Few people have asked this question to me. Should we travel all the way to Europe or New Zealand and spend huge amount of money to see those beautiful scenery or can we just visit Himalayas in our backyard? I have been to Himalayas few times and I have done some decent treks like Kashmir Great Lakes, Kailash Parikrama, Annapurna circuit and Everest Base camp. My visit to alps is limited to few days and so is to southern alps (New Zealand). The views I represent is based on the experience that I have from these visits from an Indian perspective.
Himalyas (including Karakoram range) is the mountain range from Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh with a length of 2400 km and width of about 150-350 km. It is one of the youngest mountain range formed by subduction of Indian subcontinent into Asia. It covers the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
Himalyas are simply huge in size. The highest 14 mountains above 8,000 meters are in Himalayas. You get a real feel of those massive mountains when you trek in the areas of Mount Everest and Annapurna in Nepal. It just cannot be compared to anything else on earth. Compared to that the highest mountain in Europe stands at 4,810 meters. In Himalayas, there are highways constructed above that altitude!!
Each place has it own charm but some of the views like the twin lakes of Vishusar and Kishansar seen while climbing Gadsar or the view of Gangabal and Nundkol from the top of Zach pass is simply unbeatable. The high altitude lakes of Ladakh and Spiti look straight from heaven. If you are looking at scenery, Himalyas is the place to go.
Many places in Himalyas are so remote which are untouched by civilization. It is hard to find such long stretch of remote places in Alps.
Nothing can beat Himalyas if you are looking at adventurous thing like trekking or mountaineering. Number of places are innumerable and Himalayas is the place to feel the “joy” of altitude!!
This is the single big issue in Himalayas. The hill stations like Manali, Darjeeling and others are so commercialised and are developed without keeping environment in mind. Hydro electric projects are constructed everywhere, politicians are hell bent to ensure that the Ganga river should only flow in tunnels between Gangothri and Hrisikesh. Destruction is seen everywhere.
During season, all hill stations of Himalayas attract huge number of people. It is always chaotic and traffic jams are frequent. This takes away the joy of vacation.
As I write, Himalyas are growing by 5mm per year as Indian plate is still hitting Asian plate. Hence, Himalyas are very sensitive. Landslides are very common and are increasing due to the construction activities.
The European Alps cover parts of France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Austria, Monaco, Liechtenstein and Slovenia.
Ease of reach
This is where Alps take advantage over Himalayas. For example, to see a glacier in Himalayas, you either need to trek for several days or travel to Ladakh and drive a long distance over bad roads. In Switzerland, all one need to do is to take a mountain train or cable car!!
While tourist facilities are very developed in Alps, care is taken to ensure that the environment is not spoilt. Private vehicles are barred from entering many mountain towns. They are only accessible visa trains or cable cars. Public transport is extremely developed. Less traffic jams and crowds are better managed.
I need not explain!! But even in Himalayas, things are cleaner if you get out of regular tourist and religious places.
If you are a skiing enthusiast, then options for Skiing is more in Alps. In India, it is limited to few places like Gulmarg in Kashmir, Kufri in Himachal and Auli (which itself is an adventure to reach!!) in Uttarakhand.
Negative (From Indian point of view)
Extremely expensive. It costs a lot to travel in Europe and this is in addition to flight charges. One has to arrange for visas which is quite an hassle. Only few people could afford the cost.
My final words
It is hard to say and depends on perspective. But in general, if you can afford the cost, want to experience “clean” environment and you are a person who prefers comfort over walking long distances, then you should visit Alps. But if you have trekked in the higher reaches of Himalyas which are still pristine, then I would say that you have not missed anything by not visiting Alps!! Alps cannot provide the “Himalayan experience”. But for me the real Himalayas is outside the traditional hill stations and religious towns.