If mountaineering is not your scene, but you still want to savour the beauty of these mighty mountains, try trekking. Even trekkers without any prior experience can easily manage the altitudes that range from 2500 to 4000 metres above sea level in the hilly areas of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim .
Some of the most beautiful trekking routes are
. the Kumaon and Garhwal hills of Uttaranchal
. the Chamba-Manali area in Himachal Pradesh
. Kishtwar, Pahalgam, Zanskar and Spiti in Kashmir
. the Darjeeling-Thalut trek
. the virtually untouched routes through the Eastern Himalayas in Sikkim
In Maharashtra , you can take trekking excursions to Bhimashankar, Tungareshwar, Igatpuri, Chikaldara, Mandardevi, Varandh ,Tikona, and Gavilgad.
The Himalayas , mainly Ladakh and Zanskar are some of the most spectacular and impressive mountain ranges in the world. Numerous villages and monasteries, on the mountainside look beautiful against a backdrop of unusually colored rocks, snow-covered peaks, and a deep blue cloudless sky.
The best time for a trek in Ladakh is July to September. Leh can be reached from Manali by road by covering a distance of 471 km over some of the highest passes in the world. Srinagar, Kashmir's capital is connected to Leh by the Zojila pass.There are daily flights from Delhi, Chandigarh, Jammu and Srinagar connecting Leh which is where you need to start from. Certain areas of Ladakh require inner line permit from the Jammu and Kashmir tourism office in Delhi or from the District Magistrate.
Trekking on the Leh districts makes one discover the beautiful blend of Buddhism and Islam that is practiced here and a trek for 7-8 days in Leh over moderately high passes (3C) takes to you to Markha valley, Stok village and Hemis monastery.
Zanskar is like a remote and virginal destination abundant in nature. It is a sub-division of the Kargil district.
The Valley of Flowers lies in the Garhwal hills of Uttarakhand. A spectacular sight of gurgling streams, silver birches and shining snowy peaks greet you. Frank Smith - mountaineer, explorer and botanist camped here in the monsoon of 1937 and was bedazzled with the beauty of nature and the floral splendour of this valley. This drove him to write his book 'The Valley of Flowers'.
The trek towards the Valley begins at Govind Ghat, after crossing the Alaknanda river on a hanging bridge. Since camping and overnight stay is not allowed in the Valley of Flowers , Ghanghria is the logical base camp for the trek. Beyond Ghanghria one can only traverse on foot since ponies are prohibited. The Valley becomes accessible from late April when the snow starts melting. The moist turf begins to pulsate with life and from the dead herbage of the previous summer, little shrubs and plants rise.
Other trekking places in this region are Gopeshwar which is at a height of 1308 metres and can be visited at any time of the year. One of the unknown areas in the Garhwal region, Gwaldam has many apple orchards and one could go about exploring roads which wind their way through dense forests. Pauri is a place where you can view the central Himalayas from anywhere. Termed as the gateway to the beauty of Garhwal, forests of deodar and other mountainous trees are the trademark of this region marking the ascent from Pauri. Tarakund is another trekker's delight. The quaint little old temple and majestic mountains give it the exotic flavour it posseses. There is a motorable road by which one can go to Tarakund till Padani which is 44 kms away from Pauri. From Padani, Tarakund is a 5 km trek
For trekking details in this region contact:
Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited.
Survey Chowk, Dehradun - 248001(U.P.), India .
Tel.: 91-135-656817, 654408, Fax: 91-135-654408.
Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited
Oak Park , Nainital - 263001 , INDIA .
Tel.: 91-5942-36209, 36356. Fax: 91-5942-36897
Sikkim houses the third highest summit in the world, Kanchenjunga (8586m). Nature at its most beautiful will welcome you with an incomparable show of flora and fauna. Trekkers huts along routes are available at Pemayangtse, Khechopalri, Yuksam, Tsokha, Dzongri, Thangshing, Zemathang, Chaurigang, Tashiding, Varsey, Yangang, Rabongla, Sang and Sikip.
Perhaps the best-known trekking route in the Kumaon hills of Uttarakhand is the trail along the Pindari river to the source of its glacier. The Pindari glacier, situated on the Nanda Devi and Nanda Kot peaks, has a splendor of its own. It is big and steep and measures 3 kms in length and is 0.25 kms wide. The river Pinder Ganga originates from here and eventually converges into the Alaknanada. Following the river uphill takes one through the southern reaches of the Nanda Devi sanctuary which offers breathtaking views of Panwali Dhar (6683 meters) and Maiktoli (6803 meters) peaks. The trek to the Pindari Glacier is a relatively simple one and ideal for first time trekkers.
The best time to trek to the Pindari glacier is in May-June or after the rains in September and October. The trek starts from Saung and the first stop is the village Loharkhet at the foothills. On day two, start early, for a tedious 11 km climb to the Dhakuri pass (2680 metres). Though tough, the climb is scenic as one passes through vast open spaces, rolling hills, woods and forests. Then go downhill to Khati, the last village en route, which is a further 8 kms away. This is a long 7-8 hour trek. From Khati, the peaks suddenly seem much closer and it is from here that one moves alongside the Pindar Ganga through forests to reach Dwali which is 18 kms away. En route you stop at Dhakuri. This again is a long 6-7 hour trek. The next morning trek till Phurkia and climb the final 1-1/2 km track to the Pindari glacier. One can also trek to the nearby Kafni and Sunderdhunga glaciers.
The same day trek back till Phurkia, stay overnight and follow the same route back. Typically the trek takes 8 days from Saung and 14 days from Delhi . The closest rail head is Kathgodham from where one has to drive up till Bageshwar district where the glacier is located. Though the trek is simple, tents and mountain boots are necessary.
One of the country's most remote and mythical regions, Ladakh lies in a Himalayan valley between the Ladakh and Zanskar ranges near the Indo-Chinese border. For the experienced trekker, Ladakh offers some of the world's most exotic and challenging trekking opportunities through some of the toughest trails and the highest mountain passes. The region also has a unique landscape - a dry barren terrain occasionally interrupted by green pastures and fields of barley and mustard. Life here has remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years and trekking in the region is the best way to savor its' culture, lifestyle and beauty. The stretches of barren are dotted by ancient gompas, or Buddhist monasteries, which house some exquisite gold and tapestry works. Many of these do open their doors to trekkers and pilgrims.
One of the most critical factors about trekking in the region is the high altitude. Visitors take time to adjust to it and altitude sickness is very common. The best way to avoid it is to do very little for the first couple of days and give your body time to adjust to thinner oxygen levels. The best time to trek in the region is between May and October. Heavy winter snows literally cut off Ladakh from the rest of world.
There are many popular trekking routes in the area, and all offer spectacular views of the Himalayan ranges. It's best to keep Leh, the capital of Ladakh as the base. One can either fly in here or take the Leh-Manali road, one of the world's highest motorable roads.
Some of the world's toughest treks are in this region and are best undertaken by seasoned trekkers. Many of these can stretch from 3-14 days and require local guides and horses. Among the most popular treks in the area is the Spituk - Hemis Gompa trek. It starts at Spituk, just below Leh, and goes through the Markha Valley to reach Hemis Gompa.
On day one start from Spituk Gompa up the Jingchen Valley to Rumbak which takes roughly 6-7 hours. On day two, move on till Yuruste - a four-hour walk best taken at a slow pace. It is advisable to rest on the third day, as the next day involves crossing the Ganda La (4920 meters) to reach Skiu This is a long trek and will take 7-8 hours. The following day trek from Siku to Markha - an 8 hour walk. On day six trek till the beautiful Yak grazing pastures of Nirmaling. From Nirmaling you cross the highest pass on the trek - Kongmaru Lu (5030 meters) to reach Chogdo. This again is a long 8-hour trek but offers the most spectacular views of the Zanskar and the Ladakh ranges. On the final day trek for four hours from Chogdo to reach Hemis Gompa and take the bus back to Leh.
Another popular trek is the Lamayuru-Alchi trek, which is undertaken from Srinagar or Kargil on the way to Leh. The trek starts at Lamayuru and on day one you reach Wanlah in three hours after crossing the Prinkiti La pass. On day two you trek from Wanlah to Phanjila - a four hour trek. The following day you move from Phanjila to the base of Konze La which take roughly 5-6 hours. On day four trek from Konze La base to Sumdo via the Konze La pass (4950 meters) which is a slow trek of 6 hours. On day five trek till Sumdo Choon and finally on day six trek to Alchi Gompa via the Sumdo Choon to Stakspi La pass (4970 meters). This is a long 8 hour trek, but offers some of the most breathtaking views of the Ladakh and Karakoram ranges. From the Alchi Gompa one can take the road to Leh.
A shorter yet interesting trek is the Likir-Temisgam trek. The trek starts at Likir gompa to Yantang which is a five hours away. On day two move to Hemis-Shukpachu which is 3 hours away. Finally on day three reach Temisgam, which is three hours away and then take a bus back to Leh.
Sikkim , once a Buddhist kingdom, is one of the less explored mountainous regions in India . It borders Tibet to the north and is wedged between the Himalayan kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan . This beautiful lush state is home to the world's third highest mountain, Khangchendzonga ( Kanchenjunga ) which stands 8,586 meters above sea level. Till recently, large parts of Sikkim were restricted and required special entry permits. The benefit of this is that the state has retained much of its original Buddhist charm and its pristine environment. The Teesta river traverses the whole state from north to south and the landscape is mountainous and heavily forested.
What makes Sikkim 's mountains unique is that tropical plants - including over 600 species of orchids - of different climatic regions mix together as nowhere else in the Himalayas . And the same can be said about the state's wildlife.
The trekking season in Sikkim ranges from March to December depending on the treks you choose. Popular trekking routes are Pemayangtse, Khechopalri, Yuksam, Tsokha, Dzongri, Thangshing, Zemathang, Chaurigang, Tashiding, Varsey, Yangang, Rabongla, Sang and Sikip. These routes have huts for trekkers along the way, which makes camping and staying easier. While many treks are easy, treks in western Sikkim are more challenging and for more experienced trekkers.
Among the best treks is the one to Khangchendzonga ( Kanchenjunga ). The trekking route is Yuksam - Bakhim - Tsokha - Dzongri - Thangshing/Bikbari - Zemathang/Chaurigang - Goecha La/Rathong Glacier and back.
Here you can trek along the base of the majestic Kanchenunga through verdant tropical and alpine forests. The actual trekking starts at Yuksam and one has to walk till Tsokha at a height of (3048 M). The 14 km stretch is usually covered in 5 hours. The next day trek uphill to Dzongri which is a 9 km trek that can be done in 3 to 4 hours. The following day trek downhill from Dzongri to Thangsing a three-hour walk. The next day walk up to lake Samiti , and the following day trek up to Goecha La at a height of (5000 M). A 5 km uphill trek offers some of the most splendid views of mountains. Once back at Thangsing, one can also trek to Bakhim, an easy 10 km walk that can be covered in 3 to 4 hours.
Another interesting trek in the region is from Damthang - Tendong. The trek is a one and a half day walk through the Tendong forest sanctuary that goes till Tendong, a dormant volcano. Located at an altitude of 8,500 ft, Tendong is situated on a small plateau on top of the mountain ranges. On the east side is the Chola Range , on the west the Singelila range and the towering Kanchenjenga, and in the north-east is the Gurudogmar peak with other mountains. One can also enjoy a spectacular view of the rolling plains of Siliguri. Both sunrise and sunset are breathtaking from Tendong.
The Rabongla - Meenam day trek is also a great way to enjoy the abundant beauty of Sikkim . A 3 km trek leads to the Maenam hilltop through the Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary which is teeming with magnolia, rhododendron, small bamboo and abundant flowers, moss, ferns and creepers. En route is a small hermitage containing the image of Guru Padmasambhava. The view from the Maenam summit is picturesque and stretches all the way to the rolling plains of West Bengal . On the west is the spectacular Khanchendzonga. One can also see the Teesta snaking its way like a giant python through the valley.
Among the treks that require special permits is Tolung Monastery trek that starts at Linzey. The Tolung monastery was first built in the reign of Chogyal Chakdor Namgyal in the early eighteenth century. It contains rare and valuable scriptures and artifacts of other monasteries that were brought here for safety during the invasion of Sikkim by the Nepalese during late seventeenth and early nineteenth century. Tolung is located at an altitude of 8,000 ft in the sparsely Lepcha-populated Dzongu areas of North Sikkim . Even Indian nationals require Inner Line Permits. A day trek, it is a 20 km walk and takes approximately five hours along the fierce Tolung river as it passes through dense forests and cardamom groves.