After Nako, your next stop can be Tabo in your itinerary for Spiti Valley via Kinnaur.
Nako to Tabo
Tabo is where you make an entry into the Spiti Valley as Kinnaur ends at Nako. The roads to Tabo cut from deep between the Himalayas, gigantic brown mountains on one side and silvery-blue Spiti river on the other. This is also the stretch that houses the infamous Mulling Nala; while I have always crossed it in safer condition, stories of its threatening landslides and shooting stones are the stuff road trip nightmares are made of. Personnel from the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) are generally around to help out commuters for this stretch.
What to do in Tabo?
One essential of itinerary for Spiti Valley is the monastery at Tabo. Unlike any other, this one is REALLY ancient, set up in 996 AD. Labelled as the oldest operating Buddhist enclave in the Himalayas and the country. You will be taken aback by the frescoes inside the main monastery complex for they are intricate works of art, straight out of what could have been the most interesting history book ever. The complex is made of several more stupas, mostly made of mud and rocks, apart from the other temples and the main structure.
While I loved the riverside more than hopping over to the meditation caves at Tabo, visiting those is a must as well. Especially if you are seeking a vantage point to pore over the entire village. Also a must if you are into photography and wish to get a panorama of Tabo. The caves are tiny structures, set and cut into rocks; I found some littered with charred wood blocks and cigarette stubs, remains of a late night party it seemed. It is said that the monastery monks often trek up here for meditation, a good choice if you take off the littering habits. Stay there till the sunset and you will catch the valley going golden under the Himalayan Sun, a memory you would cherish forever.
As a welcome surprise, there is a very interesting and huge lineup of restaurants in Tabo. I even found one that was hosting a guitarist from Dharamsala, and a music band from Nepal. Food choices in Tabo are engaging, other than the Spitian food such as butter tea, tingmo, barley beer, fried/steamed momos, you can also dig into a range of coffees, pancakes, pita-hummus-falafel (yay!), pasta made of barley and maize, waffles, juices and what not.
Where to stay in Tabo?
Tabo has quite an impressive number of hotels to choose from. While I was expecting homestays here, Tabo seemed run over by your typical Indian hill station sort of hotels. For a truly interesting experience, reserve a stay at the monastery guesthouse. Quite good for its price, the monastery also has a kitchen run by monks who served, perhaps, the best pancakes I have ever had. While in Nako, I ran into a monk from Tabo monastery, who gave me his name and phone number and helped me in getting a stay at the monastery. If you do not run into such luck, getting a reservation at the monastery might be a tough deal, especially in the peak tourist season (April – August).
A day’s stay at Tabo is enough if you manage to arrive by noon; else, pick an extra day or leave for Dhankar the next noon.