Deorital is a beautiful alpine lake set against a backdrop of snow-clad Himalayan peaks. It’s ideal for independent trekkers who want to get out in nature without necessarily relying on the services of a guide or organized tour, and can easily be done as a day trip or an overnight journey. The 3km hike up to the lake is fairly easy, starting in the cozy village of Sari, and if you have a lot of gear with you, you can hire a donkey porter to help haul your load. Tents and sleeping bags are available for rent at the lake, and there are a couple of small stalls serving up basic Indian fare.
Although you may associate Kerala with its low-lying backwaters and rugged beaches, this South Indian state definitely holds its own when it comes to epic trekking spots. If you’re looking for a rigorous day hike offering gorgeous views over the lush interior Wayanad district, Chembra Peak is just about perfect. You'll pass through emerald tea plantations as you head up into the hills, eventually reaching a heart-shaped lake surrounded by wild grasslands, with beautiful vistas over the surrounding regions. Just check ahead before you make the trek; the local government takes conservation very seriously, and sometimes officials close the area to hikers during the dry season.
Join devout Hindu pilgrims on this 18km walk to Gaumukh, the source of the sacred Ganges River, which springs forth from the edge of the Gangotri Glacier. The trek starts in the holy pilgrimage town of Gangotri and while the walk is fairly easy, with few inclines, it is long. As such, most people spend the night at the Bhojwasa camp area along the way, where there are tents and a tourist rest house, along with basic facilities such as toilets and food stalls.
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If you're all about coming face-to-face with massive Himalayan peaks, but aren't quite ready to head up to Nepal to summit Everest, Goecha La in the Northeastern state of Sikkim is the perfect compromise. It's the highest mountain pass in the state, and if you have 10 to 11 days to commit to the journey, which needs to be undertaken with a guide, you'll be rewarded with fantastic views of the southeastern face of Mt. Kanchenjunga, the world's third-tallest mountain and worth a trek in its own right. Come in the springtime, just before monsoon, for the clearest views and the prettiest flora along the way (including colorful rhododendrons).
The eeriest spot in this list, Roopkund is a remote Himalayan lake sitting at just over 5000 meters in altitude, set in the Uttarakhand region. It's best known for a deposit of skeletal remains that skirt the lake, which legend has it date to the 9th century, when a group of people perished here in a violent snowstorm (although some scientific testing indicates that at least some of the skeletons may be more recent). Getting here requires a healthy dose of ambition as well as plenty of time (usually about a week round trip), and it’s unwise to attempt it without a guide or as part of a group.
© Soudip Dutta / Shotstoriessd
This alpine meadow sits above the hill station of Dharamsala, best known as the seat of the Tibetan Government in Exile and the home of the Dalai Lama. The trek starts at the Galu Devi Temple in the town of Dharamkot, a popular backpacker haunt just outside of McLeod Ganj. From here, it's about a 6km trek uphill that passes through deodar pine forests and up to the summit. Although many travelers opt to do Triund as a day trip, tents and sleeping bags are available for rent at the summit if you want to spend the night.
Among the highest peaks in South India's ridiculously picturesque Kodagu (Coorg) Region, Tandiandamol makes for an ideal day hike for trekkers who want the chance to take in some scenic views and possibly spot local wildlife. Because of its relatively short length (around 8km each way), this well-marked, moderate hike is easy to take on without a guide. Most hikers park at Nalknad Palace in the town of Yevakapadi (about a three-hour drive from Mysuru or six hours from Bengaluru), and hike up from there.
The Valley of the Flowers
One of India's most celebrated hiking destinations, the Valley of the Flowers gets its name from the flurry of wildflowers that bloom here during a short window every summer, at the tail end of the annual monsoon. In order to protect the natural beauty of the valley, camping is prohibited, so most people trek to Ghangaria, a three-to-four hour walk away, spend the night there, and then do a day visit to the valley. Organized treks typically also include a day visit to Hem Kund Sahib, a remote gurudwara (Sikh temple) about a 6km uphill walk from Ghangaria.