Throughout the famed Himalayan mountains are large, hidden valleys known as beyul, places of peace and refuge revered by Tibetan Buddhists. These secret lands of legend have drawn Buddhist seekers for centuries, and one called Pemako is thought to have been the inspiration for Shangri-La, the mystical Himalayan utopia described in James Hilton’s 1933 novel “Lost Horizon.” Because of their remote and isolated location, and the respect with which they have been treated by the communities that reside in or near them, the beyul contain high levels of biodiversity in a setting of tremendous beauty.
The beyul are large mountain valleys, sometimes encompassing hundreds of square kilometers, found in the Buddhist areas of the Himalaya in Nepal, Tibet, India and Bhutan. They originate from the beliefs of the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, which has a rich tradition of respect for natural sites.
The exact geographical locations of beyul are often debated because their locations are also spiritual. A person might follow instructions from the ancient texts but still not be able to see or experience the beyul if not in the proper spiritual state.