Adventure is out there: the Great Indian Himalayan Outdoors

Back in the Summers of 90s, when we had ‘Desert Coolers’, we would often draw the curtains in, switch off the lights and get the cooler to do magic. This was our way of boxing in the cold. In a couple of hours, the temperature would fall & it would get so cold that my parents would often comment, “This feels like Shimla/ Kashmir”.

They were so wrong because Shimla, Kashmir and every other hill station on the Himalayan range is much colder, often covered in snow, with gushing or frozen streams & super stunning landscapes. When not snow-capped, one could see lush-green valleys, sun-lit mountain peaks, cattle grazing in open-large fields, a scene that appears surprisingly peaceful, localities going about their business, quaint-little cafes serving delicious food, therapeutic chai-tea & little kids with rose-cheeks playing as if they have all the time in the world.

It took me 6 years to cover some 50+ tourist spots across many valleys overlooking the mountains & hill stations on the Indian Himalayan mountain range. And that my friends, is one of my most prized possessions as an adult.

Welcome to the second blog of Theme III: ‘From the land of Kanchenjunga & the Himalayas, mountain ranges of India’. Want to check out the previous themes? Here:

Theme 1: ‘Affordable places in India that will make you forget International Dream Destinations’, Click to access

Theme 2:‘Haunted places in India that turn touristy during the day‘, Click to access

Shimla, Himachal Pradesh @Life on Weekends
Shimla, Himachal Pradesh @Life on Weekends; Image Credit – Life on Weekends
Nainital @Life on Weekends
Nainital @Life on Weekends;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

The Great Indian Himalayas:

The Himalayas are the highest mountain range in the world, spanning across five countries: India, China, Tibet, Nepal and Pakistan. And you know what – all 14 peaks – the ‘Eight Thousanders’ scaled by Nims Purja & his team as shown in the Netflix documentary 14 peaks exist…

Wait for it..

All Eight Thousanders, all 14 of those exist…

on the legendary ‘Himalayan range’

Yes, you heard that right!

In India, the Himalayan range spans across Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh & some parts of West Bengal, Assam & Meghalaya, measuring a length of about 2400 kilometers.

Divided into three main ranges: the Greater Himalayas including Kanchenjunga, Lesser Himalayas including Shimla, Mussoorie & Nainital & Outer Himalayas including several national parks and wildlife sanctuaries such as the most popular Jim Corbett National Park, the Himalayas have something to offer for everyone. No matter if you are a spiritual seeker, an adventure freak, a thrill seeker or a mountain junkie, the Indian Himalayas got you covered.

For the Spirituality-seeking Souls:

Millions of years of age, and thousands of years old, ancient civilizations, dating back to Indus Valley, the Himalayas have been home to many sacred & spiritual sites since the beginning. Be it the Kailash mountain of the trans-Himalayas, or the monasteries of Thiksey, Hemis & Tawang, the Himalayas have attracted people from all walks & faiths of life.

Here are some of the main spiritual destinations located in Indian Himalayas:

1. Amarnath Cave, Kashmir

A natural wonder & a place of intense pilgrimage, Amarnath caves in Jammu & Kashmir is accessible only between June to August every year. Situated at a height of some 12000 ft., Amarnath Cave is famous for a naturally formed stalagmite that’s formed due to freezing water drops, that’s worshipped as a form of Lord Shiva by the travelers. The journey to Amarnath is often considered extremely rugged, tough & life transforming.

Somewhere near the route to Amarnath, Kashmir;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

2. Hemis & Thiksey Monasteries, Ladakh

Both Hemis and Thiksey monasteries are a part of must-visit itinerary of every traveler visiting Ladakh. Hemis was built in the 17th century and Thiksey was built in the 15th century. Yes, that old! Both monasteries are super stunning & offer a masterclass in the peaceful & rich culture of Buddhism.

Thikse Monastery, Ladakh;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends
Hemis Monastery, Ladakh;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

3. Badrinath, Kedarnath in Uttarakhand:

Two of the four Char Dhams of Hinduism, Badrinath & Kedarnath are located in Uttarakhand in the lap of Himalayas. Kedarnath, the ancient & magical temple of Uttarakhand is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Adi Yogi (the first Yogi), who’s believed to reside in the Himalayas. Attracting thousands of travelers every year, these two temples are a mass favourite. If you will visit, you will know why.

Image Credit – my cousin Ankur Agarwal

4. Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh:

Believed to be the second largest monastery in the world, Tawang Monastery is situated at a height of 10,000 ft. and is over 300 years old. Other than being an architectural marvel, the monastery also attracts many tourists and spiritual travelers every year. Just a few metres downhill, there is a cute, little cafe that serves amazing food. You must visit the cafe. Their ginger lemon tea, cheese sandwiches and pizza are the best.

Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends
Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

Other than this, there are some hundred more sites of spiritual and religious significance in the form of temples, Gurudwaras, lakes, rivers, mountain peaks and monasteries spread across the Himalayan range of India. You can spend several years visiting these and yet your heart will continue to crave more. So, design your own personalised, spiritual itinerary that can consist of as many of these places as you like. Or who knows your discovery might just start & end at one? Like mine did, but then that’s a blogpost for some other time.

For the Adrenaline Junkies and compulsive Thrill Seekers:

Home to altitude, rugged terrain, and some of the highest motorable passes in the world, the Himalayas offer endless possibilities for the Adrenaline Junkie in you.

If you are the Corporate Junkie who can not afford an adventure that lasts more than a long weekend, fret not. There are quite a few safe & yet dangerous adventure avenues for you in the Himalayas that will make you laugh at the treacherousness of Mondays. No kidding, seriously!

Here are some options:

1. Trekking & Mountaineering:

There are countless scenic treks on the Himalayas such as the trek to Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand, Goechala Trek in Sikkim that takes you to the base of Kanchenjunga & Chadar Trek in Ladakh. And if that’s not enough, pack your bags and test your stamina by scaling the peaks of Kanchenjunga, Stok Kangri, Nanda Devi & Mount Everest Base (from the Indian side).

Valley of Flowers;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

2. Motorbiking:

For the motorbike enthusiast in you, the rugged terrains & high altitude of the Himalayas are a perfect ground to test and build your muscle. Plenty of off-roading & motorbiking options await you in the Himalayas in the form of treacherous motorable passes such as Rohtang Pass, Khardungla Pass & Zoji La Pass.

Some of these passes might scare you to death, but it’s all worth it. Because darr ke aage jeet hai 😀

Not funny? Oh, come on.

Khardungla, Ladakh;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends
Zoji La Pass;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

3. White-water Rafting

There are many white-water rafting options available in the Himalayas beginning from Zanskar where you can experience Level 4 & Level 5 rapids or Beas river rafting in Kullu-Manali. But the winner of rafting is Rishikesh where the longest stretch of white-water rafting, Marine Drive, is a gamble. Oh yes, it is. Apparently Goddess Ganga (the river in which rafting happens in Rishikesh) developed a taste for playing games when she first played it with King Shantanu. Doesn’t ring a bell. Read Mahabharata.

Okay, let me share it briefly. Goddess Ganga played this really interesting and cruel game with her husband, King Shantanu in the form of a promise. King Shantanu could never ask Goddess Ganga what she was up to? Isn’t this the dream of every woman? 😀

But King Shantanu broke the promise and Goddess Ganga left him. After all, rules are rules.

But she didn’t leave the habit of playing games. Because even today, you can’t predict whether you will have a bone-chilling dangerous rafting ride or a simple, plain-jane rafting experience. It really depends upon her mood. Better to chant, “Har, Har Gange” every now and then. And then, may be, she might go easy on you.

Why am I saying all this? Because she really had a lot of fun at my expense. Want to know more? Check this out: How I had a narrow escape while white water rafting at Rishikesh

White water rafting, Rishikesh;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

4. Paragliding

I can’t believe I am saying this but paragliding is a much safer option than river rafting. 😀 All you have to do is to muster some courage and jump off the cliff, the rest can be managed. Just don’t lose your shit and get famous in viral videos. You know what I mean. 😀 😀

Much before the videos on paragliding went viral, my husband took me for a paragliding tour. It was a month after that fateful river rafting experience and I had started to get a bit scared. So, my husband decided to take me for paragliding and hence Bir Billing, the second highest paragliding site in the world, happened.

Read more about it here: Lift your spirits, ditch your fears & jump from 7800+ ft in BirBilling, Himachal

BirBilling, June 2016;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

5. Skiing

Yes, In India, you have the option to go for skiing too, thanks to the Indian Himalayan range. You can go to Auli in Uttarakhand, Solang in Himachal or you can go to everyone’s favourite – Gulmarg in Kashmir

This doesn’t end here. The Great Indian Himalayas are full of adventure at every nook and corner. All you have to do is to convince your boss for a vacation and step out. Because remember, adventure is out there!

Gulmarg, Kashmir;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

A Treasure House for the Soul Searchers:

There are over 100 locations perfect for a vacation with family, friends or yourself in the Himalayan range of India. Be it the northernmost region of India (and our favourite: Leh, Ladakh) or the stunning hill station of Gulmarg in Kashmir, you can’t just pick one. Being a resident of Delhi NCR, I love Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand equally and thus the popular tourist destinations of Shimla, Kullu-Manali, Auil, Rishikesh, Mussoorie & Nainital also form part of my itinerary. And it could be part of yours too.

Ladakh 🙂 ;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends
Chail, Himachal Pradesh;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends
Manali, Himachal Pradesh;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends
Narkanda, Himachal Pradesh;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends
Near Chopta, Uttarakhand;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends
Rishikesh, Uttarakhand;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

While any of these places could turn out to be the place where you experience the calm that’s missing from your life or the place with the answers to the questions that you haven’t yet asked, I would recommend a trip to the North-east for a true off-the-grid experience.

You can choose to travel to Kaziranga, the land of one-horned rhino in Assam, or the abode of clouds, Meghalaya famous for living root-bridges & frequent rains. You could go to Sikkim – home to the beautiful Gurudongmar Lake, and the breathtaking Yumthang Valley. Or you can plan for Arunachal Pradesh with gorgeous attractions such as Tawang valley & Ziro Valley.

You will be surprised what you might find on a trip to these locations in the North-east. And if you can’t seem to find a piece of your heart, try visiting the high points of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. If not anything, you will come back with a lot of gratitude for being alive after gasping for breath at the freakishly high altitude in both these places. 😀 😀

Yumthang Valley, Sikkim;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends
Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh
Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends
The land of one-horned Rhino, Assam;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends
Living root bridges of Meghalaya;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

A few months back, we started a new campaign on the popular demand of our readers, ‘Rediscover India, Incredible India’. As part of the campaign, we explore the rich and unique heritage of this incredible country one theme at a time. This is theme 3. For the next blogpost on this theme, watch out for the next blog, next week

Next Up: Welcome to Western Ghats: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Till then, keep travelling!



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kanika Budhiraja says:

    Amazing article 🙂 it made me nostalgic for the places I have already visited and gave a to do travel list for places I haven’t 😊


    1. Just Yamini says:

      Thanks Kanika. 🙂


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