Ever since the first successful peak of Mount Everest, 60 years ago next week, the Himalayas has become more accessible to pedestrians. We round out the best trips of this wonderful area, across Nepal, India, Pakistan, Tibet and even Burma.
Political changes have also changed the horizon. Mountains along the northern border of Burma have recently been accessible for the first time in decades, while restricting visas and unrest in Tibet, making travel more difficult.
Trekking is also changing. Many people believe that walking the Himalayas is only for the rugged people who enjoy it. It was true in 1953, when Everest was first climbed and trekking tourism did not exist. Now there are many new ways to experience the Himalayas: luxurious guesthouses for those who want to look at it with a little comfort; Treks focused heavily on culture as a landscape; and new lodges and homestay for those who want to relax and stay below the surface of life in the Himalayas.
Walking is usually not too difficult – of course outside of height. That is the attitude, along with travel problems in one of Asia’s most underdeveloped areas and worries about sanitation, causing some to give up. Staying healthy in the Himalayas is certainly more difficult at home, but if you are used to walking and being cautious about getting high, you won’t have any problems. And the rewards are spectacular.
Where, when and how
The summer monsoon in the east of the Himalayas is much heavier than in the west, and so the most common trekking time in most India, Nepal and the eastern region is April and October. The sky is more pronounced in the fall, although it is colder, but that’s when Everest and other popular trips are busiest.
If you want to go on vacation, look to the west of Zanskar and Ladakh, mostly Tibetan Buddhism in population but are part of the politics of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, located north of the Himalayas and enjoying much better weather in July and August. These are also the best months for the rest of Karakoram, including Kashmir and Hindu Kush.
The most popular trekking areas – such as Everest, the Annapurna region and the Markha valley of Ladakh – have a network of basic guesthouses to stay in, opening these areas for independent pedestrians who do not want to bring tents and with a more limited budget. You can also get to Annapurna or Nepal’s Langtang area by bus without expensive internal flights.
For those with a little more to spend, there are outstanding journeys from professional travel agents in the UK. The best of these people use local good people and provide a guide, both Westerners or local people who speak English well. For those who do not want to have trouble organizing traffic and accommodation, this type of trip is perfect – and for camping trips in remote areas, they are essential. You also have direct access to a local dealer, which is useful if you have a group you want to join together.