The Himalayas, or Himalaya, (/ˌhɪməˈleɪ.ə/ or /hɪˈmɑːləjə/) form a mountain range in Asia separating the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. The Himalayan range has many of the Earth’s highest peaks, including the highest, Mount Everest. The Himalayas include over fifty mountains exceeding 7,200 metres (23,600 ft) in elevation, including ten of the fourteen 8000m peaks. By contrast, the highest peak outside Asia – Aconcagua, in the Andes – is 6,961 metres (22,838 ft) tall.
Home to the highest peaks on the planet, the Himalayas begin in Pakistan stretching across India, Bhutan and Nepal until reaching China in the east. This is a majestic landscape of mountains, deep valleys and glaciers, dominated by Mount Everest (otherwise known as Sagarmatha in Nepali) at 8,848m above sea level. The country most closely identified with the Himalayas is Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 10 highest peaks, including Everest. Since the first successful ascent by Sherpa Tenzing and Sir Edmund Hillary more than 60 years ago, there have been thousands of attempts at the world’s highest mountain. But in 2015 — a year overshadowed by the April 25th earthquake — it was the first time in over 40 years that there was no successful summiting of Everest. The earthquake destroyed villages, and triggered landslides and avalanches across the country; the death toll exceeded 8,000 and thousands more were injured.
The Himalayan range is bordered on the northwest by the Karakoram and Hindu Kush ranges, on the north by the Tibetan Plateau, and on the south by the Indo-Gangetic Plain. The Himalayas are distinct from the other great ranges of central Asia, although sometimes the term Himalaya is loosely used to include the Karakoram and some of the other ranges. The Himalayas are spread across five countries: Nepal, India, Bhutan, China and Pakistan, with the first three countries having sovereignty over most of the range. Some of the world’s major rivers, the Indus, the Ganges, and the Tsangpo-Brahmaputra, rise in the Himalayas, and their combined drainage basin is home to roughly 600 million people. The Himalayas have profoundly shaped the cultures of South Asia; many Himalayan peaks are sacred in Hinduism and Buddhism.
For mountain lovers and the vertically inclined the Himalayas represent nothing less than the crowning apex of nature’s grandeur. Here dramatic forested gorges rise to skylines of snow-capped glaciated peaks through a landscape that ranges from high-altitude desert to dripping rhododendron forest. Home to some 40 million people, this is no alpine wilderness, but rather a vibrant mosaic of peoples, cultures and communities, criss-crossed by ancient trading and pilgrimage routes that offer their own unique inspiration. Test your mettle against some of the world’s most audacious and dangerous roads, or set a more measured pace on a trek through yak pastures to prayer flag-strewn passes haunted by snow leopards and red pandas. Stretching in a 2500km-long arc across Asia from Kashmir to Kathmandu, Lhasa to Ladakh, the Himalayan range is a big place. Focus your pilgrimage on one of the following dream trips.
Ladakh – India’s little Tibet
Hidden over high passes in an arid, largely treeless rain shadow, Ladakh is classic Trans Himalayan scenery: huge khaki-coloured valleys and harsh rock walls brought alive by the occasional splash of irrigated green. Traditional Tibetan Buddhist culture remains intact here, with spectacularly located monasteries that burst into life during medieval masked dance festivals that have changed little in 500 years. For travellers there’s a bit of everything – epic treks, sparkling high-altitude mountain lakes and a well developed backpacker infrastructure based around the capital, Leh.
Time To Travel :- June to September
Tibet – roof of the world
The high Tibetan plateau is the rooftop of Asia, hidden from the Indian subcontinent behind the ramparts of the Great Himalaya. Despite Chinese-led modernisation, Tibet’s great monasteries still hum with murmured mantras and the flicker of yak butter lamps. Sublime landscapes, ranging from rolling grasslands to high-altitude turquoise lakes, a vibrant Buddhist culture and the friendly and resilient Tibetan people are the highlights here, as are the views of Everest’s North Face – miles better than anything you’ll see in Nepal.
Time To Travel :- Mid-May to September
Nepal – a trekker’s paradise
The best way to experience the mountains is on foot, and Himalayan treks just don’t get any more spectacular or convenient than in Nepal. Follow mountain paths past lines of spinning prayer wheels and charming stone Sherpa or Tamang villages to the foot of jaw-dropping 8000m peaks like Annapurna or Everest, safe in the knowledge that at the end of the day you’re guaranteed a cosy bed and hot dinner. There are few better ways to spend a couple of weeks of your life, at a cost of as little as US$25 per day. Add on a visit to the medieval cities of the Kathmandu Valley, once a Himalayan artistic powerhouse.
Time To Travel :- March, April, October, November
Bhutan – the last Shangri-la
As the last surviving great Himalayan kingdom, Bhutan has an otherworldly air that seems rooted in another age. Traditional dress is the norm everywhere, old-growth forest carpets 75% of the countryside and remote Himalayan peoples like the Layaps and Brokpas live a life largely untouched by the modern age. Simply put, Bhutan is like nowhere on earth. The catch? The fixed minimum daily rate of US$250 per person is mandatory, although this does include transport, meals, guide and accommodation.
Time To Travel :- March, April, September, October
The Himalayan mountain chain is of worldwide ecological significance, not just because it’s the highest ecosystem in the word but also because of its indigenous fauna and flora. The mountains are additionally the main source of Asia’s finest rivers, not to mention that the Tibetan plateau influences and affects the Indian monsoon. As far as tourism is concerned, especially trekking and hiking, it is important for travelers to be careful and responsible. Although some of the local communities have gone through an intensive process of urbanization, other spots are still unspoiled and they must be protected and cared for in order to remain in excellent condition.
Sustainable tourism in the Himalayas
There’s a boosting awareness of the effects mass tourism has on today’s environment. Ergo, the mere concept of sustainable tourism is starting to become increasingly more known. It’s important for tourism to respect, value, and promote a certain area’s value and it must be sensitive to the demands of the population living in that area. If you’re a trekking adventurer looking to explore the wild territories of the Himalayas, you should value the mountains and its staggering natural habitat. In spite of a code of conduct that must be employed, there’s still no guarantee that the people will protect the environment.
Trekking in particular is a great social and environmental impact on the whole Himalayan chain. Whether we like it or not, most local communities positioned near main travel routes have been greatly affected by mass tourism. Ironically, it’s us – the travelers – that often damage the things we actually came to admire. From a dying wish to explore the beaten track we end up creating another beaten track that more and more people will want to see. What are we doing? We’re basically destroying nature by making room for others to come behind us and contribute some more to that destruction.
Not many people value the wonders of the Himalayas
Travelers’ biggest mistake is that they want to experience traditional cultures without having to give up their foreign comfort. And the truth is we’re often disappointed if a community or region chooses to adopt modern housing and transportation. Tourism is bound by so many contradictions. Trekking the Himalayas is now a lot more accessible than it used to be. The Tibetan plateau with its imposing Everest peak is no longer a Nemesis but a goal professional mountaineer can attain if they’re dedicated enough. A rich bequest in cultural and natural heritage makes the region an incredible destination for mountain tourism. Nonetheless, Nepal’s environment and overall surroundings are incredibly fragile. Furthermore, the traditions are in jeopardy because of the cultural globalization with the Western world which is modern and extremely industrialized.
Responsible tourism – programs in the making
Sustainable tourism is doing its best to look for sensible alternatives to maintain the Himalayan mountain chain intact. The ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) is currently optimizing the impact of tourism on the natural habitat, and they’re looking for better ways to preserve the environment while also welcoming foreigners on its territories. The area embraces various land principles meant to combine sustainable community development with environmental protection. Annapurna’s biological diversity is rivaled by its wealthy cultural diversity. Ever since 1957 when the first trekker crossed paths with the locals, ACAP decided to make it Nepal’s most well-known travel destination, drawing more that 60% of the country’s total number of mountaineers and trekkers. ACAP adheres to three main philosophies: sustainability, people’s participation in protecting the environment, and conservation. Their efforts to promote sustainable tourism while also trying to protect the Himalayan environment are immeasurable, which is why travelers should be responsible too.
Time To Travel Himalaya :- The Himalayas cover a vast area but in general the best months to visit are late October until early May, depending on the exact location and altitude of the trek. An exception is Ladakh, where tourist facilities are only open between May and September.
How To Reach :- There are several key entry points to the Himalayas, including Kathmandu, Delhi, Islamabad (Pakistan), Paro (Bhutan) and Lhasa (Tibet). No airlines fly directly from Britain to Kathmandu; Qatar Airways operates via Doha; Jet Airways and Air India via Delhi; Etihad via Abu Dhabi and Turkish Airlines via Istanbul, among others. From London to Kathmandu, the average flight is around 12 hours, plus connecting time, with return fares starting from approximately £500. UK passport-holders require visas to visit Nepal, India, China, Pakistan and Bhutan.