Check off trekking the Himalayas from your bucket list with any of these five incredibly scenic hikes through Asia. Whether you crave a challenging hike through Bhutan or a scenic stroll past the Dalai Lama’s summer home in Lhasa, Tibet, trekking in any region of the Himalayan mountain range guarantees views of the area’s most famous landmark – Mount Everest!
1. Do a 10-day trek near India’s tallest mountain in SIKKIM
Dense forests, plunging valleys and snow-capped mountain peaks are what lure travelers to this region in East India. And a warm welcome by locals is what makes visitors want to stay in Sikkim forever. So pristine and serene is the state of Sikkim that visitors are required to obtain a special visa, the Sikkim Inner Line Permit. The permit must be accompanied by a visa to India and is good for a 15-day visit. That’s a fair amount of time to cover most of the woodlands and mountain trails that make Sikkim so appealing to hikers and backpackers. During a stay, guests can soak up views of nearby Khangchendzonga, the third highest mountain in the world, while exploring ancient Buddhist temples and monasteries, rhododendron groves and a sacred lake hidden in a valley.
Trekking the Himalayas | Sikkim Attractions
Rumtek Monastery: located outside the capital city of Gangtok, Rumtek Monastery is a working religious site that features colorful murals, sculptures and architecture, as well as stunning views of the Himalayas. The trip to Rumtek Monastery from Gangtok takes about 1.5 hours.
Tsongmo Lake: considered a sacred site throughout Sikkim, Tsongmo Lake can be found on the outskirts of Nathu La Nathang Valley Natural Reserve. Tourists with a Sikkim Inner Line Permit can take a gondola ride over the lake during warmer months, but in winter, the lake freezes solid. No matter the weather, however, the lake’s surface always has a story to tell. Buddhist monks used to study the reflections on the water and believed the changing colors revealed future events.
Goecha La Pass & Goecha La Trek: trek through a mystifying mountainside from Yuksom to Rathong Glacier in Khangchendzonga National Park. One of the most popular hikes in Sikkim, the Goecha La Trek spans about 56 miles, reaches a height of 16,000 feet and takes 10 days to complete. October is an excellent season to experience clear views and decent weather in Sikkim, and many backpackers spend a few extra days camping at Rathong Glacier.
Khangchendzonga National Park: a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this biodiverse park contains more than 19 mountain peaks, including Mount Kangchenjunga, the tallest mountain in India and third highest mountain in the world. Visit the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area to see untouched forest lands and glaciers. Trekkers also have spotted snow leopards, Asian black bears and red pandas.
Check In to Elgin Nor-Khill Hotel Gangtok, Step Out to Rumtek Monastery
2. See the Dalai Lama’s home & study Tibetan Buddhism in DHARAMSHALA, India
Meaning “a spiritual dwelling” and known as a backpackers haven, Dharamshala is a great place to dive into Tibetan culture and learn more about Buddhism. Dharamshala is famous for having been the town where the Dalai Lama sought refuge in 1959, and the town once served as a station for the British military. Now, the atmosphere in Dharamshala is fairly laid back, which lures hikers and backpackers from all over the world.
Trekking the Himalayas | Things to do in Dharamshala
McLeod Ganj: called “Little Lhasa” because of its large number of Tibetan citizens, McLeod Ganj is a small community less than 10 miles from Dharamshala. The town is a popular stopping spot for backpackers and those wanting to study Buddhism, and it also is where the Dalai Lama calls home.
Tsuglagkhang Complex Dalai Lama Temple: a monastery located just outside the Dalai Lama’s residence, the Tsuglagkhang Complex is the larges Tibetan temple outside of Tibet. Visitors can witness serious religious studies by Tibetan monks while gazing at colorful murals, Buddhist statues and delicate thangkas (paintings on silk or cotton fabric). Stop for lunch at Namgyal Café, a vegetarian pizza restaurant that doubles as a work-training center for Tibetan youth.
Tibet Museum: follow the harrowing history of Tibet through historical photographs and memorabilia.
Kangra Valley: tour the rock-cut Masrur Temples, also known as the Himalayan Pyramids, to admire ancient archaeology, and embark on a trek through a region that claims the highest number of native villages in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
Norbulingka Institute: learn more about traditional Tibetan art forms, and watch local craftsmen create woodcarvings, metal statues and thangkas.
Check In to Zostel Manali, Step Out to Himachal Pradesh
3. View Mount Everest from your hotel room in NAGARKOT, Nepal
While trekking the Himalayas is awesome in Nagarkot, some guests prefer to behold jaw-dropping views of Mount Everest right from their hotel rooms! Just a few miles northeast of Kathmandu, Nagarkot offers one of the most complete views of the Himalayan ranges. Early birds get the worm here, as Nepal’s famous ranges often are best seen first thing in the morning. Sunset also is a spectacular time of day to take in the beauty of the eight (out of 13) mountain ranges visible from Nagarkot. Travelers also can drool over the lush jungles of Kathmandu Valley and Shivapuri National Park. The best times of the year for clear views of the Himalayas from Nagarkot are in March and April and from October to December.
Travel tip: tourists are required to pay a small fee of 339 rupees (2019) to enter Nagarkot. Travelers will encounter roadblocks where payments are taken.
What ranges can you see from Nagarkot?
- Ganesh Himal
- Jugal Himal
- Rolwaling Himal (Gauri Sankar)
- Mahalangur Himal (Mount Everest)
Trekking the Himalayas | Things to do & see in Nagarkot
Nagarkot View Tower: head to the tower to find panoramic views of what some backpackers deem the world’s most stunning mountain range. Reaching the tower at an elevation of about 7,000 feet requires an hour-long trek, but visitors also can hire transportation at the base of the hill.
Nagarkot Panoramic Hiking Trail: a family-friendly hike that takes about three hours to complete, the Nagarkot Panoramic Hiking Trail is located just east of Nagarkot. Visitors can start at Kartike village and make their way through Tamang Village Walk before entering Nagarkot Nature Trail and the Panoramic Hiking Trail.
Check In to Hotel Country Villa, Step Out to Nagarkot
4. Chill out at the center of Tibetan Buddhism in LHASA, Tibet
Nestled in southern Tibet just northeast of Mount Everest, Lhasa is not only a great place to see the Himalayas, but it also is the center of Tibetan Buddhism. Visit Old Town, also called Bakuo or Barkhor Square, to see Jokhang Temple, the most sacred temple in Tibet. On the west side of town, historians will find much satisfaction in a tour of Potala Palace, the former residence of the Dalai Lama.
Trekking the Himalayas | Attractions in Lhasa
Potala Palace: originally built as a fortress for the two wives of King Songtsen Gyalpo, Potala Palace has served as the living quarters for the Dalai Lama since the 7th century. The palace now houses each of their tombs. Considered a hike in itself, a tour of the palace covers 14 stories and involves a lot of stairs!
Potala Palace contains more than 1,000 rooms and features displays of rare artifacts, including Buddhist scriptures handwritten in gold, unique gifts from Chinese emperors and ancient religious sculptures. The landmark also is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and shares green space with Zongjiao Lukang Park.
Jokhang Temple (Tsuglagkhang): smack-dab in the center of Barkhor Square, Jokhang Temple is revered as Tibet’s most sacred religious site. The landmark attraction features rare statues of Buddha, which were given to King Songtsan Gampo in 7th century AD by his two future wives. Statues of the royal married trio also can be viewed in the temple.
Norbulingka Summer Palace: Norbulingka Summer Palace tours can be combined with tours of Potala Palace, as the two attractions are located less than a half mile apart. Norbulingka was built in 1755 as a summer palace for the Seventh Dalai Lama, and the complex features botanical gardens and a small zoo.
Barkhor Square & Street Market: this circular street encompassing Jokhang Temple is the oldest street in Tibet and still clings to its original charms. Find authentic Tibetan handicrafts, market stalls and monks taking pilgrim walks while turning prayer wheels, as done centuries ago.
Check In to Lhasa Honey Bee Hub, Step Out to Barkhor Square
5. Conquer the 30-day Snowman Trek in BHUTAN
Don’t forget about the entire country of Bhutan when planning a trek through the Himalayas. The only Vajrayana Buddhist country in the world, Bhutan is considered the last remaining Buddhist kingdom. Because the country maintains a harmonious society as well as unmatched natural scenery, it often is called “The Last Shangri-La.” Bhutan is best loved for its national parks, dzongs (fortresses) and ancient monasteries, as well as its annual tsechus, or religious festivals.
Trekking the Himalayas | Most popular things to do in Bhutan
Tiger’s Nest (Taktshang Palphug Monastery or Paro Taktsang): the most visited monument in Bhutan, Tiger’s Nest was built in 1692 outside Paro on a cliff more than 10,000 feet above sea level. Legend says the temple was built to tame the Tiger demon and that Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) was flown to the location on the back of a tigress. The guru built the temple around Taktsang Senge Samdup cave, where he meditated sometime during the in the 8th century for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours. The guru was known to meditate in 13 taktsang, or “tiger lair” caves, but Paro Taktsang is the most popular.
- Travel tip: Many fit hikers set on trekking the Himalayas opt to climb up to tour the four main temples and explore surrounding hiking trails, but visitors also can rent a horse for $10 to take them half-way up the mountainside. The entire trip down, however, must be made on foot.
Tashichho Dzong: located in north Thimpu, Tashichho Dzong is a Buddhist monastery and fortress that hosts the head of the Bhutanese civil government, as well as several other offices, and is considered the summer capital of Bhutan. The architecture of the fortress is part of the attraction to this two-story building that is accentuated with three-story towers at each corner. The corner towers are topped with golden roofs, and a central tower offers views of the unbelievable surroundings.
Hiking the Bhutanese Himalayas: hiking trails run rampant through Bhutan, so no matter where visitors stay, there is bound to be an easy trek nearby. Serious hikers, however, sign up for the Snowman Trek. Backpackers who complete this grueling march over 13 ranges get unique bragging rights, as more people have conquered Mount Everest than have finished this month-long quest through Bhutan!
Check In to Golden Roots Resorts & Spa, Step Out to Tiger’s Nest
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