India to Nepal: where to go in the Himalaya

The Himalayas, whose name comes from the Sanskrit word for “land of snow,” are a snowy arc of mountains seen from orbit. This geographical behemoth stretches from the Pakistani and Indian borders across India to Nepal: where to go in the Himalaya, Bhutan travel guide, and the Tibetan Plateau, and finally into the Chinese province of Yunnan. 

There is no need for arduous hiking to see this area. India’s mountain trains, Nepal’s rhinoceros, and Tibet’s Friendship Highway are accessible below the snow line. Our experts have summarized each nation so you may decide whether to visit My Way Travel.

Nepal

Bhaktapur

Chitwan National Park’s endangered one-horned rhino

Nepal is most often associated with the Himalayas since it is home to several of the world’s tallest mountains. Snow-capped summits are its trademark, yet these mountains are not isolated. Culture, religion, and wildlife are all distinct in the valleys’ lower reaches.

However, what sells Nepal to me is how much you can pack into a two-week trip there. Beginning in Kathmandu’s historic quarter, you’ll see Buddhist monasteries, palaces, and temples from the Middle Ages competing for attention with vegetable shops and art galleries.

From the nation’s capital, day trips might take you to Bhaktapur, the country’s best-preserved medieval city, or to the rural town of Bandipur, where you’ll see traditional wooden Mawari homes lining the village’s streets.

Chitwan National Park lies in the south, and both 4x4s and dugout canoes can navigate the park’s river plains and jungle. One-horned rhinos and elephants may be found in the grasslands, while the subtropical woods are home to vultures, eagles, and many elusive creatures (including the Bengal tiger).

Treks and scenic Everest flights from Kathmandu are available for those wishing to enjoy the scenery.

Tibet’s Friendship Highway

Rombuk Monastery

The Tibetan Himalayas are calling all adventurers in search of a less strenuous kind of travel. Some of the greatest mountain vistas in the world may be seen in this region of the Himalayas, although accommodations are few (there is the rare outdoor drop toilet).

You may go there without giving it any thought. Only the Friendship Highway between Lhasa, Tibet, and Kathmandu, Nepal, is worth taking. You’ll need around 2.5 weeks and want to hire a driver and guide.

Possible town locations at an average height of 3,500 meters (11,000 feet) along routes in Tibet. The Himalayas become more apparent as you go through Shigatse, the country’s second-largest city.

As the Himalayan mountain range approaches, the landscape gets more desolate. When Everest comes into view, its distinctive triangular silhouette dominates the Horizon.

The tallest monastery in the world, Rombuk, is where you’ll spend the night. From your accommodation, you can see the north face of Everest, and in the evening, everyone comes to watch the sun go down over the mountain range.

You might make a short detour to Everest Base Camp from here. There are two in Nepal. However, this one is more easily accessible by automobile.

China’s Yunnan province

Tiger Leaping Gorge

If Tibet seems too off the beaten path for you, the Chinese province of Yunnan offers a taste of Tibetan culture through its prayer wheels, Buddhist temples, and Tibetan-speaking communities.

Yunnan has more harsh terrain than the foothills in China and India, which bookend the Himalayas. One of the world’s deepest gorges, Tiger Leaping Gorge, cuts through the unexpectedly verdant Haba Mountains. You may stop at a viewing platform if traveling in the area. Still, a proper visit requires at least two days of hiking.

Zhongdian, also called Shangri-La, may be found even farther north; its locals are certain that James Hilton based his book Lost Horizon on their home. There are some high-end hotels in the area, such as the Banyan Tree Ringha, and easy access to attractions like Songzanlin, the biggest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in China outside of Tibet.

Visit Tacheng, a community of black-roofed farmhouses where semi-wild pigs roam and some of the world’s oldest trees thrive, for a day of hiking.

When planning a  two-week trip across western China, Yunnan pairs nicely with Sichuan province (home to the famous panda research facility).

The Indian Himalaya

Sikkim and West Bengal

Tea plantation in Darjeeling

Kangchenjunga

A thumb-shaped piece of the Indian Himalaya lies wedged between Nepal and Bhutan. Sikkim, once known as the Kingdom of Sikkim, became a part of India in 1975 but has since maintained its own identity. Hikers can explore steep slopes dotted with rhododendron trees and remote Buddhist temples.

Gangtok, the kingdom’s capital, is home to Chogyal Palace, the former royal residence, and a pedestrian-only main street dotted with low-key eateries.

Kangchenjunga, the third-highest peak in the world, towers above the (village-like) second city of Pelling. On a clear day, you can see Everest across the way (although it seems much smaller from this vantage point).

You may go from the southern border of Sikkim to the tiny area of West Bengal that sweeps north over Bangladesh in about a two-week trip across the region. Darjeeling, a former British hill station, is surrounded by mountains covered with forest and tea fields. Unlike Shimla, the town has completely abandoned its colonial past. It is now a major center for people from Nepal, Tibet, and West Bengal, who frequent the town’s evening market to shop for commodities from all over the Indian subcontinent.

The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, founded by Tenzing Norgay, is located in the adjacent town of Ghoom and may be reached through a picturesque journey on the Darjeeling Mountain Railway. If you get up early enough, you can see the Everest range from Tiger Hill (conditions permitting). And for some rest and leisure, stay at a Glenburn or other Himalayan tea plantation.

The western foothills

Dharamshala

Golden Temple, Amritsar

This area is low by Himalayan standards, but the green waves that spread out from the more abrasive peaks provide the most variation throughout a two-week trip. Every settlement offered the possibility of a relaxing hike through verdant woods and highland meadows, with the snow-capped peaks of the upper Himalayas providing a stunning backdrop.

Kalka is the starting point of the Kalka-Shimla toy trainline, which winds for 96 km (60 miles) up the Siwalik Hills and is just a few hours’ drive north of Delhi. You arrived at Shimla, the British summer capital of India, in the 19th century. The hill town has several examples of British influence, including a half-timbered hall and mock Tudor facades.

Farther into the highlands, Dharamshala clings to a rocky outcrop like a snowdrift. McLeod Ganj, the higher town, centers on the Tsuglagkhang Complex, with its fluttering Tibetan prayer flags. Those red-robed Buddhist monks you see around town are likely residents of this former exile palace of the Dalai Lama.

Sikhs value the region greatly since many pilgrims cross the Himalayas to the Golden Temple in Amritsar. When I first saw the Taj Mahal, I was awestruck by the reflection of its golden walls in the holy water that surrounded it.

The tiny mountain kingdom of Bhutan

Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Passport stamps from Bhutan are hard to come by, but the country’s uncompromising autonomy and ancient culture, where the measure of citizens’ happiness replaces GDP, make it unique.

Bhutan can’t boast the world’s top hotels, the finest cuisine, or the lowest prices. Only a select few communities, however, have been as successful as this one in maintaining their cultural heritage; even new construction must adhere to the area’s distinctive style of architecture.

You can only check something off a bucket list, but Tiger’s Nest Monastery is perched precariously on a cliffside in Paro. Instead, visitors should go into the countryside and see the quaint towns and dzongs (fortresses) that have sprung up around them. If you want to observe locals coming together, time your vacation to the Bhutan festival.

Chortens (shrines), prayer flags, and prayer wheels planted in the streams and spun by the water may be seen across the countryside as you travel around Bhutan. The Druk Path connects Paro and Thimphu via an ancient trade route that passes through peaceful woodland paths and yak pastures.

The valley walls are carpeted with colorful rhododendrons if you visit in the spring. Most of Asia’s black-necked cranes spend the winter in the middle of Phobjikha Valley.

Start planning your trip to India

Start thinking about your experience. These itineraries are simply suggestions for how you could enjoy some of the same experiences as our specialists. They’re just for inspiration, because your trip will be created around your particular tastes.

Start thinking about your experience. These itineraries are simply suggestions for how you could enjoy some of the same experiences as our specialists. They’re just for inspiration, because your trip will be created around your particular tastes.

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    • Matt
    • Asia Specialist
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    • Asia Specialist and New Zealand Specialist
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    • Thailand and Asia Specialist

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