By Journey Man
Uttarakhand is a state of history, of nature, of adventure and treks as well of peace. There is enough to accommodate and occupy every type of traveller. Having broken off from Uttar Pradesh in 2000, the state has developed its own identity and character. It is as rich in heritage as in development programmes. Some of the best hill destinations are in this state, plus several non-touristy places as well that you might want to discover.
Uttarakhand is also a place of the Gods, with several very famous pilgrimage destinations. That has helped develop the tourist infrastructure of the state.
Uttarakhand has a glorious past with a long history of its genesis and evolution. Contributions from great emperors, such as the Kushanas, Kudinas, Kanishka, Samudragupta, Katuria, Palas, Chandras and Pawaras have enriched the region over centuries. However, archaeological evidence apart, not much else is known about the early history of Uttarakhand. Early scriptures mention a number of tribes that inhabited the Garhwal and Kumaun regions of what is now Uttarakhand.
Evidence has been found of people living in this era. Ruins unearthed from the various places of the state, especially from the rock shelter at Lakhu Udyar, form testimonials of human settlements dating back to the Stone Age.
In the Puranic period, the mid Himalayan region of Garhwal and Kumaon in the present state of Uttarakhand used to be known as Kedarkhand and Manaskhand.
The Pauravas were at their prime during the 4th and 5th century BCE under the emperor Sudas. It was the boisterous King Sudas who took his rivalry with the Iranian invaders to the battle field in the ‘Battle of Ten Kings’.
In 3rd Century of BCE Ashokan edicts at Kalsi show the early presence of Buddhism in this region.
The Kushanas of Uttarakhand arrived in India as early as in the first century AD.
Between the 4th and 14th centuries, the Katyuri dynasty dominated lands of varying extent from the Katyur valley in Kumaon; They rule for quite a long period of time. The Katuri kings were dominating the northern regions of the country from the 7th to the 11th century. They were very powerful rulers and ruled over the vast areas in Uttarakhand. In the 12th century, Mallas of Dullu in western Nepal broke down the Katyuri kingdom.
In 1358, King Ajay Pal of the Parmar dynasty ascended the throne of Chandpur. In the 1500s, Mughal rulers came here; Garhwal maintained her independence while Kumaon started paying tribute.
In 1638, King Baz Bahadur Chand sits on the Kumaoni throne. Then the Kumaon was a tributary state of the Mughal Empire.
During the British Period, the territories of Pauri and Dehradun went under the British domain: the two regions were given to the British in return of their help during the Gurkha invasion in the 19th century.
After independence the Garhwal Kingdom was merged into the state of Uttar Pradesh, where Uttarakhand composed the Garhwal and Kumaon Divisions.
Its break away from Uttar Pradesh on the November 9, 2000 resulted in Uttarakhand, the 27th state. Initially between the span of seven years stretching from 2000 to 2006, the state was reckoned as ‘Uttaranchal’ which served to be its provisional alias. But in 2007 it was officially renamed as ‘Uttarakhand’.
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A negative RT-PCR/ Antigen/ True Nat test is mandatory all people visiting the state. Resorts too may ask you to see the reports before handing over the room keys. Only guests with confirmed room reservations are allowed to visit Mussoorie. Confirmed hotel reservations will be asked at borders and entry points. Spas, gyms etc operate at only 50% capacity.
How to get there
Flight to Dehradun takes about 40 minutes. By road or car it takes about 5 hours to cover this 270 km distance. Trains take about 6-10 hours. There is a direct bus service to Mussoorie from Delhi and takes about 10 hours. By car to Mussoorie is 307 km and takes about six and-a-half hours.
Best time to visit
-Peak season is between March and June.
-Average season October to February.
-Low season: July to September.
WHAT TO SEE
The town Rishikesh has a very good road network that connects it with different cities of India. The road from Delhi to Rishikesh is scenic and the drive is pleasant. Start from Delhi as early as possible to avoid city traffic. Patna waterfall is about 12 km away from Rishikesh and the drive of 30 minutes is very scenic.
How to Reach: The closest domestic airport is 35 km away, at Dehradun. Main Tourist hub is in Rishikesh.
Patna Waterfall is named after the small village where this waterfall is located. This waterfall is also famous for the limestone caves located next to the waterfall. The trek to the waterfall starts 5 km from Lakshman Jhula on Neelkanth temple road. There are no signboards to the waterfall, so visitors have to be careful and confirm the route with locals.
How to Reach: Nearest railway station is Rishikesh, 13km.
A negative RT-PCR/ Antigen/ True Nat test is mandatory all people visiting the state. Resorts too may ask you to see the reports before handing over the room keys.
If you go to Rishikesh and do not do rafting then it is useless to go to Rishikesh. Fun, Adventure and the great outdoor experience begins in Rishikesh with rafting. It is the most popular centre for river rafting in India which attracts thousands of adventure-seeking travellers every year. Rafting is not only famous among Indians as a weekend gateway but also a popular spiritual and adventure destination for foreign tourists as well.
How to reach: Shivpuri is around 18 km from Rishikesh and it takes about 40 minutes by car.
Rajaji National Park
Located at the Himalayan foothills, near Haridwar, Rishikesh and Dehradun, with the Ganga and Song rivers flowing through it, the park is known for its scenic beauty and rich bio-diversity. A paradise for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, the park is home to elephants, tigers, leopards, deer, ghoral, and a wide variety of birds.
In 1983, three sanctuaries in Uttarakhand Rajaji, Motichur and Chilla – were amalgamated into a large protected area and named Rajaji National Park, in honour of freedom fighter and first governor general of India Late C Rajagopalachari; popularly known as “Rajaji”.
How to reach: Rajaji National Park is about 17 km from Rishikesh via Cheela Dam, and the 40-minute drive.
Corbett National Park
It is an India’s first national park, established in 1936. It is named after the legendary naturalist and conservationist Jim Corbett. Located at the Himalayas’ foothills, near the popular hill-station of Nainital, the beautiful Jim Corbett National Park is famous for being home to a large number of tigers, the highest among any Indian national park. Look-out for Royal Bengal Tiger, Asiatic elephant, bear, a variety of deer, otters, other animal and over 650 species of domestic and migratory birds.
How to reach: The closest domestic airport is 50 km away from Corbett National Park at Phoolbagh, Pantnagar.
The closest railway station is Ramnagar, which is 12 km from the Park.
The Badrinath Temple also known as the Badrinarayan Temple, located in Uttarakhand’s Badrinath town, is one of the Char Dhams (four important pilgrimages) in the state. There are four pilgrim-destinations namely Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath, collectively known as Char Dham.
These pilgrimage centres draw large number of pilgrims each year. With Lord Vishnu as its presiding deity, the temple remains open for six months in a year. In winter it becomes inaccessible due to heavy snowfall.
How to reach: Around 317 km away is the Jolly Grant Airport near Dehradun. Rishikesh Railway Station is 297 km away.
One of the char dhams (the most sacred pilgrimage circuits in northern India with four holy destinations), Gangotri, in Uttarkashi, is a small town with the temple of Goddess Ganga at its heart. Other than its divine atmosphere, Gangotri offers stunning vistas all around. According to Hindu legend, the most sacred of all rivers, Ganges (or Ganga), descended from heaven to earth at Gangotri, when Lord Shiva released the mighty river from his locks.
The actual origin of the river is at Gaumukh in the Gangotri glacier, 19 km away from Gangotri and is accessible by trekking. After it originates from Gaumukh, the river is known as Bhagirathi and it acquires the name ‘Ganga’ after the river Alaknanda merges into it near the town of Devaprayag.
How to reach: Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest airport to Gangotri, around 250 km away. The nearest railway station from Gangotri is Rishikesh, around 230 km away.
One of the holiest pilgrimages in India, Haridwar, or the ‘gateway to gods’, is located where Ganga, the sacredest of all Indian rivers, enters the Indo-Gangetic plain. Haridwar is one of the four holy Indian cities that host the Kumbh Mela, a pious gathering of millions of Hindu devotees every 12 years.
The Ardh Kumbh is organised here every six years. The ‘Panch Tirth’ or the five pilgrimages located within the periphery of Haridwar, are Gangadwara (Har Ki Pauri), Kushwart (Ghat), Kankhal, Bilwa Tirtha (Mansa Devi Temple) and Neel Parvat (Chandi Devi). Haridwar serves as the gateway to the Char Dham of Uttarakhand as well.
How to reach: Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest Airport to Haridwar situated at a distance of 37 km. The main railway station serving the area is Haridwar Railway Station.
Kedarnath town is located in the Garhwal Himalayas. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the ancient temple has exquisite architecture and is built of extremely large but evenly shaped grey stone slabs. A conical rock formation inside the temple is worshipped as Lord Shiva in his “Sadashiva” form. The Kedarnath temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is a part of Char Dham pilgrimage circuit, and is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva in India.
The historical name of this region is “Kedar Khand” and legend says, the Pandavas from the epic Mahabharata, after having defeated the Kauravas, felt guilty of having killed so many people and sought the blessings of Lord Shiva for redemption. the Lord eluded them repeatedly and took refuge at Kedarnath in the form of a bull. The Lord dived into the ground, leaving his hump on the surface at Kedarnath.
Kedarnath town is located in the Garhwal Himalayas. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the ancient temple has exquisite architecture and is built of extremely large but evenly shaped grey stone slabs.
How to reach: The nearest airport is Jolly Grant which situated at a distance of 238 km.
Devprayag is the place where the holy rivers Bhagirathi and Alaknanda meet, merge into one and take the name Ganga, making it a unique pilgrimage. It is believed that Lord Rama and his father King Dasharath (from the epic Ramayana) performed penance here.
The main temple of the town is Raghunathji Temple and is dedicated to Lord Rama. Devprayag is one of the Panch Prayag or five sacred confluences of the Alaknanda river.
How to reach: Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest Airport to Devprayag situated at a distance of 91 km. The nearest railway station is situated in Rishikesh.
The charming Himalayan lake town is a picture-postcard perfect hill-station and one of the most popular in Northern India. Commonly known as the ‘Lake District’. This beautiful town in surrounded by seven hills, popularly known as ‘Sapta-Shring’ – Ayarpata, Deopata, Handi-Bandi, Naina, Alma, Lariya-Kanta and Sher-Ka-Danda. The majestic mountains and the sparkling waters of the lake add an immense lot to the beauty of the town.
The town is centred around the emerald mountain lake Naini, which on most days is dotted with colourful sailboats. According to mythology, the lake is believed to have been formed when the eyes of goddess “Sati” fell at this spot while her body was being carried by Lord Shiva after her death.
The summer capital of the United Provinces during the British era, the town has a strong colonial heritage with vibrant clusters of villas and bungalows.
How to reach: Pantnagar(70 km) Airport is the nearest airport to Nainital. Nearest Railway Station is Kathgodam which is about 22 km.
The food of Uttarakhand is dominated by Garhwali cuisine and Kumaoni cuisine, two of its main regions. Some of the most famous dishes of Uttarakhand are cooked over a slow fire and consists of lentils.
Kafuli is a famous food of Uttarakhand prepared of spinach and fenugreek leaves. This exotic dish is prepared in an iron kadhai and complemented by hot steaming rice. It is the most nourishing and health-conscious dish you will come across in the state.
Bhang Ki Chutney
Chutney is an important item in Uttarakhand’s food culture, among them Bhang ki chutney is loved by one and all alike. It is prepared of Hemp Seeds which provides it with the characteristic aroma.
Kandalee Ka Saag
It is a very popular dish in Uttarakhand, especially among tourists. The main ingredients of Kandalee ka Saag are paneer and a leafy vegetable known as ‘bicchu ghas’.
Jhangora Ki Kheer
Jhangora is a type of millet that is the main ingredient of this dessert. Jhangora Ki Kheer has an unforgettable taste and is a must-try after a heavy meal of the Garhwali cuisines. Its rich texture and the goodness of milk will leave.
It is the most famous dessert in the Uttarakhand region. His sweet dish is high on the taste meter and low on the calorie meter
which makes it so hugely popular. No festival or occasion in Uttarakhand is complete without the magnanimous presence of Arsa.