30 Hearty Facts about the Himalayas, the “Roof of the World”

Known for their awe-inspiring beauty, mind-blowing size, and unparalleled grandeur, the Himalayas have captivated the imagination of explorers, mountaineers, and nature enthusiasts for centuries.

With their breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and ecological significance, they stand as a testament to the power and beauty of nature.

Below, I uncover 30 fascinating facts about the world’s tallest mountain chain.

1. Often referred to as the “Roof of the World,” the Himalayas are a mountain range situated in Asia. The Himalayas spans five different countries. Those countries are India, Nepal, China, Bhutan, and Pakistan. (Note: the Tibetan Plateau is also often called the Roof of the World.)

2. The Himalayas are home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Sagarmatha National Park (home to Mount Everest) in Nepal and the Valley of Flowers National Park in India.

Expansive image of Mount Everest with some thin clouds in front of it.
Mount Everest is the most famous mountain in the Himalayas

3. According to Hindu mythology, the Himalayas were created by Lord Shiva to provide a tranquil abode for meditation and spiritual enlightenment. Besides Hindus, Buddhists and followers of the Bon religion in Tibet see the Himalayas as sacred.

4. The Himalaya mountain chain takes it name from the Sanskrit word “Himalaya”. In Sanskrit, Hima means snow and Alaya means abode. Therefore, this mountain range is essentially called the ‘home of snow’.

5. The Himalayas can be divided into three major subranges. These ranges are the Great Himalayas, the Lesser Himalayas, and the Outer Himalayas (also known as the Shivalik Hills).

6. The Himalayas contain 9 of the world’s 10 tallest mountains. This includes Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth, standing at a staggering 8,849 meters (29,032 feet). Mt. Everest is on the border between Tibet (China) and Nepal.

7. The second-highest mountain in the Himalayas is K2, and the only one in the top-10 that is NOT in the Himalayas. It is in a nearby range called the Karakoram in Pakistan. which has an elevation of 8,611 meters (28,251 feet). That makes it 238 meters (781 feet) shorter than Mount Everest.

A yellow tent in the foreground and towering mountain peaks covered in snow in the background
A climber’s tent below K2 in Pakistan

8. There are more than 100 peaks in the Himalayas that are at least 7,200 meters (23,622 feet) above sea level. The Himalayas cover a total area of approximately 229,731 square miles (595,000 square kilometers). That makes the region 4 times bigger than the United Kingdom.

9. The Himalayas isn’t the largest mountain range. By total area, the Himalayas is almost three times smaller than the Andes in South America. The Himalayas is 1,600 miles (2,600 kilometers) long and 220 miles (350 kilometers) wide. The Andes are 4,300 miles (7,000 kilometers) long and 310 miles (500 kilometers) wide.

10. The formation of the Himalayas is a result of the ongoing collision between the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. This tectonic convergence continues to push up the mountains, causing earthquakes and shaping the landscape.

11. The Himalayas are not only the tallest but also the youngest mountains in the world. They were formed about 40 million years ago, which makes them half the age of the Rocky Mountains. Because they are relatively young, they haven’t had time to be eroded and become shorter yet.

12. The magnetic field around the Himalayas is known to affect compasses. This often leads to navigational challenges for travelers and adventurers.

The shore of a lake with super clear blue water and tall mountains in the distance behind it
Pristine Pangong Tso

13. The Himalayas are adorned with countless glacial lakes. One of the most famous is the pristine Pangong Lake (Pangong Tso) in Ladakh, India. This lake is best known for its mesmerizing changing hues.

14. The Himalayan glaciers are receding at an alarming rate due to climate change. This has led to concerns over water scarcity and environmental impacts in the region. 

15. The Himalayas are the birthplace of several major rivers, including the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, and Mekong. These rivers flow through the mountain valleys, nourishing the fertile plains and support approximately 2 billion people.

16. This mountain range acts as a natural barrier. It shields the Indian subcontinent from the harsh cold winds of Central Asia.

17. The Himalayas witness some of the highest annual snowfall totals on Earth. Depending on the month, cities around the Himalayas can experience anywhere from 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) to 24 inches (60 centimeters) of snow. The snow at the top of Mount Everest is believed to be up to 9.5 meters (31.1 feet) thick.

A flowing river with tall mountains behind and cloudy sky above
A river flows down from the Himalayas in Kashmir

18. The steep slopes and heavy snowfall in the Himalayas make the region prone to avalanches and landslides. In 2015, an earthquake in Nepal triggered an avalanche at Everest Base Camp that killed 22 people.

19. This mountain range encompasses a wide range of climate zones, from subtropical in the foothills to alpine and arctic conditions at higher elevations. This variation in climate contributes to the region’s diverse flora and fauna.

20. The Himalayan region is one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, home to a wide range of plant and animal species. These include the elusive snow leopard and the endangered Bengal tiger. Plant species found in the Himalayas include medicinal herbs, rhododendrons, orchids, and the famous Himalayan blue poppy.

21. Due to its remoteness and sheer size, new species are regularly found in the Himalayas. Between 2010 and 2015, more than 100 new species of plants, 26 species of fish, 10 amphibians, and one new mammal have been discovered in the Eastern Himalayas.

22. The Himalayas are home to numerous national parks and wildlife reserves. National parks such as Jim Corbett National Park in India offer some of the best opportunities to spot rare wildlife species.

A snow leopard walking in the snow, with a poofy tail
The snow leopard is a famous Himalayan resident

23. The Himalayan region is dotted with natural hot springs renowned for their therapeutic properties. These hot springs are popular with tourists looking for a relaxing and rejuvenating experience.

24. The serene environment of the Himalayas makes it an ideal setting for wellness retreats and yoga programs. Retreat centers and ashrams offer a chance to rejuvenate the mind, body, and soul.

25. The cities in and around the Himalayas host vibrant and colorful festivals that provide a glimpse into the region’s cultural heritage. Festivals like Diwali, Holi, Dashain, and Losar are celebrated every year by thousands of pilgrims and tourists.

26. The Himalayas attract thousands of mountaineers and climbers every year who seek to conquer its challenging peaks. In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first confirmed adventurers to reach the peak of Mount Everest.

27. The Himalayas also offer a plethora of other adventure activities, such as, skiing, paragliding, river rafting, and wildlife safaris. In 2000, Slovenian mountaineer Davo Karničar became the first person to ski down Mount Everest from its summit to base camp. He descended nearly 4,000 meters (13,000 feet). 

Remains of an upside down crashed helicopter with Himalayan peaks behind
A helicopter crash near Everest Base Camp in Nepal

28. An English mountaineer who made several expeditions to Everest in the 1920s is George Mallory. Mallory’s disappearance on the mountain in 1924 has sparked intrigue and fascination for decades. George Mallory’s body was found in 1999.

29. One of the most famous figures connected to the Himalayas is the 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet. He has lived in Dharamshala in the Indian Himalayas ever since he fled his homeland in 1959, after the Chinese invaded it.

30. The Himalayas have been the focus of many films. Examples of popular movies the Himalayas have featured in include “Seven Years In Tibet” (1997), “Himalaya” (1999), “The Wildest Dream” (2010), and “Everest” (2015). 

31. There have also been lots of documentaries made about the Himalayas. These include “Mountains of the Gods” (2003), “Himalaya with Michael Palin” (2004), “Sherpa” (2015), “The Himalayas” (2019), and “14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible” (2021).