Easy hikes … in the Himalaya
There is no better way to experience a country than on foot. The slower pace, proximity to nature, and countless opportunities to encounter the novelty of local life easily makes any walk a rewarding experience.
And where better to go hiking than in the Himalaya? Stretching in a thick, impenetrable band across the northern edge of the Indian Subcontinent, this mountain range has some of the highest peaks in the world. That may sound somewhat daunting but crampons and ropes really aren’t necessary to explore this absurdly beautiful and deeply spiritual region. Read on to discover a multitude of easy treks through mind-blowing scenery. This truly is a walker’s paradise, for any ability.
Rhododendrons against the backdrop of the Himalaya, India
It’s not just the landscapes of the Indian Himalaya that stir the soul but also the charming villages that hide within them where time stands still. With Shakti you can experience both: not only do they provide super scenic, tailored walking itineraries between remote villages but also lodgings in authentic village houses that have been adapted to provide first-rate comfort and elegance. Walks are accompanied by your own private porter and guide and include anything from visits to local schools and markets to cooking classes. There is no better way to connect with these epic landscapes and escape the modern world without completely ditching all creature comforts.
Shakti operates in two regions in the far north of India: Ladakh and Kumaon.
The isolated region of Ladakh offers jaw-dropping panoramas at every turn. Shakti has six simple yet elegant village houses here, adapted to meet the requirements of western travellers. Walk between these rural settlements learning about the Ladakhi lifestyle along the way. See how the locals continue to preserve much of the traditional Tibetan culture that has been lost within Tibet itself.
Shakti village, Ladakh, India
Situated in the little-explored state of Uttarakhand, Kumaon is a mountainous region encompassing ancient villages, terraced fields and rhododendron forests. Spend three to five days in the glorious valleys of the Kumaon countryside, walking from village to village accompanied by a knowledgeable guide. Nights are spent in authentic, snug village houses that are quietly sophisticated and immaculately maintained.
Drive 5 and a half hours north of here and you’ll reach Shakti 360°, a remote lodge overlooking the majestic peaks that form the border between India and Nepal. It combines age-old building techniques and local materials with innovative contemporary design, providing the perfect base for gentle hikes or relaxation time in these peaceful surroundings. The lodge can be visited as a stand-alone destination or combined with the Kumaon village walks.
Panchachuli peaks, Kumaon, Uttarakhand, India
Whether you’re looking for a gentle walk, a soft trek or a more adventurous multi-day hike, Nepal has it all. Eight of the world’s highest peaks are found here, so it goes without saying that the scenery is outstanding. Alongside this are indigenous villages offering an insight into daily life in these isolated mountains. Using Kathmandu or Pokhara as a base, here are just a few possible day hikes.
Dhulikhel to Namo Buddha (Kathmandu)
This three-hour hike follows an easy trail that combines local village life with spectacular views of the Himalaya. En route, pass Buddhist stupas and stop for lunch at a scenic spot overlooking the snow-capped peaks. The walk culminates at Namo Buddha monastery, situated at 1,750 metres with a 360-degree view of the valley below.
Sanga to Panauti (Kathmandu)
This easy to moderate, 10-kilometre hike traverses the rim of the Kathmandu valley, passing through diverse landscapes, all set against the epic backdrop of the Himalaya. Along the way you’ll get a glimpse of the unique lifestyle of the Tamang, an indigenous people descended from Tibetan horse warriors. Finish in the spiritual town of Panauti, a pretty Newar community where lunch can be taken with a local host family.
Naudanda to Sarangkot (Pokhara)
This picturesque three-hour walk passes Brahmin and Chettri villages and the Deurali viewpoint. Finish at Sarangkot, which offers views of the majestic Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges as well as the Pokhara valley and shimmering Lake Phewa.
Colourful boats on Lake Phewa, Pokhara, Nepal
Begnas lake (Pokhara)
This easy trek leads to Kalikasthan village, a small settlement that overlooks the Annapurna range. Continue for an hour uphill to Thulokot with its stunning views of Mount Machhapuchhre and Begnas lake. The gentle downhill trek to Kaulekot village passes through local communities before finishing with a boat ride across Begnas lake.
Buddhism permeates every aspect of life in Bhutan, imparting a sacred glow to the high mountains here. Atmospheric monasteries, fortress-like dzongs, important religious monuments and fluttering prayer flags pepper the many walking trails through the pristine countryside. Below are four suggested easy walks ranging in duration from one to three hours, using the towns of Paro, Thimphu or Punakha as a base.
Kila Gompa and the Haa valley (Paro)
From Chelela Pass, embark on an easy, hour-long walk through magnificent woods to Kila Gompa, a nunnery set on a steep cliff face at 3,500 metres. Also known as the ‘Hidden- Land Rice Valley’, Haa is culturally rich, with sights including the seventh-century Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple). Haa is one of Bhutan’s least populated districts with dense forests and rice, wheat and barley fields; you’ll see more yak, chickens, pigs and horses than people.
Sunrise at Chelela Pass, Paro, Bhutan
Dochula Pass to Lungchuzekha Goemba (Thimphu)
This three-hour walk of moderate difficulty begins at the Dochula Pass with its 108 chortens (stupas) and stunning views of Jomolhari and Jichu Drake mountains. From here, the road ascends gradually into white, red and pink rhododendron forests for about 1.5 hours, with some steep sections before branching left to the monastery of Lungchuzekha Goemba.
The 108 chortens (stupas)at Dochula Pass, Bhutan
Sangaygang – Wangditse loop (Thimphu)
Set at an elevation of 2,685 metres, the Sangaygang view point affords a spectacular view of Thimphu valley. Here begins the two-hour Sangayang – Wangditse loop. This easy trail leads through ubiquitous prayer flags and apple orchards, passing farmhouses before descending through oak, blue pine and rhododendron forests. En route, there are excellent views north towards Samteling Palace, the royal residence of the current King of Bhutan. Finish at Wangditse monastery, which houses a fine two-storey Buddha statue.
Walk to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal chorten (Punakha)
This easy, two-hour hike through fields of chillies, cabbages and rice follows the banks of the Mo Chhu river to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal chorten, a stunning monument standing majestically on a strategic ridge above the Punakha valley. It is a splendid example of Bhutan’s fine architectural and artistic traditions and the only one of its kind in the world. The chorten, or stupa, was built by Her Majesty the Queen Mother of Bhutan in 1999 to protect the crown prince, and through him, the prosperity of the Bhutanese people.
View of Punakha Valley from the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal chorten, Bhutan
Cox & Kings’ luxury private tour Bhutan in Style features a number of walks through beautiful scenery and rural communities. These include the Sangaygang – Wangditse loop in Thimphu and the walk to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal chorten from Punakha, as described above.
To find out more about how any of these walks can be included in a private, tailor-made itinerary, please either call one of our specialist travel consultants or complete our tailor-made request form and one of our experts will get back to you to help you plan an itinerary.