The capital of Spiti, Kaza sits on the eroded flood plain of the Spiti River and is the biggest settlement you’ll encounter in this empty corner of the planet. It feels a bit like a small frontier town with an easygoing pace. Jagged mountains rise on either side while the river coils across the valley floor like twisted locks of Medusa’s hair. The colourful new Sakya Gompa stands just above the main road in New Kaza (south of the Kaza Nullah), while the ramshackle bazaar and whitewashed buildings of Old Kaza spread out on the north side of the stream. The bus and taxi stands are at the bottom of the bazaar in Old Kaza.

Most people stay at least one night to arrange the inner line permit for travel beyond Tabo. Kaza is also the starting point for trips to Ki Gompa and the villages of Kibber, Langza, Hikkim and Komic, high on the east side of the valley. Spiti Holiday Adventure organises all-inclusive treks in the region, plus jeep safaris and cultural tours, and is a good place for travel information.

In the third week of August, villagers from across Spiti descend on Kaza for the Ladarcha Fair. All sorts of goods are bought and sold and traders wear their finest clothes.