INDIAN HIMALAYA

World → Asia → Indian Himalaya

One of the best hiking regions in the world is the
INDIAN HIMALAYA Top 10

This is the least hiked of the best destinations in the world. Why is it not yet more popular with foreign trekkers?

There might be more good choices here than in Nepal. In 2010 more routes were opened in the previously restricted areas of remote Jammu and Kashmir. In fact,  previously locked shut Nanda Devi National Park has been partially opened recently for restricted number of hikers.

We use Lonely Planet’s definition of the region, the sections of the Himalaya governed by India shown in orange on the map below.

AT A GLANCE

IH

  • Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttaranchal in the west
  • Darjeeling and Sikkim in the east
  • many peaks over 7000m (23000ft)
  • every serious hiker wants to travel to Nepal. The savvy trekkers to the Indian Himalaya, as well.
  • though challenging, India is a wonderful tourist destination
  • English is widely spoken
  • public transportation is slow at best, downright terrifying at worst
  • getting to the trailhead may be much more dangerous than anything you do on the trek. Take the train rather than a vehicle whenever you can.
  • best for experienced, confident, self-sufficient high altitude hikers
  • hiking season somewhere May-Nov (though micro-climates vary greatly). Many treks are not recommended Jul-Aug — though you can hike most places in Ladakh those months as it’s in the monsoon rain shadow.
    Dave Sinclair - Johar Valley, Kumaon, India - on the way to Nanda Devi

Dave Sinclair – Johar Valley, Kumaon, India – on the way to Nanda Devi

WHY WE LIKE THIS REGION

  • stunning high peaks
  • forested valleys, wildflower meadows
  • Hindu, Islamic and Buddhist cultures, architecture and history
  • culture of the mountain people
  • you can hike independently, hire a porter, or sign on with a trekking company
  • India is simply the most intense, memorable country to visit
  • travel is very inexpensive
  • watching for Lammergeiers, huge mountain vultures
  • variety of flora when climbing up from the low lands
  • virtually no dangerous wildlife
  • adding on visits to Bhutan (highly restricted) or Nepal (very easy)
  • excellent for photographers
Dave Sinclair - Nanda Devi East at sunrise

Dave Sinclair – Nanda Devi East at sunrise

CONSIDERATIONS

By far the biggest downside to hiking the Himalayas is altitude sickness. Hikers die each year. Symptoms begin as low as 3000m (9800ft). Many of our recommended hikes climb over 5000m. On some it is difficult to descend quickly. Rescue often not available. Do not hike high unless willing to accept this risk.

  • if you do not have enough time to acclimatize to altitude, hike at lower elevations (the view looking UP at the mountains is gorgeous too)
  • hard walking, laboured breathing, intense sun at high altitude all can compound the problems of a hikers suffering AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness)
  • hypothermia is more frequently a problem than sun stroke. Bring gear to stay warm and dry.
  • it’s essential to avoid frostbite, of course
  • we’ve suffered some pretty severe gastrointestinal ailments on the southern side of the Himalaya range despite taking every precaution. (The Tibet side is drier, the risk lower.)
  • weather is a big factor. It varies greatly from place to place in the Himalayas. Some areas get virtually no rain, year round, as they are protected from the Monsoon. Other areas are doable from May-Oct. The best months for some of the higher treks are Sep-Oct
  • personal safety is a slight concern. Trekkers have been kidnapped in the Himalayas in the past, though rarely
  • mountain tourism is a reality. We must make the best of it. The consequences, good and bad, for the local peoples are predictable by looking at Nepal. Perhaps it can be managed better in India since numbers of visitors are fewer.
  • obviously we cannot leave trash. Everything must be carried out.
  • trekkers must discourage the burning of wood for cooking at higher elevations (multi-fuel stove recommended)

india-map

BEST TREKKING GUIDEBOOKS

Lonely Planet was finally updated in 2009. It’s the best starting point.

Check that those are the most recent editions before purchasing.

BEST HIKES in INDIA

It’s confusing to list the best treks as different names are used in different guidebooks. (Even the spelling of Kangchenjunga varies.) Consider these recommendations only a starting point.

  • Markha Valley Ladakh <guidebook>
  • Kauri Pass Uttaranchal
  • Milam Glacier & Nanda Devi Uttaranchal
  • Nanda Devi Sanctuary Uttaranchal
  • Singge La & Lamayuru Ladakh
  • Umasi La Ladakh 
  • Singalila Ridge and Phalut Sikkim
  • Dzongri & Goecha La Sikkim
  • Jagatsukh to Hampta Pass & Lahaul Himachal Pradesh
  • Pin Parvati to Spiti Himachal Pradesh
  • Kanji La & Shilakong Gorge Ladakh
  • Kang La & Miyar Glacier Ladakh
  • Tarik La & Kinnaur HP
  • Source of the Ganges Uttaranchal
  • Singalila to Kangchendzonga Darjeeling
  • To Green Lake Sikkim
  • Shingo La to Phuktal Monastery and Phirtse La Ladakh
  • Parang La to Tso Moriri Ladakh
  • Tso Moriri to Tso Kar (Rupshu) Ladakh

There are many more great hikes in India. Indeed.

Kuari day 5-10

6 thoughts on “INDIAN HIMALAYA

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