BY DAVID STOTT
Valley of Flowers (Uttarakhand)
As the rains start, this high-altitude valley bursts into colour with a stunning array of flowers. It’s best to visit in August, starting this gentle trek from Govindghat. It was discovered in 1931 when a group of British mountaineers got lost. You will find rare flowers and valuable medicinal plants (Ayurvedic). There is also an option to spend a night at a guesthouse in Ghangaria and do another stunning ascent up to Hemkund Sahib, a Sikh pilgrimage, where there is a simple temple and a lake surrounded by 4500-m-high mountains.
Pin-Bhaba (Himachal Pradesh)
The fantastic Spiti Ecosphere collective create interesting volunteer programmes, spiritual sojourns and off-the-beaten-track treks. You can experience a wide range of treks around the epic Spiti Valley taking in awe-inspiring mountain scenery, Buddhist gompas and simple villages. Venture out on their Pin-Bhaba (Tarikhango) Pass trek taking in mountain views and wildlife and staying in traditional homestays getting an insight into high-altitude life as well as camping.
Tosh Valley (Himachal Pradesh)
The trek begins from the village of Tosh, which is 25 km ahead of Manikaran. The Tosh is a feeder valley of the popular Parvati Valley which leads to the Pin Parvati Pass. The trek follows the raging River Tosh from the village to the snout of the Tosh Glacier. Along the way you cross several beautiful meadows and run into Gaddis (the shepherd tribe of Himachal); there is an amazing variety of birdlife and you might even catch a rare glimpse of the Himalayan black or brown bear.
Markha Valley (Jammu and Kashmir)
Ladakh’s most famous trek is relatively close to Leh and boasts some of the best contrasting views of lush river valleys against stark mountain peaks. The route enters Hemis National Park, home to rare species of wildlife, including snow leopards, and crosses two high-altitude passes – Gandha La and Kongmaru La – at around 5000 m. Tiny Buddhist villages, remote monasteries and impressive ruined forts along the way add to the rich mix of culture and landscape.
Gocha La (Sikkim)
Many travellers go to Sikkim purely to make the trek to Gocha La. Taking eight or nine days there and back, the staggering mountain scenery culminates in a close-up view of the sheer eastern face of Khangchendzonga. The trail runs through semi-tropical forests, giant magnolia and rhododendron, before entering wilder rocky terrain interspersed with meadows and glacial lakes. It’s not just Khangchendzonga views that draw hikers, the numerous other peaks in sight make this trek comparable with those in Nepal.