The Himalayas are a mountain-lovers paradise. Stretching for approximately 2,500 kilometres, this impressive mountain range not only offers challenging climbing and walking experiences but also a wealth of spirituality, culture and wildlife.
Michael Kern has travelled extensively throughout the Himalayas, citing Ladakh and Bhutan as two of his favourite destinations. The Himalayan range is a huge area, so visits require careful planning.
Ladakh remains an enclave of traditional Tibetan Buddhist culture largely untouched by outside influence. The dramatic desert scenery takes in huge valleys, sparkling crystal mountain lakes and soaring peaks, with the occasional splash of green around the river banks. Traditional villages dot the landscape, each one with its own monastery, usually perched high above. The capital of Leh now has a more modern infrastructure for those that need a few home comforts. The best time to visit Ladakh is between June and September.
Tibet has a rich and varied landscape of verdant grasslands and turquoise-water, high-altitude lakes and high-altitude desserts. The culture remains traditionally Buddhist despite the Chinese invasion in the 1950s, with monasteries everywhere providing a backdrop of stunning architecture and a soundtrack of murmured mantras. The north face of Everest can also be accessed from Tibet. May to September are the best months to visit, arriving either by plane, road from Nepal, or the world’s highest railway from central China.
Nepal is home to Everest, Annapurna and other soaring peaks. Many people visit Nepal to go trekking, so a tourist infrastructure with numerous places to sleep, rest and eat has been developed over the last 30 years. The Kathmandu valley has many ancient and sacred sites for both Buddhists and Hindus.
The highly forested region of Bhutan is a unique experience, largely untouched by modern culture or outside influence. The catch here is the mandatory daily payment for visitors that’s designed to limit tourism and which can be prohibitively expensive, although it does include accommodation, meals, transport and a guide. The Drukpa branch of Buddhism is deeply integrated into every part of Bhutanese life. The best time to visit is during one of the monastic festivals, called tsechus, in March, April, September and October.