Indian Himalaya

Students on the Indian Himalaya study abroad course through the University of Montana

The Indian Himalaya Field Course is an exciting study abroad opportunity, exploring the wonders of the Indian subcontinent and local mountain cultures. The program will introduce students to the Garhwal region of the Indian Himalaya located in the northern state of Uttarakhand.

The Garhwal region is known as the abode of the gods, a holy place containing some of the most sacred sites in India. One of these sites, Nanda Devi, is the second highest mountain in India at over 25,600 feet and is worshiped throughout the region as the physical incarnation of the goddess Parbati. Nanda Devi is the centerpiece of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, a United Nations World Heritage Site for its extensive biodiversity and one of the last great wilderness areas in the Himalaya.

We will spend most of our time trekking and living in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve experiencing the area’s unique physical and cultural landscapes. Students will learn through extensive readings, class discussions, direct field experience (including living in a remote mountain village), meetings with development officials, sustainability activists and stakeholders in the region.

Students will earn their six (6) credits by taking two complementary courses:

Himalayan Environment and Development: RSCN 352 (3 cr.) 

This course covers the contentious issues surrounding environment and development in the Himalaya using the Garhwal region of India as the model for larger issues in this region. The Garhwal Himalaya contains some of India's most sacred sites, highest mountains and is widely known for its biodiversity. The region is also experiencing rapid economic development, particularly in the tourism and energy sectors.

After familiarizing ourselves with the unique physical and cultural geography of mountain regions, we will explore conservation and development issues affecting the Himalaya from the global to the local.

Tourism, Livelihoods and Sustainability in the Himalaya PTRM 353 (3 cr.)

The Garhwal Himalaya of India is fascinating because it draws large numbers of adventure tourists, eco-tourists, religious tourists and sightseers. These tourists are attracted to the natural landscape features of this region and they visit the parks, protected areas and religious sites in the millions. As such, tourism is a major driver of development in the Garhwal and the impacts, economic, cultural and environmental are many. At the same time, local people are still practicing traditional livelihood activities (such as transhumant pastoralism and the collection of non-timber forest products) that are being transformed by tourism and development.

In this course we will explore the opportunities and challenges of conservation and development with particular reference to nature-based tourism and sustainability in an isolated but rapidly globalizing region of the Himalaya.

We will cover issues of livelihoods and sustainable development in the Himalaya and explore the complex interactions between natural resources, local people, NGO’s, government agencies, tourism providers, resource managers and tourists. We will focus our discussions on livelihoods, livelihood change and nature-based tourism in the context of sustainable development.

About the Instructors

Keith Bosak is trained as a geographer, specializing in human-environment interactions and more specifically, on issues of conservation and development, including sustainable development and ecotourism. He has been traveling to the Himalaya since 1994 and conducted his Master's and PhD research in the region.

Laura Caplins is the executive director of the Nature-Link Institute. Laura earned her Master's degree in Recreation Administration from Georgia Southern University. Since 2005, Laura has been traveling to the Garhwal Himalaya to lead courses, conduct research and assist with development projects.

Registration information

The program cost is $4,390, which includes:

  • tuition for 6 upper-division credits (with out-of-state students paying the same as in-state students), and
  • a program fee (which covers all accommodations, all meals, all in-country transportation, emergency and international health insurance, trekking guides and porters).

Airfare is not included, but an optional group airfare will be available to New Delhi. Students will need to obtain, at their own expense, a visa for India. The deadline for applications is TBA.

Apply now to study in India 

NRSM 352 Himalayan Environment and Development (3 cr.)
PTRM 353 Tourism, Livelihoods and Sustainability in the Himalaya  (3 cr.)

Deadline to apply: TBA

Dates: TBA

Interested students, contact