri Monastery, the only monastery in the region. I am always ready to visit monasteries and delve into the stories behind them. So we decided to take a turn and go up to the monastery.
Firstly, I saw huge farms, and as I climbed the steps, the huge monastery came into full view gradually. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
There was no soul in sight as I peered at the locked doors of the prayer hall. The monks’ quarters were also on the same premise. Some curious faces peeped out of the window. I wondered if I should simply wave at them, or smile, or shout aloud, asking them to open the door!!!
As soon I saw the paintings on the outer walls, I realised it belongs to the Nyingmapa order of Buddhism. Nyingmapa is one of the oldest forms of Buddhist practices that come under the teaching of the Indian Guru Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche. You can see more of these paintings in Bhutan.
Everywhere else in Spiti valley, like in the Key monastery or Dhankar Monastery, the Gelugpa sect of Buddhism is followed. It is a much newer form of Tibetan Buddhism.
As I was studying the paintings on the outer wall, a young monk ran past me from one end of the quarters and went to the other. He went to another room outside the monastery door, then returned and gave a shout to the peeping monks. Then he ran out again only to be victoriously back with the key!
I was super happy that I could now get to see the prayer hall. So I did. It was an ornate hall with colourful silk portraits hanging around. The walls were painted with Buddhist stories; there were racks full of figurines of Buddha. The huge deity looked at me with a peaceful face bearing a calm smile.
The young monk was waiting for us to leave quickly so that he could lock the door behind us. I thought that this was a renovated monastery and the older one was outside the quarters.
When I came to the old monastery, I found that it was locked. The monk with the key had also disappeared. From the outside, it looked like only a couple of rooms.
The maize farms were swaying joyously, and I couldn't wait any longer to go further into Pin Valley.
Pin Valley National Park
The entire area is called Pin valley national park and has many villages spread around.
The valley comes to life in July and August, with all the flowers blooming in their glory. It was the beginning of the farming season, and the fields could be seen at their best.
The park is also known for sighting snow leopard, and many tourists come here looking for the same. If you are lucky, you might also be able to spot the rare Himalayan Ibex. Many guesthouses are named after ibex and snow leopards, and they offer to take you on expeditions and treks to look out for them.
The area is a popular birding spot as well. We saw the Himalayan Chough flying and waiting to peck upon the food from people's plate. I call Chough as the crow of the Himalayas! They look and caw like crows but have a yellow beak.
One can see myriads of little birdies flying about the Pin valley national park. It was noon, but the wind was chilly and piercing. The birds were not able to fly against the current of wind. It was pure entertainment to see them take off in the sky! They would get blown away by wind and land somewhere else.
The Snowfinch had built its nest on rooftops and would come out to say ‘hi’ to us quite often. Then there were house sparrows, fighting with each other now and then.
I cannot tell you how happy I was. It was a slice of heaven to just sit there and watch at the antics of these little feathered friends.
Mud Village, Pin Valley, Spiti
Mud village is the last village in Pin valley. It is quite a popular spot for trekkers and wildlife lovers alike.
Would you believe it if I tell you that this village is obsessed with chocolate? Every homestay and cafe here sells stuff made out of chocolate and Nutella, including chocolate momos and chocolate rotis!
The Pin valley's prominent guest houses appeared to be Tara guest house, Ibex homestay, Pin Parvati guest house. They all were close by because Mud village is like just one street. So the choice of a guest house is purely based on how much you can afford to spend. We did not stay there but had lunch at Tara guest house. After gorging on a bowl of thupka, we decided to loiter around the village.
The village was filled with farms and little mud houses. It was easily the prettiest village I had ever seen. Look at the pictures for yourself.
Pin Valley National Park Trek
Trek and I are poles apart!
I did not venture out on any treks here. But Pin valley national park is known for many treks around. Even to spot the famous ibex and snow leopard, one needs to trek around the village.
With the Great Himalayan National Park on one side and the Rupin Bhabha valley on end, there are two famous trek paths that people from far and wide come to participate in.
One of the said treks is the Pin Parvati pass trek. It is a walk from the pin valley and joins somewhere near Kheerganga. The other one is Pin Bhaba pass trek connecting Pin to Kinnaur valley.
Interestingly these challenging treks are a part of everyday life for many villagers and have been trading routes in the past! Just a word of caution: these high altitude treks are not easy and require a certain level of fitness.
Where to stay?
You might as well just walk into the village and book a stay. Finding a comfortable place to stay is not a problem.
The other option is to take a day’s trip from Kaza as I did. Here, I am pointing a few homestay options at Kaza. Choose your pick.
To book your stay at Kaza - Click here
How to Reach Pin Valley
Pin valley is easily reachable from Kaza town. As mentioned earlier, simply drive from Kaza towards Dhankar monastery. You will come across a bridge that cuts across the Spiti river. From then on, once you cross the river, it is a one-way road to Pin valley.
The pin river will take care of taking you to the pin valley! The drive is super scenic.
Read more on How to plan your Spiti Valley Trip here
Best Time to Visit Pin Valley
I am not a big fan of cold weather. This is why I have not yet set on a Snow Leopard expedition.
I was there in July, and it was still cold and chilly! However, Kaza was not as cold as Pin. The pin is best visited between June to October. Although it does not receive much rain, visiting Spiti during the monsoon could be troublesome. Landslides are very common this time.
If you want to enjoy the harsh winter, the rest of the months are your cup of tea.
Suit yourself, but do explore Spiti.