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Mountain Ranges in India

The world’s highest mountain range, the Himalayas, spans five countries, including India. Not surprisingly, it is the most famous of the major mountain ranges of India. The Himalayas are the place where three religions- Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam meet. The range features prominently in Hindu mythology and attracts holy sages and Tibetan monks alike.

The Himalayas also influence the climate in India by blocking the cold winds blowing from the south. However, there are many other major mountain ranges that also play an important role in the environment and culture of India. Read on to know about the top ones.

12 Major Mountain Ranges in India

  1. Great Himalaya Range

In India, the Himalayan mountain range is geographically divided into the Greater Himalayas, the Middle Himalayas, and the Outer Himalayas. The Great Himalaya is the highest region, with continuous snow-capped peaks rising more than 22,000 feet above sea level. It stretches for more than 1,200 miles along India’s northern border, from Jammu and Kashmir (where it is bounded by the Indus River) in the west to Arunachal Pradesh in the east.

The section of Sikkim has the highest peaks, with Mount Kangchenjunga being the third highest peak in the world at 28,169 feet above sea level. Although it is shared with Nepal. The highest peak in India as a whole is Nanda Devi in ​​the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, at 25,643 feet above sea level. Uttarakhand also has two important glaciers in the Great Himalayas: the Gangotri Glacier is the source of the sacred Ganges River, while the Yamunotri Glacier feeds the Yamuna River.

India’s forbidding but magnetic Great Himalayan Range attracts both trekkers and religious devotees. As Hindus consider it the abode of the gods, some of the most visited pilgrimage places in India are located there, such as the Char Dham in Uttarakhand. While Mount Kangchenjunga has not been conquered, a visit to Dzongri Peak in Sikkim is more remarkable. Various organizations also conduct trekking from Munisyari to Nanda Devi.

You will need to be super fit though! The height of the range means that there are only a few mountain passes. One of them, Nathu La, connected India with Tibet before its closure and is a popular day trip from Gangtok in Sikkim. Unfortunately, it is out of bounds for foreigners for security reasons.

  1. Middle Himalaya Range

The fertile and predominantly forest-covered Central Himalayas mountain range runs parallel to the Great Himalayas in its southern part. Its peaks are very accessible, with an elevation of about 5,000 to 20,000 feet above sea level. Most of the popular hill stations in India are located in the central Himalayas in the states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. These include Shimla, Manali, Dalhousie, Dharamsala (where the Dalai Lama lives), Nainital, Mussoorie, and Almora.

The Great Himalayan National Park (one of India’s little-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites) in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, the popular adventure destinations in Uttarakhand, Auli, and the Valley of Flowers form part of the range as the National Park. The Central Himalayas also cover the Kashmir Valley in Jammu and Kashmir, Darjeeling in West Bengal, and Gangtok in Sikkim.

There are two major mountain ranges in the Central Himalayas – the Pir Panjal Range and the Dhauladhar Range. The Pir Panjal range is the longest and most important. It starts near Patnitop in Kashmir and extends southeast for about 180 miles till the upper Beas river in Himachal Pradesh. Its highest peaks are in the Kullu district, with Indrasan being the highest at 20,410 feet above sea level.

This range offers moderately difficult treks like Kashmir Alpine Lakes, Deo Tibba, Pin Parvati, Bhabha Pass, and Hampta Pass. The ski resort of Gulmarg in Kashmir is also within the Pir Panjal range. India’s longest railway tunnel, which runs for about 7 miles, also passes through the border to connect the Kashmir Valley with Jammu’s Banihal. The Dhauladhar Range in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh passes over Dharamsala and McLeodganj. Its highest peak is Hanuman Tibba which is about 19,488 feet above sea level. Trekking opportunities are plentiful there too.

  1. Outer Himalaya Shivalik Range

The Outer Himalayas, also known as the Shivalik Range, are considered to be the foothills of the Himalayas. It separates the mountains from the plains and has valleys and hills that rise no more than about 5,000 feet above sea level. A major part of the range lies up to the Beas River in Himachal Pradesh. This includes Jammu, some Punjab, and Chandigarh, Haridwar and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand, and Kalimpong in West Bengal.

The historic Kalka Shimla Mountain Railway toy train makes its way from Kalka via the Shivalik Range, about 45 minutes north of Chandigarh, to Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. Haridwar is a popular Hindu pilgrimage site. Foreigners often visit the ashrams of Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga. The historic Kalka Shimla Mountain Railway toy train makes its way from Kalka via the Shivalik Range, about 45 minutes north of Chandigarh, to Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. Haridwar is a popular Hindu pilgrimage site. Foreigners often visit the ashrams of Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga.

  1. Trans-Himalaya Karakoram Range

To the north of the Great Himalayas in the Union Territory of Ladakh is the Trans-Himalayas, India’s most isolated and remote mountain range. It is made up of the Karakoram, Zanskar, and Ladakh ranges. The zig-zag Karakoram range is bounded by the Nubra Valley in the south and extends into the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan in the north. This formidable, impenetrable mountain range is sometimes referred to as the “roof of the world”.

Its eight peaks are over 24,600 feet and its elevation rarely falls below 18,045 feet. The highest peak, K2, is located in the disputed area which is currently controlled by Pakistan. At 28,251 feet above sea level, it is the second-highest mountain in the world.

In India, the highest peak in the Karakoram is Saltoro Kangri at an altitude of 25,400 feet above sea level in the Saltoro mountain range. The five peaks of Saser Kangri, in the Saser Muztagh range, are not second to the highest peaks at 25,171 feet. Mamostong Kangri is 24,659 feet above sea level in the remote Rimo Mustagh ranges around the Siachen Glacier.

The Karakoram Range is the most heavily glaciated part of the planet outside the polar regions. Climbers can access its Indian peaks from the Nubra Valley, but a permit must be obtained, as it is a sensitive border area. In October 2019, the Indian government announced that tourists can now visit the Siachen Glacier (which is also the world’s highest battlefield). Rimo organizes expedition trips.

  1. Trans-Himalaya Ladakh Range

The Ladakh Range lies between the Nubra Valley and Leh to the south of the Karakoram Range. It runs parallel to the Indus River and extends to India’s border with Tibet. The landscape is characterized by granite rocks and sparse vegetation. The peaks of this range are about 16,400 to 19,700 feet above sea level. Rather than any notable peaks, the Ladakh range is better known for its spectacular high-altitude mountain passes.

The most famous of these is Khardung La, often incorrectly referred to as the world’s highest walkable road. At 17,582 feet above sea level, you won’t want to be there for more than about 15 minutes before feeling the lightness. Sham Valley Trek, through the foothill villages, is a great way to experience the Ladakh range. Yum Adventures and Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company are the two reputed organizers of this trek.

  1. Trans-Himalaya Zanskar Range

To the south of the Ladakh Range, on the other side of the Indus River, the Zanskar Range separates the Ladakh region from the Zanskar region of Jammu and Kashmir. Its peaks are higher than those of the Ladakh range, many of which are more than 19,500 feet above sea level. Nun’s twin peaks at 23,409 feet and Kun’s highest peaks at 23,218 feet. It is possible to climb them, although the trek is challenging. Adjacent to these peaks, in Shafat Glacier, Shikhar Peak is the third highest mountain at 22,736 feet above sea level. White Needle and Z1 are other important peaks in this region.

Zanskar has a harsh climate. Snow blocks the mountain passes during winter, effectively cutting off the inhabitants of the Zanskar Valley from the rest of the country. During this time, the only way is to walk along the frozen Zanskar River, which has cut a sharp valley through the range. Popularly known as Chadar Trek, this trek is one of the toughest treks in India.

Should you do so, your accommodation will be in caves along the route. In July and August, it is possible to go rafting down the river at Grade 4 and 5 rapids. Buddhist monasteries are another attraction in Zanskar. The most incredible one is Phugtal, which is halfway between Padum and Darcha. It is not accessible by road, so you will have to trek (or take a pony ride) to it. Himalayan Homestay, a community-based tourism initiative of Snow Leopard Conservation, arranges treks and accommodation in several villages of Zanskar.

  1. Purvanchal Range

The Purvanchal Range is located south of the Brahmaputra (Dihang) river in Arunachal Pradesh and forms the border between India and Myanmar. It is spread over the northeastern Indian states and has a relatively low elevation which decreases towards the south. The average elevation of the peaks of this range is about 9,845 feet above sea level. Dafa Bum is the highest among the Mishmi hills on the northeastern tip of Arunachal Pradesh.

It is situated at an altitude of 15,020 feet above sea level. In Nagaland, Sarmati is the highest peak in the Naga Hills at an altitude of 12,550 feet above sea level. The elevation above sea level in the hills of Manipur is generally less than 8,200 feet. The highest peak in Mizoram is Phungpui, also known as the Blue Mountains, at an altitude of 7,080 feet above sea level in the Mizo Hills. However, the elevation of Mizo Hills is generally less than 4,920 feet.

The Northeast region is largely tribal. Its remoteness, poor roads, and lack of infrastructure have kept tourists away, although this is slowly changing. Besides tribal culture, nature and wildlife are top attractions, including Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh and Keibul Lamjao National Park in Manipur. The Pangsau Pass on the Myanmar border in Arunachal Pradesh provides a spectacular view across the Purvanchal Range.

  1. Aravalli Range

The 500-mile-long Aravalli Range (meaning “peak line”) runs from Champaner and Palanpur in eastern Gujarat to the outskirts of Delhi. About 80 percent of it lies in Rajasthan, where it borders the Thar Desert and provides protection from the extreme desert climate. Guru Shikhar is the highest peak in Mount Abu near the Gujarat border with an elevation of 5,650 feet above sea level. However, most of the hills are concentrated in the vicinity of Udaipur.

The rulers of Mewar used this to their advantage by building huge forts like Chittorgarh and Kumbhalgarh at strategic locations. There are several other forts and palaces running through the border, as well as tourist destinations including Bundi, Bera (popular for the leopard), and Pushkar (where the famous annual camel fair is held). The Aravalli Range has an extensive history as one of the oldest fold mountain ranges in the world (when tectonic plates are pushed together).

The rulers of Mewar used this to their advantage by building huge forts like Chittorgarh and Kumbhalgarh at strategic locations. There are several other forts and palaces running through the border, as well as tourist destinations including Bundi, Bera (popular for the leopard), and Pushkar (where the famous annual camel fair is held). The Aravalli Range has an extensive history as one of the oldest fold mountain ranges in the world (when tectonic plates are pushed together).

Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of Stone Age civilization. Unfortunately, these days the border is being eroded by deforestation and illegal mining.

  1. Vindhya Range

The Vindhya Range extends on the northern bank of the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh in central India. It extends for more than 675 miles from Jobat in Gujarat to Sasaram in Bihar. Technically, it is not a mountain range but a series of hills, mountain ranges, and plateaus. This is especially so after the division and branches in the east of the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh. The normal elevation of the Vindhya Range is about 980–2,100 ft above sea level, with peaks rarely exceeding 2,300 ft.

Kalumar Peak is the highest in Damoh district of Madhya Pradesh at an altitude of 2,467 feet above sea level. The range’s sandstone composition is largely responsible for its low elevation. However, the ancient Hindu epic “Ramayana” says that the mountains deliberately reduced their size so that they could please the Vedic sage Agastya, having grown so large that they blocked the path of the Sun.

The Vindhya range is mentioned in many ancient Hindu texts as the dividing line between the Sanskrit-speaking Aryans in the north and the indigenous Dravidians in the south. Evidence of prehistoric activity in the area has also been found, including the highest concentration of prehistoric paintings from India in the Bhimbetka caves in the foothills near Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. Mandu is another popular tourist destination. This abandoned Mughal city is situated on a plateau at 2,079 feet above sea level, about two hours southwest of Indore.

Fun Fact: Vindhya Range and Himalaya are the only two mountain ranges that are mentioned in the national anthem of India.

  1. Satpura Range

On the southern bank of the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh, the Satpura Range runs parallel to the Vindhya Range between the Narmada and Tapti rivers. It extends for about 560 miles from the Rajpipla Hills in Gujarat to the Meikla Hills in Chhattisgarh (where it meets the Vindhya Range at Amarkantak).

The Satpura Range is higher than the Vindhya Range, whose peaks reach over 4,000 feet in the densely forested Mahadev Hills at Pachmarhi. Dhupgarh is the highest at an altitude of 4,400 feet above sea level. It is the highest peak in Central India.

Pachmarhi is the only hill station in Madhya Pradesh and many Bollywood movies have been filmed there. It is known for its cave temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. According to the ancient Hindu epic “Mahabharata”, they were built by the Pandava brothers during their exile.

The most important temple in the region is situated on the Chauragarh peak at an altitude of about 4,363 feet above sea level. The peak also houses a fort that served as the capital of the Gond dynasty in the 16th century. The sunrises from there are spectacular but are prepared to climb more than a thousand steps to reach the top! The rugged terrain of Satpura National Park is popular for nature, wildlife, and adventure activities like trekking.

  1. The Western Ghats

The long Western Ghats run for about 5,250 miles in the western part of India, separating the coast from the Deccan plains. It runs from near the Satpura range in Gujarat through Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu to the southernmost tip of India near Kanyakumari. The Western Ghats are made up of several mountain ranges, with more than 70 peaks ranging in elevation from 1,713 feet to 8,842 feet above sea level.

About a third of them are above 6,561 feet, most of them in Kerala. Anamudi is the highest of the Annamalai hills on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. The other major ranges of the Western Ghats are the Sahyadri Mountains in Maharashtra, the Cardamom Hills in Kerala, and the Nilgiri Mountains in Tamil Nadu. These mountains influence the weather of India by acting as a barrier against the southwest monsoon clouds and attracting most of the rainfall.

However, what really makes the Western Ghats remarkable is its biodiversity. The mountains are home to about 30 percent of India’s flora and fauna species and are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the top biodiversity hotspots in the world. National parks like Mollem, Periyar, Silent Valley, Nagarhole, Bandipur, and Mudumulai are popular. Other tourist destinations include Matheran, Mahabaleshwar, Wayanad, Munnar, Ooty, Coonoor, Coorg, and Kodaikanal. Taking the historic Nilgiri Mountain Railway toy train to Ooty is a memorable experience.

  1. The Eastern Ghats

Similar to the Western Ghats, the lesser-known Eastern Ghats separate the coast from the plains of the eastern part of India. It passes through Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu (where it meets the Western Ghats at the Nilgiri Mountains). The Eastern Ghats are flatter than the Western Ghats, and its hills are divided into several parts by the major rivers of South India (the Godavari, the Mahanadi, the Krishna, and the Kaveri).

Some of its peaks still exceed 3,280 feet above sea level, though mainly in the Maliya Range in Odisha and the Madugula Konda Range in Andhra Pradesh. Jindagada Peak is the highest in Andhra Pradesh with a height of 5,545 feet.

The fertile Eastern Ghats play an important role in agriculture, as the region is very suitable for crops. Bhubaneswar in Odisha and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh are the major cities to reach the Eastern Ghats. Tourist places in Odisha include Satkosia Tiger Reserve, Simlipal National Park, and Koraput district in the far south where many tribes reside. In Andhra Pradesh, the most popular parts of the Eastern Ghats include the Araku Valley, Gandikota Valley, and Borra Caves.

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