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India’s immense variety of landscapes hold the key to its appeal as a hiking destination. The towering mountains in the north offer challenging multi-day treks at serious altitude, while the tropics of the south provide enticing day hike options. Most regions of India have something to offer the hiker, but there are three major areas which are particularly attractive and well set up for trekking. In the north, you can expect intriguing mountain culture which shares some characteristics with Tibetan and Nepalese heritage. The landscapes of the Himalaya and Karakoram ranges are dramatic and wild, sometimes very remote, and unrelentingly beautiful. Some of the most renowned treks are long and challenging, and require some prior altitude experience, but there are less taxing options available too.
One of the most enticing reasons to plan a hiking trip to India is the chance to get a close up view of daily life wherever you are walking. Explore remote villages where the welcome is often warm and generous. Discover how rural life unfolds in some of India’s most impressive areas, and marvel at the ever changing scenery. Homestays and village tours with your personal guide give you unrivalled opportunities to get to know local people and understand more about their community.
With the help of our local experts, we’ve put together this introduction to the major hiking regions of India, along with an outline of the kind of treks you can expect to undertake there.
This area of high altitude desert is fairly inhospitable terrain, but the sense of wilderness and remoteness is revitalising. The scenery has a barren beauty, cut through with river valleys and divided by high passes. The trekking infrastructure here is comprehensive and there are lots of options to choose from. Make sure you allow time in your itinerary to acclimatise to the altitude before setting off into the high peaks.
Markha Valley Trek
One of India’s most celebrated routes requires around a week to complete, and like many Ladakh treks, Leh is the start and end point. On this stunning but challenging hike, You will encounter emerald green irrigated fields on the valley floors, supplying local communities with crops as well as isolated monasteries where you can see the monks in their colourful clothing. Enjoy the fabulous views over the highest peaks of the mountain range as you make your way through the peaceful Markha Valley.
An epic wintertime hike of around nine days, this trail follows the frozen Zanskar river through its gorge, echoing the journeys monks have made for many centuries along the frozen edges of the river, one of the only routes available during the winter in this remote region. It’s not a trek to be undertaken lightly as it poses fairly extreme physical challenges. Days spent walking on ice alongside an ice cold river can be arduous and risky, though the element of risk it what makes it such an adventure. Camping on the riverside each night is another challenge, as nighttime temperatures can drop to minus twenty (Celsius) at times. Day times are also cold, normally around minus ten.
With its steamy tropical climate, characterful backwaters, gorgeous beaches and verdant hills, Kerala ticks a lot of boxes on the holiday wish list. It’s easy to combine some cultural immersion and seaside with hiking here, as trails are easily accessible and tend to be short enough to tackle in a single day. All that walking will help work up an appetite for some of India’s most wonderful food which can be found in Kerala.
Munnar tea trails
The hill station of Munnar in Kerala was founded on the tea industry, and today it makes one of the most scenic destinations in Kerala, with impressive peaks all around. It would be a shame to travel out here and miss the chance to see the tea plantations up close, so what better way to get close to the action than to take a hike through the surrounding tea estates. An undulating sea of springy green tea bushes greets you, and once you have seen enough and breathed in the scent of fresh tea leaves, you can then hike through meadows and the Shola forest.
Picture verdant valleys carving through the hill country of the border between Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the trails crossing tinkling streams surrounded by hillsides swathed in colourful rhododendrons. This is what you can expect on the Meesapulimala Peak Trek, a great showcase of the local landscape which also includes opportunities to visit atmospheric tea estates to explore the plantations, see the processing of the leaves and of course sample a pot of delicious tea. Situated in the Idukki district of Kerala, this Meesapulimala hike weaves among eight hills, crossing into Tamil Nadu in places but always retaining those awe inspiring views.
Make it happen
Don’t forget that all TravelLocal’s trips are tailor made, so you don’t need to worry about the level of walking because your Indian hiking itinerary will be designed exclusively for you, spending as many (or few) hours walking as you choose each day. Our local experts in India can help you plan your holiday to ensure it takes exactly the shape you want. Send them an enquiry and they will get started on creating your perfect bespoke itinerary. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.