Vagabond in Spiti valley : Nako
On way to Kaza in the Spiti Valley, Nako, at an altitude of 3660 m is the highest village in the valley of Hangrang surrounded by barren and dusty landscape. Nako village is just 20 kms from Ka, once the zigs end. It is roughly four kms before Malling (Nullah) towards Kaza. Kaza is around 110 kms from Nako.
Nako is almost a customary stop-over for all adventurists (read: bikers, riders, drivers, tourists) going to Kaza. How much time to spend here? This is upto each traveller because there are different time constraints for everybody coming here. Those who are on a mission to complete Shimla-Kaza in a day, might even give this a miss. Others with more time may stop here for couple of hours and that will also depend on there last stop over and time left for them to reach to Kaza. But still there are few more like me who chose to stay here for night. And in hindsight, it is a wise decision actually to stay in Nako before reaching to Kaza, more so if you are planning to go ahead of Kaza towards Kunzum pass and don’t plan to return the same way. Because from Nako to Kaza driving itself will take atleast three hours. Besides, on the way before Kaza there are three spots that you will not like to miss- Mummy at Giu, Tabo monastery and Dhankar monastery. You will like to devote some amount of time at all these places. Hence, if you stay overnight at Nako then it will be late evening by the time you reach Kaza after visiting these three places. And then there are numerous other photo-stops.
Nako is known for its lake and the monastery as well. Lake is adjacent to village. Obviously, in the winters this lake is completely frozen and often used for ice-skating. Around the lake you can find willow and poplar tree plantations. It looks beautiful in summers when birds flock here and one can even find some boats to enjoy a ride in the ice-cool waters. Right behind the Nako village is Reo Purgyal mountain which, at an elevation of 6816 metres, is said to be the highest mountain in Himachal Pradesh.
The monastic complex in Nako is situated at the western edge of the town and comprises four temples apart from other buildings. Following the Tibetan school of Buddhism, Nako mastery is dated back to 11th century. The artwork in the monastery is related to Vajrayana Buddhism. Some images from the monastery and the surrounding areas.
From outside, the monastery exude a very simple appearance, but this is in contrast to what you will see inside. Two temples are of utmost importance here, the Main temple and the Upper temple. Both these temples are considered the oldest amongst all the structures and still preserve their original clay sculptures, murals and ceiling panels. Many paintings here still have the golden work on them preserved for centuries. The largest temple or the main temple is also called the Translator’s Temple. It also happens to be the oldest monument in the village. The third structure in the complex is the Small White temple, which though not in a good state, is worth visiting for its wonderful wooden door-frame with scenes of the Life of the Buddha carved on the lintel. The fourth structure is quiet the same size as the Upper Temple and is also situated besides it. The temple is today known as the Temple of Wide Proportions (rGya-dpag-pa’i lHa-khang). There is a lot of preservation and restoration work going on here with many international collaborations. Few years back a cultural centre was also established here by constructing a new building. All big monastic events and festivals are held here. Some images from this-
Nako village has beautiful surroundings which will change colours as per season. Although this is normally a barren and dusty landscape, but the area around the village will go green post summer. It rains here barely few times in July. Life gets tough here in winters when everything is frozen. Then you can feel the harshness of a cold desert.
Nako doesn’t have big hotels but there are a few budget accommodations and few luxury tents (below). Their availability depends lot on the season. Tents like this (Kinner Camps) come up only during the biking & driving season (May-October). I was a bit early in the season and that day only tourist to reach here.
A place worth a visit and a longer stay perhaps. I will be doing the the next time.