Beginner’s Guide to The Himalayas
Ok, so finally your dream to visit the Himalayas is finally coming true and you are planning your first trip. There must be many questions that come to your mind. I am just trying to answer some of the basic Questions that are asked in many Himalayan / Travel related Groups.
Where to go ?
The basic question is where to go. Now we Indians are lucky in the sense that we don’t need any passport or visa to visit the mightiest Mountain Range on the Planet. This range runs along pretty much along a stretch of our land from Jammu and Kashmir all the way to Arunachal Pradesh with Nepal and Bhutan in between but as luck would have it we can visit these countries also without a Passport or a Visa.
Basically I would divide the current tourist attractions under the following heads :
- Jammu and Kashmir can be divided into the three following regions
- Himachal Pradesh can be divided into the following regions
- Shimla District
- Kangra Valley
- Kullu Valley
- Uttarakhand is can be divided into its well known divisions
Further east we have
- North Bengal
- Arunachal Pradesh
- Other parts of the North East
Now since you know broadly the different areas that the Indian Himalayas are roughly divided into on the basis of Tourist destinations lets try and look at these separately
Jammu and Kashmir
- Kashmir : The original Himalayan destination for the Indian tourists. The legendary Paradise on Earth. The largest and the most beautiful Valley in the Himalayas. A Valley with multiple Lakes, Meadows and snow-capped Mountains. All easily accessible by car and within a couple of hours of driving distance from the capital Srinagar where you can fly into. Famous Tourist destinations like Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonmarg, Yusmarg, Achabal, Doodpathri, Gurez, Lolab, Bangus etc (the list just goes on and on) make it really worth it. Of course the factor that has worked against Kashmir in the recent years is the Political turmoil which has adversely affected the Tourist inflow. Srinagar the main city of Kashmir is connected by Air as well as Road to the rest of the country.
- Jammu : Jammu is most famous for the Vaishno Devi Temple. Jammu has a number of very beautiful locations like Patnitop but it has always been overshadowed by its more famous Himalayan neighbours. Jammu region also contains some of the most beautiful parts of the Himalayas like the Kishtwar region but its Tourism potential lies largely untapped. Hopefully this would change one day and we would have a host on largely unvisited Himalayan destinations at our disposal. Jammu city is connected by Air / Road / Rail to the rest of the the country.
- Ladakh : By far one of the most favourite Tourist destination nowadays in Ladakh. The Trans Himalayan landscape with its surreal contours is a big draw for Tourists. Its name in Tibetan means the Land of Passes and these Mountain Passes, some of which are the highest in the world, are one of the main attraction. Also Lakes like Pangong and Tso Moriri are quite worth visiting. And then we have the beautiful Valleys of Nubra, Suru and Zanskar each with its distinct Geography and Culture. The lesser explored Eastern Part of Ladakh also holds many charms for the discerning Travelers. Kargil, Drass and the Suru Valley have a distinct flavor as they lie where Tibet meets Ladakh and the scenery is also quite different. Leh is connected by Air and Road to the rest of the country. However Road accessibility is not there for around 5 months around Winters as heavy snows close the passes.
- Shimla District – Shimla was the original Queen of the Hills and the go to destination if wanted to experience the Mountains. Since its establishment by the British it is arguably one of the best known Hill Stations. Shimla District is home to the Apple Country of Kotkhai Kotgarh as well as Rampur and the Pabbar Valley. And one of its upcoming popular destination is the Chanshal Pass which offers great views of the Garhwal Himalayas.
- Kangra Valley – The Kangra Valley is another well known destination especially Dharamshala and McLeodganj. It has other beautiful destinations such as the Heritage Town of Palampur as well. Since the Dalai Lama moved moved to McLeodganj it has become a big draw for domestic and foreign tourists.
- Kullu Valley :The Kullu Valley is another famous Valley of the Himalayas. The main River here is the Beas and Kullu is home to one of our most popular Mountain destinations Manali. Kullu is also the stronghold of a number of local Himalayan deities and a major attraction is the Kullu Dussehra. It has other attractions like Solang, Rohtang Pass and Naggar as well. For the more offbeat it has the Parvati Valley and the Tirthan valley.
- Kinnaur : Kinnaur lies between the Shimla district and Spiti. It also borders Tibet. Kinnaur is known for its Apples as well as the pristine beauty it offers to the visitors. Its drained by the Satluj and the Baspa River. It has well known tourist destinations such a s the Sangla Valley and Reckong Peo and more lately for Chitkul. Kinnaur also serves as an important point on the road to Spiti.
- Lahaul Spiti : Lahaul Spiti is a Trans Himalayan wonderland which has more in common with Ladakh and Tibet. With its distinct Tibetan Buddhist culture and Buddhist Monasteries located in a high altitude Desert it has lately become quite favoured Tourist destination. In Lahaul in some parts the people follow a distinct form of religion which combines both Buddhism and Hinduism.
- Chamba : Chamba is the part of Himachal Pradesh that borders the Jammu Region of JK. A powerful former Kingdom Chamba still maintains a distinct identity and Dalhousie, a part of Chamba is a well known Tourist destination. Chamba is known for a number of old Temples that exist in the area. For the more adventurous types Chamba offers the Pangi Valley, a lost world of sorts.
- Uttarakhan -Coming soon!!