Often referred to as “Devbhoomi”, the land of Gods, because of the presence of a multitude of temples, Uttarakhand is adorned with scintillating travel destinations, both religious and adventure. Divided into two divisions of Garhwal and Kumaon, the state is located on the foothills of the Himalayas which enrich it with natural eye-catching sceneries. The second highest mountain peak in India, Nanda Devi, is also situated here.
Uttarakhand houses one of the Char Dham located across the country, namely, Badrinath, which is also a part of the Chota Char Dham Circuit located in the Garhwal region. The two of the major rivers of Hinduism – Ganga, and Yamuna – also originate in Uttarakhand. Many Sikh followers visit the state as well to seek blessings at the Gurudwara Hemkund Sahib which is an important Sikh pilgrimage site. Piran Kaliyar Sharif which is a Muslim religious site is located near Roorkee.
One of the crown jewels of the region is the Valley of flowers which along with the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in India. The exquisite beauty and pristine landscapes of the valley leave the spectators in awe. The state enwombs some of the famous hill-stations like Mussoorie, Nainital, Dhanaulti, Ranikhet, Almora, Lansdowne, Bhimtal, and Kausani. The cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh also hold religious importance.
With many temples, natural reserves, hill stations, meadows, and mountain peaks, the state has also emerged as a hub for adventure enthusiasts as it cradles some of the best Himalayan treks and enchanting meadow treks along with a plethora of adventure sports to get some adrenaline rush.
Uttarakhand presents a mélange of culture which is beautified by a variety of folk dances and folk songs comprising of traditional tales and, hence, presents a ballad of utmost happiness.
Also Read: A Guide to Jammu & Kashmir
Places to visit in Uttarakhand:
- Chota Char Dham is one of the most prominent Hindu pilgrimages which allures a tremendous amount of pilgrims every year. It comprises Badrinath (dedicated to God Vishnu), Kedarnath (dedicated to God Shiva), Gangotri (signifying the holy origins of river Ganga), and Yamunotri (dedicated to the sacred origins of river Yamuna). All four of them are nestled in such magnificent environs, with the backdrop of scenic Himalayas, that the religious glory gets magnified by the visual delights offered by them. Apart from their sacred identities, they also attract trekkers, nature enthusiasts, and seekers of peace.
- Rishikesh is located on the foothills of the Himalayas and is often regarded as the Gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas. This city of meditation and serenity has always attracted sages and saints who made it their abode and it houses many Hindu temples. Yoga is another characteristic of the place as it is called the “Yoga Capital of the World”. It also entertains its visitors with some of the best adrenaline-pumping experiences like rafting, bungee jumping, and mountain biking. The city blends spirituality and adventure like no other city. The sunsets at Lakshman Jhula, evening aarti at Parmarth Niketan and Triveni Ghat, the graffiti at Beatles Ashram, witnessing the sunrise through the mountains while sitting on the bank of river Ganges, and experiencing life through mediums like meditation and yoga are sure to alleviate your spirits. Other attractions include Rajaji National Park, Kunjapuri Devi Temple, Neergarh waterfalls, Trayambakeshwar Temple, Patna falls, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Ashram.
- Haridwar is one of the four holiest cities of Hindus where pilgrims flock from all over the country to wash away their sins by taking a holy dip in the river Ganges and to attain Moksha. It hosts the Kumbh Mela every 12 years when the city experiences one of the most sacred congregations of people from within and outside the country. Haridwar overflows with numerous Hindu temples and ghats. It also provides its sacred region for festivals like Ganga Dussehra, Kawad Mela, and Somwati Amavasya Mela. Har ki Pauri is the most sacred ghat in the city out of which the Brahmkund ghat is the holiest. Some famous temples in the city include Chandi Devi Temple, Mansa Devi Temple, Das Mahavidya Temple, and Maya Devi Temple. Shopping for religious ornaments like rudraksha also interest the visitors.
- Nainital is a perfect honeymoon paradise located in the Kumaon regions of Uttarakhand. This scenic hill station, surrounded by majestic mountains like Naina, Deopatha, and Ayarpatha is famous for its mango-shaped lake which bestows the title of Sarovar Nagri on the city. Nainital offers activities like boat riding at Naini lake, horse-riding, yachting, and trekking. Experiences like shopping through the Mall road, receiving blessings at Naina Devi Temple, watching the snow-glazed mountains, and enjoying the cool breezes combine to beautify the city.
- Mussoorie is a beautiful hill station perched at a height of 6,170 feet which served as an escape to the Britishers during colonial times. Also known as the “Queen of hills”, the city is replete with natural charms, colonial architecture, waterfalls, and cultural aesthetics. The hues offered by the setting sun, along with a view of the valley, contribute to the tranquility of the landscape. Some engagements around the hill-station include a trek to Lal Tibba, Kempty Falls, Gun Hill, and Mall road.
- Auli is a famous ski destination surrounded by coniferous and oak forests and bounded by the mighty Himalayas. This hill resort is blessed with stunning panoramic views of the snow-capped Himalayas as a backdrop. The slopes offer a preferred ski destination for both amateurs and professionals. Winter sports conducted in Auli attract multitudes of visitors and various sites of religious significance are also scattered around Auli.
- Valley of flowers is a scenic National Park with exotic varieties of flora and fauna that adorn the valley. Situated in the Chamoli district, this is a much-coveted trekking destination to get in tune with nature in a splendid way. Along with its presence in Hindu mythology, the valley offers ultimate bliss to the tired city souls.
- Jim Corbett National Park is the oldest national park in India which is home to a variety of flora and fauna including the Royal Bengal tiger, Himalayan black bear, Indian elephants, crescent serpent eagles, leopards, and crocodiles. Jeep safari is a major attraction as it provides a convenient way to witness wildlife in its raw beauty.
Also Read: A Guide to Rajasthan
Things to do in Uttarakhand:
- Trek to your heart’s delight: Some of the best treks of India are located in the Himalayan region of Uttarakhand like the Kauri Pass trek, Rupin Pass trek, Nanda Devi trek, Roopkund trek, Chandrashila trek, Valley of flowers trek, Dodital trek, Har ki dun trek, and Nag Tibba trek. The difficulty levels vary from trek to trek making trekking a favorable activity even for the novices.
- Visit the “Bugyals” or the meadows: Bugyals are the high altitude grasslands which remain enveloped in snow throughout the winters. But, during summers, they come alive with greenery all around. They also form a part of various treks. The most visited meadows of the state are Dayara Bugyal, Bedni Bugyal, and Panwali Bugyal.
- Practice yoga: Rishikesh being the birthplace of yoga, makes the state popular among the yoga fanatics. Haridwar and Rishikesh together present some revered institutes and ashrams that can assist one to learn the art.
- Enjoy a variety of adventure activities: The state has in store numerous adventure activities like mountain biking, white water rafting, rappelling, zip-lining, paragliding, bungee jumping, skiing, and camping.