Uttarkhand’s Mountains

Kosi River
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The majesty of the Himalayan range even if it is a mere glimpse makes for a stunning visual that remains with you forever.

Scaly breasted Munia
Scaly breasted Munia

Being based in Bangalore, the closest mountains I had seen were the Nilgiris. So naturally when I had an opportunity to visit Uttarahand, I was excited to finally head to the hills. In spite of the long journey I had no reason to complain as the first sight of the majestic Himalayas was simply breathtaking. Starting from Kathgodam, at the foothills of Kumaon Himalayas I headed to Bhimtal a town that is known for having the largest lake in the region. Located at a height of 4500 feet above sea level, the lake is a mesmerizing sight with floating mist, an abundance of avian life and colourful butterflies. When I was here it also started raining and the whole place was magically transformed into a natural oasis. Also check out Sattal in the Nainital district, where seven lakes interconnect to form one of the most beautiful lakes in Uttarakhand surrounded by beautiful oak forests.

Paddy cultivation
Paddy cultivation

My next stop was at Kainchi Dham a stunning yet secluded mountain ashram built by Baba Neeb Karoliji Maharaj. After satiating my spiritual quest through the marble figurines of Lord Shiva, Vindhyavasini Devi, Vaishno Devi and HanumanKainchi Dham amidst the chanting of bhajans, I blissfully tuck into the local delicacy moong dal pakoda and lemon shikanji. I next stopped by at Almora, a cantonment town ensconced by thick forests of pine and fir trees that offers some wonderful views of the hills. Stopping by at Kosi, which is straight out of a picture postcard with its picturesque valley where the Kosi river flows in all its glory through the stones, creating a breathtaking visual you can indulge in a spot of river rafting or mountain rappelling as well. Also stop by at Kausani, home to the Gandhi ashram, a tea factory and a shawl factory, I suggest you head to the Baijnath group of temples for a spiritual experience and the Lodh valley and witness the highest altitude where paddy is cultivated!

Apples in an orchard
Apples in an orchard

However I wanted to see the Himalayas in all its majesty and decided to head to Mukteshwar, located at an altitude of 7,500 feet above sea level. Amidst profusion of conifer forests and apple orchards, Mukteshwar offers the most enchanting view of the Himalayas and its snow-bound peaks. Mukteshwar is named after Mukteshwar Dham, a 350-year-old temple of Shiva situated atop the highest point in the town. Close to it lie the overhanging cliffs, locally known as Chauli-ki-Jali, used for rock climbing and rappelling, with an excellent view of the valleys below. And yes you must indulge in a spot of apple and pear plucking – it will take you back to your childhood! And if you want some souvenirs, check out the Himjoli stores that offer everything from local handicrafts, jams, pickles and more. I recommend you pick the Rhododendron squash made from a local flower that changes colour based on the altitude its grown at which has several health benefits. The juice of course is made from the red flower only. The majestic beauty of the Himalayas is alluring and addictive – it will make you want to go back and unravel more secrets. I am planning my next trip – are you?

Baijnath Temple
Baijnath Temple

Fact File

  • Reach: You can take a train to Kathgodam from Delhi and then drive to Kosi.
  • Stay: Kosi Valley Retreat is a beautiful room and tented accommodation that is nestled in the midst of nature.
  • Do: Bird watching is a wonderful way to come up close with nature and this is where you can see it all in its pristine form. A guided village walk is also a good way to understand the local community.

This story first appeared in Sakal Times dated 8th September 2019 here:

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