As you go from Tabo to Kaza, Dhankar is lies on the right and Pin Valley lies on the left. If you want to stay in the Monastery you can cover Pin valley first and then head to Dhankar but we decided to visit Dhankar first and then head towards Pin Valley. However i would suggest you to visit Mud village later as the sunset is quite scenic there. We started around 9:30 from Tabo after visiting the monastery covered Dhankar Monastery, Dhankar lake and reached Mud Village around 4:00 PM.
We were all set at around 8:00 to leave from Tabo and planned to start the day with Tabo Monastery, the oldest continuously operating Buddhist enclave in both India and the Himalayas. Unfortunately the Monastery doesn’t open till 9:00 although you can enter the premises of Monastery but the rooms will remain closed till the Lama comes for the morning offerings. We spent some time covering the Monastery , there are 3-4 other temples as well within the premises and a lot of engraved stones at various places in Monastery. As the Monastery was closed we decided to climb to the roof of the Monastery , though we were not sure if we you are allowed to rooftop but we decided to go ahead and take a view of of the Monastery. The view from the roof is mesmerizing in itself. At around 9:10 Lama came for the morning prayer and we entered the Monastery along with him. There are many priceless collections of thankas (scroll paintings), manuscripts, well-preserved statues, frescos and extensive murals which cover almost every wall.
It was around 9:30 that we left Tabo to reach Dhankar which is around 30 KM and it took us around 45 mins to reach there. Dhankar is situated at the height of 3,800 metres in the Spiti Valley. There is a small village Schichling on the main road between Tabo and Kaza about 22 KM from Tabo, Dhankar is around 8 KM from there.
Dhankar was once the capital of Spiti in 17th century. It is one of the five main Buddhist centres and tourist destinations in Spiti region. There are 2 Monastery in Dhankar, a newly constructed one and another is the old one which was build using traditional materials like mud, stone and timber. The monastery was build approximately one thousand years ago and now belongs to the Gelugspa School of order since the 1450s. World Monuments Fund declared this monastery as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. A nonprofit group, Dhankar Initiative, is attempting to organize its conservation. Due to the deteriorating state of the old monastery, a new monastery was build in the village. The new Monastery also has a school for the young monks.
After visiting the Monastery we started our hike to Dhankar Lake is situated at a height of 4136 meters (13570 feet), there is a 3 KM trail going to the lake which will take you around one hour to reach to the top. The slope of the trail is quite high and it’s better to take a water bottle and some snacks with you while hiking up. Climbing at a height of 4000 meters is tedious in itself and you might need 2-3 breaks in between the hike to Dhankar Lake. In an hour, we reached the much anticipated lake and all the tiredness from hiking vanished by lust taking a look of the Lake. It spreads over a large area with crystal clear water in it. Like the Chandratal lake the color of the lake keeps on changing! Dhankar lake gives you a perfect location to spend some time in solitude, sit there and relax for some time. Watch the clouds moving over your head, feel the cold gentle breeze passing through your face and capture the beautiful landscape in your eyes. You might get tempted to camp near the lake at night but Dhankar Lake acts as a water source for the village, for the same reason camping is not allowed near the lake. For those who wants to stay at Dhankar there are 2-3 homestays available, and if you want to stay in Monastery you can ask the monks if you can.
After having Rice and Dal in the Monastery we started for Pin Valley at around 2:00 PM. Dhankar to Pin Valley is around 50 KM and takes around 2 hours. You will have to come down to Shichling to go towards Linting and then take the detour towards Pin Valley. One thing that you will notice in Pin Valley and during the entire Spiti trip is that all the mountains have different textures, colours. Mud village is located on the banks of PIN PARVATI river, Mud village is the base camp for PIN BHABHA pass and PIN PARVATI pass treks. The views in the entire Pin Valley including Mud village is just majestic, the valley is mostly virgin, serene, barren and beautiful. You will some villages in between where the population of the entire village is just 30-50 people. Pin valley is the base for Pin Valley National Park which is the natural habitat of the Snow Leopard and Himalayan Ibex. There are a couple of home stays and hotel in Mud village and more are coming as the number of tourists is increasing year by year.
With the excitement of visiting Kaza the headquarters of Spiti Valley we called it a day overlooking the beautiful valley.