Tabo is a quaint village in the lower part of the Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh, at an altitude of 3265 meters. The town lies on the road between Rekong Peo and Kaza, the sub-divisional headquarters of Spiti. Tabo gets pretty cold in comparison to other places as it lies on the banks of the Spiti River.
The most important thing to explore here is the Tabo Monastery – touted as the oldest monastery in India. Also known as the Ajanta of the Himalayas, the Tabo Monastery was founded more than a millennium ago in 996 AD. It stands on the barren, arid, snow covered, cold and rocky desert of the Tabo Valley at a dizzying height. Untouched by humanity, the place is a paradise; with the glorious heritage, traditions and culture of Buddhism preserved through the centuries.
A large number of frescoes and stucco on its walls depict tales from the Buddhist pantheon, as well as many priceless collections of scroll paintings, manuscripts, and well-preserved statues inside the monastery. The monastery is in dire need of refurbishing, though, as the wooden structures are ageing and the scroll paintings are fading. It is here that the 14th Dalai Lama held the Kalachakra ceremonies in 1983 and 1996.
The monastery is built almost like a fort with very strong walls. The walls of these structures are quite thick and that is the reason for its survival over the centuries inspite of natural calamities (The monastery was rebuilt in 1975 after the earthquake, with an Assembly Hall added to it in 1983.) The monastery houses temples, chortens, and monks’ residence, along with an extension where the nuns’ reside. The monastery is protected as a national historic treasure by the Archaeological Survey of India.
After the monastery, you could also visit Tabo Caves. A place where monks come in winter for meditation and prayer. It’s just a 5-10 min hike, to get to the caves and the beautiful view of the whole town and the valley is worth everything. There’s also a helipad that you can visit when in Tabo, about 5 minutes from the central bus stop.