The Himalayas is a majestic mountain range in every way. One of the youngest mountain ranges, they are home to many of the world’s tallest mountains, including Mount Everest.
At 29,035 feet (8,850 meters), Everest is the highest mountain on Earth—and also one of the most mystical. It seems to compel thrill-seekers to attempt a summit, even when they know the immense risks involved. But not every Himalayan adventure requires travelers to risk life and limb. In fact, I’d argue that the best ones don’t involve any danger at all!
This mystical quality of the Himalayas is intrinsic to the indigenous cultures it touches. The range stretches 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) along the northeastern part of India, passing through Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Bhutan, and Nepal. To the people of these regions, the Himalayas are much more than merely an impressive geographical feature. In fact, the name Himalayas means “the abode of snow,” and the region is believed to be home to Lord Shiva, one of the primary gods in India, and many other deities as well.
There are many good reasons every traveler should add a Himalayan adventure to their bucket list. Here are just a few:
Exploring the Himalayas presents some of the most incredible landscapes and stunning scenery on the planet. Photographers from all around the world flock to this region simply for the dramatic, dynamic imagery that seems to greet you around every turn. As the sun rises or sets, the snow-white peaks can be seen to light up in countless different colors. And there are must-see Himalayan sites, such as the legendary Valley of Flowers National Park, that are so beautiful they defy adequate description.
Some of the World’s Best Hiking
Nepal is almost completely covered by the Himalayas, and is one of the world’s premier hiking destinations. There are incredible hiking opportunities in India, too, especially in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. Many of them are unspoiled, and wind through regions of incomparable beauty. Options range from relatively easy day hikes to arduous multi-day hikes such as the Annapurna Circuit trek, which takes you through some of the most remote places in the rooftop of the world.
A Renowned Spiritual Center
To the spiritually inclined, the Himalayas is considered a sacred region. There are sacred places, temples, ashrams, and pilgrimage routes from one end to the other, including the foothills. The Hindu god Lord Shiva is said to live above Mount Kailash, which is now in Tibet. One of the most important pilgrimages in India, called the Char Dham, is an expedition to visit the source of the Ganges high up in the Himalayas. And the yoga capital of the world, Rishikesh, lies in the foothills of the mountains.
Preservation of Tibetan Culture
Ever since the Chinese occupation of Tibet, you can find more authentic and vibrant Tibetan culture in India. The Tibetan government-in-exile (including spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama) can be found in the north Indian city of Dharamsala; and the culture of Ladakh is heavily influenced by Tibet. In fact, when traveling in Ladakh you may get the unmistakable impression that you’re actually in Tibet, rather than India. These regions are preserving the traditional Tibetan culture, which is largely suppressed in China.
Immense Natural Resources
The Himalayas are rugged, remote, and largely inaccessible. This has ensured that the region has retained an almost pristine environment, which has made it an increasingly popular place for scientific research and nature lovers. Birdwatchers, hikers, animal lovers, photographers… all kinds of people who love nature are being attracted by Himalayan adventures. The Great Himalayan National Park, located in Himachal Pradesh, India, offers a remarkably healthy ecosystem of rich biodiversity. It’s so important, it was named a UNESCO-protected world heritage site in 2014.
The Snow Leopard
The snow leopard is one of the most elusive wild animals in the world. These beautiful creatures are on many animal lovers’ bucket lists. But, for a number of reasons, they’re very difficult to spot. For one, there’s the rugged conditions of their native terrain up in the mountains. Then there’s the way they’re almost completely camouflaged by their coloring, their migratory behavior, and their solitary natures. They’re also highly endangered: Some studies suggest there are only 4,000 left in the wild. You can learn a lot more about these beautiful creatures by visiting the Snow Leopard Trust website.
The Friendly Local People
The indigenous people of the Himalayas are revered in India for their friendliness and simplicity. With all of our modern concerns about travel safety, the Himalayas are probably one of the safest destinations in the region. The region is dotted with charming villages, spiritual pilgrimage centers, and responsible adventure travel operators, all of which provide a safe haven for travelers.
The Birthplace of Yoga
Lord Shiva is considered the first yoga teacher, as he taught this philosophy to his consort, Parvati. In more recent times, Yoga teachers have been known to emerge as enlightened masters from caves in the Himalayas. And ever since The Beatles visited the region back in 1968, Rishikesh has been known worldwide as a leading yoga and meditation centre. Since the dawn of time, the Himalayas and the evolution of yoga have been intrinsically linked, making it an ideal place to undertake a serious study of this ancient art and science.
When the British Raj occupied India, they found the heat on the plains (where the capital, Delhi, is located) unbearable in summer. As a result, they built hill stations in the Himalayas in places like Shimla, Mussoorie, Nainital, and Darjeeling. To this day, these charming towns retain a Raj-era flavor and are known as holiday destinations for middle class Indian families. Visiting a hill station is a must-do Himalayan adventure: Try taking a toy train to Shimla or Darjeeling!
Mariellen Ward is a travel writer and digital storyteller. She has a BA in Journalism and has been published in many leading online and offline publications around the world. Her award-winning blog, Breathedreamgo, is one of the top travel blogs about India. Mariellen is an advocate of female solo travel and responsible travel. Though Canadian by birth, Mariellen considers India to be her "soul culture" and has spent many years immersing herself in the culture.