Gateway to Pin Valley National Park: Mikkim, Himachal Pradesh
A 20 minute relatively flat drive from the town of Kaza in Spiti Valley, covering around 32 km and crossing a cable suspended bridge and one will enter the Pin Valley National Park area and reach the village of Mikkim. This is also the first village in the Pin Valley. Mikkim is situated at an altitude of around 12,360 feet above sea-level (3767 metres) and lies on the banks of the Pin River.
There are two options of getting to Mikkim, the first is to hire a taxi from the town of Kaza. The second option is to take the local HRTC government bus from Kaza to Mikkim, which runs daily during the summer months and departs from Kaza in the morning anytime between 7 and 9 am.
It is advisable to recheck the bus schedule a day prior to your journey. The bus journey takes around 35 minutes and is to most economical way of getting to Mikkim. The same bus runs all the way to the village of Mud and enroute halts at any village that people want to get in or get off at. The bus returns back to Kaza, the same evening.
Mikkim is a tiny village which has a population of only 30 people as per what the government road sign says and around 20 odd houses and shops in it. Most of the houses and shops are locked. The houses in the village are made out of mud and painted in white and have red window paint, which is the typical Spitian style of the houses. Each and every houses has prayer flags tied to the roof, which emphasise the Buddhist influence in the region.
The entrance to Pin Valley National Park is a 10 km easy hike from the village of Mikkim and is the main reason why hikers and travellers from all over the world are attracted to the village. To reach the national park one has to cross the Pin River over a cable suspended wooden bridge and then hike through vast acres of lush greenery which makes this area of Spiti Valley very different from the rest.
Locals from Mikkim just like the rest of Pin Valley are all a part of scheduled tribes belonging to Buddhist community. The famous gompa in the Kungri village which is situated on the buffer zone of the park is a must visit place while in the valley. The Chham dance and Buchen dance by the lamas of this gompa are very famous in the valley.
The main occupation of the villagers is animal husbandry and farming. Even though Spiti valley is a barren region, the area around Mikkim which include the Pin Valley National Park area is well known for herbs and plants which have a lot of medicinal properties. Some herbs have even cured people of heart and lung problems.
With the yearly increase in tourism and the stragetic location of Mikkim in Pin Valley, many from the younger generation have become guides and porters. There are various hikes and excursions in Pin Valley that are conducted at a very nominal cost as compared to the standard rate.
Accommodation in Mikkim is limited to only a handful of simple and basic home stays which provide travellers with the bare minimum needed to survive. The rooms are big and each room can easily accommodate around five to six travellers comfortably.
The home stays also provide meals which include dal, rice, roti and vegetable for lunch and dinner. For breakfast it is usually Spitian bread with jam. The toilets in these home stays are outside the house and are nothing more than a hole in the ground but are very clean.
The best time to visit Mikkim is during the summer months from mid-June to mid-September and even during summers, light woollens are recommended. The summer temperature ranges from 35°C to 5°C from day to night, respectively.
An important thing to keep in mind before venturing into the Pin Valley is that there are no ATMs in the entire valley and one will need to carry sufficient cash to last the entire journey through this valley.
For anyone interested in exploring the untouched Pin Valley National Park in the Spiti Valley, the village of Mikkim is the ideal place to start you trip from.
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