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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Keylong: Paradise for Walkers in Lahaul

It is mid April and most of Telangana, Odisha and Karnataka have already hit early to mid 40s in degree Celsius and it is an ordeal just to step out into the sun. As I write this article from Hyderabad (it is 43 degree Celsius here), my mind cannot but wander to the cooler climes of the Himalayas. And one of the places that I absolutely love is Keylong, the headquarters of the Lahaul region of Himachal Pradesh.

Shashur Gompa and the snow capped peaks of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh

I have visited Keylong on three different occasions, the latest one being last late autumn. On each of these short visits, I ended up exploring different parts of this Himalayan valley town that is tucked amidst lovely snow capped peaks. Irrespective of the type of my trip, trekking, motorcycling or plain backpacking, I loved staying in this quaint town. Be it the arduous climb to Shashur Gompa and then relishing the view of the snow capped peaks with a cup of butter tea in my hands or camping at Tandi tantalizingly close to the confluence of the Chandra and the Bhaga rivers, the Keylong experience is special.

Trekking to Shashur Gompa unleashes a riot of colors and views

Even though Keylong is an important location on the famous Manali – Leh highway, many do not opt to spend more than a night here. For some reason which I cannot understand, most visitors do not wish to explore this valley town. Sure, there are lots of exotic and beautiful places near Keylong, but even this valley has so many spectacular walks to indulge in that it definitely deserves a long weekend, if not more.

Panorama from Shashur Gompa, Keylong

Be it the walk to the Kardang monastery on the opposite hill, the walk to the Bhaga river, the walk through the apple orchards, the lazy amble through the local market, the early morning riverside trail walk to Tandi while listening to the chirping of birds, the climb through farms and local houses to Shashur Gompa or the steep walk to Tayul monastery, Keylong has so many different trails that offer a variety of lazy to heart racing walks that can appeal to all kinds of walkers. The best thing is the weather, which is so conducive to walking. The slight nip in the air and the heat generated due to walking are like made for each other.

Rich colors on Shashur Gompa - the oldest monastery in Keylong

And because a lot of travelers do not opt to stay in this town for long, you can enjoy a relaxing holiday here and make this town your very own. Like most high altitude Himalayan towns, Keylong too, enjoys those misty cool mornings, late breakfasts, lazy lunches, vibrant evenings and a bustling hill market.

Bhaga river and the sensational Keylong valley

For those who need to indulge in a variety of activities during their holiday, the Trilokinath temple, the high-altitude Chandra Taal Lake, the gorgeous Rohtang La pass, the Spiti valley and Manali offer great getaways and of course Leh is just a day’s drive away from here.

Majestic Keylong view from Shashur Gompa, Lahaul and Spiti

At about 10,000 feet in the Himalayas, Keylong would be a great place to beat the summer heat. I wish I were there right now far away from this heat wave that seems to have gripped the whole of South and Central India.

Spectacular view of the snow capped peaks around Keylong as seen from Shashur Gompa

How to reach Keylong: Kullu and Leh are the nearest airports. Manali offers the easiest option for road access. Once the Rohtang tunnel is completed, it will be fairly easy to reach Keylong, but till then, one has to cross the beautiful and mighty Rohtang pass to get here. Alternately, one can drive from Kaza if you happen to be traveling from Shimla.



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