10 Things to do in the Himalayas
1. Homestay Trek in Spiti Valley
The popular homestay trek offered by Spiti Valley Tours has already been featured on CNN Travel as one of the best off-path trips in India and is a great way to experience life in the High Altitude Himalayas.
Watch amazed as young children commute to school in hanging baskets suspended 500 meters above steep canyon drops and local Spitian villagers wish you a friendly 'juley' - the traditional greeting - as they take their yaks for a morning stroll.
Spiti Valley Tours are a reputed local agency with deep roots in the community who, in addition to their homestak trek, also offer a variety of other treks suitable for beginners through to advanced mountaineers, jeep safaris and meditation retreats.
One of the best options to get a feel for the local culture and put a decent size peak climb under your belt is their combination Homestay Trek + Kanamo Peak climb which takes you on a few days conditioning, staying overnight in villages and experiencing the local culture before finishing with a (fairly easy) 6000m peak ascent up Mt. Kanamo.
2. Cross a Canyon in a Jula
3. Find a Glacial Lake
There are millions of shimmering jewels hidden amongst the peaks and valleys of the high altitude Himalayas and you really ought to see as many of them as possible.
Often times these mountain lakes are so revered they have become pilgrimage sites for multiple different religions and are host to thousands of visitors a year, but most are so far off the beaten track only the most hardy of trekkers get to see them.
Lake Chandertal in Spiti or Tso Moriri Lake in Ladakh are two famously beautiful lakes where you can stay overnight on the lakeshore (see Spiti Valley Tours). Sunrise on the lake is a magical moment to be sure!
Gokyo Ri Lake (seen in the photographs) in Nepal's Everest Range is also legendary.
4. Push Yourself to new Limits
There is only up!
Sometimes it can seem like your whole body is fighting gravity but there is nothing else to do but keep going!
Realize your own boundaries are limitless while experiencing your own self-awareness in face of the all imposing natural beauty around you.
5. Always Take the Helicopter Taxi Option
Often times you can find a helicopter taxi option to get you up the mountain a bit faster and while that is kind of cheating, it will also be something you never forget!
From Bagdogra Airport to Gangtok by helicopter takes just 25 minutes of fantastic Northern Bengal / Darjeeling / Sikkim scenery and saves you about 3.5 hours of driving uphill in traffic!
Helicopter can be booked on the day in the airport itself, no reservation necessary (or really possible I don't think).
Cost is roughly 2-3x the price of a taxi.
6. Trek to the Valley of Flowers (Hemkund Sahib)
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Valley of Flowers is a remote, inaccessible and uninhabited valley located near the border with Chinese Tibet in India's Uttarkhand state. The Valley was discovered by the Victorian Mountaineer and explorer Frank Smith but it shares access with an important Sikh pilgrimage site known as Hemkund Sahib.
Plodding up the 10km paved road to the last pilgrimage camp where you can take a pilgrim lodging(expect grim conditions) and rest before ascending the final 5km to the Valley of the Flowers, where your friendly Sikh pilgrims will turn off in another direction to reach the gurudwara and lake of Hemkund Sahib - their destination.
The final steps to the Valley pass a small glacier and prominent cliffs, and leave you with the impression of complete solitude and isolation from humanity - you expect to see a snow leopard or the yeti at any moment! Then as you round the corner you are confronted with a spectacular valley thick with flowers over 1.5 meters tall! Truly spellbinding, the vistas will leave you without words.