The Himalayas, or Himalaya (/ˌhɪməˈleɪə, hɪˈmɑːləjə/), (Sanskrit: himá (हिम, “snow”) and ā-laya (आलय, “abode, receptacle, dwelling”)), is a mountain range in Asia separating the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. The range has many of Earth‘s highest peaks, including the highest, Mount Everest (Nepal/China). The Himalayas include over fifty mountains exceeding 7,200 m (23,600 ft) in elevation, including ten of the fourteen 8,000-metre peaks. By contrast, the highest peak outside Asia (Aconcagua, in the Andes) is 6,961 m (22,838 ft) tall.
Lifted by the subduction of the Indian tectonic plate under the Eurasian Plate, the Himalayan mountain range runs west-northwest to east-southeast in an arc 2,400 km (1,500 mi) long. Its western anchor, Nanga Parbat, lies just south of the northernmost bend of the Indus river. Its eastern anchor, Namcha Barwa, is just west of the great bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo River (upper stream of the Brahmaputra River). The Himalayan range is bordered on the northwest by the Karakoram and the Hindu Kush ranges. To the north, the chain is separated from the Tibetan Plateau by a 50–60 km (31–37 mi) wide tectonic valley called the Indus-Tsangpo Suture. Towards the south the arc of the Himalaya is ringed by the very low Indo-Gangetic Plain. The range varies in width from 350 km (220 mi) in the west (Pakistan) to 150 km (93 mi) in the east (Arunachal Pradesh).
The Himalayas are inhabited by 52.7 million people, and are spread across five countries: Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan. The Hindu Kush range in Afghanistan and Hkakabo Razi in Myanmar are normally not included, but they are both (with the addition of Bangladesh) part of the greater Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) river system.[
The Himalayas consist of parallel mountain ranges: the Sivalik Hills on the south; the Lower Himalayan Range; the Great Himalayas, which is the highest and central range; and the Tibetan Himalayas on the north. The Karakoram are generally considered separate from the Himalayas.
In the middle of the great curve of the Himalayan mountains lie the 8,000 m (26,000 ft) peaks of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna in Nepal, separated by the Kali Gandaki Gorge. The gorge splits the Himalayas into Western and Eastern sections both ecologically and orographically – the pass at the head of the Kali Gandaki the Kora La is the lowest point on the ridgeline between Everest and K2 (the highest peak of the Karakoram range and of Pakistan). To the east of Annapurna are the 8,000 m (5.0 mi) peaks of Manaslu and across the border in Tibet, Shishapangma. To the south of these lies Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal and the largest city in the Himalayas. East of the Kathmandu Valley lies valley of the Bhote/Sun Kosi river which rises in Tibet and provides the main overland route between Nepal and China – the Araniko Highway/China National Highway 318. Further east is the Mahalangur Himal with four of the world’s six highest mountains, including the highest: Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu. The Khumbu region, popular for trekking, is found here on the south-western approaches to Everest. The Arun river drains the northern slopes of these mountains, before turning south and flowing to the range to the east of Makalu.
In the far east of Nepal, the Himalayas rise to the Kanchenjunga massif on the border with India, the third highest mountain in the world, the most easterly 8,000 m (26,000 ft) summit and the highest point of India. The eastern side of Kanchenjunga is in the Indian state of Sikkim. Formerly an independent Kingdom, it lies on the main route from India to Lhasa, Tibet, which passes over the Nathu La pass into the Tibet. East of Sikkim lies the ancient Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan. The highest mountain in Bhutan is Gangkhar Puensum, which is also a strong candidate for the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. The Himalayas here are becoming increasingly rugged with heavily forested steep valleys. The Himalayas continue, turning slightly northeast, through the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh as well as Tibet, before reaching their easterly conclusion in the peak of Namche Barwa, situated in Tibet inside the great bend of the Yarlang Tsangpo river. On the other side of the Tsangpo, to the east, are the Kangri Garpo mountains. The high mountains to the north of the Tsangpo including Gyala Peri, however, are also sometimes also included in the Himalayas.
Going west from Dhaulagiri, Western Nepal is somewhat remote and lacks major high mountains, but is home to Rara Lake, the largest lake in Nepal. The Karnali River rises in Tibet but cuts through the center of the region. Further west, the border with India follows the Sarda River and provides a trade route into China, where on the Tibetan plateau lies the high peak of Gurla Mandhata. Just across Lake Manasarovar from this lies the sacred Mount Kailash, which stands close to the source of the four main rivers of Himalayas and is revered in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, Jainism, and Bonpo. In the newly created Indian state of Uttarkhand, the Himalayas rise again as the Kumaon Himalayas with the high peaks of Nanda Devi and Kamet. The state is also an important pilgrimage destination, with the source of the Ganges at Gangotri and the Yamuna at Yamunotri, and the temples at Badrinath and Kedarnath.