With the emergence of the digital world, the travel bug has eventually bitten every one of us. Be it for leisure, be it for adventure, be it for vacations, all we want is to experience something unfamiliar and unique, and trust us, we can fathom this feeling truly and literally.
So, why not travel to the places unseen on the digital platforms and untouched by tourists? To the places which are trapped in time, walled by traditions and values. To the Himalayan villages that give you an experience from its very roots and lets you soak deep into their cultures. Isn’t it the high time to ditch the conventional options and choose the uncommon?
Read along, for I take you on an unconventional expedition to the Unknown and Unspoilt Villages Of Himalayas :
KASHMIR'S GUREZ VALLEY:
If places were to be books, Gurez would be that untouched vintage classic residing on a hard-to-reach shelf, in a less-frequented alley of an archaic bookshop that only impenitent bookworms make their way to. No fancy thick cover to grab attention, no social media popularity, not even a whit of much-deserved pride displayed for admiration.
Just 139 km from Srinagar - the summer capital of Kashmir, Gurez translates you in a tranquil world trapped in time and away from all kinds of digital footprints. This whimsical valley loaded with a plethora of hypnotising vistas and beautiful villages saw visitors for the first time in 2007 when the government permitted to add Gurez as an approachable spot. As a result of its close proximity to the Line of Control, interrogation of visitors by the Border Security Force is not an unusual affair here. However, Gurez’s isolated geographical location doesn’t make it an inchoate valley. A visit to Dawar - the biggest and the most developed village in the periphery will make you witness the swimmingly running schools, colleges and even a hospital. Live like a local and experience their extraordinary hospitality amidst the lush Himalayan grasslands, perennial rivers and wooden huts. The bygone tales of this valley will leave you whimsical for the residents of Gurez are some of the last surviving ‘Dards’, speaking Sheena language and have an ancestral connection to the people of Gilgit - a valley now in Pakistan. Gurez speaks of traditions and cultures, for women and men in their ethnic attire is not a rare sight in here.
TRIP TO TABO (SPITI VALLEY, HIMACHAL PRADESH):
Tabo on the Trans-Himalayan ranges of Himachal Pradesh is the first place that we would recommend anyone to visit and we’ll tell you why. This tranquil beauty is tucked away in the interiors of barren mountains in Northern India, echoing only the calming burble of Spiti river. Home to one of the oldest Buddhist Monasteries, the Chor-Khos Monastery in Tabo was founded more than a thousand years ago in 996 A.D. and speaks of the bygone era. The exquisite murals and stucco sculptures gracing the heartland of the Monastery is what attract visitors the most. However, if you are a photography aficionado, the chances are really high to find fellow shutterbugs capturing the perfect frame in the petite local markets residing on the side pavements of the cobbled alleys in Tabo.
This quaint village translates into a different platonic world as the dusk colours set down. The night sky shimmers glitter and comes with a natural backdrop of snow-capped and barren mountains. Pull yourself out from the cosy bed and experience sleeping under the sky full of stars on a rarely used helipad (for real) in the middle of nowhere. The only strands of light you can gaze at, are of stars. From constellations to milky way galaxy to even some planets, you can spot all with naked eyes.
If you unquestionably desire to absorb the local culture, a sojourn at an authentic Spitian homestay in this very town. The cheerful, warm and thoughtful natives will make you live their daily lives starting with the prominent mint tea. And mind you, the leaves are plucked from the kitchen garden nurtured by almost every household in Tabo. The following day hours will witness munching on local delicacies - from freshly made pasta to thukpa, dressing up in the traditional attires and shopping in search for the perfect souvenirs.
‘ARYAN’VILLAGES OF LADAKH:
The story dates back to a long time ago when Alexander The Great invaded and conquered the Indus Valley. Before turning back, Alexander enlarged his kingdom from Indus to Beas and left some of his clansmen here in the Indus Valley who eventually ended up settling in Ladakh. Unknown to many, these pure blooded Aryans still live in some unspoilt villages of Ladakh known as the ‘Last Aryan Villages in India’.
Dahanu or the Dah Hanu villages will fulfil your expectations of meeting people with pale skin, light coloured eyes and blonde hair often called the Aryans. Beyond the town of Kargil and near the Indo-Pak border is a cluster of five villages, Dah and Hanu represents two of them and is home to the Brokpa tribe - local name of the Aryan race. You’ll be shocked to see the local tribesmen and tribeswomen covered in sheepskin and wrapped in highly garnished headgears with a jot of silver jewellery to complete the traditional look. The forefathers of the majority of the localities are from the same valley and belonged to the same race. The villagers in this rugged mountain of southern Ladakh claim to have maintained their racial purity by barring inter-caste marriages.
However, first-hand experience always beats any travel guide. Come down to this highland and strike a conversation with these cheerful natives of the Last Aryan Villages of India. The locals welcome visitors with open arms and are always pleased to take you down their lives to share stories and experiences. According to some tales from the forgotten era, it is believed they are the true descendants of Alexander The Great, while some stories state they belong to the Indo-Dard tribe and hailed from the Gilgit Valley - now in Pakistan. Nobody knows their origins or if their claims are true, but the fascination abounds.