Garwhal, Kumaon Himalaya

  • Nanda Devi - © Flickr user Daniel Clooney
  • The view from Binsar of the Greatest Himalayan Range - © flickr user gkrishna63
  • © flickr user Arun Roy
  • Valley of Flowers na - © Flickr user Prashant Ram 2
  • Pindari Glacier Walk - © Flickr user Laura7581
  • Dodi Tal  - © Flickr user Leon Meerson
  • Flowers - © Flickr user
  • Hanuman Chatti - © Flickr user Leon Meerson
  • © Flickr user Laura7581
  • Nanda Devi
  • Parth Joshi - © Flickr user Crisp
  • Small Valley of flowers - © Flickr user Prashant Ram 2
  • Tornant del Kuari - © Flickr user Idranx
  • Valley of Flowers - © Flickr user Alsoh Bennet
  • Valley of Flowers - © Flickr user Lihi Koren
  • Zero Point in Binsar - © flickr user gkrishna63

Key information: Garwhal, Kumaon Himalaya

    • These mountains remain some of the loveliest and remotest areas of the Indian Himalayas.
    • Many superb trekking options among the area’s peaks. 

Walkopedia rating

(Top 100)
  • Walkopedia rating94
  • Beauty36
  • Natural interest17
  • Human interest12
  • Charisma34
  • Negative points5
  • Total rating94

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Your choice
  • Maximum Altitude: Variable
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable

This walk description page is at an early stage of development, and will be expanded over time. Your comments on this walk, your experiences and tips, and your photos are very welcome.

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Valley of Flowers na - © Flickr user Prashant Ram 2

WALK SUMMARY

The Garwhal and Kumaon Himalayas remain some of the loveliest and remotest areas of the Indian Himalayas, often called "Himchal" or "snowy mountains". Ironically, they were long beloved by adventurers of the British Raj, but fell into benign obscurity when Nepal opened up for tourism.

The Nanda Devi area is the star jewel in a generously studded crown, home to miraculous mountains and its own UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. As well as Nanda Devi itself, at 7,817m, India's highest (exclusively Indian) mountain, other peaks in the massif include the pyramidic Kamet (at 7,756m), and Trisul (7,12m). To the west, the mountains curve round in a huge horseshoe, to create the vast and dramatic Nanda Devi Sanctuary. The area has many trekking options. The area's best-known trek is the so-called Curzon Trail,  a relatively moderate climb, altitude-wise, to the Kuari Pass and its outstanding views (claimed to be among the best in the world). There are many other options: See our Nanda Devi Area page.

 Other walks in the region include:

  • Trekking to the high meadows at Bedni Bugyal (3,400m - ish), which have huge and stupendous views, in 5 days or so. You can extend this to the Bhogubasa cave and Rup Kund (see below).
  • A 4 day trek, along with a throng of Sikh pilgrims in the high season, to the superbly sited Hem Kund [link] lake (at 4,330m), surrounded by seven peaks, and the Bhyundar Valley  (Valley of the Flowers), a large and magnificent glacial valley with florality considered to be outstanding even in Himalayan terms.
  • A 7 day trek to the high and mysterious Rup Kund lake.
  • The 7 day trail to the Pindari Glacier, to the south of the Massif.
  • Milam Glacier and Nanda Devi East Base Camp [link later] in the Kumaon Himalaya. 10 days or so.
  • Dodi Tal: a 2-day, mainly forest trek to this lovely lake in the north-west of  Uttaranchal, near Uttarkashi.
  • A famous trek up the Bhilan Ganga Valley to the base of the huge and dramatic Khatling Glacier [link], set in a great circle of mountains over 6,000m.
  • Kush Kalyan/Gharwal Lakes: A fine trek up to the lovely meadows of the Kush Kalyan Plateau and then on up ridges and valleys to gorgeous Lamb Tal and  sacred, cliff-girt Shastra Tal, high lakes in rough grasslands with excellent views of peaks all around, the Bandarpunch Range in particular.
  • Rupin Pass: this fine trek crosses the remote Dhaula Dhar range, heading north in the Govind National Park from the Tons Valley in the far north of Uttranchal across the 4,540m Rupin Pass to end in the Sangla Valley at the foot of the Kinnaur Kailash Range in Himachal Pradesh.
  • Saryu to Ram Ganga Valleys : delightful but not difficult 10-ish day trek at lowish altitude in remote valleys, crossing passes with excellent views of the nearby Pankhwa Dhar range and the further Nanda Devi group. Lovely meadow campsites.

This page is at an early stage of development. Please help us by recommending your best walks in the area, making suggestions and sending photos! Thank you!

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Practical Information

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist.

Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Books and Maps

Suggest books and maps

Books on this walk           

Trekking in the Indian Himalayas – Lonely Planet

Other books

Trekking and Climbing in the Indian Himalaya – Harish Kapadia/Stackpole Books. Quite old (2001) but still useful.

Maps

Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. A good online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks). Also try www.mapsworldwide.com and www.trektools.com.

Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk

Spring (April – June): you won’t get the finest views, but you will wind through whole hillsides of flowering rhododendron and azelea in the lower reaches.

Autumn (October – Nov or December depending on how high you will go): cold nights, superb views.

Weather

Generally fine in season, but come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather and cold nights.

For detailed weather information, have a look at: www.worldweather.org or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides.

Getting there/transport/permits/fees

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Those on organised expeditions are likely to be transported to/from agreed roadheads.

Route(s)

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See Walk Summary above.

Possible problems, health, other warnings

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  • Altitude: can affect some; potentially fatal. Acclimatize appropriately, come prepared to cope, be ready to evacuate people in extreme cases.
  • Mountain weather: snow, rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year and the weather can change rapidly. Come prepared.
  • Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
  • Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights.
  • Harmful animals, including snakes, stinging/biting insects and plants. Take all appropriate precautions.
  • This is remote country: you will have to carry all your food and other supplies and help will be hard to get if things go wrong.
  • Health risks: this is a relatively undeveloped country, and you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. Come
  • prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.
  • Be sensitive about photographing people:  don’t without permission. Ask permission if in doubt about whether they would mind.

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to a walk or a country. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.

Guided or independent?

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Independent

You can in theory do some of these walks independently, but you will need to be self-sufficient, so come fully prepared.

Guided/supported

Almost everyone forms or joins organized/supported expeditions. Given the remoteness of the country and difficulty of getting supplies, many will prefer to do it this way, and travelling here with a knowledgeable guide has real advantages.  Choosing a suitable guide or company is of course vital, and the guidebooks contain good advice in this regard.

If hiring a guide locally, meet him/her and get comfortable before committing. Make sure requirements are understood and agreed – including how you will eat and the importance of avoiding illness, as well as overnighting and, of course, remuneration!

Traverseline – we have used these (elsewhere) and been very happy

High Places - we have used these (elsewhere) and been very happy

Walks Worldwide

Inntravel

Exodus – do a walk in the western “Outer Sanctuary”

KE Adventures – do an excellent looking expedition

Himalayan Glacier

The Mountain Company – do a good looking expedition

Check TripAdvisor for some reviews of this walk and walk organisers which may prove helpful.

PLEASE HELP Walkopedia by recommending any reputable tour organisers that you know of – local or otherwise.

Accommodation

Camping is generally the only realistic option once on the trails.

See what the commentary on TripAdvisor is on possible places to stay – although do take their reviews with a pinch of salt, as they can be “interested”.

A good range of hotels and other accommodation can be found on the unimaginatively named but effective Hotels.com. If you’re on a budget, Hostelbookers usually has a good selection of cheaper-end accommodation; or perhaps try for some bargain luxury on Lastminute.com

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Other information and tips

Tipping is expected, so come mentally prepared and with enough cash. Check guidebooks for current rates. Do err on the side of generosity if unsure – it will make a big difference to them.

Do be careful, considerate and respectful in all dealings with locals.

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Useful websites and information

There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.

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Other things to do in the area

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Other walks

India has a huge variety of great walks. If you are in the countryside, simply heading off to explore will always be interesting, even if it isn’t “pretty”.

Other activities

Endless.

Shopping, if you must

We are not a shopping website. But, there are beautiful and interesting things to be found, and anything bought from local people must be of some help to this very poor area. So, wallets out! (And don’t try to extract the very last cent when bargaining!)

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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

© flickr user Arun Roy

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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The view from Binsar of the Greatest Himalayan Range - © flickr user gkrishna63...
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