Nowhere on Earth can the sheer grandeur of the Himalayas be rivalled. It has been a magnet for people for centuries, attracted to the immense beauty found in the region. From the winding rivers that flow through them to the colossal mountain ranges that seem unscalable, the Indian Himalayas is indeed a must-visit destination on your travel itinerary. The people who live in this vibrant environment welcome you at every settlement dotted around this remarkable environment, making you feel like you belong here. So, it’s time to take a look at the list that you will want to be hitting as soon as you can.
Found in the north-west of the Indian Himalayas in the Pir Panjal Range, this hill station is a melting pot in winter for adrenaline seekers. As it’s one of the best-maintained ski resorts in the country, it attracts people from all over India. In summer, the area transforms into a trekking hub with the Alpather Lake, Khilanmarg and Apharwat trails taking you to some of the best scenery around here. For those of you who are looking for a bit more of a workout, the towering Pir Panjal is another option to consider & can be reached by trekking through the vale.
The major city in Kashmir is a cultural melting pot of the numerous communities that inhabit this side of the Himalayas. People have been living in the area since ancient times and over the centuries has seen multiple conquerors come & go, leaving their inevitable mark on this place. The majestic houseboats aka ‘Shikaras,’ found all over Dal & Nigeen Lakes, are the cultural symbol of Kashmir & have been likened to the gondolas seen in Venice. Don’t forget to see the beautifully maintained Mughal gardens of Shalimar Bagh, Chashme Shahi & Nishat Bagh to soak in the fantastic scenery that surrounds Srinagar.
3. McLeod Ganj
Named after a lieutenant governor & perched above the city of Dharamsala, this bustling mountain town is the home to a sizeable Tibetan community exiled from their homeland. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, has lived here since the 1960s, next to his humble temple that gives visitors an insight into Mahayana Buddhism. Around the town, there are many cultural exchange projects & as well as spiritual talks that bring together people from all walks of life. In the surrounding area, the brilliant Tushita Meditation Centre hosts different retreats nine months of the year, the hippie village of Dharamkot attracts travellers wanting a break from normality & the Triund hike (the feature photo), rewards you with an incredible panorama of the Dhauladhar range.
High up between Ladakh to the north & the Great Himalayan Range to the south, is the sparsely populated region of Zanskar. Much of its population are a mix of Indo-European & Tibetan settlers who have learnt to harness the land through innovative irrigation systems & arable farming methods. There are many Buddhist temples & monasteries in the area with the Phuktal Gompa, Thongde Gompa & Karsha Gompa offering insights into the lives of monks living here as well as the way of life they choose to follow.
Located in the far north of the Indian Himalayas, close to the border with Tibet, is the largest town in the Ladakh region. At 3,500m above sea level, the settlement is prone to flash flooding & has been dramatically affected by climate change. However, one of the draws to this area is the religious pluralism practised by the people living here. Various religions have coexisted for centuries & the festival of Sindhu Darshan celebrates this each year. The turquoise lake of Pangong Tso, located to the south-east of Leh, is one of the most beautiful places in the Himalayas. It offers a stunning mirror-like reflection which you will never forget.
One of the principal mountain towns in Himalayan India is the quaint town of Manali. Found in the Kullu Valley with the Beas River following through, this place is growing with many long-term visitors choosing Old Manali as a resting spot. Old Manali has a real choice of restaurants and bars that cater for the hedonistic traveller looking for a welcoming smile and no hassle. Paragliding & rock climbing, give you an opportunity to see the place from another angle & get closer to the nature that surrounds the town. The Hampta Pass Trek is renowned in these parts, taking you through beautiful forests into an entirely different world of deserts in the Lahaul Valley. It’s truly unmissable.
The Parvati Valley is considered one of the most beautiful valleys in all of the Himalayas. The incredible Parvati River snakes through the valley revealing rich forests, hot springs, & abundance of lush plant life. The village of Kasol is a laid-back settlement, with cafes & restaurants relatively inexpensive although the service can be a little delayed. To make the most of your time here, take hikes to the quieter villages of Rasol, Chalal & Grahan, where you can truly immerse yourself in nature & the local culture. Just down the valley is the settlement of Manikaran, which is worth visiting with it’s beautiful Sikh Gurdwara. Manikaran Sahib welcomes visitors to enjoy a meal & the opportunity to bathe in its thermal springs, free of charge!
8. Spiti Valley
Placed in the middle land between India & Tibet, the desert landscape of Spiti Valley is mystical as well as enticing. High mountain passes over 4,000m flank the valley, leading to the area being cut off during Spring & Winter due to heavy snowfall. The region is home to two prominent Tibetan Buddhist monasteries which are favoured by his Holiness, the Dalai Lama. Due to the elements & harsh conditions here, both the Key & Tabo Gompas are highly fortified. Fittingly they are training centres for monks who choose to follow the Gelug sect of Buddhism.
9. Nanda Devi National Park
Situated around the second highest peak in India, the national park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the late 80s. Wildlife is in abundance here, with snow leopards, bears, monkeys & deer all living in the park along with over 300 different species of plant life. The trek into the park is 13km & begins at the village of Lata in Uttarakhand, rising from 2,000m to 4,250m. It’s also important to consider that visitors must be in groups & obey the rules to keep the national park in pristine condition. Throughout the park are towering 6,000m+ mountain peaks dotted all around, making the place, a trekking paradise during the peak hiking months.
Made famous by the numerous rock stars & musicians who spent time here in the late 60s, one of the holiest sites in all of India is Rishikesh. It’s location by the river Ganges, has attracted spiritually minded people for centuries & is known as the ‘Yoga Capital of the World.’ Many ashrams (yoga centres) are found all around the town, attracting students & teachers from across the globe. The Lakshman Jhula bridge spanning across the Ganges, stands as an iconic symbol of the Rishikesh, with the Rajaji tiger reserve & numerous Hindu temples worth visiting during your stay here.
So there you have it, the Indian Himalayan Hitlist is complete. As you can see, there are some real gems in this area, which are well worth the often long journeys between each of them. The various religious & spiritual influences here & the connection to the dramatic landscape, makes it a truly unique environment that leaves a positive impression on you well after you’ve left. Thank you for reading & let’s hope it inspires you to add the Himalayas to your bucket list.