From Ladakh in the west to Arunachal Pradesh in the east, the vast stretch of the Himalayas offers some excellent walking and trekking – allowing one to enjoy the countryside, remote rural locations inaccessible by vehicle, unspoilt scenery and wildlife. As a very general rule the western Himalayas tend to be less precipitous than the eastern part and offer somewhat easier hiking – but it is all relative and subject to many exceptions.
For those who do not want to be tied to a fixed route and minimum number of hours on the trail, or to be camping out in the mountains, there are some excellent mountain lodges where you can base yourself and explore the countryside, wildlife and culture on foot – taking your own time and wandering at will. This is what we would call comfortable walking, whereby one has all the advantages of walking in the most magnificent surroundings, but then returning in the evenings to a lodge where there is a wood fire, delicious fare and a comfortable bed!
Walking holidays (or a combination of walking and driving holidays) are some of the finest ways to explore any rural region and gain an in-depth perspective of the local culture. In particular, we have some really gorgeous walking holidays in the foothills of the Himalayas, in the Kumaon region, as well as in the Buddhist states of Sikkim and Ladakh. These tend to be gentle meanders, walking for perhaps four to six hours each day, with a Sherpa guide, on an individual basis. This is no route march, rather a gentle introduction to the countryside and its people.
No comforts are forgotten – sleep in village houses with comfortable beds, cashmere blankets and hot water bottles, where hot water and soap are provided, delicious food and most of all, knowledgeable and charismatic guides. There is even a beautiful, luxurious retreat to end one’s stay in Kumaon, with just a handful of villas which have glass windows from floor to ceiling so that you can see the most incredible views of Nanda Devi every day.
The walks can be anything from a couple of days to a week, but we invariably recommend at least a week to make the most of the area. In spring, the rhododendrons are in flower and this is one of the most beautiful times to visit these regions. We offer you the same experience in Ladakh, where one can spend a week walking with one’s own guide, visiting magnificent monasteries en route. As a three night extension, we can offer you the exhilarating Shayok River Journey along one of the traditional silk routes. Accommodation is in dome tents, with excellent guiding and cuisine. The grades of the rapids are no more than two, so a gentle paddle. Visit the Nubra Valley, famous for its sand dunes more reminiscent of the Sahara Desert and its Bactrian camels. The scenery is beautiful, with snow-capped peaks and dramatic rock formations. This is a wonderful, contrasting way to experience this region.
Quite aside from the walking, wildlife, including snow leopards, can be seen in Ladakh. There are also the near-Tibetan lands of Lahul houseboats and trout-fishing in Kashmir, and the wildlife treasures of sub-Himalayan parks like Corbett Tiger Reserve, which can easily be combined with a walking trip in Kumaon; and one can always end walking holidays in India with a spa and yoga holiday in Rishikesh, close to Kumaon.
Finally, one can also undertake these village walks or treks in the beautiful region of Sikkim, again accompanied by your Sherpa guide. Stay in private houses and learn all about the local way of life. Walk the streets of Sikkim which are quaint. Another alternative is to base yourself at a beautiful tea plantation, renowned for not only its views over Mount Kanchenjunga, but also its wonderful cuisine. See how tea is made in the champagne of tea regions. There are several walks from here – anything from 45 minutes to 9 hours which one can vary over a period of days.
We can arrange walking holidays in India in the following regions: