A place not to miss while in Spiti Valley is the beautiful village of Dhankar. A four hour drive from Tabo along the steep, winding roads of Himachal Pradesh leads one to Dhankar. At a towering height of 12, 774 feet above sea-level (3,894 m)lies this village inhabited by 44 people.
The first thing one will notice in the village is the new monastery that houses the Buddhist monks and nuns. The only place to stay in the village is Yak and Yetty, a seasonal lodge. Though home stays are available, they lack washroom facilities.
When it comes to food aloo paratha, dal and rice are the staple food that one gets there. Electricity is available in the village from 11am to 2pm. The people in the village are primarily farmers. They claim to cultivate medicinal herbs that heal heart and lung diseases.
At the far end of the village lies the older monastery that many believe is as old as Tabo monastery but due to lack of records this fact cannot be proved.
The sunrise in the village is as early as 4am and the sunset as late as 8pm. The nights are chilly and sitting around a bonfire is the perfect way to keep one warm. The village doesn’t have a school and children are mostly in boardings at Kaza. The village also does not have a heli-pad and people hence prefer going to Kaza, which is much warmer during the severe winters.
The pipes that supply water to the village often burst due to the water in them getting frozen which leads to lack of water supply to the village. The Dhankar Lake is a five kilometer uphill trek along a barren, muddy and dusty path.
This is the only way to get to the lake and carrying water along can prove to be a life saver as one is on the difficult trek to Dhankar Lake. This trek is a true test of fitness and stamina as both are needed to go from a height of 12, 000 feet to 13, 500 feet in a matter of hours.
The trek witnesses change of temperature for which extreme endurance is needed as it goes from warm to windy to very cold. The Dhankar Lake at the height of 13, 570 feet above sea-level is picturesque as it is surrounded by the snow capped Himalayas and has water coming to it from a glacier.
The lake is frozen for about eight months of the year and is only accessible from mid-May to September. The lake is surrounded by shrubs that are characteristic of the region. There are prayer flags at the side of the Dhankar Lake.
The lake appears blue and green from different angles. The banks of the lake are a perfect place for backpackers to pith their tents. But carrying sufficient firewood and food is necessary as the lake is virtually in the middle-of-nowhere.
The best time to do the trek is during the day as it is a safer option. The descend is much easier and takes less time as compared to the ascend.
The village of Dhankar truly justifies Spiti’s claim as the middle kingdom.