JISPA: More Than a Transit Town

Jispa, Himachal Pradesh

Beautiful in its anonymity, JISPA, Himachal Pradesh

Beautiful in its anonymity, Jispa is a village in Lahaul in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Frequented by travelers as a transit town, Jispa hasn’t earned its rightful reputation as an incredibly beautiful destination for a stay-over and relaxation.

Chances are you’ve skipped this destination in your past trips to Ladakh or just breezed past it. I don’t blame you. It’s a speck of a town and until my recent trip to Ladakh last month, I hadn’t seen it either.  As luck would have it, this time an overnight stay at Jispa was in our itinerary. We could have pressed on the pedal and skipped it altogether but I am glad that we didn’t, it would have been a mistake. Here are my thoughts on why this little town should be on your map.

Incredible Scenic Beauty

Most travelers visit Ladakh in lure of its amazing landscape and virgin beauty. And rightfully so -Ladakh’s kaleidoscopic beauty is famed, a canvas of art where every turn on the road reveals a new sight, a new view and a new gasp of sigh. Jispa is the perfect point where every view meets – a picture perfect destination, nestled in the valley of lofty barren mountains, flanked by green trees and a gurgling Bhaga river flowing right besides the town. All the earth’s elements creating a beautiful symphony in this little destination – a perfect place for you to enjoy the beauty of nature and indulge in some long walks along the river.

Comfortable Stay Options

A key challenge with transit towns is that they don’t have good accommodations and are therefore skipped by travelers for lack of facilities. Jispa is lucky on that front and seems to have picked up a bit of attention from hotels & camping brands. The town offers decent to good options ranging from hotels to great camping sites. Hotel brands such as Ibex and Yak have 3 star properties located on the main Jispa road and are good stay options. We stayed at The Yak Hotel and found it clean, comfortable and efficient in service. Rooms were modern in amenities, including a TV (you won’t need it here) and hot water service. In case you prefer the ‘closer to nature’ approach, the town has quite a few camping sites. Some of the known tented accommodation names include Padma Lodge & Camp Jispa Journeys but that’s not all. There are also local camps for bikers and travelers who want to stay (on a budget) right next to the river, in their tents, gazing at the stars in the sky. We came across one such local camp, it was buzzing with bikers and they seem to be having a great time! The town has also small shops so getting any items of necessity isn’t an issue .

Yak Hotel and room picture:

Yak Hotel, Jispa

Yak Hotel, Jispa

View from my room window

View from my room window

Homestay Experience

Every traveler has a quest, a reason to travel. There isn’t a traveler that doesn’t have a reason for travel and if your reason is to explore different cultures and meet new people across the world, then a homestay is a good option to explore. Interestingly, for a town as little as this, Jispa does have quite a few homestay options and while we couldn’t stay in one, we saw many homestays and noticed how beautiful some of these homes were – their essence and beauty unaffected by the modern hotels standing right next to them. I did a bit of search and found a couple of them listed online – Riverview Homestay, Greenland Camp and Homestay and Padma Lodge but I recommend talking to a local friend or guide to check more local options. A definite tick for next year.

Jispa town. Pic: Internet

Jispa town. Pic: Internet

Overall, our time at Jispa flew and we wished we could stay longer to see the Jispa Rural Museum (where you can see how the people of Tod Valley lived years ago) and the local Monastery but we had to move on and I guess that’s okay because I knew I would be coming back to Jispa, next year, same time.



PS: Trivia on Jispa:

Jispa (elevation 3,200 m or 10,500 ft) is a village in Lahaul, in Himachal Pradesh. Jispa is located 20 km north of Keylong and 7 km south of Darcha, along the Manali-Leh Highway and the Bhaga river. There are approximately 20 villages between Jispa and Keylong. The village has a helipad, a post office, a monastery and a small folk museum. Jispa is a BSNL network area only which means you need to have a BSNL number to make & receive calls (Vodafone or Airtel don’t work here.)



Ladakh : No Country for Women?!

I know, I am being harsh with the headline. After all, I had the most memorable roadtrip across Ladakh last week but the one aspect that left me sore about the trip was the lack of facilities for women.
Considering the huge flow of tourists visiting Ladakh between May to September each year, including families and solo female travelers, this is one let down area for female travelers transversing this terrain.
Things are okay if you are at your hotel or guest house in Leh city but you go beyond the city and you are in a spot. I traveled from Manali to Jispa to Nubra and beyond and the plight remains the same. Wether you want to go to a proper loo or if you have chums coming up, you are on your own.
So how does one survive or how did I manage through the journey?
Basically by depending on the not so great toilet facilities managed by shopkeepers in each small town you cross. Once you are in the outer regions of Ladakh, you will come to these small towns with handful of shops for tea, food etc. Next to each shop or behind it, you will see a small, square tin structure – that is the toilet. It’s managed by the respective shop owner and you can ask them for keys (they’ve built these toilets for their customers, so its okay to ask). They don’t keep the toilets open, so you will have to ask for the key.
Eg toilet picture below:
Makeshift toilet in one of the small towns

Makeshift toilet in one of the small towns

The toilets prepared by the administration are in such poor shape, that you might faint from a distance. Take the Khardungla Pass toilet facilities for example – best not to use it. Disappointing.
The second best option is to go behind the rocks but highly avoidable unless you gotto go. You will rarely find hotels in outer regions of Ladakh, so the toilets in small towns are your worst and best options. Or you can wait to get back to your hotel. If you are crossing Deepak Taal (lake), there is a nice makeshift toilet there, so do make a note of it :-)
There are some areas which are managed by the Indian Army eg Nubra. You can request them to let you use their services and they wont decline.
Finally, should you need to buy personal women hygiene stuff, sanitary napkins, tissue rolls and medicines, do it at Leh (there are quite a few good chemists at Fort road and Leh main market). You can also buy from Manali and keep them handy in your purse or rucksack. If you suffer from any medical condition, buy your medicines from Leh but keep all these handy because shuffling through your luggage last minute can be an issue.
Overall, this is a definite issue and I am not sure why the Tourism Ministry or Ladakh Development Authority done anything about it. Meanwhile, my advice is to be prepared and hope something will be done about it soon!
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