This Travel Company Is Merging Responsible And Immersive Travel High Up In The Himalayas

Whether it’s making local wine in a Sikkimese village homestay, learning about locally sourced Pashmina weaving at a Ladakhi women-led workshop or exploring Garhwali culture and cuisine in remote hamlets of Uttarakhand - Eka Experiences is ensuring your travels are more fulfilling, meaningful and authentic
This Travel Company Is Merging Responsible And Immersive Travel High Up In The Himalayas

This Travel Company Is Merging Responsible And Immersive Travel High Up In The Himalayas

“One of our favourite trips is visiting the remote frontier villages of Kishanganga valley in the Gurez region of North Kashmir. The spectacular region is one of the last remaining sanctuaries of the Dard-Shin tribe, which has a distinct cultural identity similar to the people of Gilgit Baltistan across the LoC. The region’s unique cultural heritage and unspoiled and hidden natural beauty make it a truly enchanting journey,” shares Abhirup Paul, delineating the minor details of their border tours. “Then there is the stunning Kupwara side of Kashmir, where a scenic road trip takes you over the high but less-frequented Sadhna Pass to the isolated Keran valley. The highlight of this area is that the Neelum River demarcates a natural border, and visitors get to reach a point where they can wave to the Pakistani tourists just across from the other bank. This is the closest you can get to see the villages and hotels on the other side,” he smiles and adds.
Tarsar Marsar trail in Kashmir
Tarsar Marsar trail in Kashmir
Abhirup Paul’s words are measured yet true. He had just returned from an Everest Base Camp trek when we found a few quiet minutes to talk about Eka Experiences, an experiential travel initiative he started in 2020. Born in Tripura, he had moved around a bit after college before discovering a love for trekking that took him across the grandest Himalayan trails. Today, his company crafts travel experiences in some of the lesser-known hamlets of the region.
A traditional Kashmiri homestay
A traditional Kashmiri homestay
In the age of Instagram, with no destination truly ‘offbeat anymore’, experiential travel has come to the fore. Beyond the ordinary, travellers look for bespoke itineraries with immersive local experiences and prioritise less-touristy, offbeat alternatives to famous places. However, with overtourism becoming a stark (and inevitable) reality for many destinations, responsible travel is the need of the hour. Paul understands it and hopes to offer the perfect cocktail of leisure, culture and impactful experiences with Eka.

Off The Beaten Path: Offering Unique Experiences In The Himalayas

To cater to travellers’ demands for meaningful connections, cultural immersion, and wellness, Eka offers multi-generational trips, responsible tourism practices, and a focus on mindful exploration. Among their cornucopia of travel experiences are tours to explore the lesser-known valleys of North Sikkim (Dzongu - the reserve of the Lepchas) and North Kashmir - from the idyllic natural settings of Lolab valley to the mysterious storied Kalaroos caves to the surreal meadows of Bangus.
Eka Experiences ensures you partake in local cultural activities when visiting a lesser-known destination
Eka Experiences ensures you partake in local cultural activities when visiting a lesser-known destination
Paul’s heart is in the Himalayas, and he approaches the terrain from all sides. “On the country's eastern front, we travel all the way to the Indo-Tibet border in Arunachal’s Dong Valley, where we also chase the First Sunrise of India on a thrilling night hike through the forests. The Siyom and Siang valleys along the northern frontiers of Arunachal are also some of the most beautiful places we cover.” And suppose adrenaline is the drug of your choice. In that case, there are guided high-altitude adventure trails, such as discovering the Ladakhi Changpa nomadic settlements along the Pashmina trail Changthang plateau, alpine lakes of Patalwan, Budgam and Ganderbal in Kashmir, traversing the world-famous Everest region till the base camp, venturing into the remote Manaslu mountain circuit close to Nepal-Tibet border and hiking through the pristine forests of Singalila and Kanchenjunga National Parks in Sikkim among others.
Experiencing the Hemis Teschu Monastery festival in Ladakh
Experiencing the Hemis Teschu Monastery festival in Ladakh

Giving Back To The Communities

Striking a balance between responsible tourism and immersive travel can be a delicate tightrope walk. While immersing yourself in a local culture offers unparalleled experiences, it can inadvertently strain resources or disrupt traditions. Responsible tourism practices like using local guides and opting for homestays benefit communities, but increased tourist foot traffic can overwhelm fragile ecosystems and lead to cultural homogenisation. The key lies in fostering meaningful connections while remaining mindful of the impact on the places and people we visit.
A Nomadic hut in Rupshu Valley
A Nomadic hut in Rupshu Valley
At Eka, Paul is working to balance their tourist-centric approach with the right amount of community-focused approach. “We practise the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles, especially when conducting trekking experiences or non-motorized recreations in the remote outdoors in the Himalayas. We make sure our guests are aware of the specific natural environment that they are about to visit, are mindful of any local destination-related regulations or tourism guidelines (for example, photography, cultural sensitisation, plastic usage, garbage & waste disposal, wildlife interactions, respecting locals etc) and consciously adhere to the tenets of responsible travel,” he shares.
Local homestay in Sikkim with a pawsome buddy
Local homestay in Sikkim with a pawsome buddy
Eka’s curated tours offer a way to engage with faraway communities and indigenous groups while ensuring they benefit from this cultural exchange. Working with locals and employing them at every touchpoint in a destination is critical to crafting an authentic experience. And they hope to do this for unexplored and neglected destinations in the Himalayas in a sustainable, controlled manner to uphold local culture and traditions.
“We want to continue promoting and advocating for responsible travel while working closely with local communities in remote and less accessible places. And, of course, we want to grow with this expanding niche market (experiential travel and adventure tourism). Still, we would like to do it very slowly and at a pace where it's possible to maintain the exact quality standards, where our first customers can still identify who we are, and where we can keep our original ethos, values and beliefs intact,” adds Abhirup.
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