What’s expansive, majestic and home to the highest peaks on the planet? Of course, the Great Himalayas! An enigma in itself, the Himalayan Range lures travelers with its arresting landscape of snow-laden mountains, glaciers and plunging river valleys, along with the ever-so-colossal Mount Everest sitting at a whopping elevation of 8,848 meters above sea level.

But there is more to the Great Himalayan range than just natural grandeur…

Stok Kangri in the Himalayas
Stok Kangri, Himalayas

India’s prime outdoor adventure refuge- Himalayas- house some of the most prominent winter-sports destinations like Gulmarg, Auli, Leh, Manali and Narkanda. While Kashmir offers some of the world’s highest, tough-to-tread but blissfully unexplored ski slopes, just right for extreme snow sport enthusiasts, the gentle slopes of Himachal Pradesh provide a perfect base for novices.

Whizzing past jagged and raw terrains, plunging from great heights will fill you with a sense of exhilaration and make you want to immerse yourself in the unparalleled beauty of the surroundings. All this at a fraction of the cost in contrast to famous European resorts! Well, does that make you want to go on a snow-sporting vacation right away? If you are still not convinced, here are our top reasons to go skiing and snowboarding in the Great Himalayas:

Tanglang-La
Escaping the well-trod path; explore Himalayas in the most action-packed way

You Don’t Get To Do This Every Day!

Winter sports in India are not that prevalent. You do not get to experience such activities every day. That makes the Himalayan resort towns even more special. But if you wish to experience uncharted and unique snow challenges, then the Himalayan Range is your eternal playground. Forget the jam-packed and well trimmed Alpine slopes, the Himalayas offer next-level skiing and snowboarding experiences, adding a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘going-off-piste’!

skiing in gulmarg
Discover Hidden Treasures of Gulmarg

Adventure tourism is on the rise with Kashmir’s Gulmarg leading the pack! Often touted as the Mecca for skiers, Gulmarg has one of the highest ski lifts in the world and it is certainly not just another alpine escapade. While the naturally smooth gradient of Kongdoori Peak makes it an ideal spot for novice skiers to get a hang of the activity, it is the Mountain Apharwat that steals the show! Strictly meant for advanced skiers, it offers an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here, you will find the world’s highest gondola- The Gulmarg Gondola that takes fearless skiers to the world’s most uncharted slopes at a vertigo-inducing altitude of 13,400 feet- almost reaching the peak of Mount Apharwat.

Advanced skiers feeling a little frisky can really push their boundaries in these elevated terrains. How about exploring the hoary playground filled with firs and pines by taking on the mountains from dizzying heights where the Gondolas do not reach? Picture taking a helicopter ride to the most untouched and dramatic mountaintops of the world and get ready for a flabbergasting Heli-skiing experience amid the mystical wilderness of Gulmarg. Those who cannot imagine a skiing holiday without the comforts of gourmet dishes can look forward to an authentic experience with Kashmiri offerings like soothing mint teas, flavored curries, and some warm conversation.

Lose yourself in the picturesque Garhwal slopes of Uttaranchal..
The lesser-known cousin of Gulmarg, Garhwal woos adventure enthusiasts with its intoxicating natural splendor and is just as generous in terms of thrill!

Auli
Auli, a pristine stimulation

Auli– Enveloped by the mighty Himalayan range, Auli has some of the gentlest slopes covered in just the right amount of snow. The ski-worthy slopes range somewhere between 2000-3000 meters, making it an ideal playground for both amateur and skilled skiers. To enhance the thrill, an 800 meters long cable car runs between Auli and Joshimath offering magnificent views of the Dronagiri, Kamet and Nanda Devi peaks. On top of the mountain peaks, there is a government operated ski resort equipped with amenities and guide which also features a 500-m long ski-lift.

Dayara Bugyal– With multiple trails, gorgeous scenery and an awe-inspiring ambiance, this Himalayan hamlet has skiing slopes extended about 28 square kilometers in area that brings back skiers for more. The magnificent snow covered slopes are a dream to ski and the enchanting views of the Tal and Barnala lakes add further charm to the site.

Mundali– Another entrancing winter-sports destination in Uttarakhand, Mundali offers sublime views and the perfect snowy slopes for skiing adventures. The powdery snow-draped slopes work as a magnet for both amateur and expert skiers. Getting to the hill station is a thrill in itself. Expect to fight through a tough terrain, unmetalled roads and steep treks to reach this unspoiled paradise.

The Thrill of Mystical Slopes of Manali in Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh is a calling for the venturous souls

Manali has evolved from being a quaint holiday destination to a promising base for thrilling winter-sports like skiing, heli-skiing and snowboarding. Covered with miles of glaciers and surrounded by snow-clad peaks, skiing trails in Manali takes one through cedar-birch forests and jaw-dropping ridgelines that is sure to raise your adrenalin levels.

Apart from the above mentioned places, the other Himalayan towns that offer memorable and thrilling skiing experience include Pahalgam, Kufri, Narkanda, Solang Valley, Tawang, Yumthang Valley, among others.
Have you been to the Great Himalayas for skiing or snowboarding? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

Don’t you just hate it when it is September and raining continuously, and you cannot do anything, but sit stupidly at home? Well, I do and I am about to get really sick of it. I want to go out, damn it! And, I will. Who cares if it is raining and what if we get a little wet?! At least we will have some fun. So, here is the formula! Let’s just brave the rains and head out wherever our desire takes us. Now, for a long time, my mind has been fixed on trekking. Most people, I talked to on this front, told me that trekking should not be done in the monsoon. They said that the path will be slippery, there might be a danger of landslides and that the weather will be horribly humid. But, I have a habit of doing things, I know I am not supposed to. This is the whole point of adventure and thrill, isn’t it?

So, to satisfy my thirst for ‘insanity’, I sat on my laptop, searching for what all treks I could go for in September when the rains are at their heaviest. To my amazement, there were others like me, who had already done something like this and uploaded accounts of their experience. They had all written about how nature was at its prettiest during the wet season and how the grass was tall, dense and green everywhere they looked. What I liked the most, reading their accounts, was having clouds literally on one’s face and getting the chance to walk through them. There were numerous hikes I read about, but there were a few that really caught my attention.

The ones, I am detailing in the following sections, are all in the moderate-to-high altitude (11000-20000 feet) category. Places below 11000 feet altitude are your regular hill stations, and you don’t need September to visit them; these are essentially summer or winter destinations. At the above-mentioned altitude range, summers are characterised by snow, which has only started melting. It is only in the rainy season that it disappears and the real beauty of the place is unveiled. Keeping this in mind, I have specifically chosen the best treks in September. Read on.

Best off-beat Himalayan Treks

The Scottish-American writer, John Muir once said, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

And man, was he right! What could be a better way for people like us to get close to nature than getting lost in the forests! Truthfully, there’s not much of true nature left around us. Humans have gone everywhere; they have taken over nature and established their empire. Today, sky-piercing towers make the skyline, and bustling, over-crowded metropolises, dominate the landscape. Sometimes, it even gets hard to find a lush public park in cities.

To come across the true bounties of nature, I suggest you go on a trek. And, to find nature, you do not even have to go far to any international destination. The Himalayas in the North and Northeast, and the Western Ghats in the South are perfect for trekkers. From easy hikes that are almost like a walk in the park to some demanding ones that require you to utilise every muscle in your body, all kinds of trekking excursions are possible here.

Roopkund, Har Ki Doon, Goecha La, Beas Kund and Nag Tibba are some of the most taken trekking trails in India. However, if you are one of those, who like to, as our favourite Star Trek character, Captain Kirk, says, “Boldly go where no man has gone before”, then the following are some treks you can consider for your next excursion. I suggest that you try at least a few of these in 2016 itself! Life is too short to be delaying such amazing experiences for the future.

Have you been spending loads in the gym to get your body in shape, but feel bored by the stereotypical routine and exercises? There is another way you can do it, and it would be a lot better than the gym – Trekking! Yeah, that’s right! Hiking/Trekking is an excellent way to keep yourself up and running. It gives you the chance to exercise in natural conditions, unlike those simulated ones in the gym like on a boring treadmill. Ascending cliffs with the oxygen level decreasing as you go higher will tone up your body like nothing else.

Be glad you are in India as the hilly terrain in the northern part gives you endless opportunities for hiking. There are trails aplenty that you could take through the mountains. Consider the blast of cultures that will take you over as you journey past scenic hamlets, and you have got yourselves a fiesta. The famous children’s author, JRR Tolkien said in the Lord of the Rings, “All those who wander are not lost”, and he was right. Wandering endlessly does not always take you far from everything, but closer to yourself.

There are treks that vary in difficulty and altitude, and you can go in an increasing order to get your body used to it and prepared for the next challenge. In order to prepare for these treks, all you got to do is to start with brisk walks, jogging, climbing stairs and some breathing exercises. This should get you ready for the easy treks, and a few easy treks would set you in motion for the tougher ones. A couple of these every year would guarantee overall fitness. Bunk gym and go trekking for a healthy life. Here is a description of some treks and the sort of workout they will give you, arranged in the increasing order of difficulty.

Travelling is a pleasure, when you want to spend some time with yourself away from the city life inhaling the fresh mountain air while hiking in the woods, walking through fragrant orchards, lazing around and feeling the warmth of the sun.

But if your idea of travel involves some adventure and taking the off-beat track, then a trek is all you need.

If you want to explore Himachal beyond Shimla and Manali and move beyond Dehradun and Mussoorie, see Ladakh beyond Leh and Sikkim beyond Gangtok, then stretch your leg muscles and get ready to venture into these 10 beautiful picturesque Himalayan treks across India. What could be more stress- busting and soothing than experiencing these breathtaking views?

As Ruskin Bond has said, “The adventure is not in arriving, it is in the “On the way” experience. You are not choosing what you shall see in the world but giving the world an even chance to see you.”  So pack your bags and embark on these 10 most picturesque Himalayan treks across India.

Chadar Trek: Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir

One of the most challenging treks as it involves walking on the ice-sheet of Zanskar River.  Chadar trek is not only a miscellany of adventure, but also melody of emotions. You will be awestruck when you see the frozen river, icy caves, unusual campsites, frozen waterfall and changing of the colour of the ice bed of Chadar. The trek became famous when pictures of Buddhist monks walking barefoot on the frozen river in -30 degree temperature went viral.

Chadar Frozen River Trek
Chadar Frozen River Trek

Parang La Trek: Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir

Bugyal, when literally translated, means meadow. A Bugyal is high altitude grassland that makes for an excellent grazing ground. These Bugyals remain covered with snow in the winter months but come to life with colors at the advent of summer season. Here are some of the most beautiful Bugyals in the state of Uttarakhand in India –

1. Bedni Bugyal – Situated at the border of Garhwal and Kumaon in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, Bedni Bugyal offers the majestic views of the Trishul Parbat. It is situated at an altitude of 11,000 feet. The trek to Bedni starts from Loharjung and is ranked easy on the difficulty level, since one mostly passes through villages to reach this lush meadow. On route to Bedni, Wan is the last village that you cross; it is also the last point where you could get accommodation.

The Refreshing Bedni Bugyal
The Refreshing Bedni Bugyal

Bedni Bugyal is a part of the Roopkund Trek itinerary too. So to witness the verdancy of this meadow, you could either choose the easy trek to Bedni or go further up to Roopkund which is at a height of 15,600 feet.The route to Bedni Bugyal is through exquisitely beautiful forests of rhododendron and oak. It is a perfect campsite and the Bedni Kund offers the most riveting reflection of the Trishul Peak.

2. Dayara Bugyal – Dayara Bugyal is a full-fledged 7 days trek that again is rated easy. At an altitude of 12,000 feet, Dayara is easily among the top 2 most beautiful high altitude meadows in the Himalayas. It is breathtakingly serene and looks like the most ideal setting for a fairytale. It can be reached from Haridwar via Barsu, and Barnala meadows are where Dayara begins. It is a moderate 5 kms trek from Barnala to Dayara through dense forests.

The gateway to Tons Valley, the quaint and quiet hill station of Mori, noted for its scenic beauty (and its association with Mahabharata folklore), lies on the banks of the River Tons, the biggest tributary of the River Yamuna, and is surrounded by verdant fields of rice and forested hills of pine and deodar (the tallest pine woods in Asia are right here).

Tons River, Mori region
Tons River, Mori region

Straddling the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, Mori, and the hamlets around, make for a pleasant cultural retreat and a perfect get-away-from-it-all holiday. Enjoy the serenity, and some fantastic views of the sylvan surrounds.

Of late, Mori has become a very popular destination for those seeking the unique thrills of whitewater rafting. Mori is also ideal for trekking, camping and birding, besides boasting plenty of floras to make nature walks enjoyable.

Nestled amid the Himalayas, Mori lies in the Tons Valley, to the northwest of Garhwal, in Uttarakhand. It is situated at an altitude of 3770ft (1150m). The River Tons has its source towards the peak of Bandarpoonch (20,720ft, 6315m).

While both the Pandavas and Kauravas held sway here, Mori’s residents, uniquely, are adherents of the Kauravas, the famous anti-heroes of the Mahabharata (who follow polygamy). Some also claim to be descendants of the Pandavas. Legend has it that Tons (called the Tamas in ancient times) was formed by the tears of the local folk weeping over the Kauravas’ defeat to the Pandavas in the great epic.

Uttarakhand literally translates to the abode of the Gods. It is considered a paradise for trekkers, adventure buffs and nature lovers. Whether one is an experienced trekker or a first timer, there is a trek for everyone.

For all those who love the beauty and tranquility of the mountains and crave to reach new heights of adventure, here is Adventure Nation’s pick of the best Himalayan treks in Uttarakhand:

Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek – Duration – 06 days
The base camp for this trek is at the small village of Ghangariya which is located by the river Lakshman Ganga. The Valley of Flowers is approximately 5 kms from this village. There is also the famous Govind Ghat that got its name from the time Sikh Guru Guru Gobind Singh meditated here. A steep trek from Ghangariya leads one to the heavenly Hemkund Lake that stays frozen for almost 8 months in a year. Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara and Lakshman Temple are built on the banks of this lake. This trek is particularly popular for the variety of flowers one gets to witness in the valley.

Valley of Flowers

Valley of Flowers
Image Credits: bharatrawat641.blogspot.in

Har Ki Doon Trek  – Duration – 08 days
Considered a haven for bird watchers and nature lovers, Har Ki Doon trek gives one a great opportunity to explore the remotest parts of the Garhwal Himalayas. The base camp for this trek is Sankri which is about 37 kms from the highest camp on this trek. Har Ki Doon literally means the Valley of Lord Krishna and is surrounded by dense forests of pine, deodar and conifer. It is believed that the Pandavas camped here on their final journey.

Situated in the Western Himalayas, Kedarnath Sanctuary is located in the Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts of Uttarakhand. A part of the Himalayan Highlands, it has an elevation ranging from 3,810 ft to the Chaukhamba peak at 23,189 ft. It gets its name from the famous Kedarnath Temple that was built in the 8th century AD. It is just outside the northern border of the sanctuary.

Kedarnath Temple Image Credits: photos.wikimapia.org
Kedarnath Temple
Image Credits: photos.wikimapia.org

Covering an area as 975 sq km, it is the largest protected area in the Western Himalayas. It was formally established in 1972, primarily to protect the Himalayan musk deer and because of that it is also called the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary. It has been designated a “Habitat/Species Management Area” by the IUCN.

It is popular for its great biodiversity, picturesque snow-covered mountains, lakes, glaciers, valleys and the glistening Mandakini and Alaknanda Rivers. It’s often called one of the most beautiful sanctuaries in India. The density of the flora changes with the elevation – from sub-alpine forests to alpine shrubs, Himalayan flowers to permanent snow lines with little or no vegetation.

The mighty Himalayas
The mighty Himalayas

For eons India has been the home of spirituality, yoga, tradition, history and cultural diversification. People from all over the world have visited this great land for trade, knowledge, and spiritual freedom. A multitude of cultures have found their way right to the country’s heart over many centuries.

Camping at Rishikesh
Camping at Rishikesh

In addition to being rich in history and culture, India is also a land of varied landscapes. From mountains to beaches to valleys and rivers, you can find it all here. Himalayas along with the many rivers that flow from it, dominate the topography of the north. There are also many National Parks all across the country teeming with tigers and other animals, which make for great wildlife safaris.

Himalayas attract mountaineers and adventure buffs from all over the world. It offers plenty of scope for trekking, paragliding and skiing and some serious mountaineering. River Ganges is one of the most popular rafting destinations in India. Rishikesh in the foothills of the Himalayas is the ultimate destination for rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping and zip lining.

Bungee jumping in Rishikesh
Bungee jumping in Rishikesh

Rivers Kundalika and Kali in the west and south respectively are also popular spots for rafting. Maharashtra in the west is another adventure hub that offers rafting, rock climbing and rappelling, trekking, paragliding and hot air ballooning.

Rafting in India
Rafting in India

In addition to all this, the Thar Desert in the west is the perfect place for a desert safari  where one can experience life amidst the vast expanses of sand.

For centuries Rishikesh  has been the undisputed Yoga capital of the world and people from all over the world seeking spirituality have found their way to this ancient and holy town. It is located in the northern part of the Indian State of Uttrakhand, on the banks of the Ganges River and is surrounded by hills on 3 sides. People flock here for practicing meditation, learning the techniques of Yoga and sometimes just for the peace of mind that it offers.

Rishikesh - Where Gods reside!
Rishikesh – Where Gods reside!

The Beatles made it even more popular in the 1960s when they stayed at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It is also home to the 120 year old Kailash Ashram Brahmavidyapeetha, an institution that has been dedicated to promoting and conserving the traditional Vedic studies and had the likes of Swami Vivekananda has one of the students. There are many more Ashrams in Rishikesh where the traditional “Guru-Shishya Parampara ” is being followed.

Students of one of the Ashrams praying at the banks of the Ganges
Students of one of the Ashrams praying at the banks of the Ganges

In the last 10-15 years, Rishikesh has also earned another name, that of being the Rafting Capital! The shores are lined with camps that make for a great retreat and offer a host of activities for the adventure seekers. It has become an extremely popular spot for white water rafting and on a must visit list of most adventure buffs. Ganges River offers medium to rough rapids, rated class 3 and class 4.

Jagmeet Gill and Chandan Das, triumphant in the 2013 Raid De Himalaya (time-speed-distance [TSD] category), proved themselves worthy winners of the inaugural Uttarakhand Adventure Car Rally.

The three-day rally – through which the Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board hopes to raise further resources to assist those affected by the floods that ravaged the Himalayan state in 2013 – saw a close contest among the country’s TSD champions. Gill, leader on day one, slipped to fifth (overall) on day two but, showing his class and experience, made up the deficit significantly on the final day. Clearly, there are few better TSD rallyists than Gill, who was driving for Team Maruti alongside co-driver Das.

Finishing runner-up was the husband-wife duo of Satish Gopalkrishnan and Savera D’Souza, Bangalore’s champion rallyists. Meanwhile, the pair of Ajgar Ali, from Haldia (West Bengal), and M. Mustafa, from Tamil Nadu, finished overall third in the rally, moving up from fourth a day earlier.

Rallying!
Rallying!

B. Purushottam, the Dehradun Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Magistrate, was one of several government officials taking part in the rally. He expressed hope that the UACR would have a positive impact on tourism in the state. “The rally will send out a strong message that infrastructure in the state is normal, and Uttarakhand is back on (track) as a premier tourism destination,” said Purushottam.

The route taken by the rally touched some of Uttarakhand’s favourite adventure and nature destinations, among them Shivpuri (whitewater rafting), Auli (skiing) and Garjiya (on the periphery of the Jim Corbett National Park).

Skiing in India takes place mostly in the Himalayas. Owing to their great height, Himalayas make for a great Skiing destination as they offer long descents. There are 3 popular destinations for Skiing in India – Gulmarg in Jammu and Kashmir, Auli in Uttrakhand and Solang in Himachal Pradesh. Here is some information about these places and the infrastructure they offer for a great Skiing experience –

Book you Skiing package here

  1. Gulmarg 

Situated on a high plateau, pastoral Gulmarg, which literally means ‘Meadow of Flowers’, is home to a hill station that has few parallels in India. It boasts a picture-perfect Alpine landscape, with gardens, lakes, snow-covered mountains and (when not snowed in) lush-green vistas as far as the eye can see. Gulmarg also has one of the highest cable cars in Asia – a ride here can take your breath away, literally!

Gulmarg Image Credits: kashmirskiing.com
Skiing in beautiful Gulmarg
Image Credits: kashmirskiing.com

Gulmarg is India’s top skiing destination (8955 ft), and consistently ranked as among the world’s best. It also hosts the country’s annual Winter Games. It is surrounded by dense forests of tall conifers and snow capped mountains of the Himalayas. Today Gulmarg is acknowledged not only for its scenic surroundings, but also as the world’s highest golf course and a premier ski resort in the country.  

4 months of workout, 4 months of abstinence, 4 friends – and the mountains beckoned!
This is their journey from New Delhi to Roopkund and back, covered in 7 days!

Day 1 – Reached Kathgodam by train from Delhi and drove up to Loharjung (7600ft), which is a 10-hour drive through the foothills of the Himalayas – past gushing streams, through valley clouds and on curvy roads.

Fresh streams on the way!
Image Credits :facebook.com/anandkshitij/media_set

Day 2 – Walking past icy-cold streams and coming face to face with high-flying birds, the group trekked its way up to Didna (8800ft). Villagers’ huts and blankets came in handy for camping.

On the way to Didna
Image Credits :facebook.com/anandkshitij/media_set

Day 3 – The day began at 8, and through muck, rock, oak forests and meadows, they reached Ali Bugyal – the next campsite.

“Winter is coming,” is a phrase made popular by the characters of a widely popular TV series – except, in the series they say the words in fear, while we in India say them with cheer!

Winter, the time to get out and explore, to ski, sail and more!

Here is our pick of some of the most beautiful places to visit in India in the month of November – the official beginning of the winter season:

  1. Andaman (Andaman and Nicobar Islands) – The apotheosis of beauty, the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago is unlike any other place in India. This collection of 572 islands in the Bay of Bengal has so much to see and explore that any number of days you decide to spend here would seem too little.
    Natural Coral Bridge – Andaman
    Image Credits: https://www.facebook.com/anandkshitij/media_set

    You can choose from thrilling water-based activities like scuba diving and snorkeling, historical sites like the Cellular Jail, and also beautiful islands (Havelock, Neil, and Baratang) that boast of some of the most stunning beaches around. This cluster of islands is also home to the Onge and the Jarawa, tribes that are many centuries old but whose populations are dwindling.
    For trip details click Here