Remote Places: the Nanda Devi Sancturary, India

Travelers have always been drawn to remote places. There is an undeniable lure to visit distant lands seldom seen by others. To trek through beautiful, untouched landscapes that allow us to escape the distractions of modern life, and get in tune with nature.

One such remote destination is the Nanda Devi Sancturary, located deep inside the Garhwal Himalaya of northern India. The lands surrounding the Sanctuary were established as a national park in 1982 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site six years later. The region is nearly 400 square miles of rugged wilderness that is renowned for its mountain meadows lush with wildflowers and diverse wildlife that includes the Asiatic black bear and the elusive, almost mythical, snow leopard. And while the entire park is remote, the Sanctuary itself takes it to an entirely different level.

Surrounded by a ring of mountains, ranging from 19,700 to 24,600 feet in height, it is a serous challenge just to get inside the Sanctuary itself. These incredibly steep and rugged peaks form a wall that is nearly impassable. In fact, they kept out all trespassers until the famous explorers Eric Shipton and H.W. Tillman found their way in through the Rishi Gorge in 1934, ending a fifty year search for an entrance. Once inside, they were greeted with breathtaking views of the Uttari Rishi and Dakkhni Rishi Glaciers, a sight never looked upon by human eyes before.

At the very heart of the Sanctuary is Nanda Devi itself, a twin-peaked mountain whose name means Bliss-Giving Goddess. Renowned for its beauty, legendary mountaineer Willi Unsoeld went so far as to name his daughter after the peak. The 25,643 foot mountain is considered to be one of the jewels of the Himalaya, attracting top climbers from around the globe who come to challenge their skills on the rocky prominence which was first conquered in 1936. While not as high as Everest or K2, Nanda Devi consistently makes the list for favorite mountains amongst climbers.

The Sanctuary is also a popular destination for trekkers who want to explore the unspoiled wilderness of the park. Popular trekking routes run along the same path that Shipton and Tillman took when they explored the region, crossing through deep valleys and mountain passes. Backpackers can spend anywhere from a few days to a few weeks hiking the area, which is held as sacred ground in the Hindu culture, with the central peak representing the patron-goddess of the local state.

When it comes to remote places, there are few as alluring and stunningly beautiful as the Nanda Devi Sanctuary. Visiting the region isn’t for everyone, but for those that do go, it can be a life altering experience.