Hiking through Lahaul Valley in Keylong
Keylong is a spot in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, known as the administrative center of both the Lahaul and Spiti district. Both the Lahaul and Spiti districts contain beautiful cold desert valleys, which are located close to Tibet.
The Lahaul valley has a unique position on the world map as it falls in the tectonic collision zone between the Indian and Asian continental plates. It also stands between two climatic types: the dry cold climate of the Central Asian terrain and the wet climate of the southern Himalayan slopes. Throughout the years, the valley earned a spot on most travelers’ bucket list, because of the indescribable landscape consisting of rocky mountains, glaciers, rivers, and snow-covered peaks.
In the past, Keylong was home to the Moravian missionaries, and with time the valleys became home to both the Hinduism and Buddhism religions, for which the temples and monasteries act as storehouses of its art and culture.
Guru Ghantal (also known as Gandhola Monastery), associated with both Padma Sambhava – the legendary Indian Buddhist mystic who introduced Tantric Buddhism to Tibet – and the great teacher and translator, ‘Lotsaba’ Rinchensang-Po, is said to be the oldest monastery in the Lahaul valley. According to the legends, these monasteries were built in the 8th century CE.
Both the Shashur Monastery and Triloknath Temple are known as the most tourist attractions in the region.
How to reach the Lahaul Valley
The Lahaul valley and Spiti valley do not have airport connectivity and are only accessible by the road. The closest airport is the Bhuntar Airport, located in Kullu, connected from the capital city, New Delhi. Considering the height, it is advised to stay a night or two in Kullu or the more popular town of Manali to acclimatize oneself, before setting out further ahead. Keylong is about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from Manali, which is done easily under 2 hours by road.
A recently inaugurated (on 3 October 2020) engineering marvel is the Atal Tunnel, which is now open for traffic and has significantly shortened the distance between Manali to the Keylong by about 45 kilometers (28 miles). Built under the Rohtang Pass in the eastern Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas on the Leh-Manali Highway, Atal Tunnel is the longest tunnel in the world at an elevation of 10,000 feet; an Indian pride.
The Atal tunnel is of military significance and has now provided access to the valleys during the winter months, which would otherwise be cut off from the mainland due to heavy snowfall.
Cab or bike renting is very popular and is easily available from Manali and irrespective of the type of vehicle you choose, the drive will surely overwhelm you.
Make sure to visit Lake Sissu
A popular spot in the valley is Lake Sissu, which sees a surge of local tourists during the summer and fall season lining up to enjoy a boat ride.
Next to the lake, you’ll find a helipad, recently built for defense purposes/usage only. On the opposite side of the lake, you’ll find the Chandra river which leads to several waterfalls.
Another interesting place for tourists is the Gondhla village, located about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Keylong and is known to be a quiet village with beautiful grasslands. The village is an ideal place to lay your sheet, pull out your picnic basket, sunbathe, and enjoy the view.
About the shot
Landscape photography might seem like black magic for some of our adventurous readers and aspiring photographers, that’s why we decided to break down the technical details behind this shot.
For photographers, the best time to visit the valley is between July and October, and to be honest: our favorite time is during fall when the otherwise strikingly unicoloured landscape transforms into a beautiful landscape filled with different colors.
Camera: Samsung S9
Zikr is a fiction lover, a philosopher by education, and a lawyer by profession, who loves to capture pictures and translate them into a thousand words.