Backpackers guide to The Homestay Trek – India
It takes a certain amount of dedication and planning to get into the Spiti valley, to begin with. However, walking this trek makes it all seem like a very small price to pay. In this post, a Backpackers guide to the Homestay Trek I will tell you day by day what you can expect from your walk.
I have written a detailed breakdown on the considerations to make when planning a trip in my post a Budget backpackers guide to Spiti Valley.
I have also written a second article about where is good to visit in the valley. It also covers how to get to the starting point for this trek. That post is called my 6 best things to do in the Spiti Valley, and if you have not read them, then please do that before carrying on with this post to help better you make sense on how to get the most out of your time and money here.
The Homestay Trek is without a doubt one of Indias most beautiful walks and takes you through the high mountain deserts of the Himalayas, that are insanely picturesque. Unlike in places like Leh, modernisation is still a very long way off, and most people cling to a traditional way of life of subsistence farming. There is also a good chance you will be able to spot some incredible wildlife as make your way from one village to another. If you are super lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the elusive snow Leopard.
Welcome to the homestay trek.
Not only is this one of Indias most memorable walks, but you can also organise things yourself. You don’t really need a guide, but if you do there are many companies in Kaza that will take you. The significant advantage of this is you will be able to communicate better with the local people and have more meaningful interactions. If you do decide to you would like a guide I hear Ecosphere or Spiti Holiday Adventures get good reviews. This service will set you back an additional eight to ten thousand rupees though, and it is not hard to find your way by yourself.
There is no need for tents or cooking equipment neither. Because at the end of every day you will be able to sleep in a warm bed and have a cooked meal. Many of the local people offer their spare rooms out to trekkers. It is good revenue for the local people and is a life-line for the Intrepid traveller. It’s all done in an incredibly responsibly way as the villagers take turns on who gets to sleep where.
Expect to pay between eight hundred and one thousand rupees a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That meagre price also includes water and your night’s sleep. Not to mention a chance to stay in the homes of the local people, so it is a win-win situation whatever you look at it.
Leave all your big bags in a hotel in either Kaza or Dhankar where you can pick them all up later. There is no need to hump it all around as you will have little need for the vast portion of your kit. Obviously, take out any valuables you may have in there first. The problem with leaving things at Dhankar is that you will have to go back there to collect it all and since pretty much everything leaves from Kaza this poses a significant hindrance.
While this trek is relatively straight forward to organise yourself, it is defiantly best to trek in season. It is more scenic, and the weather will be more hospitable. The peak season is from June to mid-august, and this provides the best photographic opportunities as the barley fields offer a focal point against the dramatic backdrop of the barren mountains. You can also safely trek from mid-April to late September. Trekking outside of these times you should take a guide as the climate here can get very unforgiving very fast.
Although February is the best time to see some of the wildlife here, even Snow Leopards think it is too cold at this time and move down to ever so slightly warmer climates. Don’t even think about going trekking here without a guide at this time. Nights will fall far below minus twenty and blizzards are frequent.
The Homestay Trek day by day.
Now that is pretty much all you need to know about organising the trek sorted let us take a look at the route at what you will see along the way. Each village is very different from the next, so I found that kept me driven to see what was around the next corner.
Day 1 Dhanker to Lhalung
Ok, firstly as I understand it, I did the whole thing backwards. But that was just fine for me. I slept at the monastery and left early in the morning to Lhalung. The road is very obvious, and if you stick to the asphalt, it will be an easy day. It only takes 12 km, and the incline is slight. I have been told the views from the road are spectacular.
However, I was advised by a local that going over the hills using a footpath that veered off the main road was a short cut. I’m was not convinced this was a short cut, but the views were amazing, and it was pleasant to walk through the high mountainous meadows. There are many homestays here, and they ask for asking anything up to 1000 rupees for a nights stay, with all meals plus water. So somewhat reasonable in all honesty. It was less when I visited, but if you plan on that price, you won’t be disappointed.
The village hosts a small medieval monastery appearing very underwhelming from the outside but, once inside it is awe-inspiring. So many ancient artefacts to admire. I have no idea how it does not get more attention. To get inside, you will have to locate the resident Lama and, he could be anywhere around the village in all honesty.
Day 2 Lhalung to Demul.
The day starts easy, following the wire bridge across the Lingti river, then follows the valley floor until the road veers upwards almost 1000m! This steep incline is tough going. Leading me to believe this can’t possibly be the way. When a small gathering of prayer flags came into view, I was filled with hope that people live up here. It was the only time I felt like I could possibly be lost. Don’t worry, keep going upward and you will eventually get to Demul.
As I neared the village, I was passed by a couple of farmers who had been grazing their yaks on the seasonal meadows. They both made the walk seem so easy and quickly left me in their dust. Demul is a big village in comparison, hosting about 300 residents. They lead a semi-nomadic lifestyle, and the men follow the good grazing for their livestock.
There is a well-organised system for homestays. It seems they spread the wealth of tourism. As if to say ok you had some tourists yesterday it is your turn today. I think that’s a lovely concept. An interesting point to Spiti homes is that in our culture we often arrange our living room to face towards the television but, here they face it towards the dresser. They proudly display their pot and pans they have been collected and handed down through the generations. This is the showpiece of the house and is always kept in an immaculate condition.
Day 3 Demul to Komic.
This is a very long day of walking, leave early to make sure you make it. I spotted a lot of wildlife on this route including; Ibex, Himalayan grouse, Blue Sheep and the Griffin Vulture. You will pass several yak filled meadows and are offered one breathtaking view after another. The walkout of the village and up to the pass is insanely steep and took the best part of my morning to get up there.
After I had reached the pass, I found it hard to find the energy to continue. I think I still preferred to make the loop in reverse, despite its gradience, as some of the roads were so steep and narrow. For me, it is easier facing these narrow paths going up rather than going down. Less time to think about just how far down that is.
Komic itself is a lovely little village with only ten homes and the Tangyud Monastery. Again, the local’s homes double up as homestays, all-inclusive and a brilliant insight into this remote and harsh lifestyle. The views entering Komic are some of the best on the trip, so have your camera ready for action!
Day 4 Komic to Langza.
The walk from here is nowhere near as taxing. First, you continue through the high mountain meadows until you pass the hamlet of Hakkim.
Here you will find accommodation, but it pays to continue to Langsa. Hikkim claims to be the home of the worlds highest post office. I don’t know how to substantiate that, but it is beautiful. Langsa itself is only 14 km to Kaza downhill.
In Langsa village is a giant statue of a Buddha that proudly stands out and is very conspicuous. I found the hospitality of the villagers to be warm and welcoming here. On the whole trek, the people use dry squat toilets.
The desert air dries out the human waste, and it can be used for fuel. Nothing is wasted here. It can be a little alarming when you see your host throw you chappati directly onto a freshly dried cow turd (precisely what happened on this trek by the way.) It is last night on this part of your adventure so, you can start to unwind from here. The village is iconic to the valley and is easily accessible, so I would recommend visiting even if you are not undertaking this epic trek. The drive is tunning so maybe hire a taxi at least one way so you can stop for photographs.
Day 5 Langsa to Kaza
The last day is all downhill! If you don’t have the juice to walk or want to save your knees, you can book a taxi to Kaza for about 1000 rupees. All of these villages can be seen on a day trip Kaza in a private taxi, as they all have motorable roads.
There are many more villages in the area, but these are on longer treks. The map I used to get around was written down on the back of a napkin by some guy in Tabo and, it worked just fine.
Summary of my post a Backpackers guide to the Homestay Trek
Whether its stunning Himalayan views, the timeless Tibetan culture or its wildlife, the homestay trek has a little something for everyone. It is not without its risks to take into consideration, but, nothing in life worth doing is without its risks. I have tried to include as much information as possible. If you have any more questions just ask and I will be happy to answer, assuming I know the answer of cause. I would love to hear any feedback from any of my readers who decides to embark on an expedition on the homestay Trek. I would like to hear about your experiences.
I hope my article helps to arm you with the knowledge you need to help you get the most out of your time. One thing I am confident of, the memories that you will gain from your time in the valley will stay with you forever until the next time my fellow intrepid travellers, happy trekking.Follow me on social media 🙂