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Overview of Himalayas (West)
 

Famous For

Trekking

Village excursions

Spectacular vistas

Adventure sports

Religious sites

Home to Daili Lama

Corbett National Park
 
 

When to go

Himachal Pradesh & Uttaranchal : Mar to May, Mid-Sept to Mid-Dec

Ladakh: April- Sept
 

Avoid

Himachal Pradesh & Uttaranchal : July & August

Ladakh: Nov to Feb
 

Regions within Himalayas (West)

  • Haridwar 
  • Himachal Pradesh 
  •  :: Dharamsala 
  •  :: Himalayan range 
  •  :: Manali 
  •  :: Shimla 
  • Kashmir 
  •  :: Calcutta 
  • Ladakh 
  • Uttaranchal 
  •  :: Corbett NP 
  •  :: Haridwar 
  •  :: Mussoorie 
  •  :: Rishikesh 
 

In the states of Himachel Pradesh and Uttaranchal, and the region of Jammu & Kashmir.

The Western Himalayas
The Western Himalayas usually refers to the foothills of the mountains including Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh and then at its most Northern point, Ladkh.

The foothills can provide a wonderful contrast to its neighbouring states and is easily accessed by flight into Shimla. Although many prefer to begin the drive /rail to the foothills and then take a rather fun ride upon the Viceroy's toy train through the final climb into Shimla. A glass-windowed carriage which takes between 5 and a half and 7 hours but a lifetime of scenery.


The towering ice capped Himalayas offer one of the world’s most awe inspiring sights, 1554 miles of mountains protecting North India from the hostile Central Asian climate. Regarded by the Hindus as the Home of the Gods, they give rise to no less than 19 major rivers which drain southwards to sustain the hot plains of the central plateau.

Below the challenging peaks are lush fertile valleys filled with villages alive with folk traditions, temples, monasteries and a colourful welcome. Even ski trials and golf courses flourish here.

Long a summer refuge for the less hardy Westerners of the Raj era, the vast cool expanse of foothills is dotted with familiar names such as Shimla, Dalhousie and Darjeeling. Homesick Europeans established hill stations with many an architectural reference to a Scottish manor, Swiss chalet or Cotswold cottage. The grander ones, in the Victorian gothic style, might boast ballrooms complete with parquet floor and opulent dining rooms.

These hill stations still stand, now encapsulated in modern towns, renovated for modern travellers and joined by many more modest guesthouses offering comfortable accommodation.


This is an unsurpassed area for trekking, with clearly mapped and escorted paths from guest house to guest house. On route you will probably be overtaken at speed by a little porter transferring your bags to your evening destination.

The scenery is ever changing with the season and elevation. Apple orchards, conifers and oak trees give way to flower bedecked meadows, paddy terraces and rows of cornfields.

The more adventurous can venture higher and enjoy the thrills and skills of heli-skiing, river rafting in the freezing waters, paragliding or hand gliding.

Former hill stations such as Shimla and Mussoorie are still full of atmosphere, though now teamed with a more cosmopolitan way of life. Decades of Western tourism have given rise to restaurants, Indian and European, botanical parks, ice cream parlours and business and education centres. A wealth of European, and in particular British, history lies in the surrounding areas. Chapels, gravestones of soldiers and administrators – and their families and some excellent schools and military trading centres are all located here.

Arriving is everything, and the ONLY way to arrive at Shimla is by Toy Train. A four hour journey winds up a tortuous mountain rail, enjoying incredible views all the way. The oldest house, now welcoming guests, dates from 1835 and is now owned and managed by the grandson of the original owner.

Shaking off the slightly staid reputation of Shimla, the Alpine summer capital of the Raj, is Mussoorie. At Shimla one feels that they have the viceroy looking over ones shoulder but Mussoorie is altogether more liberal. At a time when the wives and children of colonial administrators would be sent up to the hills for the summer a “separation bell” was rung at alert the philanderers.

On driving the 7000 feet up to Mussoorie from Delhi you will see many a bungalow hanging onto the hillsides, which have names such as Westwardtoo, or Wisteria, reminding the earlier occupants of home.


As the Home of the Gods there are many temples, monasteries and pilgrimage rites, revered and beautifully preserved in the clear mountain air. At Hanuman Chatti pilgrims cook rice and potatoes in the water of a hot spring and offer it to the goddess Yamunotri. Others trek to Gaumukh to the source of the holy river Ganges issuing from the base of a glacier. Not all religious buildings belong to the past. Treks to the valley of the Flowers Nation Park leads onto a modern Sikh temple are wondrous. Monsoon rains transform the valley into a carpet of flowers from June-August, and is now declared a World Heritage Site.

Lovers of wildlife can indulge themselves here. Corbett National Park is easily reached from many lodges and resorts. Within the reserve travel by jeep or elephant and your expert guide may lead you to see a tiger or leopard but certainly deer, sloths, monkeys, wild boar and crocodiles. Meanwhile you will be serenaded by birdsong from the surrounding forest, accompanied by a flash of colour as a parakeet or golden oriole darts between trees.

One cannot leave the Himalayas without paying tribute to Darjeeling – synonymous everywhere with tea. Introduced to the area only in 1840, with bushes smuggled out of China, it is now the most important product of the region. Arrive by air or sample the Toy Train over the mountains. The steep incline at times means that the train moves so slowly in some places that one can buy from the hawkers walking alongside.

Visit the tea plantations, learn the “two leaves and a bud” technique and how they eventually reach your supermarket shelves.

You will notice here that the appearance of local people has more in common with Tibet and Bhutan. Remember the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay who climbed Everrest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953, and visit his Mountaineering Institute with displays of the clothes and equipment used at that time.

Children will enjoy a visit to the zoo which specialises in high altitude wildlife – yaks, black bears, pandas and the Siberian tiger.

On a more sombre note there is also the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre, with a temple, school, hospital and shops.

Though attracting more travellers for essentially outdoor / adventure / trekking holidays, the region has also many hotels and spas in the luxury bracket. All need not be exercise and toil.

Whichever category your ideal holiday embraces, the magnificent scenery will be a lasting memory.


What To Do?


Corbett Tiger Reserve:

Situated in the state of Uttaranchal, and located within the Himalayan area, the Corbett Tiger Reserve is one of India’s premier wildlife parks. Situated in the Hailey National Park, the Corbett Tiger Reserve boasts the largest tiger population in India, with roughly 143 tigers. However, even this will not guarantee a sighting; tigers are very elusive and are difficult to track.

Corbett’s main camp DHIKALA lies 49km NW of Ramnagar, and is excellently located for exploring the wildlife by either jeep or elephant.

The park is a very secluded and natural environment, Enjoy the “away from it all” resort, which is its beauty! It gives the visitor a chance to relax and escape (briefly) the pressures of modern life.


Trekking:

The Himalayas are synonymous with trekking, however the vast mountain range offers a range of trekking and adventure opportunities so different degrees of walker. Following in the names of the great mountaineers such as Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary, who first conquered Everest, is the first trekking image that comes to mind. However, adventures such as the Dharamsala Trek or the Curzon Trail offers challenging yet easily ‘doable’ treks that reward the pursuer with exquisite panoramic views of the Himalayas.

Perhaps the ‘Valley of the Flowers’ offers the most exciting and rewarding possibilities for the keen walker, who wishes to divulge in a spot of botanical pleasure. After the monsoon the whole valley is covered in thousands of different plants providing the viewer with the most rewarding sights and smells. This is a truly wondrous place and opportunity for the avid fan of trekking and nature, and should not be missed.


Religious Sites and Pilgrimages:

The Himalayas are sacred to the people of India. Hindus believe that the mountain range is ‘Home to the Gods’, who are overlooking their people. Due to the sacredness of this place, there are an abundance of temples and people making religious pilgrimages throughout the region. Drive or trek throughout the ancient pilgrim trails, and you will be able to visit the remote Himalayan temples and shrines and experience the true tranquillity that this serene environment offers. The regions that are encased within the Himalayan regions still incorporate the monasteries into everyday life, dominating the social scene and religious practices. Exploring the Himalayas offers an opportunity to experience the culture and way of life of this exceptional, serene environment.

Dharamsala is also home to the Daili Lama and when at home, one can take lessons / lectures with him.  This would need to be ascertained in advance. There are also many retreats where guests may practice meditation. 

Extreme sports and adventure:


The Himalayas is regarded as one of the best places in the world for the participation in extreme and adventurous sports. The serene environment offers a wondrous backdrop to some of the most exhilarating activities. White water rafting is available in regions spanning the vast mountainous area. the most common destination is Manali as many travellers combine the excitement of rafting with the relaxing hot springs in nearby Vashisht before heading up to the hills or onto  the religious sites of Dharamsala. Perhaps Ledakh offers the most exciting prospect, rafting down the Indus River and its major tributaries. This is an excellent spot to learn, however further down the river the water becomes dangerous, providing an exhilarating challenge to even the most highly skilled. It is carefully organised so that you do not exceed your capacity and put yourself in too great a danger. The Himalayas also offers exciting opportunity for serene mountain biking. The Terai region of Uttaranchal is particularly grand, as you cycle around the outskirts of the Corbett Park, whilst not taxing yourself too heavily that you can enjoy the enchanting scenery. The Himalayas also offers the most exhilarating and wondrous environment for keen or novice rock climbers. The Mountaineering Institute has centre at Dharamshala, Bharmour, Narkanda and Jispa, where both training and activities are offered.

Gallery
Himalayas (West) Images