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Pin Valley National Park

Pin Valley National Park is located in Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh, India. It is spread across an area of 675 sq. kms. Its exact location is 31° 6' 40" to 32° 2' 20" N Latitude and 77° 4' 21" to 78° 6' 19" E Longitude. It lies in the valley of the Pin River from which it gains its name. It is home to what is known as “the grey ghost of Himalaya” that is comprised of the snow leopard and the ibex.

On January 9, 1987 it was declared a National park. It situated in the cold desert region of the valley. This makes it inaccessible and there is many an unexplored terrain. These circumstances make it a highly conducive habitat for many species.

Nonos were the local rulers of the Spiti region. They were either the direct descendents of the king of Ladakh or they were chieftains sent by the king. Spiti was given to the one of the kings of Ladakh in the 10th century. It had an autonomous state when they was a weak ruler in Ladakh. It won its freedom from Ladakh in the Ladakh-Tibet war of 1681-1683. It came to be ruled by Raja Mansingh of Kulu. Ladakh regained control in the 18th century. The East India Company took control of Spiti in 1846. There is tension in the area because of the Tibetan occupation of China.


The vegetation in Pin Valley National Park is divided into three major zones:
• the Dry Temperate Zone (3,276 to 4,200 m.)
• the Alpine Zone (4,200 and 4,800 m.)
• the Zone of Perpetual Snow above 4,800 m.

The major types of forest found in this region are the dry alpine and dwarf junifer scrub. The most common floral varieties that can be seen in the park are bhojpatra (Betula utilis), bhutal (Juniperus mecropoda), Populus Species and Salix Species. Many herbs of medicinal value are also found here. Some of them are Ratanjot (khamad), Ephedra, Artemisia etc… One of the threatened species of trees that is found here is the Himalayan Cedar.

The most common form of wildlife that is found in this region is: Snow Leopard, Siberian Ibex (Capra ibex), Wooly Hare, Bharal (Pseudois nayaur), Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), and Tibetan Wolf (Canis lupus), Tibetan Gazzle, Himalayan Marmot (Marmota bobak), Indian Porcupine (Hystrix indica), Tibetan Wild Ass (Equus hemionus kiang), Wooly Flying Squirrel (Eupetaurus cinereus), Himalayan Brown Bear (Ursus arctos), Himalayan Black Bear (Selenarctos thibetanus) and Mouse Hare. Among the bird species are found the Snow Partridge (Lerwa lerwa), Partridge (Aleetoris choker), Billed Cough (Pijrrhocrax grackles), Bearded Vulture, Chukor, Himalayan Snow Cock (Tetraogallushim alayensis), Kestrel, Tibet Snow Finch, Snow Pigeon, Blue Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) and Golden Eagle.

The Pin River emerges from the twin glaciers of Pin and Parvati. They are located at a height of 4,802 m. They flow down to meet the Spiti river and form a tributary at the Satluj river. The other important rivers in the region are Parahio and Khamengar. There are many more glaciers, springs. There are also 12 perennial springs. Upon geological studies of the ammonite fossils found in the region, it was found that the valley was submerged under the Tethys Sea. The most common rocks found here are quartzite, phylite, schist and gneiss. Granite, shale, sandstone and limestone are also found in the mostly alkaline and calcareous soil.

Spiti district lies near the Tibetan border. To its north is Dhankar and the park encapsulates the Spiti and Lahaul districts of the state of Himachal Pradesh. To the southwest is the Great Himalayan National Park and to the south there is the Rupi Bhabha sanctuary. At Ka Dogri, the altitude is around 3,500 mts and 6,000 mts at the highest point. Due to the high altitude and extremities of temperature, there is only scanty vegetation. At some places alpine forests and Himalayan Cedar are found. But the place is abundant in herbs and plants of medicinal value.
Around the park there is a distinctive Buddhist culture. There is an abundance of shrines, monasteries and residences of lamas.

Getting There
The only way to reach the park is by foot from the nearest road route at Mikkim. The other routes are via Simla, Rohtang Pass, Tapri, Manali, Kaza and Kumzum La. There are variations based on the seasons. In summer, form July to October, this is the route taken:
• From Shimla to Kullu by Air or Bus (272 kms)
• From Kullu to Kaza by Bus via Rohtang Pass (3978m), Manali, or Kunzam Pass (4551 m) - 260 kms
• From Kaza to Mikkim by Bus or by Jeep -32 kms. Rs.1000 is the taxi tariff. There is bus to the valley at 7 am.
• Mikkim to Pin Valley National Park on foot - 10 kms

The other existing route is taken in winter:
• From Shimla to Tapri - Bus
• From Tapri to Kaza (park Head Quarters) - Bus
• From Kaza to Pin Valley National Park – On foot, 32 km to Mikkim and 10km to the Park

One of the most fascinating experiences that you can garner here is to trek at night. There are numerous rope bridges in Spiti. These are called “Jhulas.” The ropes are made of Yak hair.

Where to Stay
There are several bunkers that have been constructed by the wildlife authorities in the Pin Valley National Park. These bunkers are the most suitable mode of stay in the valley. Another mode is to camp in the night. Nearest accommodation is available in the town of Kaza. Kaza is also the administrative center of the district of Spiti.

Guesthouses and Hotels
Hotel Himalaya,
Gulling Village,
Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.
Tariff: Rs.120/-

Tourist Lodge,
Kaza, Himachal Pradesh.
Five tents with double beds and four bedrooms are on offer. Parking and catering facilities are available. This lodge remains open between May and October.
Tariff: Double room: Rs. 400/-
Tents: Rs. 250/-

Ibex Guesthouse,
Sagnam Village,
Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.
Tariff: Rs.35/-

Narzang Guesthouse,
Sagnam Village,
Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.
Tariff: Rs.50/-

You may also be asked to stay at the Kungri Monastery by the monks who are most hospitable. They are sure to invite you for a cup of tea.

When to Visit
The best time period to visit the Pin Valley National Park is between May and October when the average temperature can go up to a maximum of 25 0 C. Within this time frame, August would be the most favorable month. There is heavy snowfall in winter and the rainfall is average. The annual average precipitation is 177mm. The winter temperature can go as low as -35 0 C.

Around the Valley
Tabo Gompa is situated at an attitude of 3050 m. It is at a distance of about 48 km from the Pin Valley National Park. It is one of the largest monastery complexes in the Buddhist architecture. It was built in AD 996 by Ringchen Zangpo. The current Dalai Lama has announced that His Holiness would retire in this monastery. This complex comprises of nine temples that belong to the period between 10th to the 16th centuries. There are many similarities with respect to the sculptures, the stucco images and the wall paintings to those found in the Ajanta-Ellora cave paintings and sculptures. There is central assembly hall and it is surrounded by 33 statues of raised Bodhisattva. There ia also a four-sided statue of Sarvarid Vairocana who was one among the five Dhyani Buddhas. There is Kyil Khor or Mystic Mandala temple present in the backside of the monastery complex. Some of the most exotic faded mandalas (frescos) are found in this temple. The two famous chapels that are located in the north of the temple are those of Dromton Lhakhang and Maitreya. Pyramidal structures called “chortens” are present which are shrines that are dedicated to Guru Padmasambhava.

There is another monastery called the Kungri Gompa where 60 lamas still live at the moment. It is a 600 year old monastery. This is the home of over 300 sacred Tibetan, Tenjur and Kenjur texts. They are all wrapped in white muslin cloth.

14 kms away from Kaza is the Ki Gompa monastery. It is the oldest monastery as well as the largest. It was invaded thrice in the 19th century, by the Sikhs, the Dogras and the Ladakhis. In 1975 there was an earthquake over here. Because of his historic importance as well as the fact that there are many invaluable sacred texts in the Gompa, no photography is allowed in the Gompa.

While you indulge in the wonders of the Buddhist culture that is prevalent in this wondrous region, you can also go the Sapna Lake that is situated in the Manerang Pass. This lake is feast for the bird watchers.

The Pin Valley National park also offers something to pamper the culinary sense, the Thukpa. This is a Tibetan soup that is served in the monasteries.

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