Our guide to the Himalayas
Meaning ‘Abode of the Snow’, the Himalayan Range stretches over 1,500 miles from the Nanga Parbat in Pakistan to the Tsango River in China. Taking in India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet, there are countless amazing views to be found as well as the remarkable local people and culture that flourishes on its foothills throughout its range. Whether you want to trek, head to a spa retreat, do a heli-safari, or immerse yourself in the culture, our specialist Himalayan experts at Scott Dunn have traveled the length and breadth of these incredible mountains. Here is a little guide that will help you start planning your itinerary.
When to go
We are always asked about the weather in the Himalayas and when is the best time to go. The foothills of the Himalayas in India, Nepal and Bhutan are affected by the Indian Monsoon, so from late June to the end of September there will be rain and mist, so it is best not to go. Once the Monsoon breaks, the views are incredible in October and November. It is colder in December and January, but the views are perfect and less people visit so you very much have the destination to yourself. The spring is another great season, and you can expect Rhododendrons to brighten up the mountain paths. It can get a little misty later in the day, and this builds up more and more towards the outbreak of the Monsoon in June. The Monsoon, however, does not pass over the High Himalayan peaks – and so the High Altitude Tibetan Plateau is arid and perfect to visit in the summer from May to October when temperatures are warmer at the higher altitudes. So that means Ladakh in India, Mustang in Nepal and Tibet are only open during this time.
Another question that we get asked is about is altitude. Generally, most treks in Nepal, India and Bhutan are at a lower altitude (under 3000m / 10000ft) so altitude is not a problem. When you go above this, you do need to acclimatise. This means the higher Everest Base Camp Trek, Ladakh & Tibet do mean traveling to higher altitudes. Your doctor can advise you on various medications that can help, and we always plan treks and itineraries that take you up slowly and sensibly. An old wives tale we learned in Nepal is that garlic and drinking lots of water is worthwhile!
How to get there
Do note that many of the Himalayan regions are not serviced by direct flights from the UK – you can fly via the Middle East to Kathmandu in Nepal, but for the Indian Himalayas you can often expect a layover day in Delhi. For Bhutan, there are flights from Delhi, Kathmandu, Bangkok, Calcutta and Singapore (and this generally means a night stopping over on the way out and back).
Trekking in the Himalayas
The great joy of the Himalayas is walking through the stunning villages that are often perched under amazing mountain peaks. Whether you want a few days of easy walking, to treks that take you far off the beaten track, we can offer an experience that meets your requirements.
- Annapurna Trek, Nepal – a really good 4-5 day walk under one of the most stunning mountain ranges. Pretty thatched villages.
- Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal – There isn’t a better view of walking into the Annapurna Sanctuary and seeing some of the highest mountains in the world all around you.
- Everest Base Camp - The ultimate Himalayan trek. We like to take you up on foot, and then helicopter you back to save on the days spent walking back along the same path. Expect a guide who has climbed Everest and you will be staying in luxury lodges.
- Kumaon, India - A perfect village walk staying in luxury village houses which have been updated top retain their original architecture but with first-class bedrooms and bathrooms. The houses are only taken exclusively so you only see this part of India. For the best views you can possibly imagine, end in 360 Leti.
- Ladakh - Located in Northern India, but it is situated on what is known as the Tibetan Plateau so does not get affected by the monsoon. This means it is perfect from May to late September. The culture is largely Tibetan – think Buddhist Monasteries, stunning landscapes and you stay in luxury village houses, off the beaten track, or the new Ultimate Traveling Camp positioned right under Thiksey Monastery.
- Sikkim - Sandwiched between Bhutan and Nepal, this corner of India was independent until the 1970s and is stunningly beautiful and again Tibetan. There are similar luxury village houses as you get in Ladakh and Kumaon, but you can easily tag on a stay in Darjeeling, Glenburn Tea Estate or combine with Bhutan.
- Druk Path Trek - A great trek in Bhutan which links Paro and Thimphu.
Off the Beaten Track
The further you get off the beaten track, into remote villages overlooked by stunning views, the better your overall experience will be. The Himalayas are a little like Alice in Wonderland – the more you wander down the rabbit hole, the better it gets. Our off the beaten track highlights include Famous Farm and Old Inn in Nepal, 360 Leti in India and Gangtey Goempa Lodge in Bhutan.
For active families, the Himalayas provide the perfect anecdote to meeting the demands of children with lots of energy! For instance, in Nepal, combine trekking, white water rafting, wildlife and bustling markets on our family adventure to Nepal. We can tailor family adventures throughout the Himalayas. In Bhutan, children under 12 have their Government Royalties and taxes waived, so families get excellent value for money.
At Scott Dunn, we know the perfect ingredients for a magical honeymoon – and we know there is a balance to be struck between a little adventure and a touch of relaxation. Therefore we have come up with a great honeymoon itinerary to combine Nepal and Oman for instance. Another really fun combination is Sikkim, Darjeeling and the Andaman Islands. Many of our guests like to combine the Shakti Village Houses in Ladakh with the Maldives – pretty much the most ultimate honeymoon you could wish for!
Colonial Hill Stations & Tea Estates
There is nothing quite like visiting one of the colonial Hill Stations such as Shimla or Darjeeling and see a little of England in India – maybe take the toy train that leads up to both towns. In Shimla, stay at the luxurious Oberoi Wildflower Hall, once home to Lord Kitchener or the Oberoi Cecil located within the town. The hotels in the town of Darjeeling are less good, but we highly recommend Glenburn Tea Estate from where you can easily visit the town but also stay in a colonial bungalow overlooking the third highest mountain in the world.
Spa & Wellness
The Himalayas is well-known for its therapeutic remedies, and has long been a place to go and restore mind, body and soul. The award-winning Ananda in the Himalayas is located near Rishikesh in India and offers a range of treatments that can last up to 14 days. New to the scene, Vana Retreat in Dehra Dun, also in India, brings a touch of luxury to the Spa & Wellness offerings in India. Dwarikas in Dhulikhel in Nepal is located on the rim of the Kathmandu Valley – with an excellent spa, it is perfect for 3-4 days of relaxation. The Oberoi Wildflower Hall in Shimla also has a superb spa, and is only 45 minutes from Shimla.
Scott Dunn are experts in creating magical experiences that you simply didn’t think was possible. By using private helicopters we can take guests far off the beaten track, landing in a remote location where we will lay out a blanket and you can see some of the most amazing landscapes, possibly hundreds of miles away from civilization and what would take weeks to walk to if you trekked. Think champagne breakfast at Everest Base Camp, dropping into to meet the King of Mustang in Nepal, or swooping through vast speaks of the Annapurna Range. In Bhutan, the Amankora Lodges provide the best possibly accommodation, far off the beaten track. We also absolutely adore both the Uma Paro and Uma Punakha hotels in Bhutan. We will tailor your experience to showcase the destination as you have always dreamed.
There are many amazing destinations you can combine with the Himalayas. For a start, many Middle Eastern Airlines fly into Himalayan Airports, so Oman, Abu Dhabi and the UAE all provide a perfect place to stop off on the way back. It is sometimes easier to access Bhutan from Thailand (no need for an Indian Visa) – and you can then end your trip on some of their amazing beaches. A simple combination of India’s Golden Triangle and then a few days in the mountains has always been popular.
Himalayan Festivals are immensely colorful and exceedingly interesting – many of them bring together communities from far and wide and being able to see a festival will not disappoint. Ask your Scott Dunn consultant about festivals that might be happening during your travel dates.