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Indian Nilgiri (Blue sheep) traverse the colorful mountains of Stok valley, Ladakh Himalayas

8 Practical Guidelines to Traveling Responsibly in the Himalayas

8 practical guidelines to responsible travel in the Indian Himalayas

As more and more tourists trek to the Himalayas they often leave behind a trail of miniature destruction. Leaving the Himalayas just as nature intended should be our goal. Here are 9 easy ways to make sure that your visit to the Himalayas leave the mountains awe inspiring beauty intact for generations to come.

Ever since George Mallory famously climbed Mount Everest simply, "because it’s there", the Himalayas, have been the go-to destination for hikers, trekkers, climbers, mountaineers, and the merely curious. And for good reason, this massive mountain chain that forms the border between the Indian subcontinent and the rest of Asia is home to both the world’s tallest mountain peak, Mt. Everest, and the world’s hardest to climb mountain peak, K2.  It’s also stunning.

There’s a reason why the Sherpa name for Mt. Everest is Chomolungma or mother Goddess of the Universe- the Himalayas are a site to behold.  Each year more than half a million people a year routinely visit the remote mountain chain. And yet, the sheer volume of visitors mean that over time forest paths have given way to roads, meadows to dusty campsites, trekking trails have become littered with rubbish, and rafting and kayaking are polluting rivers.

Here then are a few practical ways to leave positive footprints behind.

1.    Book a trip with a certified eco-trekking company.

Look for one that guarantees not only sustainability standards but also a fair wage for its employees such as porters and cooks.  There are a number of standards, but TIES 1990 eco-tourism standard is one of the most common and the most reputable.

2.    Consider home stays. 

Home stays are a great way of really experiencing the local culture, reducing the impetus to build more resorts and the deforestation and loss of land to pastoral activities that accompany the development of such structures.

3.    Going the resort route? Stick to eco-resorts.

Normal resorts and tea houses burn wood to heat hot waters and to shower – which only speeds deforestation. Ones with a more ecological bent burn gas, biogas, biochar (basically eco-friendly charcoal made from waste materials), or eschew fuel altogether, relying on solar heaters and cookstoves, thus reducing the need for wood.

4.    Stick to established, permanent camp sites.

You know what happens when everyone picks their own little patch of forest to camp in?  Chaos. Deforestation, litter, and general squalor tend to follow, and animals tend to move further away from their noisy human kin. Given the volume of visitors (and how many frequent the same areas), picking your own patch increases the negative impact of human encroachment on the area – sticking to established camps reduces it.

5.    Don’t do drugs.

At the risk of sounding like a public service announcement, the Himalayas have enough problems without the encroachment of “drug tourists” a trade which often leads to crime, deforestation and other social ills. Seriously, leave the habit at home.

6.    Don’t take Nature mementoes.

Leave the flora and fauna where they are, and don’t treat the trail like your own waste basket, and carry out any and all garbage that can’t be safely disposed of at campsite.

7.    Volunteer.

There are a number of organizations committed to "development through tourism" allowing the local communities to directly benefit from tourism activities. Consider volunteering with one of them.

8.    Stick to the beaten path. 

As tempting as it is to go off trail, the Himalayans are an extremely delicate ecosystem and much of the harm is being done by people going off trail.

Did we miss an extremely practical tip? Know a better way to travel sustainably in the Himalayas? Let our readers know.

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