The Himalayas are a range of mountains in Asia. It stretches from the Indus river in Pakistan, through India, Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan, and ends at the Brahmaputra River in North-Eastern India.

Eight of the 10 tallest mountains — including the highest of all, Mount Everest at 8848 m — are in the Himalayas region of Nepal.

For comparison, neither Western Europe nor the lower 48 US states have anything that reaches 5,000 m. In the Himalayas, some of the passes and inhabited plateau areas are around 5000 m.

On the climbers’ list of Seven Summits, the highest mountains on each continent, only two mountains besides Everest are over 6000 m — Denali in Alaska at just under 6200 m, and Aconcagua, the highest peak of the Andes and the tallest mountain outside the Himalayan region, at just under 7000 m.

Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus is Europe’s highest peak at just under 6000. In the Himalayas, peaks over 6000 m are commonplace and there are dozens over 7000 m.

How Is It Formed

The Indian subcontinent and the rest of Asia are on different continental plates that are colliding; the Himalayas and related ranges are along the boundary of the plates. The force of the collision creates the world’s highest mountains.

North of the Himalayas is the Tibetan Plateau, the world’s largest and highest (over 3000 m on average) plateau. It includes all of Tibet and the Chinese province of Qinghai plus parts of several other provinces.

Up until a few decades ago, Tibet was its own independent kingdom.

Culture and Langauge

The Himalayas are home to a diverse number of people, languages, and religions. Generally speaking, Islam is prevalent in the west, Hinduism along the southern edge, and Buddhism in the north.

While there are numerous languages spoken, Hindi or Urdu — the spoken languages are mutually intelligible, though the written forms are quite different — will take you very far, as it is understood by the majority in the Pakistani, and Indian Himalaya.

In Nepal, Hindi is not very useful, but due to its overlap with Nepali, it gives you a head start with that language.

Top Things To Do In The Himalayas

The Himalayas spread across several countries. All Himalayan regions offer similar attractions, but there are interesting differences as well.

In Pakistan

Gilgit-Baltistan

The Northern Areas of Pakistan offers some of the most visually stunning parts of the Himalayas. The trekking in Northern areas is arduous, seldom without glacier crossings, and not for the inexperienced, or unprepared.

The local law, and good sense, prohibit trekking without a local guide on most routes. As such it is one of the more costly parts of the Himalayas for trekking.

The people in this area, while being almost entirely Muslim, are diverse, with numerous languages, and different types of Islam followed–some highly conservative, some noticeably liberal.

The Karakoram Highway runs through the mountains to connect Pakistan with Western China.

Azad Kashmir

Azad Kashmir encompasses the lower part of the Himalayas which is considered one of the most beautiful parts of Himalayas due to lush green and scenic valleys. Parts of Azad Kashmir along the border (India-Pakistan line of control) with India are off-limits for foreigners.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Pashtun-dominated and conservative, much of which would be unwise for tourists to visit but the western and northern parts which encompass the lower part of the Himalayas are an exception which provides fascinating and scenic landscape and unusual beauty.

In India

Jammu and Kashmir

With its mountains and lakes, this was a popular destination with travelers until the conflict escalation between Pakistan and India. While Srinagar is reasonably safe, much of the countryside is dangerous and some of it, especially along the border, is off-limits to tourists.

Ladakh

Ladhak was an independent kingdom for centuries with its own culture and is now a Federal Union Territory. Offering much in the way of sight-seeing, and trekking it’s not to be missed.

Himachal Pradesh

A pleasant, laid back, predominantly Hindu state, with a Tibetan Refugee population; popular with tourists.

Uttaranchal

Another state of India, the source of the Ganges, it has a number of pilgrimage sites.

Uttar Pradesh

A state that is mainly on the plains but borders the mountains, and includes some.

Sikkim

Wedged between, Nepal, Bhutan, China, and West Bengal, Sikkim has many Buddhist monasteries and related sights. Trekking here is limited due to the closeness of the border with China. You must take a guide and go as a group, and there are a very limited number of routes.

West Bengal

Most of the province is on the plains, a populous region of farming and industry, but the northern edge extends into the mountains. The area around Darjeeling is popular as a tourist destination.

Arunachal Pradesh

At the northeast extreme of India and seldom visited by tourists, this state is a fascinating mix with a large tribal population; people follow, Animist, Hindu, Buddhist, and Baptist Christian religious traditions.

In Nepal

A major tourist destination, with numerous sightseeing, trekking, and other adventure sports opportunities, Nepal has a level of tourist specific infrastructure far in advance of anywhere else in the region.

Here you can trek for a month and stay in guesthouses every night, and need not carry more than a change of clothes or two, and your sleeping bag.

  • Annapurna region
  • Mt. Everest region
  • Langtang
  • Mustang Mustang District
  • The Great Himalaya Trail – a trekking route that crosses Nepal east-to-west and goes near many of the world’s highest mountains. It is a long-distance trek, 1700 km (over 1000 miles), and some of it is through difficult terrain.

In Bhutan

A fascinating little kingdom, Bhutan only issues visas to tourists on expensive group tours or to individuals who benefit the country, i.e. NGO workers, or exchange students. You can explore the following regions:

  • Gasa district
  • Bumthang district
  • Lhuentse district 

In Tibet

The northern borders of India, Nepal, and Bhutan generally follow the Ganges-Brahmaputra watershed, however, the Himalaya extend north of this watershed.

There are also outlying ranges rising out of the plateau northward to the Brahmaputra (or the Yarlung Tsangpo as the river is called in Tibet) which are included with the Himalaya.

This part of the Himalaya is less explored, often difficult of access, and has numerous unclimbed peaks.

Southwest China

The old Tibetan province of Kham — now split up administratively between the two Chinese provinces 19 Yunnan and 20 Sichuan and China’s 21 Tibetan Autonomous Region — is closely related to Himalayan areas further west in both geography (large mountains created by the same tectonic plate collision) and people (predominantly Tibetan speakers).

See Yunnan tourist trail for an overview and Tiger Leaping Gorge or Three Parallel Rivers National Park for specific treks in the region.

How To Get Here

Most towns in the Himalayas can be reached by road, and some by train or plane, though many of the more rural areas require trekking and some of the trekking is quite difficult.

On the southern side, most of the range can be reached via India, but western parts are reached via Pakistan or Afghanistan. Two small countries, Nepal and Bhutan, are located within the Himalayas on that side. On the north side, all of the Himalaya proper is in Tibet.

February 18, 2020 3:12 pm Published by

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