Many people who visits Dhankar village or monastery traveled by well built road. But, there is one more route available to reach Dhankar that is by trekking.
Dhankar village is situated at about 3900 meters above sea levels between towns of Tabo and Kaza. Dhankar is around 31 KM from Tabo and 28 KM from Kaza. Dhankar is famous for monastery and lake.
Trekking is mostly used way by villagers to get down till main road. Now, many people has cars but still local people uses trekking route to/from village. You will get awesome view Himalayas along with river once you reached at particular heights.
Locals says this is the shortest way to reach Dhankar village/monastery and many of them actually use it.
How to Reach
Dhankar is about 31 KM from Tabo and 27 KM from Kaza. Kaza is the headquarters of Spiti district and it is very well connected by state transport (HRTC) buses. From Tabo, the bus is available in the morning at 9.30 (according to locals) so be there by 9.15. From Kaza, the first bus is available at 5 in the morning. It takes around one and half hour to reach Dhankar from either side.
Bus will drop you at the junction from there village is around 8 KM. For trekking, tell driver that you are going to take shortcut/trek to the village so that he will drop you at the starting point of trek. Starting point of trek is 2-3 KM from junction point. Driver will drop you at the starting point and show you the way.
Difficulty of Trek
Trek is not that difficult. No need of any preparation for trekking. People with illness should avoid due to high altitude and low oxygen level.
There are few houses near to starting point. If you need any help you can ask them. You can see path going upwards so it is easy follow. And people are always ready to help.
What to carry
The first and most important thing is have a heavy breakfast in the morning. Carry 2-3 liters of water per person as you will trekking when sun is above the head. Carry some protein bars to eat while trekking.
Don't carry much luggage with you. One should be wearing multiple layers due to heavy wind. Even though you will be trekking in the afternoon, it will be cold. There is only shops in the village at new monastery. So, if you want buy anything, you can by it there. Chips and cold drink is available there.
It takes around 2-3 for one side trek. While coming down you can ask lift to people who are going down or trek down using same way.
On the whole Spiti trip we traveled by state transport buses. Our plan was to take a bus from Tabo, visit Dhankar Monastery and lake and then return to Kaza on same day. So, from Tabo we took the bus which came at around 10 AM. We reached trek starting point at around 11.30 AM. We woke up late in the morning and while having breakfast the bus came, so we didn't had breakfast. We were without water and only one pack of biscuits.
Driver asked us if we want get down at junction or take shortcut. Due to less time, we said shortcut. Bus dropped us at trek starting point and we started looking at each other. We knew that it was the bad decision. The monastery was visible from main road, so we were like it can be covered one and half hour. But we were wrong, as we started trekking we knew that it will take at least two hours to reach village and not monastery.
I am not sure if these caves are meditation caves or not. But, we saw similar kind of caves in Tabo. Trekking to caves is not possible, as we didn't found any route which goes there.
The important thing was, we were without water and food. Also, we were carrying our whole luggage with us as our plan was to leave for Kaza after visiting Dhankar. We were tired because of luggage, no water. The trekking route is awesome with the view of himalayas along with river. You will trekking through stones. The old monastery is built on these kind of stones or may be due to rains the stones are in that shape. We reached Dhankar village around 1.30 PM. The village was looking like abandoned, nobody lives there. We were searching for food and water. We met two people, they said locals won't be at home as they will be working in their farms. So, they told us to go to monastery (new) and ask for some food. We went to monastery and thankfully they gave us some food.
We were sitting with monks, chit-chatting and eating the much needed food. One lady came with water and the way we drank the water it was like we are thirsty from many days. We had our lunch and went for sightseeing. We are very much thankful to the people of Dhankar monastery for providing us food. These people have attitude on their face that if you need anything we will help you even though we don't have it we will find the solution to help you.
People who told us to go to Monastery, were having car. So they told us to come around 3.30 PM so that they can drop us to Dhankar junction. Bus for Kaza comes at around 4 PM which will drop you there between 5.30 to 6 PM. Bus will cost you around RS 100 per person from Tabo to Kaza with break journey at Dhankar.
So, the overall experience was awesome. The bad decision at the start of trek became one of best decision after seeing trekking route, mountains. If you 1 extra day to spend, I would suggest to do this trek. You will definitely love it.
One tip for foreigners, at the base nobody will speak English so it might be difficult for you guys to ask for route. Once you reach the village, the monks can communicate in English. If possible, take local guide with you or learn basics of Hindi language.
Don't litter anywhere while trekking. Try to keep the places clean and enjoy.
Drop me an email if you need more details on trekking, bus timings, itineraries or any other query.