Travel Guide Nepal: Himalaya
The Himalaya – the largest mountain range on our planet. Its snow-capped peaks, mighty valleys and rough winds leave each visitor in awe. Here you can learn more about this exceptional destination
The Himalaya is the largest mountain range on our planet. Both in the width and in the height its extensions are gigantic. Mount Everest, located in the Himalayas, is the highest mountain in the world at almost 8850 metres. In addition, the eight-thousanders Kangchendzonga, Lhotse, Manaslu, Cho-Yu, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and Makalu are part of the impressive mountain range as well.
The mountain scenery of the Himalayas with its snow-capped peaks, mighty valleys and rough winds guarantees a spectacular outdoor adventure in South Asia.
Between the Indian subcontinent in the south and the Tibetan highlands in the north, with a length of about 3,000 kilometers from Pakistan to Myanmar
Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, People's Republic of China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar
approx. 3,000 x up to 350 km
Tahr, Himalayan blue sheep, Himalayan serow, snow leopard, vulture, musk deer, Isabelline or Himalayan brown bear, Asian black bear, red panda
Best travel time
Particularly in October and November, also from the end of March until the beginning of June
With its glaciers, lakes and valleys, the Himalayas are a highlight in themselves – especially, the Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, is outstanding
Visiting the Himalayas
Location, geography and climate
The Himalayan region is situated in central Asia and extends over an arc of round about 3,000 km from Pakistan in the west to Myanmar in the east. Moreover, the folded mountain range that reaches a maximum width of roughly 350 km is also situated in Afghanistan, India, China, Nepal and Bhutan. The Himalayan region is characterized by a high altitude and a stunning mountain scenery with several summits.
Caused by the continental collision between the Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate along a convergent plate boundary the Himalayan mountain range was formed 30 to 50 million years ago. This relatively young mountain range consists mainly of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks and was only exposed to a small amount of erosion in comparison to older mountain ranges. As the Indian Plate is still moving towards the north, the Himalaya is still growing a few millimeters every year. As the orogenic process is still active, sometimes seismic events can occur.
In the extensive Himalayan region the climate can be quite changeable and is in general very diverse due to the complex topography. While the lower foothill regions are mostly influenced by a subtropical climate with seasonal monsoon and warm temperatures, regions in higher altitudes are mainly dominated by cold and dry climate. During the monsoon season, extensive precipitation influences the southern mountain range and in some cases it even leads to complications with travelling or transportation and may also cause landslides and floodings.
The northern side of the mountain range lies within the rain shadow and therefore the region is like a cold desert that is generally covered in perpetual ice and snow. The Himalayan mountain range is also influencing the climate in southern Asia as well as in the Tibetan plateau as it is a natural border that prevents cold and dry winds to go all the way down to the south and also prevents monsoon winds to go north.
Flora and fauna
Flora and fauna vary majorly with altitude and climate. Especially higher mountain regions with the high snow line are a perfect setting for several extremophile organisms.
In general, it can be said that the higher you get, the sparser the vegetation will be, especially along the dry and cold northern side of the mountain range. While in lower foothill regions thick forests and also shrub species like rhododendron are common, vegetation changes to more extreme coniferous plants and above the tree line, with extreme juniper species that may grow in an altitude of almost 5,000m, the landscape changes once more to alpine tundra. The tundra is covered by meadows with herbaceous grasses and shrubs. In even higher altitudes, the region is not suited as habitat anymore and the landscape is covered by a thick layer of snow and ice. Flora is richer in southern regions with influences of the subtropical monsoon
Concerning the fauna the diversity also depends on the altitude and the climate of the region. In higher areas especially species belonging to the goat family are relatively wide-spread with animals like tahrs, Himalayan blue sheep and also some near endemic species like e.g. the Himalayan serow or the takin.
The Himalayan region is also home to the endangered snow leopard which is the main predator in these altitudes. Moreover, vultures are widely known to live in these regions. Further endangered species in the Himalayan region are musk deers, Himalayan brown bears, Asian black bears and also the red panda that is more common in the eastern region of the Himalaya.
As one of the 14 eight-thousanders around the world, the Mount Everest is the highest mountain worldwide with a total height of 8,848 m. Due to the enormous altitude and the occasional extreme changes in weather and temperature, the summit of the mountain on the Nepali-Chinese/Tibetan border is mostly admired from lower regions rather than climbed all the way to the top.
The first ones to have reached the summit on the southern route for the first time were New Zealand’s Sir Edmond Hillary and the Nepali Tenzing Norgay in year 1953. Formed by erosion and by the influence of glaciers, the summit is shaped like a pyramid with a southwestern side as well as a northern and an eastern wall. The mountain was named after the British surveyor Sir George Everest in 1856.
The Himalayan region contains the third largest deposit of snow and ice worldwide after Antarctica and the Arctic. In round about 15,000 glaciers an estimated amount of about 12,000 km3 fresh water is stored in continental ice sheets. As the Himalayan mountain range is located near the tropic of cancer north of the equator, climate in this region is in general relatively warm. This is also the reason why the permanent snow line that lies in an altitude of around 5,500 m is relatively high compared to other regions with glaciers. The perpetual snow and ice contributes to the fresh water supply of lower mountain regions and is especially during dry season an important water depot.
The Himalayan region is covered with hundreds of mountain lakes in an altitude underneath 5,000 m that get scarcer and smaller the higher the altitude. One of the highest lakes worldwide is the Tilicho Lake in Nepal in the Annapurna massif. In the Himalayan-region the largest lakes both with an area of over 600 km² are lake Pangong Tso which freezes completely in winter despite containing saline water, as well as lake Yamdrok Tso, a fresh water lake in the Tibet region. Furthermore, due to global warming the number of glacier lakes rises continuously.