Some of the best day hikes are in the mountains of south India.
The Western Ghats run through the west, and encompass some beautiful national parks of hills and jungles, such as Kerala’s Wayanad.
The Nilgiri Hills, around Tamil Nadu’s Ooty, is a good area to hike among tea plantations. You’ll also pass interesting tribal (adivasi) cultures throughout these regions.
In the Himalayan areas, you’re never far from a good day-hike, so check out local recommendations after arrival.
Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are the places to go if you want to attempt a short trek of 3-5 days.
Manali and McLeod Ganj/Dharamsala are good bases for short treks in Himachal Pradesh.
A highlight is the 3-4 day Naggar to Malana camping trek, via the Chandrakhani Pass at 11,975ft (3,650m).
Malana is an isolated town where the people speak their own dialect, practice extreme untouchability, and believe they are descended from Alexander the Great. (They are also said to cultivate the best marijuana in the world).
The trek from Naggar starts gently, then descends sharply down a vertigo-inducing trail. Bring hiking poles.
Uttarakhand has the famous Valley of Flowers National Park, which blooms spectacularly with wildflowers during the wet season.
Another Uttarakhand highlight is the three-day Har-Ki-Dun Valley trek. The area is remote, with a beautiful valley full of wild forests, glacial streams, and snow-capped mountains. You’ll stay in tents or basic homestays.
If you’re an experienced trekker, there are longer trails all over northern India for you to explore.
The Markha Valley trek, Ladakh, is a popular long trek, with dry but colorful mountains, remote villages with homestays, and Tibetan Buddhist culture.
It can take up to eight days, but shorter sections are possible, such as Spituk to Stok (three days).
For a longer-distance challenge, the Parang La trek is a two-week high altitude trek beginning in Himachal Pradesh and ending in Ladakh. There’s an incredible change of scenery as you pass into the rain shadow of the Himalayas.
Ladakh is above 9,842ft (3,000m), and most treks cross very high passes. Once you arrive in Leh, acclimatize before trekking by taking it easy on your first few days.
Hiring a guide and/or porter is quite affordable in India, so it’s highly advisable for multi-day treks.
Women can hire female guides and porters in Ladakh, but elsewhere, female guides are scarce.
If you’re a solo female traveler, choose a well-reputed company, and there’s no doubt you’ll feel comfortable with male guides and porters.
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