Community Based Adventures in the Indian and Nepalese Himalayas Part 1

If you want to explore the mountains and valleys of the Indian and Nepalese Himalayas, 3 of the 5 local travel operators who form India’s groundbreaking Green Circuit initiative offer the perfect opportunity to do so. This 3 part blog will explore the northern Himalayas of Himachal Pradesh with Spiti Ecosphere (Part 1), the North Eastern regions and the Neora Valley National Park with Help Tourism (Part 2), and Nepal’s Tamang heritage trail with Social Tours (Part 3).

Part 1 – Exploring the Spiti Valley with Ecosphere

Spiti Ecosphere is an endeavour to promote community-based ecotourism in the Spiti valley, a stunning high altitude desert region tucked away in the Trans-Himalayan belt of Himachal Pradesh. A passion for conservation, mountain travel and adventure brought together a collaboration of local community members and professionals from diverse backgrounds to offer a range of trekking, mountaineering, biking, rafting, cultural and spiritual adventures in this beautiful and remote corner of the Himalayas.

Spiti – “the middle land” – between India and Tibet is one of the least populated regions of India. Breathtaking mountain scenery and a fascinating history and culture make this relatively unknown destination very appealing to the adventure traveller. Described by Rudyard Kipling as ‘a world within a world’, Spiti is home to a Buddhist Society of just over 10,000, who bear stark cultural similarities with their neighbours in Tibet and Ladakh.

Ecosphere offer visitors the opportunity to experience the true essence of trekking by traversing through remote, pristine and forgotten trails. Passes in and out of Spiti provide a strategic access to neighbouring areas of Ladakh, Kinnaur, Kullu and Lahaul. Some well-known treks are the Pin-Parbati, Parang-La and the Pin-Bhaba. You can also head out on multi-day mountain biking excursions deep into the Himalayan backcountry.

Their trademark trip for the less active traveller is the Spiti Kaleidescope, a jeep safari which takes you up and over the majestic Rohtang and Kunzum passes and through the stunning and graphic valleys of the Chandra, Spiti, Pin rivers. The safari then climbs up to the highest villages in the world to experience Spitian culture through traditional homestays and visits to ancient monasteries that are the cultural and spiritual hubs of the Spitian way of life.

The aim of the not-for-profit initiative is to develop unique, authentic and reliable tourism products and activities and link them to community livelihoods. This not only provides the residents of the Spiti Valley with a sustainable source of income but also serves as an incentive to conserve their unique natural & cultural heritage and environment. 90% of permanent staff are local to the Spiti Valley, and the revenues are all ploughed back towards the local Spiti community, either to service providers, or for conservation activities, welfare and development of the region.

All trips are also carbon neutral thanks to their investments in in-house renewable energy projects such as solar passive housing, green houses, setting up of solar cookers and solar lighting. Ecosphere has also been conducting volunteer travel in the region with an attempt to directly link travel development and conservation, and volunteers can contribute to the construction of these renewable energy projects. As well as tourism, Ecosphere are also turning to the indigenous production of organic and health products to stimulate the sustainable development of the entire region.