The scorching summers have gone and the rains are soon going to bid us goodbye. This means that it’s time to bring out those walking shoes and explore some of the most gorgeous hill stations without the fear of getting burnt to crisp, rain playing spoilsport or heavy cloud cover obstructing the view of your favourite Himalayan peaks.
Autumn is the season of fewer tourists, roads lined with leaves, golden sunsets and wind in your hair. If you are looking to experience all of these, here are some places in Uttarakhand that are waiting to be explored.
Located just 12 kms away from popular Ranikhet, Majkhali’s tranquillity comes as a surprise to visitors expecting the crowd associated with other hill stations. One can see a bunch of Tudor cottages dotting the roads, a couple of army parade grounds and a local market selling essential, daily ware. Majkhali is also a paradise for walkers, and is best experienced walking along its winding lanes or hiking through its lush forest trails. You can spot birds, hitch a ride to nearby tourist spots, or even just sit back with a book, take occasional glances at the majestic Himalayas and proceed on quiet walks in the woods.
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When in Majkhali, definitely try the local ‘bhutwa’ (mutton intestines) with sweet bun. Also eat Kumaoni mutton and roti before you retire for the night. And if you do end up missing your city food, there are a couple of roadside stalls in the main market that serve some delectable chowmein and momos.
A network of tar roads that snakes through the mountains and soaring pine trees will take you to this little hamlet in Uttarakhand. Tucked away snugly between Mukteshwar and Almora, Satkhol welcomes you with sweet melodies of local Kumaoni songs, with raindrops as accompanying beats, fragrance of the soil, clouds cloaking layers after layers of hills, and swathes of green meadows.
Satkhol is perfect to escape the banality of everyday life; it’s easily accessible, yet far removed from the commercial bearings of hill stations. For the seekers of spirituality, the place also houses the Satkhol Himalayan Ashram, where one can indulge in Vipassana, charge themselves unclutter their minds.
This small village situated right above Munsiyari shares its borders with both Nepal and Tibet, and is framed by the mighty Panchachuli Range on one side and the Gori Ganga river on the other, making for a postcard-perfect scenery.
Sarmoli is a blend of some great culture and heritage, and is a perfect place to indulge in rural tourism. The only options for stay here include homestays run by women of the village, which gives you the opportunity to converse with locals, celebrate festivals with them, and relish some of the best cuisine of Uttarakhand. Not just that, the women who run these homestays also double up as guides and will take you on hikes across some of the most breath-taking mountain terrains, and even teach you to weave with wool on traditional looms. Sarmoli also houses the region’s popular Nanda Devi temple, the gorgeous Mesar Kund (a pond in an old Oak forest), and a very interesting Tribal Museum that preserves the culture of the local Bhotiya Tribe.
There is nothing better than watching sunrises after short morning hikes, and there is no better setting than Binsar for doing this. This sleepy hamlet tucked away in a picturesque corner of Uttarakhand offers a glorious slice of the Himalayan life and wildlife, and lots of open patches of greenery.
A lot of the pristine bits of this region are not accessible by car (think hiking at least 3 kms to reach villages and homestays), which makes it even better, because that means pure, unadulterated beauty, sans the litter and noise. Binsar is also known to offer splendid, panoramic views of majestic Himalayan peaks such as Chaukhamba, Nanda Devi, Panchachuli, and Kedarnath and Nanda Kot. This little, sleepy place is encircled by the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary that houses rare flora and fauna, and is also a great place to indulge in hiking, camping and long nature walks.
Mauna is a place most people will have crossed umpteen times on their visit to the Kumaon Himalayas, but probably never knew of. This little fairy-tale like village near Almora is all about gorgeous cottages on hilltops with picture-perfect views lurking at every corner.
Off the grid and a tad bit isolated, Mauna is a perfect getaway for families, couples or friends, looking to disconnect and unwind for a weekend. Mauna houses a protected heritage site, the Kapileshwar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, which was constructed in the 8-10th century. During daytime, visitors can sit near the many streams that dot the village, admire the pretty rural homes or simply walk around its many meadows. At night, one can watch Almora glittering in the laps of the Himalayas, as they relish heaps of delicious Kumaoni food at a local’s home.
How to reach:
The nearest railhead to all these hill towns is Kathgodam and the nearest bus stop is in Haldwani. Buses and trains from New Delhi ply to these destinations frequently. Shared taxis are the fabric of life in these hilly regions and can be found in abundance to cover the distance to any of these villages.