The tale of the magical hidden valley of Shangri-La was popularized in the 1930s by James Hilton in his novel Lost Horizon, later an Oscar-winning Hollywood film. But the story of the lost kingdom behind the Himalayas, a realm free from war and suffering, is descended from a much older Indian myth. When Europeans first caught wind of the tale in the 16th century, they set about trying to discover the enchanted land.

PHOTO: PBS
Shangri-la: Mt. Kailash in Tibet

Mt. Kailash, perhaps the holiest site in Tibet.

To find the truth behind the legend, Wood follows their tracks on foot through the Maoist-controlled lands of western Nepal and into Tibet. En route, he visits Mt. Kailash, the sacred center of the world for Hindus and Buddhists. Eventually, after hundreds of miles on dirt roads, Wood reaches the fantastic ruins of the lost city of Tsaparang, which he suggests is the real inspiration behind the myth.

Thursday at 10 p.m. on PBS-HD.

In Search of Myths & Heros