Northern Mountains of India

Northern Mountains of India

Northern Mountains of India: India has a variety of landforms harnessed by nature. Around 57% of the land surface is covered with highlands like mountains, hills and plateau. Mountains have a great influence over the Indian territory. The whole region of the country is shielded by mountains. Among the mountainous regions, the northern mountains of India occupy a vast land surface with great influences on the population over many ages. Here is a detailed discussion on the ‘Northern Mountains of India’ for competitive exams like SSC, NTPC, State PSC, UPSC etc. There is a ‘Northern Mountains of India Map’ for reference.


The Northern Mountains of India are the highest continental mountains in the world. These mountain ranges have not only separated the Indian plains from the Tibetan plateau but also protects them from the Siberian freezing cold waves. This mountainous region is mostly occupied by the Himalayas and in the rest parts by the Karakoram Mountain ranges.

Northern Mountains of India Map

Northern Mountains of India Map
Northern Mountains of India Map

Himalayas: The Himalayas mountain ranges are the highest, the youngest and the most active continental mountain ranges are spanned over five countries: India, Bhutan, Nepal, China, Pakistan from Hindukush and Karakoram ranges and the Indus river to the Bramhaputra river in the south-east. The Himalayas has a crescent shape with a southward convexity.

History of Formation: About 200 million years ago, the supercontinent Pangea started to break and the Indian region began to move towards Asia. About 80 million years ago, the Indian region was 6,400 km away from the Asian continent with a northward drift at a rate of 9-16cm per year. Later, the rate of drifting slowed down to around 4-6cm per year. This slowdown can be interpreted as the beginning of collision between the Eurasian continental plate and the Indo-Australian continental plate; which closed the former Tethys Ocean and initiated the Himalayan uplift.

The Himalayas is still growing at the rate of 5-7 mm every year, approximately. Due to the growth, this region is a high earthquake and landslide-prone area. The Himalayas is made of metamorphosed sedimentary rocks, which includes quartzite, marble, slate, phyllite, schist and gneiss.


Physiographic Division of India:

The Himalayas are divided into four parallel mountain ranges:

  • Trans Himalayas
  • Greater Himalayas
  • Lesser Himalayas
  • Shivalik


Trans Himalayas:

This mountain range is located to the north of the Indus and Yarling Tsangpo rivers on the southern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. This range was first uplifted from the Tethys Geosyncline about 65 million years ago. It is the north-most range of the Himalayas spanned over 1,600km in the length and 40 km in the width extending parallelly in a west-to-east direction to the Greater Himalayan Mountain ranges in India, Tibet and PoK (Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir). There are four ranges:

  • Karakoram
  • Ladakh
  • Kailash
  • Zaskar

Karakoram Range: Karakoram mountain range is also known as Krishnagiri (Black Gravel) range. It is located in the northernmost part of the Trans Himalayas distributed in 5 countries: Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and China. This mountain range is spanned over 500 km by length from the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan in the west through Gilgit-Baltistan (PoK) and Ladakh (India) to the Aksai Chin (disputed part between India and China) in the east. It is bounded by the Pamir knot in the north and separated from the Himalayas by the Indus and Shylock rivers from the Greater Himalayas. The Karakoram contains the heaviest glaciers in the world after the polar regions. Siachen (78 km long) glacier of Ladakh and Biafo (Gilgit-Baltistan) glaciers are the world’s 2nd and 3rd longest glaciers resides in this region. The Karakoram is the 2nd highest mountain range after the Greater Himalayas. K2 (King of Karakoram (8,611m)) is the highest peak of this mountain range.

Note: Fedechenko glacier of Tajikistan is the longest glacier in the world.


Ladakh Range: Ladakh range is considered the southern extension of the Karakoram Range. This mountain range is located between the Indus and Shylock river in central Ladakh extended to 370km. The average height of the Ladakh range is about 6,000m.


Kailash Range: This mountain range is the extension of the Ladakh Range to the south. This 30km wide range is situated in western Tibet. The average elevation of this region is 5,500-6,000m. Mount Kailash (6,714m) is the highest peak of this range.


Zaskar Range: Zaskar range is situated in Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh of India. The average elevation of this part of the Trans Himalayas is around 6,000m. Mount Kamet (7,756m) is the highest peak.


Greater Himalayas:

The Greater Himalayas is the main mountain range of the Himalayas. It is also known as ‘Inner Himalayas’ and ‘Himadri’. It is the most continuous mountain range of the Himalayan Mountain ranges. It is around 25km wide with an average elevation of 6,000m. This zone of the Himalayas has the highest uplifts. Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri, Nanga Parvat, Annapurna, Badrinath etc. are the most famous peaks of this range. Mount Everest (8,848.86 m) is the highest peak of this range. Mount Everest is also known as ‘Sagarmatha’ in Nepal and ‘Chomlungma’ in Tibet.


Note: There are 14 peaks in the world with an elevation of more than 8,000m. They are called the ‘Eight Thousanders’. 10 peaks are in the Greater Himalayas and the rest 4 peaks are in the Karakoram range. Here is the list:


PeaksHeightMountain Range
Everest8848mGreater Himalayas
Khangchendzonga8586mGreater Himalayas
Lhotse8516mGreater Himalayas
Makalu8485mGreater Himalayas
Cho Oyu8201mGreater Himalayas
Dhaulagiri8167mGreater Himalayas
Manaslu8163mGreater Himalayas
Nanga Parvat8126mGreater Himalayas
Annapurna-I8091mGreater Himalayas
Gasherbrum-II (K4)8080mKarakoram
Broad Peak8051mKarakoram
Gasherbrum-I (K5)8034mKarakoram
Shishapangma8027mGreater Himalayas



Lesser Himalayas:

This mountain range is located to the south of the ‘Himadri’. It is also known as Middle Himalayas and ‘Himachal’. This elevated region is 60-80km wide with an average altitude of 3,700-4,500m. The Lesser Himalayas was formed by two major uplifts around 45 million years ago. So, it is the most rugged and youthful range in the Himalayan Mountain ranges. This range is mainly made of limestones, quartzites and volcanic rocks. Pir Panja, Dhauladhar, Mahabharat, Nag Tibba are famous ranges of the Lesser Himalayas. Among these ranges, Pir Panjal, located in Jammu & Kashmir, is the longest range in this zone. Rivers like Ravi, Chenab, Jhelum have formed meanders while flowing through the Pir Panjal mountain range. Besides, Kashmir, Kullu and Kangra are very famous valleys of this region. The valley of Kashmir is situated between the Pir Panjal range and the Zaskar range.



Shivalik is the southernmost mountain range of the Himalayas. Shivalik are also called ‘Churia Hills’ in Nepal. It is spread from Jammu & Kashmir to Assam. In J&K, Shivalik is 45km wide, while it has a width of 8km in Assam. This region is composed of unconsolidated sediments brought down by rivers, sandstones, sand rocks, limestones and clay. Geologically, it is the youngest zone of the Himalayas. There are many ‘Duns’ or longitudinal valleys between the Lesser Himalayas and the Shivalik. Dehra, Kathmandu, Potli, Chumbi are the famous Duns. In Assam, Tista and Raidok rivers have created valleys too.


Some Famous National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries of India situated in the Himalayas:

National Park / Wildlife SanctuaryState
Hemis National ParkJammu & Kashmir
Kishtwar National ParkJammu & Kashmir
Dachigam National ParkJammu & Kashmir
The Great Himalayan National ParkHimachal Pradesh
Pin Valley National ParkHimachal Pradesh
Valley of Flowers National ParkUttarakhand
Gangotri National ParkUttarakhand
Nanda Devi National ParkUttarakhand
Govind Wildlife SanctuaryUttarakhand
Kedarnath Wildlife SanctuaryUttarakhand
Khangchendzonga National ParkSikkim
Shingba Rhododendron SanctuarySikkim
Varshey National ParkSikkim
Singalila National ParkWest Bengal
Namdapha National ParkAssam

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