As the frontier of China, Nepal, Bhutan, India and Pakistan, the Himalaya is located in the south Asia, southwest to China, north to Nepal and Bhutan, northeast to India and Pakistan. Since the highest mountain ranges on the Earth is 2400 kilometers long from south in India to the east in Tibet, tourists come to these countries can see the Himalayas in different angles.

Hindu scriptures say that in “a hundred ages of the gods” you could not do justice to the Himalayas. So where do mere mortals start? Knowing where to go in an area 10 times the size of France is daunting, especially when just getting there is expensive. Everest gets most of the headlines, but the Himalayas are vast, especially when you include mountain ranges west of the Indus – the Pamir, Hindu Kush and Karakoram.

This 4,000km crescent, stretching from Kyrgyzstan to Burma, is a geography of superlatives – the highest mountains, the deepest gorges, tracts of wild forest, the rolling high plateau of Tibet plus, in Bhutan and the Indian state of Assam in the eastern Himalayas, some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet.

Then there are the people. It is true that in some areas the Himalayas are wild and barely populated, but in most there is an incredible diversity of cultures that have adapted to surviving in an environment that can be exceptionally hostile as well as incredibly beautiful.

These huge peaks are also the meeting point for three of the world’s great religions: Islam in the west, Hinduism to the south and Tibetan Buddhism to the north.

It’s an incredibly dynamic region. New roads and airports are making some areas more accessible, while diminishing the appeal of others, like the famous Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.

The walking itself is usually not too difficult, no more so than a normal – apart from the altitude, of course. It’s the altitude, along with problems of travelling in one of the least developed regions of Asia and fears about hygiene, that put some people off. Staying healthy in the Himalayas is certainly more difficult than it is at home, but if you’re used to walking and are cautious about gaining altitude then you’re unlikely to have any problems. And the rewards are spectacular.

The summer monsoon is much heavier in the eastern Himalayas than it is in the west, and so the most popular trekking periods in much of India, Nepal and the region east of there are April and October. Skies tend to be clearer in the autumn, although it’s colder too, but that’s when Everest and other popular treks are at their busiest.

If you want to trek in the summer holidays, then look further west. Zanskar and Ladakh, largely Tibetan Buddhist in terms of its population but politically part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, are north of the Himalayan chain and enjoy much better weather in July and August. These are also the best months for K2 and the rest of the Karakoram, including Kashmir, and the Hindu Kush.

The most popular trekking areas – like Everest, the Annapurna region and Ladakh’s Markha valley – have a network of basic lodges to stay in, opening up these areas to independent trekkers who don’t want to carry a tent and are on a more limited budget. It’s also possible to reach Annapurna, or Nepal’s Langtang region, by bus, without the need for costly internal flights.

For those with a bit more to spend, there are off-the-peg itineraries from specialist travel agents in the UK. The best of these use good local outfitters and provide a guide, either western or a local who speaks good English. For those who don’t want the hassle of organising transport and accommodation, this kind of trip is perfect – and for camping treks in remote areas, they’re essential. You can also approach a local agent directly, which is useful if you have a group of friends who want to trek together.

Since Nepal’s civil war ended in 2006, the number of trekkers visiting the Everest region has more than doubled to 35,000 a year. At the height of the season, around 60 flights land at Lukla airport each day. The Sherpa town of Namche Bazaar, the gateway to Everest base camp and used for altitude acclimatisation, now has better mobile coverage than much of Snowdonia. So if you go in peak season, expect a crowd. If you have a group of mates who all want to see Everest, most companies will organise a private tour.

World Expeditions is one of the biggest operators, running over 20 treks this year, with accommodation a mixture of camping and lodges on the classic standard trek to Everest base camp. An 18-day trek costs £1,650, which it can also arrange. Some of its autumn departures are already full, so hurry if you want to go in the diamond jubilee year of the first ascent.

If you prefer a bit more comfort, there are now two chains of luxury lodges on the way to base camp, Yeti Mountain Homes and Everest Summit Lodges. We’re not talking five-star spas here, but an en suite bathroom and a hot water bottle are a big step up from standard lodges.

Specialist trekking company Mountain Kingdoms offers a 19-day package starting at £2,245 that also offers nights at Kathmandu’s stunning heritage hotel, Dwarika’s.

If you’re looking to beat the crowds, trekking guide Bonny Masson has this advice: “If you’ve got the time, do the original trek the British expedition took in 1953.” This started in Kathmandu, but a bus will now take you to the end of the road just beyond the town of Jiri. The trail beyond is a tougher walk than the stages from Lukla, which most people now reach by air. “You’ll get a better slice of life in Solukhumbu and the trails are quieter.” Alternatively you can trek out of season, in December or February, when numbers are down and the trails are quieter. But you should be prepared for lower temperatures.

Adventurous types can trek to the little-visited east face of Everest inside Tibet via the Kama valley, one of the least known but most beautiful approaches to the world’s highest peak. Unlike the Nepalese side, this wild valley has hardly changed at all. In recent years, the visa situation in Tibet has been inconsistent, but that now seems to be settling down.

Since Nepal’s civil war ended in 2006, the number of trekkers visiting the Everest region has more than doubled to 35,000 a year. At the height of the season, around 60 flights land at Lukla airport each day. The Sherpa town of Namche Bazaar, the gateway to Everest base camp and used for altitude acclimatisation, now has better mobile coverage than much of Snowdonia. So if you go in peak season, expect a crowd. If you have a group of mates who all want to see Everest, most companies will organise a private tour.

World Expeditions is one of the biggest operators, running over 20 treks this year, with accommodation a mixture of camping and lodges on the classic standard trek to Everest base camp. An 18-day trek costs £1,650, which it can also arrange. Some of its autumn departures are already full, so hurry if you want to go in the diamond jubilee year of the first ascent.

If you prefer a bit more comfort, there are now two chains of luxury lodges on the way to base camp, Yeti Mountain Homes and Everest Summit Lodges. We’re not talking five-star spas here, but an en suite bathroom and a hot water bottle are a big step up from standard lodges.

Specialist trekking company Mountain Kingdoms offers a 19-day package starting at £2,245 that also offers nights at Kathmandu’s stunning heritage hotel, Dwarikas.

If you’re looking to beat the crowds, trekking guide Bonny Masson has this advice: “If you’ve got the time, do the original trek the British expedition took in 1953.” This started in Kathmandu, but a bus will now take you to the end of the road just beyond the town of Jiri. The trail beyond is a tougher walk than the stages from Lukla, which most people now reach by air. “You’ll get a better slice of life in Solukhumbu and the trails are quieter.” Alternatively you can trek out of season, in December or February, when numbers are down and the trails are quieter. But you should be prepared for lower temperatures.

Adventurous types can trek to the little-visited east face of Everest inside Tibet via the Kama valley, one of the least known but most beautiful approaches to the world’s highest peak. Unlike the Nepalese side, this wild valley has hardly changed at all. In recent years, the visa situation in Tibet has been inconsistent, but that now seems to be settling down.

The most extensive of all mountain ranges, the Himalayas stretches across the lands of Pakistan, India, Bhutan, Nepal and eastern China. Home to the highest peaks on the planet, it represents the courageous and vivacious spirit of these countries’ nomadic tribes. If you’re planning a trip to the Indian Himalayas, these are the things you need to keep in mind.

Check your timings

The Himalayas is made up of dramatic topography, lush valleys and extensive cold deserts that stretch on for miles. Whether you’re planning a trip to India’s little Tibet, Ladakh or the last Shangri-la, Bhutan; the ideal time to explore the Himalayas is from mid-May to mid-September. However, the peak trekking season in the Indian Himalayas goes from March to June.

Map an itinerary

The popular trek routes in the Himalayas are well defined but for those who seek off-the-grid adventure, do your research well and check with the local authorities before venturing into the unknown.

 

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