INDIA might not be as high on trekkers’ list of hiking destinations, but just like its neighbor Nepal, it has an amazing scope for snowy vistas, towering mountains, colorful villages and wonderful alpine meadows that could easily rival anything else you may find in the Himalayan region.
Many of the trails aren’t as busy as those you could find elsewhere and you are more likely to come across Indian nationals, largely Hindu pilgrims, than lots of other foreign tourists.
Here are five hiking routes to consider in the northern region of Uttarakhand. Do remember, however, that as these hikes are near border areas with Tibet, they are treated as sensitive areas and you need to check about access permits from local authorities.
Tents and sleeping bags may be available locally, but come prepared to be self sufficient if they’re not. A smattering of Hindi will also be of great benefit in the villages and with the locals or pilgrims you encounter.
Yamunotri is the source of the Yamuna River, a holy place in Hinduism and therefore popular with pilgrims who come to see the seat of the Goddess Yamuna and her temple. Access to the temple is via a 13 kilometer-trek from Hanuman Chatti, and four kilometers from Janki Chatti.
Horses and palanquins are available for rent on this section should you grow weary! Otherwise enjoy the picturesque area with numerous waterfalls, rugged peaks and snow capped views. At the shrine is a black statue of the goddess. The temple is spectacularly located and the forces of nature are all too evident.
This 22 kilometer hike to the high alpine lake of Dodital is an interesting climb up past spectacularly located villages in the mountain range beyond Uttakarshi.
The trek is a good way of encountering village life and agriculture and enjoying landscape vistas of mountains, forest and rivers however it can be steep and rough. There is some accommodation along the way including communal tent areas and places with small rooms. You may however wish to bring a sleeping bag.
Some food is also available in season at these places; again having your own supplies could be advised. Part of the lower road was wiped out by landslides and rain in 2012 and the initial part of the track, meaning you start hiking about an hour back down the valley. This may still involve quite a scramble over rocks.
SEE ALSO: Trekking in Dodital, Uttarkhand
Har ki Dun
This multi day trek is one of the most well known of the region and while long is actually quite easy. The valley of Har ki Dun is located at the base of Fateh Parvat, at 3556m.
There are tourist rest house and forestry huts along much of the way but it’s best to carry tents and enjoy some wilderness camping. Views include terraced fields, the famed meadows of Har ki Dun, snow mountains and lush forest. Access to Har ki Dun is by road from Mussoorie to Sankri.
Valley of Flowers
As the name suggests, this valley is known for its incredible collection of wild flowers, particularly in the summer months when they grow almost like a carpet throughout the valley. The park is also known for fauna like the Himalayan black bear, brown bear and musk deer.
The nearby holy lake of Hemkund is also important as a pilgrimage centre for Sikhs. Access to the valley is from Rishikesh. The first day is a long drive to Joshimath from where trekking begins. It is 22 kilometers to Ghangaria from where day trips can be made into the valley.
Another popular trekking route out of Uttakarshi is the route to the source of the famous, and holy, Ganges river. The trek from Gangotri, beyond Uttakarshi, is a 13km, largely easy trail.
It is well marked as it is a popular pilgrim trail and goes through forest, grassy meadows and has liberal views of the surrounding peaks and the Gangotri glacier from where the river spurts.