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Experiences Walking and Trekking Walking in Asia Walking in India

Walking in India

The collision of the Indian landmass with the Eurasian plate around 70 million years ago caused the creation of the world’s highest mountain range – the Himalaya. Spanning five countries from Bhutan and China in the east through Nepal and India to Pakistan in the west, the 2400 kilometre long Himalayan range separates the warm, humid Indian Subcontinent from the cold and dry Tibetan Plateau.

When you think of the Himalaya, it is generally Nepal which springs to mind but just over the border, India has its share of this mighty mountain range. The entire northern boundary of India is marked by the Himalaya which stretches across the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. This vast area has endless trekking opportunities and the reward of some stupendous views of the area’s many high peaks, sweeping valleys and high passes. 

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Walking in India

While summer trekking in Nepal is best avoided (it is peak monsoon season), over in the northwest of the Indian side, July and August are great times to trek in certain parts. Lying in a rain shadow, the Ladakh and Zanskar areas generally enjoy warm, sunny days and low rainfall. The clear air at this time of year allows the many mountain peaks to be revealed in their full glory. Ladakh is therefore a great option if your travel dates are tied to the summer months.

The Ladakh region is famous for its vast landscapes, open skies and traditional mountain communities with strong influences from Tibetan Buddhism. Here the villages are so remote and surrounded by such arid and inhospitable terrain that they feel as if they belong in another world: simple, flat-roofed, stone houses lie clustered around centuries-old Buddhist monasteries, the spiritual heart of Ladakh; almost every village has at least one ancient monastery.     

A number of treks traverse the region, crossing a series of high altitude passes with huge, panoramic views of the valleys below. The trekking here is tough but rewarding, taking you through a string of tiny villages dwarfed by vast, rocky slopes and barren, mountain peaks. There are few trekking regions anywhere else in the world that take you into such remote regions, where cultures and traditions have scarcely changed and Mahayana Buddhism is still widely practiced. Trekkers often describe this region as ‘Little Tibet’, saying this is what Tibet itself might have been like fifty years ago.

The best season for treks in other parts of the Indian Himalaya follow the same pattern as Nepal. The October and November post-monsoon season is great for clear views, low rainfall and moderate daytime temperatures.  The atmosphere tends to be hazier in the April and May spring season but the slopes become a riot of colour as the rhododendrons and magnolia trees start to bloom.
One of the most beautiful trekking areas is in Sikkim, the second smallest state in India located in the eastern Himalaya. Marking the border between India and Nepal, the Singalila Ridge is the location for one of the area’s classic treks. The effort of reaching the ridge is rewarded with panoramic views of some of the world’s highest mountains. Five summits which tower over 8000m can be seen – Everest (8848m), Kanchenjunga (8586m), Lhotse (8516m), Makalu (8485m) and Cho Oyu (8188m). With such vistas, India is a worthy challenger to Nepal’s trekking crown.

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