Spectacular views apart, the
Himalayan foothills are just ideal for trekking, offering energetic out-door
people a different and exciting option for a holiday. The Garhwal and Kumaon
regions of Uttar Pradesh are the most popular destinations for trekkers,
though Chamba and Manali in Himachal Pradesh, and Ladakh and Zanskar in
Jammu and Kashmir, have interesting trekking routes as well. Darjeeling and
Sikkim in the east also have some trekking routes, but foreigners need to
get permits for the latter area, and must follow some restrictions.
While Trekking as a sporting activity does not require prior training or
practise, except that the trekking should be in good physical condition,
there are certain dos and don'ts which should be carefully chosen, as some
trek maybe more difficult, or many involve high altitude trekking. It is
generally advisable to be accompanied by a local guide. Ensure that the pace
of the trek is not too rapid, since this could result in exhaustion, and
would in any case not be enjoyable.
Jammu and Kashmir Background:
The northern most
state of India affords some spectacular contrasts in nature with alpine
pastures, barren landscapes and rugged mountains. The area around Srinagar
is rich in forests, lakes with houseboats, flowers, gardens and hills. This
is a trekkers' paradise which merges on ahead with Zanskar and then with the
region of Ladakh.
Srinagar is a good take off point for trekking
in the Kashmir valley, or in Zanskar. For Ladakh, Leh also makes a good
point to pack rucksacks and buy last minute provisions. Ladakh, often known
as 'Little Tibet', is arid due to being in the rain-shadow and is like a
high altitude desert, its lunar landscape often referred to as Moonland
For Zanskar, one can go to Srinagar and travel by road to Kargil which forms
the take off point for Zanskar. . Essential Information:
The ideal time to be trekking is between April and N 0vember. To be on a
trek, it is easy both to get assistance from specialised trekking agencies
as well as from tourist offices in Srinagar and Delhi. No special permits
for trekking are required though registration with tourist offices in
Srinagar, Kargil or Leh is necessary. At road heads, porters and mules are
available. Treks & Options:
The Amarnath Cave trek,
in Kashmir, goes to the Amarnath Cave at 3,900 1]1 where a natural lingam'
of ice is revered by pilgrims. From Srinagar (1,768 m) one can ride in a
jeep or car till Pahalgam, 95 km, at a height of 2,130 m, located at the
junction of the Lidder and Sheshnag rivers and surrounded by fir covered
mountains. The jeepable route continues to Chandanwari, 3,700 m and is 13 km
from Pahalgam. Here the Chandanwari and Sheshnag rivers form a confluence.
The second day's route, till Sheshnag (3,700 m, a trek of 11 km) offers a
choice of two routes: one goes past Pisu Hill and the other via Pisu Chati -
the pilgrim's route. There is a beautiful fresh water lake and one can camp
either at Zojibal or at Wanjan. On the third day one reaches Panchtarni, 11
km. The fourth day's 8 km trek to reach the cave trails along paths with
several peaks of around 4,700 m across the nullah. From the cave, one can
trek to Baltal on the Srinagar-Leh road (this is a distance of another 13
km); from here a jeep ride back to Sonamarg and then onto Srinagar is
The ten-day Padam- Lamayuru trek routes along Burden
Gompa. The first day is a short. walk in the Padam valley itself, to the
famous Burden Gompa. Padam is the capital of Zanskar and stands on a wide
fertile plain in which the Strap Linty Chug and the Dodo rivers join to form
the Zanskar river. After crossing the river Zanskar at Tungri, camp is
pitched by the village of Yo Youlang, close to Saini Gompa, considered to be
one of the largest living monasteries of Zanskar. The route on the following
days runs along the banks of the Zanskar, and several streams have to be
crossed. It is on this section that the Purfi La (4,800m) is crossed. The
route runs through grasslands and is often rocky with several overhangs, but
there are plenty of poplars and good camping sites. Other passes, Netuksila
(4,900 m) and Kubla (3,800 m) among them, also have to be crossed while
Singila (5,600 m) is possibly the hardest part of the route. This trek can
also be done in reverse. It is a fairly difficult trek. The best time for
fording rivers is by 7 am, before the melting snows swell mountain streams.
Another ten day trek, from Skiu to Markha is Ladakh, begins at
Marveling, after driving from Hemis (Leh). Ranging from 4-to-6 hours daily,
the trek route clears Longmarula (5,800 m), Gandala (4,800 m). The trail
passes through several ascents and descents, cutting through a narrow gorge
enroute to Shingo. Highlights are monasteries at Hankar and Markha. On the
last day, from Zinachen one can walk to Spituk or alternatively strike off
near the Namling pass to Leh.
A six day trek from Srinagar to
Kishtwar makes an exciting attempt for the amateur trekker as the route is
fairly strenuous but not too' exerting. The first day's distance of 100 km
from the Kashmir valley to Daksum can be covered by bus or taxi in 3 hours.
There are camping facilities with wood and water in Daksum and ponies can be
hired here. The next three days, one covers Chatru, Mughal Maidan and to
conclusion at Dadpath. Those who wish to end the trek here can take a daily
bus to Kisht war. Accommodation and camping faci1ities are available to
Dadpath, and those wishing to complete the trek can stay overnight, and hit
the trail again the next day. There are notable waterfalls at Kishtwar.lt is
a popular take-off point for other treks too.
Another trek, this
time to a glacier in the. Kashmir valley, one of several, is to Koiahoi
(3,700 m), beginning at Pahalgam, and routing through Aru and Lidderwatt.
This four-to-six day trek offers excellent trout fishing in the Lidder
river. Pahalgam is connected to Srinagar by a good road. The most suitable
period for this trek is between mid-May and mid-October, and outdoor camping
is recommended. Options on this trek include the Tar Sar and Mar Sar lakes
west of Lidderwatt at an altitude of 3,800 m. While Tar Sar is a day's
return trek from Lidderwatt, that to Mar Sar takes two days as a ridge
separates the two lakes. Another option for those who wish to avoid the
return journey by the same route up to Pahalgam is to proceed northwards to
Marpur on the Srinagar Sonamarg highway. This is a well-beaten track, and
the trekker encounters steep as rents and descents on either side of Yamhir
pass (4,100 m).
Located in idyllic surroundings, the six-day trek
to Gangabal Lake passes along several smaller lakes and wild Himalayan
flower meadows. Gangabal and Nundkol lakes have good stocks of trout, and
there are good camping sites around. The trek begins at Sonamarg and
concludes at Kangan, both major roadheads on the Srinagar- Leh highway. On
the first day, the trail from Sonamarg crosses the Sind river, and the next
day, one has to cross the Nichanai Pass (3,510 m). The next dew the trail to
Gadsar includes the Vishensar Pass (4,191 m), Yemsar lake, and excellent
views of Mount Vishnu. .From Gadsar next day, two alternate routes to Satsar
are available, the better option being along the stream. On the fifth day
one crosses the 4,146 m high Zazibal Gali pass, with steep ascents and
descents all the way to Gangaballake. From here, on the following day, the
trail runs through dense pine forests, and along the Narang temple ruins, to
conclude at Kangan.
Uttar Pradesh Background:
The two hill regions of
Garhwal and Kumaon in Uttar Pradesh provide some of the most thrilling close
up views of the snow peaks of the Himalayas. Garhwal, because of its rich
and rugged scenic beauty, has always been known to pilgrims as the land of
Garhwai's beauty lies in the dramatic counterpoint of
steep wooded valleys yielding suddenly to breathtaking peaks. The hills of
Kumaon are more gentle than the rugged scarps of Garhwal. Lakes abound in
the UP Himalayas, and most of these have religious associations,
Motor roads now take pilgrims and trekkers to
easy, striking distance of the trek base, and at these roadheads, supplies
will have to be bought. There are two seasons for trekking in
in May and June the days are cold and clear before monsoon drapes
the mountains with mist. However, as the monsoon draws near, the weather can
be unsettled and the trick is to start early in the morning. The next best
season is end September to November. Treks & Options:
The trek to the source of the river Ganga will prove a memorable experience
and is comparatively easy. From the road head at Gangotri one follows a
fairly level trail alongside the river for 19 km till the snout of the
glacier is reached. The river rises from an ice cave and the surroundings,
especially if one proceeds another 5 km along the glacier to Tapovan, are
among the most sublime in the world. Huge snow peaks rear up all around and
the air is filled with the thump of avalanches as nature grinds the melting
Another fabulous trek with the snow peaks set further'
back on wide screen is the Curzon Trail over the Kuari pass at 12,000 feet.
The trek begins at Joshi math and after reaching Tapovan, carries on over
Kuari pass. As one treads the silent bridle paths through massive gnarled
trees of oak and conifer, bamboo and birch, one will almost certainly spot
leopard and bear pugs on the path. This trail can start from Gwaldam or
half-way along at Ghat. The full trek, which goes steeply down from the pass
to Tapovan, takes ten days. This trail was chosen by the Viceroy, Lord
Curzon, as the most impressive of the Garhwal bridle paths. Many people find
it preferable to do it in reverse from Tapovan to Ghat, for the climb to the
pass is not too steep from the north. Having crossed this pass with its
magnificent, stunning panorama of snow giants, one can claim credit for
having crossed the crest of the Great Himalaya.
A less trod area
and a favourite of those who lave flowers is Har-ki-Doon in western Garhwal.
The best season for flowers is in the monsoon months of July and August when
all the high altitude grazing alps, known as buggials, are ablaze with
vibrant colour. A lovely meadow at Bedni is an offshoot on the Curzon Trail.
This lies above the tree line en route to the great mystery lake, Rupkund.
This tiny lake lies hidden at 16,000 feet and when it melts briefly after
the monsoon, its emerald waters reflect the rich panorama of the surrounding
At Hemkund, near the world-famous Valley of Flowers, is
the high lake sacred to the Sikhs, a very steep climb of 19 km which is best
done over two days if the visitor is not acclimatised. The first section of
14 km through the wooded valley of the Bhuindar valley leads to the halting
place of Ghangaria set amidst a thick cypress forest. From here the Valley
of Flowers with its phenomenal one thousand varieties of plants is only 4 km
away. Owing to the popularity of this trek, camping has been prohibited in
For those who enjoy angling, there is the easy
three-day trek to Dodital near Uttarkashi where a licence can be obtained
for fishing trout. Part of the trek route is covered by motorable road from
Uttarkashi. There are several hot sulphur springs throughout Garhwal and the
one at Tapovan makes a satisfying end to the Kuari pass trek. Many
pilgrimage shrines have been situated near these springs. At Badrinath,
among the most holy of temples in India, pilgrims soak themselves in the
scalding water before entering the sacred enclosure. At Yamunotri, the
source of the river Yamuna, set amidst a magical dense forest, pilgrims cook
their food in the hissing springs, some of which spout out from the bed of
the river containing freezing glacial water flowing above the jets of steam.
The best season for trekking is after the monsoon in October, for then the
skies are clear, with dazzlingly blue days when villagers harvest their
crops. This is the time to visit the lovely hills of Kumaon, not as rugged
as Garhwal, but with some spectacular mountain backdrops. The twelve-day
trek to the Pindari glacier is considered one of the classics and for the
adventurous there are innumerable side-glaciers to explore. For the real
connoisseur of mountain loveliness, try to visit these hills in winter and
see the miracle of the rhododendron trees bloom in crimson glory in March.
Himachal Pradesh Background:
If one were to obtain a
panoramic view, Himachal Pradesh would appear like a succession of waves
each riding above the other, merging in a splash of white towards the north.
Four mountain ranges - the Shivalik, Dhauladhar, Pangi and inner Himalayan.
traverse this land of snow and mountains, from east to west, to make this
Located in northern India, Himachal Pradesh is
accessible overnight by road or rail from New Delhi; and this makes the
state popular with trekking enthusiasts. All of Himachal is mountainous, and
so choosing specific trekking areas is difficult, but the state's natural,
alpine beauty is exhilirating, its continuous range-topography challenging.
Almost every area in Himachal has novel trekking
routes. A diversity of terrain offers trekking scope for almost everyone:
from novice trekkers to professionals.
The trekker will find that
tracks leading to villages, or to pilgrim centres, are easy to follow. The
changing terrain and climate of Himachal makes it an all-season trekking
destination. From May, through October, every mountain pass is accessible,
and in the months July to September, at high altitude meadows, wild flowers
and early summer rhododendrons bloom. Winter in the Shivalik ranges is less
severe than in the upper ranges Treks & Options:
of the more popular routes includes the trail from Shimla, via Luhri (85 km,
by bus) - Ani Khanag: Jalorri pass (3,135 m),Jibhit to Banjar. This is an
easy five day trek with stages ranging between 15 and 25 km, and can be done
in relative comfort as rest house accommodation is available at all places.
The track trails along the banks of the Sutiej river, and cuts through
varied forest scenery. Particularly interesting in spring for those partial
to wildlife. From Banjar one has a choice of going to Kulu (58 km) or
returning via Mandi, by bus.
An easy trek in the Dhauladhar range
is from Dharamsala, via Bhagsunath (11 km) to Triund (9 km, 2,800 m) and
back to Dharamsala (17 km). Bhagsunath has an old temple; Triund, just below
the tree line, offers extensive views of the Kangra valley. A one day
extention at Triund opens possibilities of a climb upto the meadows. A
challenging variation, recommended with a local guide, is a week-long trek
crossing the Dhauladhar range over the 4,300m high Indrahar pass into Chamba
district. Earlier experience in trekking is essential.
via Jari (35 km, by bus) Malana (10 km, 2,140m) - Naggar (15km) to
Kulu/Manali (20 km, by bus) is a strenuous but exciting trek. The trail
follows the thundering Malana river through a wooded and steep valley.
Malan?- is the only village in the valley, and has very distinctive social
and cultural variations. The route to Naggar over Chandrakhani pass (3,650
m) climbs steeply and allows particularly close views of peaks. The descent
to Naggar is along gentler slopes. This trek is particularly recommended
during August when the meadows near the pass are in full bloom.
round trip Manali trek routes to Kothi (13 km, by bus), Marrhi (6 km 3,380
m), Rohtang pass (6 km, via Dashaur lake, 3,980 m). The uphill route may
prove tiring unless one has gradually acclimatised to the higher altitudes.
Passing Rahala falls and Dashaur lake, the trekker has breathtaking views,
from Rohtang pass, of the peaks and glaciers of the Chandra-Bhaga range. An
easier alternative is to do the trek in reverse order. But an even more
exciting alternative is to cross into the arid wilderness of Lahaul valley.
It is possible to spend the night at Rohtang pass. The snow-covered pass is
open from May to October only.
A small, easy trek from Dalhousie
to Khajjiar (16 km) and Chamba (16 km), is very popular. Khajjiar is centred
around a lake, surrounded by coniferous forests. Chamba is the seat of an
erstwhile mountain kingdom of the 10th century. All three centres have
tourist bungalows and private hotel accommodation.
Mention must be
made of some of the more exciting and remote routes. A two week grand Lahaul
circuit starting from Jispa/Keylong, through Baralacha Pass (4,892 m),
Chandratal (4,270 m), Batal (3,960 m) Hamta pass (4,300 m) and Manali runs
through some of the fiercest and most enthralling mountain scenery of
The Bara-Bhangal route starts from Holi (Chamba district)
on the Ravi and exits over Thamsar pass (4,750 m) into Kangra, or over Kali
Hin pass (4,850 m) into Kulu. This trek traverses the traditional stronghold
of the Gaddi shepherds.
The Manikaran-Pulga-Sara Umga pass (4,500
m)-Chota Dara route skirts the large and treacherous Bara Sigri Glacier. The
trek starts in the beautiful Parvati valley and offers close views of many
over-6000 metre high peaks.
An experienced trekker may try an
excursion into the Pangi valley from either Chamba or Lahaul. The route
offers a mix of wide stretches of wilderness and thickly forested slopes.
West Bengal Background:
Himalayas with their high, snowy heights retain their aloofness and there is
no finer place to take in the grandeur and beauty of perenially snow-clad
mountains. The first rays of the morning sun flush the peaks in rosy
radiance, and then banks of clouds build up and curtain out the view- across
the country's most dramatic landscape.
Major base point Darjeeling
is accessible through Bagdogra airport, or through rail heads Siliguri and
New Jalpaiguri. The journey from the plains up to Darjeeling is one of the
world's most exciting trips, by road or by the enchanting toy train, with
the route winding through evergreen forests, terraced tea gardens and
country villages. Essential Information:
The best known
trekking months are April- May and October-November. While the spring months
may experience the occasional shower, the fall months are dry and the
visibility excellent. The first half of December is also a good trekking
period, if one does not mind the intense, biting cold.
high and located on the spur projecting northwards from the Ghoom-Sendral
ridge, Darjeeling faces, to the north, Rangpu valley in the foreground and
Rangeet valley beyond. Across the entire northern horizon, snow caps ridge
the sky: Kabru (24,015 feet), Janu (25,300 feet), Siniolchu (22,600 feet)
and the majestic Kanchenjimga (28,156 feet). Treks &
For those in a hurry, or wishing to sample the Bengal
Himalayas, the following one day treks around Darjeeling are available to
Tiger Hill, 8,482 feet, 11 km. The Tenzing Norgay road starts from Chowrasta
and passes through Toong-Soong and AlooBari villages. The route is fairly
even. From Jorebungalow the road ascends 5 km to Tiger Hill. The Gandhi Road
route runs almost parallel to Hill Cart Road, joining it at Ghoom railway
station. The renowned Buddhist monastery at Ghoom railway station. enshrines
an enormous, gilded IS-feet high statue of the Buddha. Both routes offer
excellent forest and mountain views. An overnight halt is recommended for
those who wish to witness the fabulous spectacle of sunrise over the
For those who wish to undertake a longer. trek, the
160 km Darjeeling-Manaybhanjang Tonglu-Sandakphu-Phalut trek, offers an
excellent view of the Kanchenjunga and the Everest group of mountain peaks
in Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. A motorable road runs from Darjeeling to
Manaybhanjang (26 km). The trek from Manaybhanjang to Tonglu is a fairly
steep climb through a succession of contourous trails. Tonglu, (10,100 feet)
looks directly over Darjeeliug and commands a magnificent view over the hill
resort. The next day's route is 21 km to Sandakphu (12,000 feet). Sandakphu
is the highest point in the district of Darjeeling. The route traverses
bamboo glades and consists of a zigzag path till Kalpokhri. From here, there
is a steep climb following which the road descends to Bikhebhanjang. This
region abounds in magnolia, primila and other alpine flowers. (May and June
fine see them in full bloom.) Another steep climb leads the trekker to the
Sandakphu Bungalow. On a clear day, Sandakphu offers a fantastic view of
four of the world's five highest peaks: Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and
Lhotse. The next day's trek of 21 km to Phalut, (11:200 feet) is a fairly
easy walk on a level stretch. Phalut is located at the tri junction of
Sikkim, Nepal and West Bengal.
For a more exciting trek, an add-on
from Phalut on a 149 km trek can be to Ramam-Rimbik-Jhepi, return Darjeeling
via Bijanbari. Leaving Phalut, one descends rather steeply by a forest
bridle path to cross the Ramam river, which forms a natural boundary between
Sikkim and West Bengal. The next stretch includes a walk through a dense
forest of rhododendron, silver fir, chestnut, oak and magnolia. On the march
to Rimbik (7,500 feet) the next day, the foliage is lush and green, with
flowering orchids growing wild. In these forests, the trekker can spot
jungle fowl, kaleej and monal pheasants. The next day's trek is downhill all
the way to Jhepi from where one can motor back to Darjeeling via Bijanbari.
Yet another option on this trek is offered at Rimbik. From Rimbik to
Darjeeling via Palmajna, Batasi and Manaybhanjang is a 180 km route. The
trek to Palmajna, Batasi and Manaybhanjang is a 180 km route. The trek to
Palmajna reveals the Kanchenjunga in all her majesty and glory. The trekker
passes on towards Batasi (7,000 feet). The road ascends steadily to Deoraly
and then the descent starts till the Batasi Forest Bungalow. The next day's
March upto Manaybhanjang finds the trekker at the turnaround point from
where a jeep/bus can be taken to cover the 21 km distance to Darjeeling.
Tonglu-Sandakphu-Rimbik-Jhepi-Bijanbari-Darjeeling trek of 116 km follows
the same route to Sandakphu. From Rimbik, the route once again follows the
traditional trail upto Manaybhanjang via Palmajna and Batasia.
Himachal Pradesh is one of the fascinating areas
of the Indian Himalayas. Famous for its breathtaking valleys, hill temple
architecture, handicrafts and hospitable people, Himachal was founded in
1966 with the unification of a number of princely states, combining the
grandeur of royalty, rugged natural beauty and modern tourist
infrastructure. The state covers a total area of 56,019 sq km, most of
which is hilly and mountainous terrain.
A lush green bowl, 129 km long and 40 km wide,
Kashmir is surrounded by majestic snow-capped mountains. In the
south-west, the Pir Panjal rising at places to 5,000 metres separates the
valley from the plains. The principal pass in this mountain range is
Banihal through which vehicular traffic flows into the valley from the
Jammu area. On the north-east, the valley is flanked by the Pangi range,
the principal summits of which are Harmukh and Mahadeo, both close to the
capital 16 city of Srinagar. To the north is the majestic Ladakh range,
and the Lidder Valley is protected by the Kolahoi massif.
Darjeeling, at 2,134 metres, is West Bengal's
primary hill station. Covered with tea gardens and buildings that are a
legacy of the days of British rule in India, Darjeeling is still unspoilt
and pristine. The region abounds in rhododendrons, primulas and orchids of
many varieties. Over 600 species of birds have been recorded in the
forests and hills around Darjeeling.
Literally translated, Ladakh means the land of
passes. The region has many names and these include 'Moon Land',
'Shangrila' and 'Little Tibet'. A vast expanse of high altitude desert
with its lowest point at 9,000 feet, Ladakh receives scanty rainfall and
finds its primary source of water in the Indus river which flows for some
459 km before entering neighbouring Pakistan. The Karakoram and Kailash
ranges form the north and east borders of Ladakh:
Nestled at the foot of the world's third highest
mountain peak, the Kanchenjunga, Sikkim covers an area of just 7,300 sq
km. It is hard to find even a square kilometre of flat land in Sikkim. The
elevation rises from 244 metres where the mountains begin to the lofty
heights of Kanchenjunga at 8,534 metres. Sikkim is composed of the Rangit
and Teesta river basins and these two river valleys are immensely
luxuriant, with thick forests ranging from sal in the deep southern gorges
to conifers in the upper tributaries.