Uttarakhand. Dev Bhoomi. The Land of Gods. This little corner of the enigma that is India exudes an enticing sense of spirituality and placidity from its every crevice. A spectacularly idyllic terrain smothered by some of the holiest mountains, lakes and rivers, Uttarakhand is found to be especially bountiful for those seeking hiking adventures, spiritual clarity, serene holidays and fascinating wildlife. Be it the pilgrim city of Hardwar graced by the holy Ganges, the Hem Kund trek to the soul-touching Valley of Flowers or the infamous Corbett Tiger Reserve, the stars of which converted legendary British hunter, Jim Corbett, into a prominent conservationist, the allure here is impressively expansive.
Uttarakhand is home to countless pilgrimage sites that have been used as the setting for a lot of Hindu epics, the stories of which seem imbibed in this land giving it a sense of undeniable surrealism. The colonial-era tinged Almora with its beautiful valley treks, the vividly painted Badrinath Temple snuggled in the shadow of snow-topped Nilkantha, and Rishikesh, a gateway to the holy Himalayas that so shockingly combines meditative dormancy with near-chaotic devotion. There is so much stuffed into this little region that it is bewildering how anything makes sense even much less be as endearing as it is in reality. Uttarakhand treasures a kind of organic serenity which is, albeit not unique by itself, incredibly captivating and add to it the spiritual and religious significance of the place, it becomes truly divine. Pun intended.
Places to visit in Uttarakhand
Kunjapuri Sunrise Trek
Kunjapuri Sunrise Trek
Dedicated to Goddess Shakti, the Kunjapuri temple is considered very auspicious locally and is at an altitude of 1650m. From the top you get to enjoy amazing panoramic views of the magnificent Himalayan range and the mystical Ganga. Trek through villages, local homes farms ending up at the Neer Gaddu waterfall where you can cool down under the icy clean showers!
This temple is ancient and fascinatingly reminiscent of those structures you would see only in history books. Cooped up in its own seclusion, it is a coveted point of tourist interest full of brilliant architecture and picturesque locations. Carved into the beautiful Soar Valley this region offers superb views of the misty Himalayas.
Neelkanth Mahadev Temple
Situated on a hill at a height of 1330m and lying adjacent to the Nar-Narayan mountain range, this temple and its surroundings offer a gloriously aesthetic image. The devotion radiating from each pilgrim here to Lord Shiva is only met by the admiration for the incredible sights that are found in abundance here; a true tourism haven.
Naina Peak Trek
Trek to Naina Peak
A fairly long hike through a trail cocooned by vibrant rhododendrons, deodars and cypresses, the peak is a spell binding vantage point of the surrounding views not to mention the beautiful snow-capped mountains. Known for its variety of birdlife, you also get to enjoy the chirps and fluttering of countless beautiful species that call this forest their home.
12 Hours Across Uttarakhand
• 10 AM – Ropeway to Snow View Point
One of Nainital’s prominent factors of allure, the cable car is an opportunity not to be forsaken. It provides an irreplaceable offer of catching a bird’s eye view of the breath-taking Naini Lake and the entire Nainital hill station. A treat for the senses, relax as you glide across the air over such pristine landscapes.
• 11 AM – Rock Climbing
Grapple up rocky stretches under the supervision of an expert to enjoy the spikes of adrenaline as you climb ever higher showcasing your newly acquired rock climbing skills! Both the young and the young at heart find joy here in pushing their body and mind in a test of both skill and endurance.
• 12 PM –Hiking the Man-eater of Mohan Trail
This trek through the beautiful reserves of the Corbett National Park takes you through the trail once taken by Corbett himself in his hunt for the man-eater of Mohan, immortalised in his best-seller, ‘Man-eaters of Kumaon’. Winding past forests brimming with sal and ficus, apart from the big cats and wild elephants, you get to glimpse woodpeckers, hornbill and the like.
• 1 PM – Picnic by the Waterfall
Pull up a bit of rock and grass as you settle down for a rejuvenating lunch amidst the cascading waters of the waterfalls in Mukteshwar. Complete with the open valley views and unmatchable serenity, this will come as a welcome break from the unending buzz which is the chaotic city life.
• 2 PM – Planetarium Visit
Drop in for a spot of the stargazing at the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences for an otherworldly experience. Lose yourself in the stars and beyond as you delve deep into the majestic unknown of the universe and its underlying mysteries.
• 3 PM – White water rafting
The holy Ganges apart from being the living Mother Goddess of India, is also acclaimed to be a one-way ticket to zen. This legendary river though has another side to it that will make the adventurer in you shed tears of joy. Embark on a high octane rollercoaster through the adrenaline raising grade 3 rapids of this river as you power along in your raft braving the turbulent waters for the ride of a lifetime.
• 4 PM – Paragliding in Bhimtal
There are seldom few in this world who are not envious of the birds when they soar through the endless skies basking in their untampered freedom. For the rest, paragliding offers a temporary dreamscape of gliding along with these envied beings, hovering above the tree tops over mind-numbing views of the mountains and the beautiful valley.
• 5 PM – Sunset from Hanuman Garhi Temple
A famous temple in the honour of Lord Hanuman, who is a much celebrated image of unwavering devotion himself, being one of the greatest worshippers of Lord Ram. Perched at an altitude of 6400ft above sea level, the whole case of divinity is multiplied by the sun making its gorgeous descent beyond the mountains silhouetting the statue of Hanuman, its palm open in blessing.
Best time to visit Uttarakhand
A year round destination, Uttarakhand has something for everyone all through the season.
March – April: Spring – Bright blue skies, green and yellow fields that look like scenes out of Bollywood songs with 20 C daytime temperatures that could dip as the day gets older.
May – June: Summer – The big tourist season in the state, especially in Nainital and Mussoorie. Temperatures can get as high as 38 C in the lower reaches.
July – August: Monsoons – Expect rained out days and slushy sidewalks. Although lush green landscape around makes the region spectacular, there is the odd landslide and flood reported every other year.
September – November: Post the monsoons, just before winter sets in, the weather is pleasant and, more importantly, tourist crowd thins out. Festivities in October make it a good month to visit.
November – February: Winter – Heavy snowfall and lovely skiing slopes make Auli winter destinations of choice. Temperatures dip down to zero and highs remain in the low teens.
Things to carry
Pack as light as possible given the amount of road travel involved here.
• Cotton clothing for summer and a light jacket would work for when evenings get cooler. If you’re un[travel]ling in winter, warmer clothes complete with thick socks and warmer jackets. Carry your windcheater and umbrella if you’re here in the monsoons as well.
• Sturdy walking shoes, mandatory if you’re hiking, make sense given the amount of walking involved here.
• Sunscreen, especially if you’re going up to the higher reaches. Usual prescription medications.
• Mobile and tablet electronic chargers.
Best places to stay in Uttarakhand
• Aloha on the Ganges, Rishikesh
• Two Chimneys, Gethia
• Tanhau, Corbett
• Misty Mountains, Jhaltola
• Grand Oak Manor, Binsar