A popular saying goes, ‘ the world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only one page,’ and we couldn't agree more with the notion. Traveling not only rejuvenates your soul but is also, a visual treat to the eyes. Call it an ‘ephemeral nirvana’ or experiencing new, it sure turns you into a storyteller. So amid vacations and fiery afternoons, what could be a better time to run for the hills (okay, but you got what I meant!). And Uttarakhand is just the right place!
A name that translates to ‘the northern land,’ this place is home to breathtaking landscapes, quintessential beauty, murmuring brooks and serene forests, offering a rare purity and silence which is hard to find anywhere else. But that’s not it; Uttarakhand imbibes in it a variety that seems inviting, a home to all kinds, be it a family or a solo traveler, an adventurer or an enthusiastic explorer.
But if you are one of those people who desire seclusion, away from modernity or already has had endless tours around Uttarakhand’s popular, often crowded tourist spots, it's time for you to lace up your shoes and explore the gorgeous countryside through these exotic locales that are sure to leave you spellbound and mesmerized.
Located in the Kosiyakutoli tehsil of Nainital district, Pangot is a tiny, sleepy(read magical) village about 13 kilometers from its more popular contemporary, Nainital. Ornamented with dense green forests, crystal clear lakes and pristine waterfalls, at 6,300 feet, Pangot is just the place to be, whether you are an adventurer or an amateur hiker.
Several resorts and camps can be found at Pangot, suiting all kinds of pockets. With over 250 bird species including Himalayan Griffon and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker and a variety of flora and fauna, this heavenly hamlet is known for bird watching, providing a visual treat for both bird watchers and nature lovers. And that’s not it! The drive to this place is equally interesting and enticing with both Kilbury and Cheena Peak Range falling on the way; both of them being popular birding spots. This gorgeous locale also boosts of some beautiful trekking trails; a popular one starting from Pangot up till the snow clad Naina Peak.
At Pangot, Cycle through forested, jaw dropping gorgeous trails, camp under the clear starry skies with friends and fellow campers with a bonfire in place, hike through the rough terrain laced with waterfalls and lakes, spot colorful birds or just soak in the scenic beauty with a book and a hot cup in the midst of a silence away from civilization. These are some of the things that would make you fall in love with this place!
Perched at an altitude of 2400 meters, Binsar is yet another exotic locale that is a must visit. Offering a perfect escapade into the untouched, unviolated wild, Binsar has a rare magical aura and aesthetic beauty that has continued to capture the attention of both trekkers and bird watchers for decades.
Image Credits for picture of Binsar and Pangot : GKrishna
Binsar’s most popular spot is the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, a fairytale heaven that allows you to take a walk right through the densest of oak forests, teeming with a variety of rare, colorful birds and scented meadows laced with flowers including the ruby red rhododendrons. The forests in this pristine locale are brimming with wildlife, resounding with the calls of Himalayan Musk Deer, Leopards, Gorals and Black Bears that inhabit this place, along with several spellbinding hypnotic vistas that allow one to relish the panoramic view of the snow-clad Himalayas.
The former summer capital of the Chand Kings also houses the famous ‘Bineshwar Mahadev Temple’ and the ‘Kasar Devi Temple.' The Bineshwar Mahadev Temple is an ancient 16th-century shrine, dedicated to the Hindu Lord, Shiva. With an architecture as gorgeous as the area surrounding it, this temple organizes a yajna every June, and on the occasions of Vaikunth Chaturdashi and Kartik Purnima, for its devotees who flock to the temple in large numbers to be a part of the auspicious occasion.
A visit to Binsar offers one an exotic chance to immerse oneself into the rich culture with mesmerizing folk dances, temple rituals, and cultural programs along with exciting adventures amidst nature.
Surrealistic vistas enveloped in a rustic environment, lush green meadows, scented ambrosian gardens and walking trails, all wrapped in a panoramic view of the alluring, snow-kissed, Himalayan peaks. If these sites excite the nature lover in you, then it's time you pack your bags and head towards Uttarakhand's best-kept secret, Peora.
A tiny hamlet in the Nainital district set at an altitude of 6600 feet, Peora is a visual treat for photographers, hikers and enthusiasts like you and me, looking for a place to disconnect from the modern world and immerse themselves in the simple, secluded life this place offers. Peora lets you experience magical sunsets, mystical trails, orchards and fresh mountain air like nothing else. In fact, this place, cradled in the woods of Kumaon, is rightfully called ‘the fruit bowl of Uttarakhand’ with its innumerable scented orchards charming the eyes.
If you are up for bringing happiness to others while making the most of your vacation, Peora has its own NGO, working for the upliftment and empowerment of the local mountain community, often offering professionals to volunteer and mingle with the local community while helping them grow. Established in the year 1992, the NGO, ‘Aarohi,' with its selfless efforts continues to bring a smile on countless faces every year.
At Peora embrace the photographer in you; just take a camera and head for a walk amidst nature.
If you are one of those adrenaline junkies taking pride in your skiing skills or an explorer in love with snowy hamlets, this is the place for you! Set between the Tons and Yamuna rivers, snow laden some 98 km from Dehradun, this place used to be a cantonment of the British Indian Army.
Nestled amid picturesque mountains, boosting of forests snow-laden conifers and Ruby rhododendrons, with mystical trails, glassy waterfalls, and colorful orchards, Chakrata is a storybook town that will sooth your senses, bewitching you with its raw attraction.
Credits : Meghana Kulkarni
Chakrata is famous for its Tiger Falls. Found at an elevation of 312 feet, this natural wonder is also the highest direct water fall in Uttarakhand. However, this hamlet, with its alluring tranquility, is also the home to several lesser known, yet equally majestic, locales; its vivid innocent charms visible everywhere - in the ancient limestone caves at Budher, the magical sunset at Chirmiri, the expansive skiing grounds of Mundali or the lush green meadows of Kanasar.
For those who are spiritually inclined, located just 35 km away is Lakshmandal, an ancient Hindu temple complex dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple, popular among the Shakti cult devotees, is also known for its connection to the Hindu epic, Mahabharat. Lakshmandal is believed to be the place where Duryodhana conspired to burn alive the Pandavas in the Lakshyagriha house.
The place lost in its untamed wilderness, and surreal antiquity absolutely deserves to be on your bucket list of offbeat places.
Perched atop a narrow ridge with beautiful deep valleys all around, and wrapped in a stunning vista offering a panoramic view of the sun-kissed Himalayan peaks, gleaming with snow; Karthik Swami is not just a gorgeous locale soothing to the eyes but a healing touch for the spiritual soul. It is an exotic offbeat destination carved out for your bucket list.
Dedicated to the eldest son of Hindu God Shiva, Lord Kartikeya, this 200-year-old temple attracts pilgrims from far and wide despite the 3-kilometer trek, amid the dense forest, that is required to reach it from Rudraprayag. The temple has a naturally carved idol of the Lord on a marble rock. Once here, turn the pages to the past and rejoice in the age old tradition that continues to be kept alive all the while admiring the arresting architecture.
Besides the temple, this place offers a rare view of its unmolested wilderness with majestic sunrises and sunsets against a blurred array of mountains and valleys, colorful birds relishing the untamed habitat and a chance to camp under the clear, starry skies surrounded by the snow laden peaks of Kedarnath, Trishul, and Nanda Devi. You might even get lucky and spot a golden eagle or the Himalayan snowcock; for this place, teeming with over 150 bird species, is a haven for bird watchers. Just a 3-kilometer trek away is the Kanakchauri village with its old world rustic charm, where one can mingle with the local community and also get a taste of the delectable ‘pahari’ cuisine.
Karthik swami surrounds itself has an aura that is as auspicious as the purpose and thus deserves a top spot when it comes to offbeat destinations.
At an elevation of 12,073 feet, Tungnath is a place that is high, in quite a literal sense and not just in the astounding beauty it possesses. Located in the Rudraprayag district, Tungnath is the abode of the highest Shiva temple in the world which is also the highest of the five Panch Kedar temples.
Tourists get to take a leaf from history and lose themselves in the magnificent architecture and meticulously detailed artistry of this 1000-year-old temple, the bells of which continue to throng dulcetly, attracting devotees from far and wide. Without, the serene landscape is ornamented with the whistling water and the alluring meadows of the Mandakini and Alaknanda river valleys nestled between the Tungnath mountains. Legend has it that the foundation of this alluring edifice was laid by the mighty Pandavas, who after killing their own cousins wished to seek pardon for their sins by paying their obeisance to Lord Shiva, as suggested to them by Vyas Rishi.
Located just a 1.5 km trek away is the Chandrashila summit, with a breathtaking view of the snow kissed Himalayan peaks of Nanda Devi, Trishul, and Chaukhamba. The valley below offers a colorful vista decked in wild flowers. The place also boosts of the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, also called the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary. Set up in 1972, this place is a wildlife haven established to preserve the endangered musk deer. One of the popular trekking trails here in Tungnath starts from Chopta reaching up till the mountain’s summit. The mystic pathway through the valleys and meadows is stone paved and has little benches in short intervals for fatigued travelers
With its breathtaking locales and rough terrain, Tungnath is your perfect package with just the right dose of adventure, trekking, and camping as one immerses oneself in the soothing aura of Faith and spirituality.
With a name as exotic as the place, Naag Tibba is a trekker’s paradise. At 9950 feet, this offbeat destination forms the highest peak in the Lesser Himalayan region of Uttarakhand and is located around 57 km away from Mussoorie.
Described as one of the most challenging hikes in Uttarakhand, this place is a treat for the adrenaline junkies who desire seclusion and a soothing silence amid alluring pastures and raw beauty. The 13 km trek to Naag tibba is as astounding as the top; the mystic trail a magical blend of flower-decked meadows, verdant forests brimming with stunning flora and fauna, surrealistic vistas of the golden skies melting with the mountains, fields trimmed with glistening fresh snow and camping in the middle of the soothing silence. One can also reach the mountain base with an equally mesmerizing jeep ride amid the dense forests.
The peak of Naag Tibba is crowned by a small, yet charming, temple dedicated to the Nag Devta from whom the mountain derives its name. Legend says that Naag Tibba is where the mighty ‘Nag Devta’ or the God of Snakes resides with many locals still flocking to the peak to offer prayers.
So all the trekkers out there, you know where to head this summer!
Just a 35 km drive away from Mussoorie, Kanatal is a snowy delight with a spiritual connection.With a name that literally translates to ‘one-eyed Lake’, this place derives its name from the lake Kanatal that once used to be its pride; now dried up, the name continues to be associated with the awe- inspiring locale. As for the spiritual part, this auspicious abode is believed to be where Lord Shiva brought the dead body of Sati after she killed herself by stepping into the fire. Nestled in the extreme wilderness with a jaw dropping gorgeous panoramic vista, the beautiful Surkanda Devi temple, commemorates the mark immortalizing the sacrifice of the Goddess.
Kanatal is laced with rare, colorful flowers, luscious meadows, pine forests boosting of a picture perfect majesty that can be witnessed through trekking across the seclusion, quiet nature walks, or a refreshing and breathtaking jeep ride through the forest. One can also immerse oneself in yoga, meditation and Ayurvedic spas offered by a variety of resorts here; even more pleasing to the senses amidst such heavenly surroundings while being a perfect cure for stress, anxiety, and physical ailments.
A walk through the dense Kodia Jungle is equally mesmerizing with its pristine, mystical valleys and clear natural springs cascading in deep roars against the soothing silence. Here, if you are lucky enough, you can capture the beauty of musk deer, ghorals, wild boars and numerous endemic birds playing in the wild, with your lens.
Other mentionable attractions include the Dhanaulti eco park and the famous Tehri Dam. At the eco park, get a taste of the fresh fruits picked from the numerous fruit orchards dotting the place, while at Tehri spread out your arms and experience the magnificence of the edifice; built on the Bhagirathi river, it also happens to be one of the highest dams in the world.
A tiny hill paradise nestled in the Almora district of Uttarakhand, Ranikhet gets its name from a local legend, stating that it was here that Raja Sudhardev won the heart of Queen Padmini of Kumaon, who subsequently chose the area for her residence.
True to the tale, the place is visited by thousands of honeymooners every year who flock to this tiny hamlet known for its rustic locales and romantic charm. And that’s not it! Ranikhet is a land with a variety of adventurous and exciting incentives to offer to its tourists, boosting of some of the highest (and the best) Hill golf courses in Asia, pristine waters of the Bhalu Dam for a delightful fishing experience and jaw dropping gorgeous trekking trails. Adding to the aesthetic appeal is the Binsar Mahadev temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, with its arresting artistic structure, and tranquil ashram set amidst pine and deodar trees; a place to rejuvenate oneself while embracing Faith. However, the surprise treat is the Kumaon Regimental Centre Museum, a haven for World War enthusiasts, resounding with various untold anecdotes and countless weapons on display.
Summing up, Ranikhet is a place with a picture perfect majesty, embracing a rare modernity in the middle of a rustic landscape; a place that is inviting for one and all.
Seductively serene, awfully arresting and equally enchanting, this Himalayan Bliss makes for an excellent vacation wrapped in adventure. If you are one of those who finds excitement in dusting the cobwebs and stepping into the Past, then you won’t be disappointed because this place is bustling with myths and innumerable legends.
Founded by an English businessman called John Harold Abbott in the 20th century, this place was originally a European settlement in the British India. The beautiful meadows are dotted with European cottages and bungalows with well-manicured gardens and orchards. At the edge of the valley, this place offers a hypnotic view of the peaks; a site so alluring, you might want to capture the moment and hang it on your bedroom wall. Nestled lower down the valley is the fishing village of Mahaseer overlooking the whistling brook of Suryu. While located at a higher altitude is the old cricket pitch of Abbott that is the second highest pitch in the world.
But the best-kept secret is the fact that this heavenly hamlet is actually one of the top contenders in the list of India’s most haunted places. The isolation, abandoned European cottages and dense forests only adding to the drama.
The Abbott Mount church and Binasaur ka Kila are other must-visit in this town. An extremely secluded locale with limited basic amenities (the place lacks restaurants and petrol pumps), this place is just perfect to spend your vacations in soothing silence, reconnoitring around and discovering untold stories that this place is famous for.
And thus ends our list, marking the beginning of your own bucket list (well, we hope!). So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, take your hats, tie your shoes and immerse yourself into this wild rendezvous. Don’t mind the words, go and relish the beauty yourself for these offbeat places with their exotic, old-world charm are sure to seduce you, leaving you mesmerized and wanting more; seclusion and a soothing silence. You might be a pilgrim or a solo traveler, traveling with your family or with a bunch of college friends, Uttarakhand, with its rare variety, has something to offer for one and all.
This summer, embrace the traveler within you and spend your time reconnoitering into the wilderness, experiencing nature’s glory as you enrich your mind with quintessential experiences, enriching travelogues, making friends out of strangers, soaking in the alluring beauty and, being alive.