has come a long way since the days of tedious journeys on foot or grueling hours
of travel by ox-cart. Today, trekking conjures up visions of the spectacular northern
and eastern Himalayas, the mist-strewn western Ghats or the blue tranquillity
of the Nilgiri Hills. India is the ultimate destination for a trekking holiday,
offering everything from short and easy excursions to the long challenges of the
snowy peaks. Trekking is comparatively undemanding, requiring only stamina to
walk long hours and the mental agility to adapt to an ever-changing landscape.
And the landscape is indeed spectacular. The trekker will encounter rugged hills
and mountains, green slopes carpeted with wild flowers and ice cold streams gurgling
over boulders and ground pebbles. Far above in the clear blue sky, eagles wheel
and bank while golden orioles, scarlet minivets and white-cheeked bulbuls pierce
the pure air with their sweet cries. To take a trek in India is to rediscover
the awesome majesty and beauty of nature. The highest mountain range on earth
the Himalayas - forms 3500 kms of Indias northern and eastern frontiers.
The spectacle of the snow capped peaks, glaciers, pine forested slopes, rivers
and lush meadows of wild flowers cannot be equaled. Peninsular India offers natural
beauty of another kind, clothed in green woodland and fragrant orchards. Below
is a description of the important trekking areas in India, also a section devoted
to general trekking information. Jammu & Kashmir
K is Indias northernmost state, and the one which is best known for trekking.
It is an extravagantly beautiful land of flowerspangled meadows, wild orchards,
spectacular coniferous forests, icy mountain peaks and clear streams and rivers.
The capital, Srinagar, is the base for many treks, notably to the blue Zabarwan
Hills and Shankaracharya Hill. The three other main bases in J & K are Pahalgam
(100 km from Srinagar) in the Lidder Valley, the base for treks to sacred Amarnath,
Aru, Lidderwat and the glacial lakes of Tarsar and Tulian; Gulmarg (51 km from
Srinagar), from where treks can be made to the crystal tarns of Apharwat and Alpather,
the upland lakes of Vishansar and Gangabal and the Thajiwas Glacier; and Sonamarg,
in the Sindh Valley, the base for treks into the surrounding mountains. Srinagar
is also the roadhead for trips into the arid plateau of Ladakh, a country of perpetual
drought, the home of wild asses and yaks and with high ranges that have some of
the largest glaciers in the world outside the polar regions. Leh, the divisional
capital, lies on an ancient silk route and is the base for spectacular treks across
this remarkable landscape. Further south, excellent trekking may be had in the
vicinity of Jammu, the railhead to the Kashmir Valley. The three main centres
are Kishtwar, Doda and Poonch.
The landscape of this province ranges
from the barren rocks and raging torrents of the valleys of Spiti and Lahaul in
the north to the southern orchard country of Kangra and Chamba. Treks from Manali
include the Bhaga river to Keylong, and then on to the Bara Shigri glacier or
over the Baralacha Pass to Leh (see above). Kulu, in the centre of the province,
is set in a narrow valley between the towering Himalayas and the river Beas, and
is famous for its temples and religious festivals. Treks from here traverse terraced
paddy fields and on to remoter regions of snow and ice. The view from the Rohtang
Pass is particularly spectacular. The town of Dharamsala, in the Kangra Valley
area, is the base for treks into the Bharmaur Valley over the Indrahar Pass, and
on to other still higher passes beyond. Chamba, situated on a mountain above the
Ravi River, is named after the fragrant trees which flourish around its richly
carved temples. Treks from the nearby town of Dalhousie lead to the glacial lake
of Khajjiar and to the passes of Sach and Chini. Simla, the summer capital of
the British, is a high hill station and the base for treks into Kulu Valley via
Jalori Pass and on to the Kalpur and Kinnaur Valleys. For further information,
contact the Government of India Tourist Office; or the Himachal Pradesh Tourism
Development Corporation, Simla, Tel 5071; or in Kulu, Tel 7; or the Tourist Office
in Dharamsala, Tel 63; Dalhousie, Tel 36; Manali, Tel 25; Simla, Tel 3311, 3956;
or the Western Himalayan Institute of Mountaineering, Skiing and Allied Sports,
Manali, Tel 42.
Set high in the Garhwal Himalayas,
this region (which is sometimes referred to as the Uttarakhand) abounds in myths
and legends of the Indian Gods. It is also where the source of the life-giving
Ganga is to be found; indeed, many of the great rivers of northern India have
their headwaters in this land of lush valleys and towering snow-ridged peaks.
Mussoorie, a hill station much used by the British to escape the searing heat
of the plains, is an excellent base for treks into the Gangotri and Yammounotri
valleys. The source of the Ganga at Gaumukh can also be reached from here. Another
hill station, Rishikesh, is situated just north of the sacred city of Hardwar,
and is the base for treks to another holy shrine, Badrinath. A particularly rewarding
stop en route to Badrinath is the breathtaking Valley of Flowers, which is in
full bloom in August. Other destinations include Hemkund lake, Mandakini Valley
and Kedarnath, one of the twelve Jyotirlings of Lord Shiva with a beautiful temple.
For further information, contact the Government of India Tourist Office; or the
Director of Tourism, Government of Uttar Pradesh, 21 Vidhan Sabha Marg, Lucknow
226001, Tel 47749; or the Uttar Pradesh Tourist Bureau, Chanderlok Building, 36
Janpath, New Delhi, Tel 322251; or the Tourist Office, The Mall, Mussoorie, Tel
2863; or the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (Mountaineering Division), Tourist Bungalow,
Muni-ki-Reti, Rishikesh, Tel 373.
This region, which stretches from the Himalayas in
the north to the green foothills of Terai and Bhabar in the south, consists of
the three northeastern Himalayan districts of Uttar Pradesh, all of which are
particularly rich in wildlife. One of the major trekking centres is Almora, an
ideal base for treks into pine and rhododendron forests with dramatic views of
stark, snowcapped mountains, The Pindiri Glacier and the valley of Someshwar can
be reached from here. Another base is Nainital, a charming, orchard-rich hill
station. It is the base for short treks to Bhimtal, Khurpatal and Binayak Forest.
Ranikhet, with a magnificent view of the central Himalayas, is the base for treks
to Kausani. The view from here is one of the most spectacular in India, and inspired
Mahatma Gandhi to pen his memorable commentary on the Gita-Anashakti Yoga.
Darjeeling & Sikkim
Dominated by the five summits of mighty
Kanchenjunga, the Darjeeling and Sikkim area of the Eastern Himalayas is also
a region of gentle hills and dales, pine forests, turquoise lakes and burbling
streams. One of the best ways of arriving in the area is by the "toy train"
from New Jalpaiguri. The town of Darjeeling is the home of the Everest climber
Tenzing Norgay and also of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, and is the
base for both low- and high-level treks. Destinations include Tiger Hill (offering
a breathtaking view of the Himalayas), Sandakphu and the peaks of Phalut, Sandakphu,
Singalia and Tanglu. To the north, Sikkim is a wonderland of ferns and flowers,
birds and butterflies, orchids and bamboos, forests of cherry, oak and pine, all
set among sweetly flowing rivers, terraced paddy fields and blazing rhododendrons.
Deep in the interior are Sikkims famous monasteries, their white prayer
flags fluttering against a deep blue sky. The capital is Gangtok, a convenient
base for treks into the mysterious north and east of the region, to sacred Yaksum,
Pemayangtse and the mountains near Bakkhim and Dzongri.
The Aravallis, remnants of the oldest mountain range in the subcontinent,
resemble outcroppings of rocks rather than mountains and are virtually barren
except for thorny accacias and date palm groves found near the oases.
This range straddles central India and forms the northern
border of the Deccan. The main hill station is Pachmarhi, a beautiful resort of
green forest glades and deep ravines overlooking red sandstone hills. Short treks
can be had from here to the Mahadeo Dhupgarh peaks.
The Western Ghats run parallel to the west coast of India from the river
Tapti to the southernmost tip of the subcontinent. The mountains are lush and
thickly forested and although they cannot claim to have the awesome majesty of
the great Himalayas the region has many features of great natural beauty. The
hill station of Mahabaleshwar, in the north of the range, is the highest in the
area and is considered an ideal base for trekkers. Other popular bases and trekking
destinations include Lonavala, Khandala, Matheran and Bhor Ghat, a picturesque
region of waterfalls, lakes and woods. Further south in Karnataka is Coorg, perched
on a green hilltop and surrounded by mountainous countryside. Madikeri is a take-off
point for treks in this region. The Upper Palani hills in Tamil Nadu are an offshoot
of the Ghats, covered in rolling downs and coarse grass. Kodaikanal is the attractive
base for two short treks to Pilar Rock and Green Valley View. Courtallam, also
in Tamil Nadu, is surrounded by dense vegetation and coffee and spice plantations;
rich in wildlife, it is also one of the most beautiful areas of the Western Ghats.
The gentle heights of southern India, a world
away from the daunting Himalayas, are friendly and approachable with treks made
simple by moderate altitudes and a pleasant climate. Sometimes known as the Blue
Mountains because of their lilac hue, they are noted for their orange orchards,
tea gardens, wooded slopes and tranquil lakes. There are three major trekking
centres here: Ootacamund (popularly known as ooty) is the base for walks to the
Wenlock Downs, the Kalahatti Falls and Mudumali Game Sanctuary; Coonor, conveniently
situated for Droggs Peak and Lambs Rock; and Kotagiri, the oldest
of the three, whose sheltered position enables it to offer many shaded treks to
explore the tranquility of the Nilgiris.
Tent, sleeping bag,
foam/inflatable mattress, rucksack, umbrella (doubles as a walking stick), sunhat,
dark glasses, toilet requirements.
down jacket trousers, shirts, woolen pullover, woolen underwear (for high altitudes),
Be sure to take a light, flexible and comfortable
pair of trekking boots (two pairs should be taken for longer treks) and at least
three pairs of woolen socks. Use talc to keep feet dry.
Sterilised cotton wool, bandages, antiseptic ointment, water purification
tablets, pills etc for common ailments (such as cough, cold, headache, stomach
ache etc), eye lotion, anti-sunburn cream, a hot stimulant for emergencies, morphia
salt tablets to avoid cramps.
bottle, insect repellent, mirror, cold cream, lip-salve, walking stick, spare
boot laces, sewing kit, tinned and dehydrated food. Food and Accommodation:
Board and lodging accommodation is available on all trekking routes. Permits:
Trekkers are reminded that it is forbidden to enter Restricted and Protected Areas
without the correct documentation. Please consult the Tourist Office before departure
or local tourist offices on arrival in India to ascertain what restrictions may
apply and what documentation may be required.
from region to region; check with the Tourist Office for further information.
In general, the season runs from April to June and September to November. It is
possible to undertake treks in the valleys of Lahaul, Pangi and Zanskar and in
Ladakh during the rainy season (June to August) as these areas receive minimal