I give below a guide on how to choose a trek. Some of the treks in this list are my personal favorites but I have tried to be as unbiased as possible. I have also given a ready reckoner guide that you can download as a pdf to get everything in one place.
Two, trekkers (especially those who have done a Himalayan trek before) love the lofty heights of the Himalayas. The higher the altitude the thriller the trek is. Again, not all treks in this list go very high even though they are pretty. This is another factor that you need to think about.
Rupin Pass in Himachal: The trek to Rupin Pass is like a master musician playing out a concert. It starts with a murmur and ends in a crescendo – leaving a trekker delirious. This is a trek which can be repeated number of times without monotony setting in. The surprises on the trek are its highlights. Every day and every hour the scenery changes, sometimes so suddenly, that you need to look back just to check your bearings. The campsites of the lower and upper Rupin water fall are something out of movie sets. This is the only trek where you cross a river multiple times over snow bridges. In September-October the snow bridges would have melted, but the greens and browns of the meadows open up more.
For me, the pass crossing is the best among all our treks listed here. It has so much adventure and thrill thrown in that your heart doesn’t stop racing until you reach Ronti Gad, the camp site on the other side.
The Rupin pass trail has tremendous variety – in fact so much that I feel the trek is too much of a good thing for a trekker. Trekkers expect all treks to be like the Rupin!
On the other hand, the first two days of the Rupin pass trek are long (over 10 kms). To those not fit, the days can seem long and heavy. Also, getting to the base of the trek is a long road journey, sometimes bumpy – though the scenery makes up for the tiredness.
The Rupin pass trek for its thrill and variety gets a score of 4.5/5 from me.
Goecha La trek in Sikkim: A few things stand out in my mind about the Goecha La trail – and they are definitely the attractions as well. First, are the Rhododendron lined trails. If you get there in the first week of May when the Rhododendrons are in full bloom, the money you pay for the trek is worth its weight in gold. Next, are the sights of some of the world’s highest summits. Mt Kanchenjunga is so close that you can almost touch it. Mt Pandim and Kabru are a stone’s throw away. In no other trek in India do you get so close to major summits as you do on the Goecha La trail. Sitting by the blue waters of the Samiti will leave you mesmerized for a long time. Add to this, the exciting climb to the Goecha pass in the dead of the night gets your pulse racing (16,000 feet).
On the negative size, the trail is a national highway. Scores of trekkers take to this popular trail every day. Often you may be jostling for campsite space or a spot in the trekker’s huts. The trek does not have great meadows or clearings. Snow is very little on this trek even though it climbs to 16,000 feet.
Though it is a very high altitude trek I recommend it highly for first timers. The highlights of the trek make it extremely romantic. I give the Goecha La trek a score of 4/5.
This is the only trek in our list which doesn’t have any flip side.
This trek is perfect for first timers looking to taste high Himalayan adventure. I give Roopkund a score of 4.5/5.
Kedarkantha summit trek in West Uttarakhand: First, it is actually a trek for the winter. From the Chirstmas week of December until the first week of April, the upper slope of this trek (above 10,000 feet) is under several feet of snow. The snows start melting by the middle of April so timing the trek is important.
I love this trek for its terrific campsites and superb forests. Nestled in clearings, surrounded by either thick pine forests or a cover of snow, the campsites are straight out of picture postcards. I also love this trek for the fun of scaling a summit. The thrill of climbing to a highest point, even though easy makes it a complete package .
On the flip side the trek is short – four days. Physically, it won’t challenge a trekker who is used to more rigorous conditions.
The Kedarkantha trek, for its picturesque setting is a personal favourite and I give it a rating of 3.5/5. Take a look at 12 great photos of this trek in the photo contest here: Kedarkantha Photo Contest
Hampta Pass in Himachal: There’s lot of misconception about this trek. Many imagine it to be easy – just because it is suitable for beginners. It is not. The trek is moderately challenging. The long pass crossing on snow over the Hampta pass can wind anyone (depending on the amount of snow). The descent is particularly steep, almost like a cliff hanger. That’s where the fun is too. Hampta Pass has one of the best pass crossings in our country (if, again, you time it for snow). During the end of May, when snow lies wall to wall on the valley floor, the climb from Balu-Ka-Gera onwards, is a treat for the heart and soul. September onwards the moraines are exposed and a different kind of scenery opens up. The view on the other side of Hampta pass, almost over a cliff, is another world.
Two other attractions make Hampta pass a very hard to miss trek. One, its proximity to Manali allows you a lot of sightseeing opportunity before and after the trek. Two, at the end of the trek, an excursion to Chandrataal is almost a must do (provided the roads are open). To see the emerald blue waters of Chandrataal people throng to it from far and wide. But with the Hampta pass trek you can hop over to Chandrataal with not even an extra day in your itinerary.
As cons, the trek starts with a lovely pine and maple forest but the forest don’t last long. The meadows and clearings are pretty but not very large. After the pass crossing, it is generally a narrow trail over scattered boulder zones.
Though the trek is ok for beginners, do not discount the fitness required. The Hampta Pass trek gets a 3/5 from me.
Kashmir Great Lakes: Kashmir is vastly unexplored even by seasoned trekkers. It is only recently that the Kashmir great lakes trek has opened up. The buzz surrounding the trek is worth the talk. Simply put, the Kashmir great lakes trek is the most beautiful trek on our list. The trek runs into lakes after lakes, seven of them, all alpine, all turquoise blue, all of them surrounded by green glades.
All along the trek runs in and out of meadows and vast open plains, each of them uniquely different from each other. What steals the heart is the distinctly European setting of the whole trek with its maple trees, snow lined meadows and variety of colours.
Add the chance to throw in a sightseeing trip to Srinagar, Gulmarg, Phalgam and a stay in the house boats of Dal lake. With these added attractions, it is a complete adventure in Kashmir.
The only flip side to this trek is that there is no high point to get to. So the thrill of climbing to some point isn’t there. Just for this minor blip, the Kashmir Great lakes trek gets a 4/5 from me.
Note: Trekkers ask me if this trek is safe. There hasn’t been any report of untoward activity on this trail for many years.
Stok Kangri summit trek in Ladakh: There is no doubting that this is the most glamorous trek in India. In fact, when I did the Stok Kangri trek I was wondering whether I was in India – it had so much international feel to it. You are always bumping into international teams trying to make their way to the summit. At the Stok Kangri base camp, there could be over 50 tents and in all likelihood you’ll be the only Indian team attempting the summit that day.
Stok Kangri is also India’s highest trekable summit – which gives it the glamour. At almost 20,100 feet (6,125 mts), the trek climbs to dizzy heights. It takes a big effort to put a feet in front of another as you near the summit – so thin is the air. Yet, with all its energy sapping moments, the summit climb is an adventure of the highest order.
Even without the adrenalin pumping climb to the summit, the trek has a lot going for it. The trail snakes through the heart of Ladakh and within a span of few days a trekker gets to experience everything that Ladakh has to offer – barren landscape, jagged ridges, desert meadows, multiple coloued layers of mountains, deep canyons and blood red water in streams.
A note: there is a tendency to underplay the altitude of the Stok Kangri summit trek with a 5 day trek plan from most operators. It is dangerous and worse, you don’t get to see Ladakh. Do the full trail from Shang.
This glamour trek of Ladakh gets a score of 4/5. Add on Pangyong lake side trip to this trek and you can take the score to 4.5.
Chadar Frozen River Trek in Ladakh: If Stok Kangri is the most glamorous trek in India, the Chadar trek would a very close second. The frozen river trek in Zanskar in winter is supposed to be one of the toughest treks in the world. It is easy to see why.
Travel magazines worldwide show incredible pictures of Buddhist monks walking bare feet on the frozen river. The Discovery and the National Geographic channels have both made films on the Chadar trek. Suddenly, Chadar is a difficult but a glamorous trek to do.
The truth is that the conditions on the Chadar trek are something that is not difficult to beat. The extreme cold can be countered with multi layered clothing and a fit body. When I did the Chadar trek, I did not find the conditions as harsh as people described it. Along with me were 17 other trekkers who felt the same. Take a look at this video to get a better idea of the conditions: Chadar trek – busting some common myths
If you take away the cold and the harshness of the terrain, Chadar is not a difficult trek. It is an almost flat walk with some ups and downs. The terrain rarely makes you go breathless. But what Chadar has in its favour is its very unique experience – everything about it is unique: the scenery, temperature, atmosphere, the frozen river, sledges, unusual camp sites, caves and the ever changing Chadar. So unique that it has to be experienced. Simply put, Chadar is not a trek, but an experience. The trek stays in your mind for a long long time.
Just for its uniqueness, I give Chadar a score of 4.5/5.
The ready reckoner here will help to plan your treks better. Download the pdf if you want to study the chart together with a friend.
For you questions, comments and debate about the choice of summer treks, use the comments box below.
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