Autumn in Himalayas
Updated: Jan 16
When the season changes we come to know by changing colours of the leaves around us and warm or cold air. When you see the riot of colours everywhere on trees and the floor that would be the real treat! Here we would like to share our adventure into the lap of Himalayas in search of autumn.
This season is known as Autumn or Fall season in English. Harud हारुद is the name given in Kashmiri Patzad पतझड in Hindi and Sharad शरद ऋतू in Sanskrit. Poets, painters, writers, photographers and filmmakers extensively showcased the beauty of this season in their artworks across the globe. In northern Hemisphere autumn is revered. Lot of travellers flock to Canada, Vermont, and Europe just to see the changing autumn. But close to our homes autumn holds incomparable magic. Not only colours but the landscape also looks entirely different. The land of Ladakh, Himachal & Kashmir is famed for the fall colours. These places are in the far north and high up compared to any other places in the globe. Because of that it is unique and worth experiencing.
This year we have experienced beautiful celebration in various parts of the Himalayas like Ladakh, Kargil, Zanskar valley, Aryan valley & Kashmir. It was a month-long journey on lesser known routes and shooting thousands of images. Of course research was necessary about the time of the year , places and weather. We prepared a lot yet there were surprises. Most of them pleasant and some learnings for the next trip of course.
Stongde monastery ground
Eventhough autumn is very beautiful but this is the time when cold winds starts coming down from the snowy peaks into the valleys. Even snowfall occurs at high passes that might block your path to the next destination. It is not always easy during this time. But we dared and got the benefit of the same. We have to cancel our day trek into a remote part of Zanskar because of two days snowfall but that was a blessing in disguise to see white blanket on all the mountain peaks around us.
Back to the topic the experience was like never before. And we whole heartedly recommend you to make sure you visit Ladakh and Kashmir region at least once in the month of October. Hotels options are limited but tourists are really less. There might be a chance that you will be the only one in that region. Roads are empty and beautiful, rivers are clean and jade blue. people are free because it's off season. Everything around you will be in a natural rhythm. No one will be in hurry like back home.
Mulbek region view
Kargil city, Suru valley and Aryan valley( Batalik) are the regions where you will find more tree cover hence it will be really colourful to observe the changes in the season. Zanskar is like a land from epic movies. Where everything is gigantic and freezing. Currently the road from Kargil to Padum and till Manali via Singe La is under construction. Yet it is far better than other Himalayan roads. Those who are with allergy to dust need to cover their face with mask. Rest all is superb.
Kargil to Lalung village scenary
Kashmir looks lovely like a picture from poetry. The misty mornings and evenings coupled with Nun Chai will be memorable. Horseback trails into the forests, shikara ride in Dal or Naginee lake will be inched in you heart. And of course a walk into the famous Nishad / Nasim Bagh will be cherished forever.
Kargil to Lalung village scenary
What we did was to stop wherever we felt to stop; breathe deeply eat local khumani fruits ( apricots), apples and shoot as much as we can. Rushing was not a part of our plan at all. And everything around us was extremely scenic. It was very difficult to select images. But by seeing these you will have a sense of how it will be in next fall season.Natural beauty, flowing wind, delicious local meal, fruits, tea and naan with butter all those are beyond a photograph. Conversing with local people, visiting a farmer or staying in a homestay and sipping homemade wine made our memories. Fortunately we got very good drivers because of them we were completely relaxed and could focus on photography.
Purney village : Zanskar valley
The experience of Autumn is not a destination centric but accepting whatever you see en route. Sometime keep on going or stop at one place for hours. This season offers ample time to absorb the natural beauty because there is no one who is in the line nor any seller asking you to buy something. There's just you and the nature. Trees swaying on the winds. Some leaves flowing down along with the wind on forest floor. Maybe on a mountain faraway you can see snowfall is happening and suddenly it comes closer. Himalaya is full of surprises.
If you are in the Zanskar nights will get very cold and oxygen levels will drop. Early morning thin ice sheet will appear around you but the golden glow of the daytime and grass will lighten your spirits. Everything around you looks like exaggerated due to the sheer magnitude.
Tsarap river : Zanskar valley
This colour is real! Rugged mountain peaks piercing into the blue sky and fast flowing river beneath you. It is really tempting to go and take dip into the river but very risky proposition. I have tried to go close but the bone chilling cold and wind made it impossible to stay out for couple of minutes. Paradise is here but caution need to be taken. The river keeps you company all along the ride to Purne village and up-to Pukhtal monastery. We couldn't go there due to heavy snowfall. Otherwise it's a known trail into traveller's circuit across the globe.
Padum to Penzi La landscape
Even though Ladakh is over popularised still Autumn of Ladakh will surprise you. Hardly any tourists, shop keepers, hoteliers and locals will have time to strike a conversation. Just roaming on the streets will be refreshing. You will love the steaming noodles, momos, thupka, parathas or butter roti. Lots of options will spoil you and you will return home slightly overweight.
Leh to Kargil route scenery
Monasteries are the crown jewel of Ladakh. Exploring them will be a different at this time of the year. Make sure you walk slowly because each step at this altitude and especially in a colder month becomes a task. After a few days one becomes accustomed to it.
Lastly coming to Kashmir one cannot predict the weather. Crossing over Leh to Srinagar may offer you stunning vistas or blanket of ice. But once you are in Kashmir the scenery is entirely different. The famed Chinar trees will make you think to fall in love again.
Dal ( lake ) morning
If you are already in love or married you will definitely enjoy the place with your better half. Of course don't argue especially while shopping or else your days and nights will be very cold. :-) Jokes apart due to the water body and approaching winter everything will be really cold here as well.
Don't miss the sunrise and sunset Shikara rides. Nothing comes to close to this when you want to spend some romantic time together. We spent entire day in shikara by encircling the Dal(lake). And it was indeed an experience rather than staying at a stationary houseboat.
There are many places to explore gardens, wildlife sanctuary or just a long driver in any direction of Srinagar will give you the hint of Autumn. The foremost important thing is Saffron blooming. Never ever miss this beautiful phenomenon. And if you plan it around full moon night you will really enjoy the visit to a saffron farm.
Nishad Bagh : Srinagar
Walking amidst Chinar trees will give you a feeling of a Hobbit among the giants. I am really thankful of the people who planted those trees from Persia. If you are a nature lover, poet, writer , artist or just a traveler do not miss Autumn of the Himalayas. Once in a lifetime this is an experience to appreciate what nature has to offer. Even while falling leaves makes our lives colourful.
Do's and Don't :
Hire a known tour operator who can provide you mature driver, clean, spacious stay and accommodate you changes in plans. People charge more if you do not have idea about the place and taxi rentals. Fix the pricing with Shikara and horse operators before you go ahead. Booking a homestay is always recommended provided they give you warm hospitality.
Always leave early and catch the sunsets. That is the magical time to experience the magic as well as to take pictures. Do check weather forecast everyday. Western Disturbances can change you plan. But it is always manageable if you can change your tour plan a bit. Do follow healthy eating habits, physical activities and keep yourself warm all the time. Drink lot of water and local fruits.
Frozen ground : Randum
Places to visit :
Ladakh : Leh, Nubra, Turk, Tyakshi, Thang, Pangong, Shyok, Mulbek, Alchi, Nimoo, Hemis, Thiksey, Diskit, Damkhar etc..Keep Pangong last in your plan so that you will be acclimatised properly. Each part of Ladakh is different than that other. And that makes it more beautiful.
Kargil : Sankoo ( Suru Valley ), Lalung,Batalik , Darchik, Dah, Hanu, Garkon etc... All of these places are unique combination of beautiful vegetation and desert views. You will fall in love with these less visited places.
Zanskar Valley ( Part of Kargil District) : Rangdum, Padum, Purney, Karsha, Bardan, Stongde, Zangla Avoid Lingshed, Shingo La due to sudden changes in weather patterns.
Kashmir : Of course anywhere in Kashmir you will see the beauty of autumn. We have visited following places this Autumn those are safe with respect to the unpredictable weather pattern.
Yusmarg, Srinagar, Dachigam National Park, Naranag. You can also add Lolab valley, Wular Lake, Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Sonamarg if time permits. There's lot to do and explore in Srinagar itself. This time we did that especially shopping in Lak chowk, Dastgir Sahib, Jamiya Masjid, Khaq e Maula , downtown. And we found it really safe. Locals are really hospitable and helps in case you need it.
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