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Chants of the old-world Shangri La beckon in the sublime mountains of the Himalayas

Chants of the old-world Shangri La beckon in the sublime mountains of the Himalayas

Deep shades of brown and blue fall into this visual palette of rocky mountains, all rising against ethereal lakes. The hems of this landscape are already riveting, but inside its doors are much more to offer, like secrets hushed from the outside world, for the Himalayas do not share their secrets.

1. The Gateway to Heaven

Ornate archways stand to greet at the entrance of Himalaya’s mountainous precepts—a winter-bound region brocaded with barren, brown mountains and seemingly abandon paths. Cars are a rare sight, buildings are sparsely built, but here, a hidden community clings to the foot of the mountains, which seem to have thrived in the jagged rocks that intimidate from a distance.

2. Leh in the morning

Leh city in afternoon light, image by Suwit Gamolglang

Leh city in afternoon light, image by Suwit Gamolglang

Leh, the capital of Ladakh, is aptly called The Land of the High Passes, formerly a stopover for trade routes in the Indus Valley between Tibet and Kashmir. As the sun peeks through the apex of the rocky terrain, the charming city glows with a tranquil radiance, opening its embrace to any wanderer who successfully found their way here.

3. Pangong Tso Lake

Red pavilion over Pangong Lake and Mountains. It is huge and highest lake and cloudy sky background in Ladakh, Image by Nataporn Sesthapaisarn

Red pavilion over Pangong Lake and Mountains. It is huge and highest lake and cloudy sky background in Ladakh, Image by Nataporn Sesthapaisarn

Pangong Tso, in Ladakh, means “grassland lake,” an enchanting body of brackish water with, ironically, low vegetation and a small number of crustaceans. But the beauty of Pangong Tso is found in the glorious reflection of the earthly giants over its surface. During winter, the lake freezes completely, acting as an ice-cold path to those who dared to navigate Ladakh’s realm in freezing temperatures.

4. The night sky of the Himalayas

Camping in Ladakh, image by debruprocks

Camping in Ladakh, image by debruprocks

Stars dot the night sky of Ladakh, and constellations are drawn across the dark, best seen in Pangong Tso. As tiny lights sparkle against the shadows of the mountains, people camp by the lakeside to see the gorgeous vista, where the stars are reflected on the glassy surface, and photographers make their aim to capture the cosmic landscape.

5. Diskit Monastary in Nubra Valley

The Buddhist monastery of Diskit in Nubra valley, image by Zoltan Szabo Photography

The Buddhist monastery of Diskit in Nubra valley, image by Zoltan Szabo Photography

A sprawling gompa with immaculate colours of white opposes the dusty hues of the mountains on which it sits on. The oldest in the district of Nubra is home to about 100 Yellow Hat monks where apprentices are taught languages and science, allowing them to communicate with ease and guide lost wanderers to the right path.

6. Cascading river and fluttering prayer flags

Beautiful waterfall in Ladakh, image by Boat Rungchamrussopa

Beautiful waterfall in Ladakh, image by Boat Rungchamrussopa

The region’s mountainous vistas are nothing less than magical, but so are its waterscapes, celebrated by the townsfolk with a bounty of flags, signalling their silent prayers to heaven. The rough terrain is made softer with the lush flowing of lakes and streams, gurgling into rapids, or flowing into lofty cascades.

7. Trek along gushing rivers

Landscape of Chadar, the frozen river trek at Leh, image by sumankyal

Landscape of Chadar, the frozen river trek at Leh, image by sumankyal

During winter, the commanding mountains near Zanskar are covered with snow, leaving an icy trail of water in the Chadar Trek—a famous gorge that has always been in a thrillist’s bucketlist. When the temperature drops, the lapping blue waters of Zanskar River turn into a thick sheet of ice, allowing one to walk atop its frost-bitten surface.

8. Frozen waterfalls

White Frozen waterfall between Mountains along Zanskar River, image by CreativesKit

White Frozen waterfall between Mountains along Zanskar River, image by CreativesKit

In summer, Zanskar river runs between the jagged walls of the canyons. But in winter, the tributary of Indus transforms into a thick sheet of snow, becoming an accessible road to trekkers wrapped in winter jackets. The sun atop the peaks shines over the spectacular rock formations, showcasing the sharp edges of the mountain-scape where riverside caves are decorated with flags.

9. Easy riding along ancient passes

Biker riding on Snow Mountainin in Pangong Lake,Leh, image by Thampitakkull Jakkree

Biker riding on Snow Mountainin in Pangong Lake,Leh, image by Thampitakkull Jakkree

The howling winds of the mountains are met with the growling mufflers of motorbikes, all darting their way through the Rohtang Pass, with rising altitudes. One of the most glorious stops is Pangong Tso—the river on the left, the mountains to the right, and the sun casting its shadows, creating a distinct set of colours upon the mountainous facets.

10. Thiksey Monastery in Leh

Thiksey Monastery, Thikse Gompa - Leh, image by suchitra poungkoson

Thiksey Monastery, Thikse Gompa – Leh, image by suchitra poungkoson

The twelve-story monastery of Thiksey resembles Lhasa’s Potala Palace, a mountainside fortress that contains many Buddhist remnants—stupas, thankas, and a two-story statue of the Maitreya Buddha, commemorating the 1970 visit of the 14th Dalai Lama.  ◼

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© This article was first published online in Feb 2020 – World Travel Magazine.

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