Uttarakhand is as much known for its pilgrimages as it is for its hill retreats. There are many enticing travel destinations in this state of north India. Picturesque lakes, thick lowland jungles, beautiful trekking trails, and idyllic hill stations: these are the attractions Uttarakhand offers. Uttarakhand is divided into two regions: Garhwal and Kumaon. Garhwal comprises of many important pilgrimages of Hindus. While Mussoorie is located in Garhwal, most of the hill retreats are situated in the Kumaon region. The famous Corbett Tiger Reserve is also situated near the foothills of Kumaon. It has hill towns, rustic villages, jungle retreats, and pilgrimages.
Nainital is a beautiful town developed on the slopes around peanut-shaped Naini Lake. It is the largest town in the Kumaon Region. There are several ways to enjoy the Naini Lake. You can walk around it or go boating which is more pleasing around afternoon. You can also just sit by and gaze at the changing hues of the waters of the lake. In Nainital, you can also check out several viewpoints situated on the surrounding hills. This town also serves as a base to explore the Kumaon region. Read More
Location: Nainital is 35 km northwest of Kathgodam Railway Station.
Mussoorie is the most popular hill station of Uttarakhand. It is a favourite getaway of North Indians because of its easy accessibility. People from the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi throng this town to seek respite from the heat of the plains. Mussoorie sprawls on a ridge above the Doon Valley at a height of 6,300 ft. It receives highest number of visitors during summer. So, if you are seeking solitude, you would do well to visit in some another season. If you enjoy walking, don’t forget to make a visit to Landour during your stay in Mussoorie. Read More
Corbett National Park
Corbett National Park is named after Jim Corbett – the popular hunter and conservationist. It is the country’s oldest national park and was also first to be declared under ‘Project Tiger Reserve’. Situated near Ramnagar, it is spread across 1288 square km. Corbett is famous for its Tigers, but they remain elusive. There are 180 of them but sightings aren’t guaranteed during safaris. Other animals that can be found in Corbett are: elephants, jackal, wild boar, barking deer, sambar, spotted chital and monkey. Birdlife includes pied kingfisher, crow pheasant and crested serpent eagle. Read More
Location: Ramnagar, the nearest railway station for Corbett Park, is 64 km east of Nainital and 59 km northeast of Kathgodam.
Ranikhet, a town in Almora district, has retained much of its nature. Being a cantonment town, it has building restrictions which has kept the pace of development in check. If you like walking, Ranikhet is perfect for you as it offers numerous forest trails. The lush green meadows of Ranikhet offer panoramic views of the Himalayas. There are also beautiful fruit orchards in this town. Read More
Location: Ranikhet is 56 km north of Nainital.
The drive to Mukteshwar from Nainital or Bhimtal is very scenic with the views of terraced fields on the slopes leading to the valley and the distant snow-tipped peaks. This town, perched on a ridge at a height of 7510 ft, is an ideal choice for communing with the nature. It is worth knowing that most of the resorts and retreats in this town won’t offer worldly pleasure like television. But there is little chance that you’ll need them. Here you will be entertained by the solitude and the panoramic vistas of the Himalayas. If you feel an urge to do some activity, you can go on a wooded trail.
Location: Mukteshwar is 51 km northeast of Nainital.
If you enjoy forest trails, Sattal is for you. Some of these trails are good for bird-spotting. There are several campsites in Sattal which arrange for adventure sports like mountain climbing, rappelling, river crossing, mountain biking, etc. True to its name, Sattal has seven lakes close to each other. Four of them are interconnected. Read More
Location: Sattal is 13 km east of Bhimtal.
Dehradun is the capital of Uttarakhand state. Nestled in Doon Valley, this city and is flanked by the Ganges to the west and Yamuna to the east. The popular ‘Basmati’ rice is grown here in the fertile Doon Valley. The valley also has mango and litchi orchards. While Dehradun city itself is congested and crummy, it has a strategic location. It enjoys proximity with Mussoorie, Rishikesh and Haridwar. Dehradun has trains to many of the major cities of India. It also has an airport which has several daily flights to Delhi.
Location: Dehradun is 260 km north of Delhi.
Rishikesh is a spiritual destination which has kept pace with the changing world. Once it used to be a secluded spot by the Ganga River, surrounded by forests and low hills. This location made it a destination of choice for yoga and meditation enthusiasts. It has now, owing to its popularity, become a major tourist draw. It is thronged everyday by scores of pilgrims and tourists. Despite all the hustle and bustle, sanctity of Rishikesh is still maintained. The town is home to many yoga retreats – private and institution-run. Peaceful spots can still be found in this town, only that you need to walk upriver. With river rafting, trekking and rock-climbing on offer, Rishikesh now also attracts adventure seekers. Read More
Location: Rishikesh is 45 km southeast of Dehradun and 20 km northeast of Haridwar.
If you ask anybody about major pilgrimages of Hindus, Haridwar’s name is sure to come up. Ganga – the holy river – after descending from the Himalayas, commences its journey through the plains from Haridwar. So, basically people go to Haridwar to worship Ganga. Har-ki-pauri, the most important spot for pilgrims in Haridwar, is in fact a ghat along the river. There are several ghats and temples in Haridwar. The well-known temples are: Mansa Devi Temple, Chandi Devi Temple and Maya Devi Temple.
Location: Haridwar is 53 km south of Dehradun and 20 km southwest of Rishikesh.
During your travels in Kumaon if you have fallen in love with the panorama of Himalayan peaks, Kausani is meant for you. Situated at a height of 6200 ft, Kausani offers fantastic views of the 365 km stretch of the Himalaya. This town has wonderful flora and the best way to discover it is through leisurely ambles. There are also several lookout points in the town. Don’t forget to check out Anashakti Yoga Ashram where Mahatma Gandhi had stayed in 1929.
Location: Kausani is 117 km northeast of Nainital and 55 km north of Almora.
Kumaon’s divisional headquarter, Almora, sprawls on a hilltop. There are spectacular views of soaring peaks from the town. Amongst these peaks, Trishul and Nanda Devi take the pride of the place. Almora has a huge market that caters to the requirements of the surrounding villages. With Almora as base, you can easily explore the surrounding areas of Jageshwar, Binsar and Kasar Devi. There are a few ancient temples situated north of the market.
Location: Almora is 67 km northwest of Nainital
Munsiyari is one of the finest places to visit in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. To reach Munsiyari, you have to do a scenic but gut-wrenching drive of 214 km from Almora. This quaint Himalayan village offers a closer view of the soaring peaks of Panchachuli range. A short drive from Munsiyari will take you to Goriganga river.
Location: Munsiyari is 214 km northeast of Almora.
Bhyundar Valley (Valley of Flowers)
Valley of Flowers, as the name suggests, is a multi-coloured carpet of flowers. This valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is now a part of the Nanda Devi National Park. The best time to visit this valley is monsoon i.e. from July to September. To explore this valley, you need to stay at Ghangaria, which is reached by a 14-km stone trek from Govind Ghat on Badrinath Road. Valley of Flowers is 3 km hike from Ghangaria. From Ghangaria you can also embark on a 6 km long trek to Hemkund. This lake with an adjoining gurudwara is of religious importance to Sikhs.
Location – Valley of Flowers is near Ghangaria. To reach Ghangaria, you need to drive to Govind Ghat from where you have to do a 14-km stone trek. Govindghat is 310 km northeast of Dehradun.
Gangotri is a small town high in the Garhwal Himalayas. The Hindus revere Gangotri as the source of the Ganga, but the real source is Gaumukh on the Gangotri glacier. A 20 km trek from Gangotri leads to Gaumukh. There is a motorable road until Gangotri. The drive from Uttarkashi to Gangotri is picturesque and gravity-defying. The 18th century temple, overlooking the river, is dediated to Goddess Ganga.
Location: Gangotri is 285 km northeast of Rishikesh and 98 km east of Uttarkashi.
This town is situated in a valley near the confluence of Dhauli Ganga and Alaknanda rivers. Joshimath is popular for its 9th century ‘Matha’ established by Adi Shankaracharya. There are four temples in the market. The visitors to Auli can board the cable car from Joshimath.
Location: Joshimath is 254 km northeast of Rishikesh and 294 km northeast of Dehradun.
Auli, situated in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, is a ski destination. Otherwise a small hill town, Auli receives scores of skiing enthusiasts. Whether you are a seasoned player or looking to learn the sport, you’ll find the kind of slopes you look for. There are both baby slopes and advanced slopes, and to escort you back they have ski-lifts. The altitude of Auli varies from 8,200 ft to 10,000 ft. The surrounding peaks of the Himalayas appear mesmerizing from here. Even reaching Auli is also an exhilariting experience. You’ve got to reach Joshimath, and from there a cable-car flies above the towering oaks and pines to cover the 4 km ascend. Alternatively, you can also drive for 16 km from Joshimath.
Location: Auli is just 16 km Joshimath. Instead of driving up, you can also take a cable-car from Joshimath to reach Auli.
Of all the Char-Dham shrines, Badrinath receives the highest number of pilgrims. The wooden temple here is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This town, situated on the west bank of Alaknanda River, is tucked between Nar and Narayan ranges.
Location: Badrinath is 296 km northeast of Rishikesh 336 km northeast of Dehradun.
Kedarnath is as much for the pilgrims as it is for the trekkers. It is one of the ‘Chardham’ sites. Its shrine is one of the twelve ‘Jyotirlingas’. The motorable road ends at the town of Gaurikund from where you need to do a 14-km trek to reach Kedarnath.
Location – Kedarnath is 14 km from Gaurikund which is 250 km northeast of Dehradun.
This nine-cornered lake is just a short drive from Kathgodam. As per local lore, anybody who spots all nine corners can attain salvation. While that’s a myth, what is certain is your union with the verdant nature. The azure blue lake is surrounded by terraced fields and thick woods. You can either go boating or enjoy walking around the lake.
Location: Naukuchiatal is 7 km southeast of Bhimtal.
This town offers a quieter retreat in the Garhwal Himalayas. Dhanaulti is a good choice for birdwatchers and walking enthusiasts. Surkhanda Devi Temple, situated nearby, is an important pilgrimage. It can be reached by a steep hike on foot from Kanatal.
Location: Dhanaulti is 56 km from Dehradun and 36 km from Mussoorie.
Rajaji National Park
Rajaji National Park spans around 800 square km. It can be accessed either from Rishikesh or from Haridwar. Herds of elephants can be easily found in this sanctuary which is also rich in birdlife. Other animals include antelope, leopard and tiger.
Location: Rajaji National Park is 26 km south of Dehradun.
This lake town is utilized by many travellers as an alternative to Nainital. They use it as a base to explore Kumaon region. Bhimtal is a C-shaped lake surrounded by low hills. It is bounded on one side by a dam. The 17th century temple here is dedicated to Bhimeshwar Mahadev.
Location: Bhimtal is 22 km north of Kathgodam railway station and 21 km southwest of Nainital.
Lansdowne is a small cantonment town in Pauri Garhwal district. Along with being a cantonment town, it is also a beautiful and unspoilt hill station. All you get in Lansdowne is serenity and pristine nature. If you happen to go there, don’t miss to do a walk to Tip-n-Top which is a lookout point that offers pleasant mountain views.
Location: Lansdowne is 160 km southwest of Dehradun and 130 km southwest of Rishikesh.
This hamlet, a short drive uphill from Nainital, is a favourite of birdwatchers. Pangot is surrounded by thick forests of oak, pine and rhododendron. It is not necessary that you have a to be a birder to enjoy Pangot. If you love pristine nature and walking trails, you can opt for a nature retreat in Pangot.
Location: Pangot is 18 km north of Nainital.
This is one of the most inspiring places of Kumaon Region. Rabindranath Tagore was so fascinated by Ramgarh that once he thought of setting up Shanti Niketan here. But ultimately it was constructed in West Bengal. Ramgarh is a small village dotted with fruit orchards. It is surrounded by thick pine forests. A 15-20 km drive out of the village can take you to the river-bank where you can spread out your picnic.
Location: Ramgarh is 34 km northeast of Nainital.
This town is mostly known to the people who have been to Kailash Mansarovar Lake for they must have halted here. Pithoragarh is situated in the easternmost corner of Uttarakhand, close to the Nepal border. This place is meant for mountain lovers. The only activities available here are walking and trekking. An 18th century fort, called Pithoragarh fort, is situated on the outskirts of the town. A climb to the top of the fort will earn you wonderful views.
Location: Pithoragarh is 203 km from Kathgodam Railway Station and 120 km northwest of Almora.
In earlier times Uttarkashi just used to be a stopover for people travelling to Gangotri from Rishikesh. But now several people stay longer here to set out on several trails into Garhwal mountains. Utarkashi also serves as a base for Dodi Tal Trek.
Location: Uttarkashi is 187 km north of Rishikesh.