The town Keylong is the headquarters of the administrative district of Lahual-Spiti. It has a marketplace, petrol pump and basic medical facilities. The region is strange, exiting, primitive mountainous and delightful. Rudyard Kipling said of the region “Surely the God live here, this no place for men”. The route to Keylong takes one over the Rohtang Pass (3980 m), Khoksar – the first village of Lahaul valley, Sissu, Gondla and crossing the river Chandrabhaga (Chenab) at Tandi.
Height: 3350 m
Climate: Keylong remains cut off from other parts from November to May due to heavy snowfall. Heavy woollens are required during this time. In summer, light woollens are recommended.
Getting There & Away: How to reach Keylong
Road: The distance is 115 kms from Manali, 188 kms from Kaza, 373 kms from Leh, 435 kms from Chandigarh and 690 kms from Delhi.
Rail: Keylong can be visited from Chandigarh, which is at a distance of 435 kms.
Air: The nearest Airport is Bhuntar near Kullu at a distance of 175 kms.
Tourist Attractions in Keylong
Sha-Shur Gompa (3 kms): ‘Sha-Shur’ in the local dialect means ‘in the blue pines’. This is very apt as good patches of blue pine can still be seen around the monastery. The Gompa was founded in the 17th century by Lama Deva Gyatsho of Zangskar who was a missionary of Nawang Namgyal, the king of Bhutan. The lamas of the Gompa are the Drugpa sect (red hat sect). Deva Gyatsho remained in the monastery till his death. When he was being cremated, this is said; his heart did not burn and was enclosed in a black image of Gyatsho. A statue of the Namgyal is also there in the monastery. This monastery has the biggest Thanka paintings, over 15 feet, and invaluable wall paintings depicting all the 84 Siddhas of Buddhism. In the month of June/July, Chham is performed in the monastery which is the most popular Chham in Lahaul.
Kardang (3500 m, 5 kms): This place was once the capital of Lahaul, has the most popular and the biggest monastery of the area. The monastery is situated on the left bank of the river Bhaga just above the village. This is one of the most revered places of the Drug-pa (Red Hat) sect; it has a large library and is also the repository of some exquisite Thangka paintings, musical instruments and old weapons.
Tayul (6 kms): This Gompa above the village of Satingri has the biggest statue of Padmasambhava and his two manifestations as Singhmukha and Vajravarahi. The statue is 12 feet tall. The Gompa houses big library of Kangyur. Thankas in the Gompa depict various episodes from the life of Lord Buddha. ‘Tayul’ means the “place that is chosen”, and so it must be for local legend maintains that the main that the main prayer wheel rotates on its own accord on certain occasions.
Guru Ghantal Monastery (3020 m, 8 kms): This monastery is situated on a hill above the Tupchiling village at the confluence of the rivers Chandra and Bhaga. This Gompa was founded by Guru Padmasambhava and is more than 800 years old. This monastery has idols of Guru Padmasambhava, Brijeshwari Devi and several other lamas.
Tandi (2673 m, 6 kms): This has the confluence of the rivers Chandra and Bhaga and here, form the river Chandrabhaga. The river enters the state of Jammu & Kashmir and is renamed as Chenab. The Bhaga River originates from the Suraj Tal Lake and the river Chandra originates from the glacier close to the Chandra Tal Lake in the Spiti district.
Gemur (18 kms): This is a small monastery, but is held in great sanctity and is well known for its dance –drama enacted every July.
Gondhla (3160 m, 16 kms): This seven storey house of the Thakur of Gondhla, called the Gondhla castle or fort and attracts a large number of tourists. It is said that the fort was built in 1700 AD by Raja Man Singh of Kullu. The castle is an example of the indigenous timber bonded stone style of the Western Himalayas consisting of alternate courses of stone and wooden beams and cemented together with wet clay. Several weapons including bows, arrows, quivers, catapults, guns and canons beside other articles of antique value can be seen rusting in the apartment.
Sissu (3130 m, 28 kms): The monastery houses an image of Lahaul’s patron deity, Gyephang, while its marshy plains act as a stopover for migratory birds.
Khoksar (3140m, 45 kms): Khoksar is the first village and gateway to Lahaul. This village is surrounded by high mountains and is avalanche prone. Avalanches can be seen piled upeven near the river bed. During winters, Khoksar is the coldest inhabited place in Lahaul. The river freezes during winters and is covered with snow to afford regular passage for humans as well as for mule traffic.
Rohtang La (3980 m, 110 kms): In Tibetan language, Roh means a ‘dead body’, Tang is a heap or pile and La is a mountain pass. In earlier times, many people died while crossing the pass. Rohtang Pass at an altitude of 3978 m is a high altitude pass on the eastern Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas around 51 kms from Manali. It connects the Kullu valley with the Lahaul and Spiti valleys. The Pass remains entirely covered in snow during most part of the year and hence cannot be approached during the winter months.
Kunzum La (4551 m): One of the highest motorable passes. Goddess Kunzum keeps guard over the pass and wards of the evil.
Chandertal Lake (4270 m): This beautiful lake is known as Moon Lake and is a popular destination for trekkers and campers. The lake is accessible on foot from Batal as well as from Kunzum Pass from late May to early October. There is also a motorable road from Batal which is 13 kms away from Chandertal, but before August, its condition can be bad. The road from Kunzum Pass is accessible only on foot, and it is about 7 kms from here.
Jispa (3200 m, 28 kms): Attractively sited, this is a small village which also has religious significance. This village has a helipad, a post office, a monastery and a small folk museum. This is a prominent place where tourists travelling to Leh from Manali, take a night halt at this place.
Darcha (3400 m, 37 kms): Darcha is a picturesque village on the banks of Bhaga river on Keylong-Leh highway. This is an ideal location to experience the village life and the breath-taking landscapes with the dry snow-desert beyond it.
Suraj Tal Lake (4880 m): This is known as the Lake of the Sun God and lies just below the summit of Baralacha La and is considered to be highest lake in India and the 21st highest in the world. This lake is the source of the Bhaga river.
Baralacha La (4890 m, 75 kms): This means ‘the pass with the cross-roads on the summit’. Here meet the paths from Zanskar, Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul. It is eight kilometres long and is on the Manali-Leh highway. This is also the watershed for the Chandra, Bhaga and Yunam rivers.
Sarchu: This is the last point of Himachal on the route to Leh. This is a picturesque place with barren mountains on all sides.
Shansha (27 kms): The deity Gyephang is regarded to have been born here and a shrine is dedicated to him.
Jalma (33 kms): This is considered to be the legendary abode of many of Lahaul’s deities.
Triloknath (2760 m, 53 kms): Its shrine is revered by both Hindus and Buddhists. It is the site of a famous fair called ‘Pori’ held in every August.
Udaipur (2650 m, 53 kms): This has an ancient wooden temple of Tripura Sundari dedicated to goddess Durga and has some rare carvings.