The Himalaya are a range of mountains in
Asia, most correctly defined
as stretching from the Indus river in Pakistan, through India, Nepal,
ending at the Bramaputra River in India. This is often extended to
include the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, and other minor ranges extending
from the Pamir Knot, as these mountains are continuous with the
Himalaya proper, and the geographical difference makes no difference
for the traveller, we follow this convention here. This region includes
the 14 highest mountains in the world, and over 100 peaks over 7200m.
Most parts of the Himalaya are connected to the plains to the south, by
bus and airplane.
The Himalaya are a home to a diverse number of people,
languages, and religions. Generally speaking Islam is prevalent in the
west, Hinduism in the southern ranges of the eastern Himalaya, and
Buddhism in the northern ranges of the western Himalaya. While there
are numerous languages spoken, Hindi/Urdu (when written, they are two
totally different languages, when spoken they are nearly
interchangeable) will take you very far, as it is understood by the
majority in the Pakistani, and Indian Himalaya. In Nepal it's not very
useful, but it does have significant overlap with Nepali, and as such
gives you a head start with that.
The northern Areas of Pakistan offers some
of the most visually
stunning parts of the Himalaya. The trekking in Northern areas is
arduous, seldom without glacier crossings, and not for the
inexperienced, or unprepared. Local law, and good sense, prohibit
trekking without a local guide on most routes. As such it is one of the
more costly parts of the Himalaya for trekking. The people in this
area, while being almost entirely mulslim, are diverse, with numerous
languages, and different types of Islam followed--some highly
conservative, some noticeably liberal.
Jammu and Kashmir is the northernmost state
in India and an area with
picturesque forested mountains. Jammu is the winter capital of state.
It is famous for its temples. For Kashmir Valley some people say it's
Heaven on Earth; friendly people, beautiful gardens, vast lakes and
pristine streams and stunning landscapes.
This area was a popular destination with
travelers until the conflict escalation between Pakistan and India.
While Srinagar is reasonable safe, don't spend time in the
country-side. Ladakh is the important exception to this and it should
not to be missed. With truly amazing landscapes high up in the
Himalayas, Ladakh is popular for trekking
and with those on a search for the most serene place in the world.