Arrival at Kaza: We arrived in Kaza town at 11.45 PM by a public bus from Schichling. Kaza is the biggest town of the Spiti Valley and center of all the major activities in the valley. We booked a room in the Hotel Mandala (Mob: 9418009649, 9418558435) near Kaza bus stand. I wanted to visit Kye (also spelled as Ki, Kee or Key) and Kibber Monastery on that day itself. I went to the bus stand and enquired about any bus or jeep to Kibber Village. But there was only one bus to Kibber that too in the evening at 17:00 PM. I searched for a shared jeep/taxi, but they were also not there. We had the only option to book a reserved cab to Kibber. Near the bus stand, there were 2-3 Sumos, and they asked INR 1100 for the visit of Kibber and Kye Villages. It seemed too much, as Kibber is only 18 kms away and Kye Monastery is lying in the route. I asked them for the cheaper alternate to reach Kibber. The Sumo driver reduced the bargain to INR 900 and also suggested that a Maruti Alto Cab might be the more cheaper option. I searched for a Alto cab around. I found an Alto car and called its driver on the mobile number painted on the car. Driver came in 10 minutes and when I asked him the fare to Kibber, he told INR 1100. I informed him that the Sumo driver was also asking INR 1100 and as per him Alto should be cheaper. Alto driver responded that his car was running on petrol, while Sumo was on Diesel, so Sumo should be cheaper, not Alto. He did not reduce the fare, so I opted for a Sumo in INR 900.
Towards Kibber: We passed through the street of Kaza towards the road going to Kibber. The jeep moved along the Spiti river untill it reached to Kye Village. The journey along the Spiti river was a pretty site with narrow and wide channels of river through the pebbled valley, green picturesque fields and animal herds grazing in the fields. From Kye, the road was bended away from the river towards Kibber Village. A link road is there for Kye Monastery, but I wanted to visit Kibber first, so I advised the driver to continue towards Kibber and left Kye Monastery for return journey.After one hour drive from Kaza, we reached to Kibber village.The Sumo jeep stopped just outside the village, and from there, we walked to the monastery.
Kibber Village: Situated at the height of 14200 ft (4205 meters) above sea level, Kibber is claimed to be the highest motorable village in the world. It is also claimed to be the village with the highest polling station, highest post office and highest school. There are more villages near Kibber, even at more height, but they are not inhabited throughout the year. In winter, people leave those villages and come down to the lower heights. This is why Kibber Village is known as highest continuously inhabited village.(However I heard that Gete and Tashigang are at more height and continuously inhabited). It is a small village with about 100 houses and all painted in white with red rooftops. The architecture of the houses and fortified look of the village are worth seeing. Houses are made of stones and adobe bricks and give a unique picturesque view to the village. There is a good supply of electricity in the village and it also has a dispensary. Earlier there were only one TV set in the community center of Kibber, but with the progress of time people are having their own TVs in the houses.
I have seen animal skins lying outside the houses of Kibber (it was a common site in the many villages of Spiti). It might be a Yak fur, the locals might be either selling it or using it to protect themselves from the extreme cold climate at night. An animal horn was also there on a house gate. I enquired, but did not find any answer about what they symbolises.
Area around this village is the most fertile area in the Spiti Valley and people can often sight working in their field. Agriculture forms the backbone of the local economy and lush green fields are abundant. Some of them work in the town like Kaza. Their livelihood mainly rely on the agriculture and they even trade with Ladakh through the traditional trek route over Parang La to Ladakh , which requires at least 3 night halt in the one side journey.The trade is mainly based on barter system in which they exchange their horses for yaks or to sell for cash.
Kibber Monastery: Kibber monastery is situated at the highest point in the village above all the houses. Monastery was founded by Serkang Rimpochhe of Tabo. When we reached the monastery, it seemed like any other house of the village. There is nothing interesting about the monastery. The interesting facts are not inside the monastery, but outside the monastery, all around the Kibber Village. The height of monastery gives the visitors a perfect chance to experience the surrounding landscape with snow-capped mountains in the arid cold desert. We spent about one hour at the village and then moved back to our next destination Kye Monastery.
How to Reach Kibber: Kibber is 18 kms away from Kaza and the best way to reach there is by hiring a cab. Only one public bus operating between Kaza and Kibber. That bus leaves from Kaza at 17:00 PM and reaches Kibber in one hour. The bus has night halt at Kibber. The next day morning bus returns from Kibber at 7:00 AM. But if you travel by this bus, then it is slightly difficult to detour at Kye Monastery, 6 kms before Kibber. If you want to travel by bus, then the best thing is to reach Kibber in the evening by bus, book a homestay for the night in Kibber and spend a night there by watching the stars and milky-ways in the clear sky. Next day morning, you can either take the bus to Kye or you can walk down on the hill for 6 kms later in the day. After visiting Kye Monastery, you can arrange a hitch-hike from the main road going to Kaza.
Please Note: At the time of our trip (second week of June), there were only one bus operated to Kibber from Kaza. During peak tourist season in summer, there may be a morning bus to Kibber. Even you can find a shared taxi/jeep going to Kibber during the peak season.
Where to Stay: Accommodation in Kibber village is limited with 2-3 guesthouses, (Norling Guest House is the most popular) and some homestays. Homestays offer the cheaper prices and give you an opportunity to stay with a local family on that breathtaking height. Foods are very simple and mainly contains dal and rice. The details of homestays is available at: http://himachaltourism.gov.in/post/Homestays-in-Lahaul-Spiti.aspx
Other things to do in Kibber:
1. Star Gazing Best things to do in Kibber is Star-gazing. In the night, you can see the once in a life time view of the galaxies in the clear and pollution free sky.
2. Trek to nearby villages: Trek to nearby villages of Gete (4320 meters) , Tashigang (4400 meters) and Chicham (4220 meters). You can go to Gete and Tashingang by a cab also.This route is very populated by local wildlife such as Blue Sheep, Ibex and Snow Leopard. Sightings of this rare creature are frequent along this route.
3. Trek to Kanamo Peak: Also known as White Lady (Ka means Snow and Namo means Lady), this peak is situated at the height of 5974 meters above sea level. It requires a non-technical ascent of 5 hours to reach here through the village of Kibber and Tashigang. It gives one a taste of mountaineering without the need for any special training. It is not a very difficult summit. The north face of the peak is the Kanamo glacier and south face is mostly scree with occasional rock patches. There is also the south ridge called the Dombachen ridge connecting the Kanamo with the Dombachen peak.
4.Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary: It is the only sanctuary in the country which is situated in a cold desert area. This sanctuary is the home of the animals like Ibex, Red Fox, Himalayan Wolf, Blue Sheep (Bharal) and the majestic snow leopard. A sighting of the snow leopard is very rare, but sighting of Ibex and Bharal is very common.
5. Trek to Ladakh : If you have plenty of time, you can even try to trek upto Ladakh through the traditional trek route over Parang La,which requires 3 night halts.This trek starts from Kibber Village and generally ends at Tsomoriri Lake in Ladakh.