Indian Himalayas - Travel Guide to Himalayan Trekking & Travel
Towering high above India’s plains, a world apart, is the striking Himalayas, home to mountain tribes who have developed their own culture and traditions isolated from the rest of the world. Here amongst the world's highest peaks, including Mount Everest and K2, lies vast vegetation and terrain to excite even the most widely travelled. Visitors to the Indian Himalayas have fantastic opportunities to trek the mountains for some breathtaking views and incredible tracks and scenery.
The Himalayas were formed after India separated from Gondwanaland and drifted north colliding with the Eurasian continent many millions of years ago. This collision was of such force that it pushed the Eurasian crust upward to create what we call the Himalaya today. The Indian Subcontinent is still pushing against the Eurasian continent adding to the Himalayan height about 1cm a year. However, because of this constant movement, it makes it susceptible to tectonic activity which can result in major natural disasters such as the one that killed over 80,000 people in 2005.
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Extending along the entire northern boundary separating India from the Tibetan Plateau, the Himalayas, meaning “the Abode of Snow”, is the perfect place to visit during summer when the scenery is at its best and the snow doesn’t impair your journey. Although the Himalayas do not experience the well known Indian monsoons, its extremely harsh climate in winter isolates entire valleys for many months of the year.
There are important things to consider before planning a trip trekking up the Himalayas however, such as altitude sickness, hypothermia and acclimatizing issues.
The climate is very important to consider when travelling to this area especially as the climate varies depending on the altitude. The southern foothills range from a mild 18°C in winter to 30°C summers, generally nice all year round, while the Himalayan valleys have a less extreme summer and a rather cold winter climate. The middle Himalayas have a summer temperature of around 17°C therefore you can expect winters to be below freezing. Be very vigilant in the higher regions as they are permanently covered with snow and continually sport temperatures at below freezing.
Places that are a must to visit include Shimla and Manali, both popular destinations known for their beauty. Shimla is a city north-west of the Himalayas often known as the “Queen of Hills” with colonial buildings perched on its hilly landscape. Temperatures are relatively cold compared to most Indian cities but very reasonable during the summer months with temperatures hanging between 14-2017°C. The Shimla Summer Festival is held every year with many performances and markets, a great thing to experience while here. Also the Mall and Gaiety Theatre attract many tourist crowds where restaurants, clubs and the tourist offices are located. Getting here is an easy journey by road or train, especially if you fly in to Jubbarhatti which is a mere 12km away. Once you have arrived, local transport incorporates mainly busses as most of the roads are extremely narrow hence banning private cars.
Manali on the other hand is located at an altitude of 2050m within the Himalayas providing a river-side gem said to be the home of the Seven Sages. It is a stark contrast to other hot and muggy Indian cities having a comfortable climate during summer making it a popular destination for honeymooners. You can take a paddle boat out in the park near the Hidimba temple, visit the Vashisth Hot Sulphur Spring or take a morning stroll, alternatively for the more adventurous, go river rafting, rock climbing, skiing, trekking or even paragliding.
Be aware that some areas of the Himalayas have restricted access due to territorial disputes. So make sure you get good advice and preferably an experienced guide if you are planning to do some trekking or mountaineering here. There are several options from hiking independently, hiring a porter or signing on with a specialist trekking company. Also keep in mind that most of the higher regions are snowbound year round making it mostly inaccessible.
One of the main hazards is the changeable weather that can be unpredictable at times making it dangerous for those less experienced.
Apart from the concerns associated with travelling in the higher altitude areas, it is an absolutely fascinating place, one with a uniqueness one can only experience in the Himalayas.