The Greater Himalayas are a beautiful mountain range. Their mean altitude is approximately 6,000 meters. They are situated to the north of the Lower Himalayan Mountain Range, bordered by the Indus River to the west and north. Subsequently, the river takes a southerly bend at Sazin.
The most characteristic features of the Himalayas are their soaring height, steep-sided jagged peaks, huge valleys and alpine glaciers, topography deeply affected by erosion, deep river gorges, complex geological structure, and series of elevated belts that display different ecological manifestations of flora, fauna, and climate.
- The Himalayas pass through the nations of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Bhutan and Nepal.
- The Himalayas contain the third largest deposit of ice and snow in the world after Antarctica and the Arctic.
- The Greater Himalayas are home to some of the tallest peaks in the world.
- The Himalayas are the result of tectonic plate motions causing India to ‘collide with’ Tibet.
- The Himalayas cover approximately 75% of Nepal.
Geography and Landscape of the Himalayas
The Greater Himalayas extend southeastward across northern Pakistan, northern India, and Nepal before stretching eastward across Sikkim state of India and Bhutan and finally turning northeastward across northern Arunachal Pradesh state of India; throughout nearly all of their length they straddle the Tibet Autonomous Region of China on the north.
The range covers a total length of some 1,400 miles or 2,300 km, and has an average elevation of more than 20,000 feet or 6,100 meters. The Greater Himalayas are mostly composed of ancient crystalline rocks and old marine sedimentary formations.
The Himalayas contain glaciers on all sides, some intersecting and joining with each other and others receding and flowing on their own, according to the rapid changes in mountain weather patterns. The Himalayas are the perfect breeding ground for new glaciers, as they are the highest mountain range in the world.
The Himalayas contain the third largest deposit of ice and snow in the world, after Antarctica and the Arctic. There are approximately 15,000 glaciers throughout the range. At 48 miles or 72 km in length, the Himalayan Siachen glacier is the largest glacier outside the north and south poles.
Ladakh is one of the highest and driest inhabited places on earth. Emerging from mountain ranges which have formed over a period of 45 million years, this region in the north of India has one of the world"s harshest and most unforgiving environments.
Ladakh is on the western edge of the Tibetan plateau, between 2,500 and 5,000 meters above sea level. As the Himalayas create a rain shadow denying entry to monsoon clouds, rainfall is limited there. The region"s main source of water is from snowfall on the mountains.
With temperatures often dropping below -30°C in winter, natural resources are limited in areas which experience heavy snowfall. The snow blocks the high passes and closes roads, cutting off remote villages from the rest of the country for several months each year.
All activities are limited due to the cold, and many communities are forced to rely entirely on their own resources.
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Traditional Himalayan Dwellings
Houses in the Himalayas are generally made of wood, with sloping stone slate roofs, to cope with the plentiful rain and snow. In Japanese villages roofs are predominantly made of tiles, but otherwise the scenery in Himalayan villages is reminiscent of traditional Japanese mountain villages.
The Himalayans have a distinctive traditional way of building known as kath-khuni, surviving and thriving in the Himalayan hills of India. Having evolved over centuries, and been passed on from generation to generation, it demonstrates profound understanding of building adapted for the frequent seismic tremors that rock the landscape of Himachal.
Kath-khuni employs locally available wood and stone as the main materials for construction. It can be found in buildings of various scales, from large darbargadhs and kots, to intricate and majestic temples, to modest houses, and even small stand-alone structures like granaries.
Himalayan Flora & Fauna
Himalayan vegetation varies according to both altitude and climate. It ranges from tropical forests in the foothills, to temperate forests in the middle altitudes, and coniferous, sub-alpine, and alpine forests in the higher regions. These give way to alpine grasslands and high altitude meadows, followed by scrublands, leading up to the permanent snowline.
The number of plant species in the Himalayas is estimated at 25,000, consisting of 10% of the world’s known species and 50% of India’s endemic flora. This includes 7,020 species of fungi, 1,159 species of lichen and 2,000 species of bryophytes, including mosses and worts. The remainder consists of ferns, angiosperms and other species.
The Brahma Kamal is the most revered flower of the Himalayas. It is an excellent example of plant life in high mountains. The flowers are found in monsoon areas and abundant in high-altitude places like the Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib. They are used as offerings in the Nanda Devi Temple.
The cedrus deodara is an evergreen conifer tree favored for its weeping habit. In the Himalayas, its natural habitat, the tree can grow to heights of 60-70 m. It is adorned with striking horizontal branches and weeping tips, bearing long and soft golden needles.
The fauna of the Himalayas are similar to those of the southern Chinese and Southeast Asian region. Many of those species are primarily found in tropical forests and are only secondarily adapted to the subtropical, mountain, and temperate conditions prevailing at higher elevations and in the drier western areas.
You can find different animals in different areas of the Himalayas. Elephants and rhinoceroses are restricted to parts of the forested Tarai region. Asiatic black bears, clouded leopards, langurs, and Himalayan goat antelopes inhabit the Himalayan forests.
At higher regions, snow leopards, brown bears, lesser pandas, and Tibetan yaks have limited populations.
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Tallest Mountains in the World
The Greater Himalayas are home to some of the tallest peaks in the world. To the north of the major middle thrust, the tallest mountain ranges ascend suddenly to 4,000 meters or 13,000 feet, into the territory of everlasting frost and snow.
Mount Everest is on the crest of the Great Himalayas of southern Asia, lying on the border between Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. This is the tallest peak in the world, at an elevation of 29,029 ft or 8,848 m above sea level.
Its identity as the highest point on the earth’s surface was not recognized until 1852, when it was established by the governmental Survey of India. Previously referred to as Peak XV, the mountain was renamed in 1865 for Sir George Everest, the British surveyor general in India from 1830 to 1843.
The Karakorams are a large mountain range spanning the borders of Pakistan, China and India. It is the second highest mountain range in the world and home to K2, the second tallest mountain in the world.
The mountain was initially discovered by a British photographer and traveler, Henry Godwin-Austen, and the peak was named after him.
The peak has an elevation of 8,611 m or 28,250 ft. It is also known as “Chogo Ri”, which plainly denotes the “Great Mountains.” Karakoram is the most heavily glaciated part of the world outside the Polar Regions, with 28-50% of its area covered by glaciers.
Kanchenjunga is situated in the eastern Himalayas on the border between Sikkim state in northeastern India, and eastern Nepal; 46 miles or 74 km northwest of Darjeeling, Sikkim. It is the world’s third highest mountain, at an elevation of 28,169 feet or 8,586 meters.
The name Kanchenjunga is derived from four words of Tibetan origin. It is interpreted in Sikkim as “Five Treasures of the Great Snow,” And consists of Neoproterozoic- to Ordovician-aged rocks.
The mountain and its glaciers receive heavy snow during the summer monsoon season and a lighter snowfall during winter.
Standing at 8,516 m, Lhotse is the fourth highest mountain in the world. It is situated at the border of Tibet and Nepal. Its long east-west crest is located immediately south of Mount Everest, and the summits of the two mountains are connected by the South Col, a vertical ridge that never drops below 8,000 m.
Lhotse was sometimes mistaken as the south peak of the Everest massif. No serious attention was given to climbing it until Everest had finally been ascended. Lhotse was first climbed in 1956 as an alternative route towards the summit of Everest.
The Great Himalayan National Park
The Great Himalayan National Park was founded in 1984 and was formally registered as a national park in 1999. It is located in the Banjaar Sub-Division of Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh, India, in the far Western Himalayas. It is one of the most recent additions to a huge network of wildlife reserves found in the Himalayan region in India and adjoining countries.
The national park features an exotic blend of alpine flora and fauna. Its exceptional features are not to be seen anywhere else in the country. A significant portion of the park stays perpetually under snow and glaciers.
The Great Himalayan National Park is one of the ultimate ecosystems in the Western Himalayas. The biodiversity of the park makes it a charming tourist spot in this region of India. It is also known as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Park.
The park’s vegetation varies from the lofty pine sand spruces and great, spreading horse chestnuts of the lower valleys, to the dense cushions and prostrate branches of alpine herbs and junipers higher up.
You can find more than 30 species of animal and 200 species of bird in the park. Animals include snow leopards, leopards, brown bears, serows, langurs, and musk deer, and birds include tragopans, cheers, khalijs, and monals.
Everest Base Camp Trek
The Everest Base Camp Trek is one the most beautiful walks in the Nepalese Himalayas. It is a dream trip for explorers worldwide. The landscape is simply wonderful, with displays of glossy peaks, dramatic glaciers and antique monasteries. Apparently, the charming Sherpa people, their society and customs, add more charm to this historical trek to base camp.
The Everest Base Camp Trek leads you through Khumbu Valley, allowing you to experience the immense beauty of the surrounding Sagarmatha National Park while simultaneously providing breathtaking landscapes of 4 of the 6 highest peaks in the world: Mt. Everest, Mt. Lhotse, Mt. Makalu, and Cho Oyu.
The classic trek retraces the footsteps of Sir Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay and countless other early pioneers of Mount Everest, as you trek from Lukla to Base Camp. On the trek, you will have a chance to ascend Kala Patthar, reaching an altitude of 5,500 m and witnessing awe-inspiring views of Mount Everest.
You will also have a chance to explore various Buddhist monasteries scattered along the trail and learn about a culture immersed in history and tradition, intricately linked to those same mountains on which you have had unforgettable views.
The Great Himalaya Trail
The Great Himalaya Trail is more than a line on a map; it is a way to enjoy the beauty of the Himalayas while helping the people who live there. You can trek, run or bike the trail. Take the high route and accept the challenge of some mountaineering, or try the lower route and travel from village to village.
It is one of the longest and highest footpaths on earth, and likely the most dramatic, crossing the entirety of Nepal from east to west in the shadows of the world’s highest peaks. The 150-plus day journey is said to be far more difficult than climbing up any single mountain.
The Great Himalaya Trail consists of 10 varying sections from Kachenjunga on Nepal’s eastern border to Humla on its western border (with Tibet). It passes from subtropical jungles to high altitude alpine ecosystems, through villages of Buddhists, Hindus, Sherpas, Tibetan refugees, Lhomis, and shamans, among many others.
Trek the Himalayas
Whenever you feel that city life has become too monotonous, and you need a break, just pack your bags and go trekking in the Himalayas. The clean air, unpolluted and untouched surroundings, and beauty of the mountains will lift your spirits for sure.
Since the first successful ascent of Mount Everest, over 60 years ago, the Himalayas have become far more accessible to walkers. Due to this and the rise in popularity of hiking, many travel agencies have started offering well-conceived and organized hiking itineraries.
Popular Himalayan Treks include the Valley of Flowers Trek, where you get to see colorful flowers on meadows; the Roopkund Trek which is a mystery lover’s favorite, due to the presence of human bones in Roopkund Lake; and the Goechala Trek, recommended for expert mountaineers, opting for tough and strenuous trekking.
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