Traveling the Himalayas is for you if you are adventurous if you are looking to experience nature to it’s fullest and if you are not the type who cares about comfort. Because only the toughest travelers will appreciate this raw but beyond beautiful corner of our mother earth.
Kunzum, a mountain pass in India was an amazing adventure during our trip through the Himalayas. I will help you with this post to determine if the Himalayas should be part of your next travel adventure or if you should avoid traveling there all together and simply just enjoy the video which I prepared further below.
We, I and my husband, did a road trip during springtime in the western Himalayan mountain range, in Himachal Pradesh India.
We traveled first near the Tibetan border from Kinnaur district across Spiti. In Spiti, we immersed ourselves in the stone dry landscape, the Tibetan culture and ancient monasteries while getting to know the locals in the high altitude villages of Dhankar, Hikkim, Langza, and Comic.
Then we got to experience the great beauty of Lahaul district and the great mountain pass of the goddess kunzum. What we did not know was that this road trip and the journey back to civilization on that day would be almost beyond our capacity!
Something could have gone wrong, although we were very well prepared. Yet we wished we had known certain things. I did not come across the information I am about to share with you.
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What we should have known but didn’t when we did this Himalayan road trip in one full day:
Google maps and Tomtom maps are wrong – The maps are not that precise, in fact, they need more work. The estimated time is utter nonsense. It’s misleading because you think the route from A to B will take 5 hours (+2 extra as a buffer) as indicated but it turns out to be 10-12 hours. On the maps, it doesn’t look like much because of the many mountains turns, passes and valleys. We learned later that other people fell for the same trap
The roads are not roads but stone and mud. Watch the video at the bottom of the post and you will know what you mean. The car took quite something. The bumper broke that day, the alignment was so off after that. Your body will feel so tired after such as ride. You will be glad once you get to a proper road again.
There is literally nothing at times. I didn’ t really expect much (after all, the Himalayas right?) but I think so we only encountered one grey looking place where they were selling Chai. I am not sure if we had lunch that day. We were too busy admiring our surrounding.
Now let’s determine if this trip is something for you with pros and cons counted up for a road trip across the himalayas.
The Cons: Why you should NOT plan a road trip to the high altitude points of the Himalayas
There are a few good reasons – and I am not going to talk around the pot here – why traveling to a high altitude pass or a small elevated village up the mountains might not be for you. I AM NOT GOING TO SUGAR COAT IT EITHER. 🙂
Keep in mind, you can only access these points via road and that means by car. The roads are barely roads, you cross glaciers (watch the video further below), it’ s a bumpy dangerous ride.
Do not plan a road trip through the high passes and hard to access points in the Himalayas if:
You suffer from an illness – There are no doctors up there, no hospitals, no pharmacies. Small problems such as Asthma can be a huge problem if you consider that the higher you travel the less oxygen you get. If you just had food poisoning, I would suggest to not go through the arduous trip. Do something else, just don’t travel to the higher elevations
You can’t take heights – That might seem obvious, but some people think over the top of themselves and they realize too late that they might be able to look down into a valley, but that they can’t take the massive change of altitudes. When you travel by car or foot, you will experience something called altitude sickness. Some people have it more some less. We met travelers who would actually use altitude pills. I personally felt affected at 5000 meters by getting headaches each time I would take a step and I grew up in the mountains!
You don’t like arid stone landscapes, you don’t like the cold. You have fears of being flattened by a falling rock. The fear is a valid one. So-called shooting stones are common and they come down from the Himalayas in speed.
You are pregnant or you want to take your kids younger than 15 with you. – Just don’t, please don’t!! … The Himalayas are not a playground.
You plan on driving yourself and you think you are an experienced driver but you are not. OR you plan on taking a regular city car to the Himalayas (you must have lost your mind). Just watch the video below.
You don’t value nature, spartan living and a bouncy road for 10+ hours is not how you expect to spend your precious time on your holiday. In that case please go ahead and book a spa weekend in Manali or fly over to Leh. You will be well accommodated there and you don’t need to feel a FOMO.
You expect attractions such as water rafting and paragliding (for whatever crazy reason). Or some actor or IG brat told you to make a selfie at the kunzum pass, because, well it’s as cool as the blue whale challenge and if you don’ t do it you are out. Kids, grow up!
You can’t do anything by yourself because you need a Mama or servants for everything in your life and you are the kind of person who panics or would die alone in the cold. What if you get stuck with your car or bike? Ok, sure this point is not that important if you travel with a group and an experienced driver. Yet, you should have some basic survival thoughts on the what ifs, don’ t you agree? For example, if you travel by car, you should know how to change a tire and you should have a backup tire. Just basic what-to-do-in-an-unpredicted-situation thoughts…
You don’t like to sit in a car for long bumpy rides, you don’t plan on trekking, you don’t care about some villages up the mountains, nor do you bother about the beauty surrounding you and the last remaining glaciers are not your cup of coffee.
I think so you should be clear by now why traveling the higher plateau of the Himalayas might not be your thing. If none of the above spoke to you, let’s take a look if you should travel through the highest mountain range in the world and if you are deemed worthy to experience the almost untouched environment.
The Pros: Why you might want to experience the Himalayan high altitudes and why this might just be the road trip of your lifetime!
Very valid reasons why doing such a crazy trip across the Himalayas might just be your call. Because:
You LOVE nature and you have lived most of your life close to nature. The main reason why anyone would want to take such a journey is that discovering the environment is the main reason. You want to see the change of landscapes for yourself. You want to go trekking and come across flora, fauna, and animals.
You LOVE learning about different cultures. Most of the high altitude plateaus are home to Tibetans/Nepali people. They are all very different and each developed their own languages, customs and ways of living because the mountains separated them successfully for a very long time.
You enjoy simple living, the most spartan way in this world. You won’t go nuts if you can’t have a shower because well,… there is no bathroom or hot water and it’s too cold. You don’t mind that there is no power most of the time. You don’t mind eating the food the women lovingly prepare on their simple kitchen floor.
You are going to have great sleep in a bed that smells of muttons. This is the reality, so be sure about what you want. Don’ t expect a restaurant where you can order food. Nop, you are going to get to eat some of the best homemade Potato Momos in this world and they will welcome you with all their heart with a cup of hot butter tea.
You plan on hiking. This is your terrain!
You are a scientist or explorer and you got a job to do.
Ultimately, I enjoyed the unexpected moments the most during that journey. All the different surprises. The crazy, the amazing, the most enthralling.
So think twice if you want to travel the Himalayan high altitudes. This is not a weekend trip to your city park, this is real life and these places can only be accessed by car on roads made of stone and mud.
Personally, I grew up in the mountains so mountains are my terrain. I always knew, especially after learning about Heinrich Harrer’s story back as a kid (7 years in Tibet), that these untouched corners of the world were mine to discover.
Nobody wants to see mass tourism in such a fragile environment. Fortunately, that won’t happen so soon, the roads are just too dangerous.
No matter what you choose to do, you can watch the 20 minute edited epic clip of our journey across the kunzum pass and how we crossed the glaciers.
We took the journey in June, which is springtime and that means the glaciers are melting. Also, the mountain pass was just cleared days before. Traveling during the snowmelt was actually rather dangerous because the water flows down the roads, the stone roads turn into rivers.
Getting a driver to get to the hard to access points in the Himalayas
Most travelers come to Manali first. In Manali, you book a driver with a car. A car can be shared with up to 5 people and the price of the car with driver is somewhere around 1000 USD for 10 days.
The driver takes you safely wherever you want but will suggest points of interests, the driver also arranges accommodation with the coordinator with whom you booked the ride in Manali.
Our family friend, lovingly called Rainbow by the Hebrew community, in old Manali runs True Life Adventures. He basically sets you up with anything you need. A safe driver, a good car, a permit, a ticket from a to b, a way to store your excess baggage while you take the road, a bike and anything in-between.
I wholeheartedly recommend that you seek him out for any travel plans, he will coordinate and arrange anything for you. Even if you happen to get sick in the Himalayas, he will make sure that you get out safely and the fastest way possible.
More useful info about the Himalayas:
- Interesting facts about the Himalayas in a nutshell
- Himalayan Glaciers
- List of Himalayan Peaks and Passes
- Protecting Species in the Himalayas – WWF
When are you going to travel the Himalayas?
Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas with us in the commetn section further below!