Tabo- The National Historic Treasure of India

Around 970 AD, there was a hidden, unknown mountain face in Lahaul -Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, India. This mountain face at 10,760 feet was traced and occupied by few imperial souls – “Lamas” who wanted to practice Buddhism away from the materialistic life in the absolute peace. The simple men with the simple needs in life carved down their dwelling and meditation halls in this mountain face. Not only that; they further decorated their walls with murals and carvings. So, that’s how the mountain face got established and named as village of Cavemen, Caves or Tabo. Just beneath the foot of this cave mountains stand 1000 years old, holy monastery known as the Tabo Monastery or the “Ajanta of the Himalayas”.

Tabo - The National Historic Treasure of India

About Village Tabo

Tabo, a well-known Buddhist Pilgrimage today; is a green oasis in the middle land Spiti, just like village Nako. It lies 155 kilometers from Rekong Peo and can be reached in 5-6 hours. The village is a flat bowl shaped green valley enclosed by arid mountains from all sides. The fluttering Tibetan prayer flags, chortens and mani stones around the village are a mark of the Buddhism vibes and establishment. The greenery around the village marks they are agriculturalist and have good produce of pea, cabbage, apples etc

Entrance of village Tabo in Spiti Valley

The village Tabo has a total population of 500 and few houses. It is another Himalayan glory with lanes and by lanes. These lanes are lined by typical Spitian houses made of mud and stones with orchids around whereas others few have turned their homes to multi storied home stays and guest house. Actually, we were shocked to see how the things have changed here in 3-4 years. It seemed, that the village had been a part of time capsule advancement.

Lanes and By-lanes in Tabo Village, Spiti Valley

Anyways, we reached Tabo late evening from Rekong Peo which lies in Kinnaur, when the temperatures had already dipped. So, without wasting much time, we opted for a short walk to breathe the fresh air of beautiful village Tabo. Around 6:00 pm, most of the village seemed slept, market was shut, except few tea, coffee shops where 3-4 wrinkled, sunburn men were chatting. Then suddenly one of them asked -why are you here in winters, very few people travel this time and only few places are open. We smiled and conveyed him that we wanted to see the white Spiti Valley. We are prepared for the weather and have arranged a place to stay.

Further, we continued walking for 15 more minutes. Then saw some unfriendly dogs following us, which scared us out and we turned back to our Homestay. After chatting for hours with owners and having scrumptious local meal, we retired off to bed.

Sightseeing at Tabo

Next day was set to explore the attractions of Tabo. The small village has not many attractions. But is is well known for 1000-year-old monastery and the Caves. We felt the place itself is a attraction.

  1. Tabo Monastery (Timings: 6am to 5pm)

The Tabo Monastery also known as Tabo Chos –Khor monastery is one of the fascinating archeological complex and is proposed to be under world UNESCO heritage site list. It too is one of the oldest and pious Monasteries in the Trans Himalayan range. The monastery was initially set as advanced Buddhist learning center and until day it has maintained the Buddhist legacy with utter purity.

Tabo Monastery Entrance, Spiti Valley

The holy monastery complex is a perfect example of Indo–Tibetan art. It is walled from all sides by the tall mud walls and have arid mountain in backdrop, making it look the part of mountain itself. The complex houses 9 temples, 23 chortens (without adornments), a monk’s chamber and the nuns chamber inside. The temples inside the complex are adorned with intricate murals, frescoes, paintings and Thangkas depicting the life story of Buddha, which we really failed to understand.

Old Tabo Monastery complex - Spiti Valley
Old Tabo Monastery complex

In 1975, the Kinnaur earthquake severely damaged the old monastery. Today, Monastery stands erect but in despair state and the paintings are fading. The ongoing restoration work is under ASI (Archaeological sites of India), to preserve it as a National Treasure of India.

Mani Stones around Chortens in old Tabo Monastery
Mani Stones around Chortens in old Tabo Monastery

Just adjacent to the old stands a new Monastery and huge Tabo Gompa, which resembles exactly the Gompa’s of other monasteries of Spiti Valley.

Tabo Gompa

  1. Tabo Caves

The other fascinating attraction is the Tabo caves which can be reached after a good steep hike. The caves overlook the green village and flowing Spiti River. Not one, but several in number, these caves have narrow small openings to enter and there are rooms with in the rooms. The caves were in severe dilapidated state and some of these looked almost rudimentary.

Tabo meditation Caves

These are believed to be the mediation chambers of Monks and some are still used till day. We found one of them had a door too, which according to our guide was put recently by some villager, quoting the respective cave to be his ancestral place. Interesting!

Village Tabo view while hiking for caves
Top View of Village Tabo
  1. Tabo Helipad

Tabo Helipad lies exactly on one end of the village in between the mountains. Occasionally Helipad is used as a helipad whereas at rest times it is a playground for cricket and other adventure activities.

  1. Walkthrough the narrow lanes of village and to the river

We feel there is something in the air of Tabo – the good vibes, the positive energy and happiness. It has to be, as we are in the land of Gods. So, walk through the narrow lanes, talk to locals, say Julley and fill yourself with the positivism. Indeed, we feel the village itself is quite picturesque.

Tabo Village in Spiti Valley

  1. Star Gazing and Night Photography

Tabo and the whole Spiti Valley is a wonderful place for night photography, only if the sky is clear. So, go for it if the sky is starry. You will surely get some wonderful shots. We couldn’t try our hands because it was cloudy and snowing.

Apart this, Tabo is a base to several treks and opt for them only with the guides.

 Places to Stay 

The Village boosts about several lodges, guest houses and home stays. We have been to Tabo thrice  and have stayed at some of these. The best one’s we recommend are Phuntsok’s /Baba’s Homestay and the Tabo Monastery guest house.

Phuntsok’s Homestay lives perfectly to the name of homestay. The family treats one like a family member and will provide the utmost comfort. Homestay is operational both during summers and winters. The rooms are well furnished and have attached washrooms. Just in winters, be prepared to use the common dry pit toilets, which probably one has to use everywhere in Spiti during winters. (Charges per person per day – around Rs.1500/-).

Kitchen of Phuntsok Homestay at Tabo Village

Tabo Monastery’s guest house rooms is an apt choice for summers. These mud rooms come with attached washroom and are super warm and cozy. In winters, the guest house is usually closed. Also, while staying with them do try their delicious Tibetan and Chinese food. (Double Bed room – Charges per day – Rs.500/-).

Food at Tabo

There are several cafés and bakeries in Tabo serving various types of cuisines. Our recommendation is try one meal at Monastery’s café. Munch on their Thupka and freshly cooked Momos.

How to reach Tabo

Tabo can be reached only via road from Shimla (365 kilometers) or Manali (150 kilometers). In summers, its accessible from both sides. So, we always recommend to do a circuit trip whereas in winter, the too and fro journey can be done only from Shimla side, because of the closure of Kunzum La and Rohtang La.

Read about: Ladakh – The Land of Passes

Advised route for summers (Circuit trip) Delhi – Chandigarh – Manali – Kaza – Tabo – Nako – Rekong Peo – Rampur – Shimla – Zirakpur – Delhi or vice versa

Route for winters– Delhi – Chandigarh – Shimla – Rampur – Rekong Peo – Nako – Tabo-kaza

Expected temperature

Weather is highly unpredictable in Tabo. If at one time its sunny, other time it will be cloudy accompanied by rains and even snowfall.

Summers:  lasts from May to August or maximum mid-September. The temperature ranges from -5 degree Celsius at night to 20 degrees Celsius during day.

Winters: lasts from September to April and the temperature ranges from 4 degrees Celsius during day to -45 degree Celsius during night. Winters are extremely harsh.

Best Time to Go: The best time to travel is from May to September. If you want to see white land, then go in winters between December to march.

Tabo - The National Historic Treasure of India

Points to Remember

  • Tabo lies in rain shadow bearing zone but the temperature changes here, unexpectedly. So do carry some woolens.
  • Do spend one night in Tabo
  • Respect the local culture and religion
  • Buy a souvenir from monastery, if possible. The collected money is used for the maintenance of monastery.
  • Photography inside the monastery is prohibited to prevent damage to the artwork. Please do respect that,
  • If you are planning to travel during winters, remember the options for food and lodging are very limited and fix your stay before leaving.
  • Multiple ATM’s have opened up in Tabo, but don’t expect all of them to be in working state.
  • Till day, only BSNL connections work in Tabo
  • There is no fuel station at Tabo. The nearest one is either at Rekong Peo or Kaza.
  • At Tabo, Earlier electricity used to be there for limited hours but during our recent visit in January 2018, electricity was there for whole day as well night.
  • Most important do not litter the Himalayas. Keep them clean.

So, overall the travel to this Holy land is a bliss and it leaves you with the intriguing thoughts and questions.

If you need any more info, to plan you summer as well winter trip, please do leave a comment in the comment box. We will be happy to answer them.

Sonamarg, Kashmir – The Golden Meadows of India

If there is a heaven on earth, then it’s in Kashmir! Have you heard that? Probably yes! Even we have heard that and don’t know to which part of Kashmir, people refer as heaven. We visited Srinagar and Sonmarg during our 13 days road trip to Leh Ladakh from Delhi. And trust us Sonamarg which means the “Golden Meadows” or “Meadows of Gold” was no less than heaven.

Sonamarg - The Golden Meadows of IndiaThe green meadows on the banks of the Sindh River and the cold rustic mountains leading to Kargil from Sonamarg were completely striking. The valley enthralled us in its beauty and made us say it is a complete destination in itself.

Sonamarg lies 86 kilometers from Srinagar at an altitude 8950 feet. Till day, the place is mostly visited by pilgrims during the Holy Amarnath Yatra and by road trippers as a stopover link between Jammu and Leh.  Even we had the similar impression for the place to be just a stopover. So, after strolling at Dal Lake, Srinagar for an hour we turned our steering to reach further.

Related: Attractions on Srinagar Leh Highway

Dal Lake, Srinagar: Sonamarg, Kashmir-The Golden Meadows of India
Dal Lake, Srinagar

We reached the small town Sonamarg around 7:30 pm and it was already pitch dark. The only thing we could see in the darkness was snow-capped glistening mountains on one side and lots of resorts in a row on another side. So, the first impression was another hill town. Sad!!

But as I woke up and opened our room window, my jaw dropped down in a big Wow! I couldn’t believe my eyes and mind. The meadows in front seemed to be vast and exceptionally beautiful in the shade of light and dark. And from there we made our mind to explore Sonamarg first before heading further to Leh.

First morning look of Sonamarg after rain - The Golden Meadows of India

The valleys of Sonamarg have much to offer to nature lovers. If one side of the mountains is dotted by tall alpine trees making unique patterns than on another side there are snow clad Himalayas. Out of these majestic Peaks, one is Thajiwas glacier which seemed to be quite near but not that near. The clouds engulf the valley anytime making it look a green hamlet in the clouds.

Sonamarg - The Golden Meadows

Sightseeing in and around Sonamarg

Sonamarg – the Golden Meadows, has not many attractions. It is a place to be with nature. We recommend to find a nice spot for yourself, enjoy serene beauty, breathe fresh air and listen to the music of water.

The Golden Meadows - Sonamarg

Also Read: The complete Kashmir Itinerary

Apart from this, visit the Thajiwas Glacier, which now days is also known as Bajrangi Bhaijan Point (after the release of Bajrangi Bhaijan movie). The base of the glacier can be reached through union taxis or ponies. The drive till glacier base is memorable and fun but the ponies dung leaves you breathless on the way. We found the union rates to be bit high and touts were annoying.

Thajiwas Glacier in Sonamarg

Drive through Baltal to Zojila Pass, which lies 24 kilometers ahead from Sonamarg. At Baltal, view the gushing picturesque Sindh River flowing down in the gorge and hundreds of colorful tents set up nearby for Amarnath Pilgrims.

Drive towards Baltal from Sonamarg, kashmir

Amarnath Yatra Base Camps at Baltal near Sonamarg
Amarnath Yatra Base Camps at Baltal near Sonamarg

The Zojila Pass lies at 11, 649 feet. The road to the pass is highly curvaceous and narrow. So, the drive is thrilling for nature and adventure lovers. At one point, green Valleys are suddenly taken over by barren huge mountains and one can see huge snow walls around. One can enjoy snow sports like sledding, snow bikes and a trek to the barren mountain, at Zero point.

Snow wall at Zojila Pass - Sonamarg Sightseeing

Also read: Ladakh-The land of high Passes

Zero Point at Zojila Pass - Sonamarg Sightseeing

Just 4 kilometers from the city lay a highly reverted Nilagrad River. The water of River is believed to have some medicinal values. Sonamarg also acts as a base for some of the treks like Krishansar Lake trek, Vishansar Lake trek, Gangabal Trek, Kashmir great lakes trek etc.

Accommodations in Sonamarg

Sonamarg has various types of accommodation options ranging from budget hotel to luxury hotels to riverside camps. We suggest choosing a hotel which has glacier way. We stayed at Hotel Imperial, a mid-segment range property, which had a glacier view.

mperial Resorts - Sonamarg

You can also check the various options here.

Local Cuisines

The Golden Meadows might look like a small place but there are plenty of restaurants and hotels to enjoy the food. One can try a range of Indian, Punjabi, Chinese and Kashmiri food. We say, when in Kashmir, do try the local Kashmiri cuisines and drinks which includes Syoon Olav (Meat with Potatoes cooked in spicy gravy), Marcha-Wangan korma, Nadir-Haaq/Gogji/Monji (lotus stems cooked with Spinach or Radish)Muj Gaad (Fish with Radish)Modur Pulaav (Sweet Pulao)Kaanti (lamb pieces in red-hot gravy) and Matschgand (minced lamb meatballs in spicy red gravy) and Kahwah or Qahwa (green tea with cardamom, cinnamon etc).

Modur Pulav - Sonamarg, Kashmiri Cuisine
Modur Pullav

How to Reach Sonamarg

Sonamarg can be reached by air, bus, car, and train. The nearest airport is at Srinagar and railway station is at Jammu. From Srinagar, one can hire a shared or individual taxi, or reach by bus. The best option according to us is self-drive from Srinagar to Sonamarg.

Condition of roads: well constructed graveled road

Best Time to visit Sonamarg: Summers from May to October

Expected Temperature– 7 – 20-degree Celsius in summers and -8 to-18 degree Celsius in winters

So, Sonamarg was an absolute land of beauty and magic. It left us completely mesmerized. Throughout our drive Sindh River accompanied us, and the only change was in the background – sometimes a pitch green carpet on mountain slopes and sometimes the white snow-laden.

Sonamarg - The Golden Meadows of India

Do you also feel Sonamarg – The Golden Meadows is a real paradise or heaven. And, if you have any more stories of this land, please share it with us. We will be happy to listen to them.

You can also read about our other series of Leh Ladakh below

Hemis Monastery

Nubra Valley: The Valley of Flowers in Ladakh

A day at White Lake Tso Kar in Ladakh

Ladakh-The land of High Passes

All you need to know about Leh Ladakh Inner Line Permit

6 must visit Leh Ladakh Palaces before they disappear

A Walk with Indian Soldier at Kargil War Memorial

Leh Ladakh Road trip from Delhi – 13 days itinerary