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Himalayas

Photo © grmoski

Travel Guide Asia Himalayas

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Introduction

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The Himalayas is an Asian mountain range that separates the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. Many famous mountains are located here, including the K2, Mount Everest and Mount Kailash. The Annapurna Circuit is equally impressive and popular. If you are not a mountaineer but want to watch the Himalayas from a birds view, you might catch one of the planes who leave Kathmandu airport in the early morning for sightseeing flights. The flight usually takes one hour and is offered by several airlines.

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Geography

In the middle of the great curve of the Himalayan mountains lie the 8,000-metre peaks of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna in Nepal, separated by the Kali Gandaki Gorge. The gorge splits the Himalayas into Western and Eastern sections both ecologically and orographically - the pass at the head of the Kali Gandaki, the Kora La is the lowest point on the ridgeline between Everest and K2. To the east of Annapurna are the 8,000-metre peaks of Manaslu and across the border in Tibet, Shishapangma. To the south of these lies Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal and the largest city in the Himalayas. East of the Kathmandu Valley lies valley of the Bhote/Sun Kosi river which rises in Tibet and provides the main overland route between Nepal and China - the Araniko Highway/China National Highway 318. Further east is the Mahalangur Himal with four of the world's six highest mountains, including the highest: Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu. The Khumbu region, popular for trekking, is found here on the southwestern approaches to Everest. The Arun river drains the northern slopes of these mountains, before turning south and flowing through the range to the east of Makalu.

In the far east of Nepal the Himalayas rise to the Kanchenjunga massif on the border with India, the third highest mountain in the world, the most easterly 8,000-metre summit and the highest point of India. The eastern side of Kanchenjunga is in the Indian state of Sikkim, Formerly an independent Kingdom, it lies on the main route from India to Lhasa, Tibet, which passes over the Nathu La pass into Tibet. East of Sikkim lies the ancient Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan. The highest mountain in Bhutan is Gangkhar Puensum, which is also a strong candidate for the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. The Himalayas here are becoming increasingly rugged with heavily forested steep valleys. The Himalayas continue, turning slightly north east, through the disputed Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh as well as Tibet, before reaching their easterly conclusion in the peak of Namche Barwa, situated in Tibet inside the great bend of the Yarlang Tsangpo river. The high mountains the other side of the Tsangpo including Gyala Peri are also sometimes also included the Himalayas.

Going west from Dhaulagiri, Western Nepal is somewhat remote and lacks major high mountains, but is home to Rara Lake, the largest lake in Nepal. The Karnali River rises in Tibet but cuts through the centre of the region. Further west, the border with India follows the Sarda River and provides a trade route into China, where on the Tibetan plateau lies the high peak of Gurla Mandhata. Just across Lake Manasarovar from this lies the sacred Mount Kailash, which stands close to the source of the four main rivers of Himalayas and is revered in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Bonpo. In the newly created Indian state of Uttarkhand, the Himalayas rise again as the Garwhal Himalayas with the high peaks of Nanda Devi and Kamet . The state is also an important pilgrimage destination, with the source of the Ganges at Gangotri and the Yamuna at Yamunotri, and the temples at Badrinath and Kedarnath.

The next Himalayan Indian state, Himachal Pradesh lacks really high mountains, but is noted for its hill stations, particular Shimla. the summer capital of the British Raj, and Dharmasala, the centre of the Tibetan community in exile in India. This area marks the start of the Punjab Himalaya and the Sutlej river, the most easterly of the five tributaries of the Indus, cuts through the range here. Further west, the Himalayas form most of the southern portion of the disputed Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir. The twin peaks of Nun Kun are the only mountains over 7,000 metres in this part of the Himalayas. Beyond lies the renown Kashmir Valley and the town and lakes of Srinagar. Finally, the Himalayas cross the Line of Control into Pakistan and reach their western end in the dramatic 8,000-metre peak of Nanga Parbat, which rises over 7,000 metres above the Indus valley and is the most westerly of the 8,000-metre summits.

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Countries

The Himalayas are located in six countries: Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China (Tibetan Autonomous Region).

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Sights and activities

Mount Everest

Mount Everest from Basecamp

Mount Everest from Basecamp

© All Rights Reserved ChrisEvans

The highest mountain of all, the Mount Everest or Chomolungma in the local language, is on every climber's list to do. But this mountain is not without risks and many people die when climbing or descending (!) the mountain. About 2,500 people have reached the top and over 200 deaths have been recorded. The mountain is part of the highest mountain range in the world, the Himalayas.

It is internationally recognized that the mountain was first climbed and successfully descended by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953, although controversy still exists about the question whether George Mallory and/or Andrew Irvine had climbed the mountain 29 years earlier! Unfortunately, neither of them survived their early expedition. More recently, questions about the commercialization have come up as more and more climbers make the climb. Even a double-amputee (Mark Inglis) and a helicopter have made it to the top during the last year, although both did so with risk.

Mount Kailash

Kinnaur Kailash - Standing Tall

Kinnaur Kailash - Standing Tall

© All Rights Reserved sabyasachi

Mount Kailash is one of the holiest mountains in the world! Since it is a holy mountain for Buddhist, Hindu, Jainist and Bon traditions, thousands of pilgrims make the journey every year to this remote mountain on the edge of the world. The Hindus consider Mount Kailash to be the home of Lord Shiva, a principle Hindu deity. These pilgrims come to do a kora, spiritual walk, around the mountain. It is believe that one kora around the mountain will wash away a lifetime of sins. It can take several days to complete the kora around Mount Kailash, and some pilgrims complete it multiple times.

The other amazing fact about this mountain is the number of rivers that start from it. The Indus, Sutlej and Brahmaputra rivers find their sources from the different sides of this mountain. Many of the other rivers coming from this mountain feed into the Mekong, Ganges and Yellow rivers. Getting to Mount Kailash is very difficult and expensive, as it requires arranging a tour from Lhasa with a Land Rover. The standard tour, including transportation time and a kora around the mountain, takes 10 days. Some tours include visiting ancient cities beyond Mount Kailash, but this adds about 5 more days.

Annapurna Circuit

trek around annapurna

trek around annapurna

© All Rights Reserved mbbb5

This hike is one of the most impressive ones anywhere in the world but come prepared with a very good physical conditions as this hike is not for the faint of heart, taking 17 to 21 days! It is definately one of the best treks in Nepal, though road construction is threatening its reputation and its future as a classic trek. The scenery still is outstanding though the trek takes you through distinct sceneries of rivers, mountains, and flora and fauna. The trek goes counter-clockwise and reaches its summit in Thorung La (pass) at an elevation of 5,416 metres above sea level. Altitude sickness is one of the biggest risks but because of the slow ascent it shouldn't be that much of a problem for most travellers.

Other Sights

  • Pangong Lake, a large lake on the border of India and China.

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Getting There

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.

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Safety and Health

See also Travel Safety and Travel Health

If you are not planning to do any trekking, then you will not need any special equipment, or even warm clothing as you will be able to pick up good warm clothing on entry to the region. If you do need warm clothes, don't miss the second-hand markets selling attire from wealthy nations.

If you are trekking, the equipment you will need depends on your destination, in most of Nepal you will need nothing more than a sleeping bag and a pair of boots; the Indian Himalaya offer a large number of routes that are possible to trek independently if you have a tent, stove, and all the equipment needed for unsupported trekking.

In general the Himalayas have fewer dangers than the more densely populated plains around them.

  • Malaria is only an issue in the areas of low elevation, as the mosquito that carries the disease is not able to live at higher elevations. Take precautions when traveling through areas of lower elevation, especially the neighboring plains.
  • Altitude sickness is a worry, with many of the passes in the Himalaya being over 5,000 metres. Increase your elevation as slowly as possible, avoid flying from a low elevation to a high one, limit your physical activity; and drink lots of liquids after gaining altitude. Altitude sickness is unpredictable, and may strike people who haven't had problems before. Give yourself lots of flexibility in your plans, to avoid pushing yourself higher when you need to rest.
  • Stay up to date with the news, and be willing to change your plans, when going to places such as Kashmir, that are facing armed uprisings.
  • Traffic on the narrow roads is often frightening, but due to the slow speeds is less likely to result in fatalities than on the roads of the plains.

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This is version 12. Last edited at 12:27 on Jul 26, 17 by Utrecht. 29 articles link to this page.

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