Indian Himalayas

Epic mountain range - world renowned walks and treks talking you off the beaten track and into remote wilderness

Be awe-struck by the rugged peaks of the Indian Himalayas

A region unlike anywhere else on earth – a rich tapestry of dramatic scenery, with plenty of opportunity to experience complete wilderness.

Traditionally, the mountains were the preserve of explorers – and there’s still plenty of adventure if that’s what you’re seeking. These days, this region is ideal for anyone who simply enjoys the great outdoors. There are numerous gentle walks and spots for taking in the scenery.

The Western Himalaya is characterised by small villages, dense green deodar forests, orchards and cultivated terraces that give way to the jungles of Corbett National Park and the Hindu holy cities of Rishikesh and Haridwar on the Ganges.

As you head further northwest this area becomes increasingly Buddhist. Dharamasala is the capital in exile of the Dalai Lama while Ladakh in the far north is aptly known as ‘Little Tibet’. This is a region of ancient palaces and crumbling monasteries perched in improbable locations that seem frozen in time but come alive during festivals when villagers and nomads gather for religious celebrations.

India’s eastern Himalaya, sandwiched between Bhutan and Nepal, is home to world-famous tea plantations and valleys carpeted with rhododendron and azalea – all dwarfed by the mighty Kanchenjunga (8598m), the country’s greatest mountain and the world’s third highest. A fitting way to arrive is by old mountain railway. Savour the journey (and a fine cup of masala chai) before jumping off to explore the hills and mountains beyond.

With such a dizzying diversity of sights to discover, you may find one visit to the Indian Himalayas has you hooked. 

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Expeditions beyond Africa

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Tracking Snow Leopard in Ladakh

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Mountains, Deserts & Steppes

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Wildly beautiful Ladakh

Parched and stark but Ladakh remains one of the most remote and sparsely populated regions on earth.

The high altitude deserts surrounded by giant mountains of the Indian Himalaya are also the last refuge of pure Tibetan Buddhism.  

This ‘Land of the High Passes’ once extended its influence far across the Indus Valley, into Baltistan, across the Tibetan plateau, Himalaya and Karakorum mountain ranges, its importance coming from its strategic location at the crossroads of trade routes on a branch of the Silk Road. Until an enormous tunnel is completed (due 2017) Ladakh is cut off from the rest of India by road for much of the year and the little villages seem almost untouched by modern progress. Families work collectively and precious water is carefully diverted from mountain streams into ancient irrigation channels to persuade the high altitude deserts into green. The ruined palace in the capital of Leh (3525m), was the former mansion of the royal family of Ladakh, built in the same style and about the same time as the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.

Ladakh is about the thrill of vast open spaces, rustic simplicity, and experiencing something almost - dare we say it - transcendental. Whether staying in simple hotels, or better still, gorgeoous converted village houses or a luxury mobile camp you’ll quickly discover  that these highlands are saturated in the spirit of Tibetan Buddhism; walk to crumbling monasteries perched on barren hillsides, cycle over army-issue metal bridges festooned in faded prayer flags blowing in the wind(you’re in High Asia’s frontier country here) and visit ancient temples where red robed monks chant mantras and lamas blow conch shell horns from the rooftops and you'll know what we mean.  

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Darjeeling and Sikkim - India's two most famous Himalayan hill stations offer unrivalled Mountain Views

Magnificent Himalayan views, clear mountain air and the ‘champagne of teas’ add up to make Darjeeling and its environs a restorative hill retreat.

Spread over a crescent shaped ridge in the foothills of the India Himalayas and surrounded by emerald green plantations Darjeeling is synonymous with tea. In the 1830’s the area was leased to the East India Company by the once independent kingdom of Sikkim for an incredibly modest fee. Cool hills and high summer rainfall in the ‘Land of the Celestial Thunder Dragon’ proved to be perfect growing conditions and there are now more than 70 different tea gardens beneath the gaze of jagged snow-capped peaks.

Nepalis moved here to work in the plantations and swelled the local population adding to the mix of Himalayan cultures - we love this area for its fabulous people watching opportunities and shopping for the unusual. In the markets and bazaars you’ll rub shoulders with Newaris, Bhutanese and Tibetans and find everything from tightly curled fern fronds (a local delicacy) and bamboo bags to silver prayer wheels and yak wool rugs for sale.

Between March to May you can find out how tea pickers deftly pluck two leaves and a bud, or the intricacies of pruning in winter, before heading to a factory. In buildings straight out of a Victorian novel the mysteries of withering, rolling, fermenting, drying and sorting are revealed before you finally get to sample the ‘Champagne of teas’.

If a cup of Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe hasn’t perked you up, a breath of crystal clear fresh mountain air should hit the spot. Trails meander through wooded hills of rhododendrons, magnolias and wild flowers beneath the magnificent backdrop of the Indian Himalaya including Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain.

For glorious short walks and inspiring day hikes you can’t do better than basing yourself near Darjeeling at Glenburn Tea Estate. Step out on foot without another soul in sight, save tea pickers in their villages or tending the neat plantations and explore verdant forests, rolling hills and river valleys either on your own or with a house guide. Discover flowers and medicinal plants or take a pair of binoculars to spot birds and butterflies, via the orange orchard, and stop to visit the convent and the Cluny Sister’s Church and School.  In the late afternoon return to Glenburn to sit by the river, watch fireflies on the veranda in the evenings, a roaring fire and lamp-lit dinners. Mountain views are best during November and December and house-party atmosphere means this is a fabulous place to come to celebrate Christmas and New Year.

For longer, more challenging hikes in Sikkim and the chance to discover life in rural India, there’s little to beat staying in a village. Shakti Village Houses are beautifully converted for guests to take in their entirety with simple comfort and authentic style intact. With a local private guide you can join ceremonies in village temples and step into traditional Sikkimese lifestyle and hospitality that others rarely get to see.

If a cup of Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe hasn’t perked you up, a breath of crystal clear fresh mountain air should hit the spot.”

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Don't miss the train

Wherever you stay, don’t miss jumping aboard the ‘toy train’ on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Travelling at the break neck speed of 12kmph, and seemingly spending as much time going backwards or round in a circle as going forward, you can soak up the views along the way to Ghoom. Just 5km out of Darjeeling the train climbs almost 1000 feet in a matter of minutes. The Batasia Loop, where the track spirals around over itself through a tunnel and over a hilltop, is unforgettable.

Kumaon Himalayas

The remote hills of Kumaon in northwest India are not the easiest to get to, but herein lies their attraction.

Far removed from the hustle and bustle of the modern world, the clear air, wide open spaces and absolute peace will put a spring in your step and an eagerness to explore. Gentle hikes in Kumaon afford outstanding views of magnificent snow-capped peaks and staying in local houses you get to experience village life in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas.

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Top camps in India's Himalayas

Chamba Camp

Nomadic luxury and a variety adventures in exceptional locations in India's mountains

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Top camps in India's Himalayas

Shakti Ladakh Village Houses

A whole new level of simple sophistication to this remote region

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Top camps in India's Himalayas

360 Leti

Mountain lodge perched high on a ridge and surrounded by stunning scenery of the Kumaon Himalaya

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Top camps in India's Himalayas

Shakti Kumaon Village Houses

Combine the best of a rural homestay with excellent service and simple comforts

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Top camps in India's Himalayas

Shakti Sikkim Village Houses

An authentic way to experience the wonderful countryside and hospitality of hill people in rural Sikkim

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Top camps in India's Himalayas

Glenburn Tea Estate

A gorgeous plantation retreat in the heart of a 1600 acre working tea estate

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Our experienced travellers include:

Rod Tether
Rod Tether
Andrea Hulme
Andrea Hulme
Catherine Ronan
Catherine Ronan

It takes genuine local knowledge to craft trips that go beyond the ordinary.

All of us at Natural High have over 20 years’ experience in the countries we offer. We’ve lived there, worked there and arranged countless one-off journeys for clients. We live to travel – and love to share our tips on what’s really worth doing. For expert advice (and a traveller’s tale or two), speak to one of our team. They’ll be happy to let you in on their travel secrets, and help you plan a tailor-made trip that’s truly unforgettable.


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