Talk about the most beautiful and captivating landscapes in India, a dream land where you can feel the heart beats of mightily Himalayas wherever you go – the first name that comes to one’s mind is the state of Uttarakhand –also called the land of Gods (“Devabhumi” ). Nestled in the lap of Himalayan ranges the 27th state of India after it carved out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000 is divided into two divisions, Garhwal and Kumaon, with a total of 13 districts. The winter capital of Uttarakhand is Dehradun which is also the largest city of the state. Another charming town called Garsain located around 280 km from Dheradun is known as the summer capital of the state.
The entire area of 19, 739 square kilometer of this wonderful northern state of India is a real heaven for nature lovers. Tourists from across the world have been coming here since ancient times, to enjoy and explore the beauty of snow covered peaks, glaciers, amazing rivers, mountain falls, deep canyons and the mysterious Himalayan forests as well as glorious national parks. The state of Uttarakhand boasts of the highest mountains of the world on one hand and the dense Himalayan forests with full of rare mountain birds , mammals including the mighty Royal Bengal Tiger, on the other.
History & background of the Mountain state
According to the Wikipedia, Uttarakhand was the ancient Puranic term for the central stretch of the Indian Himalayas. Its peaks and valleys were well known in ancient times as the abode of gods and goddesses and source of the river Ganges. Around 200 B.C Khas Aryan people entered the Himalayan range all the way from Caucasus Mountains, Unlike Vedic Aryan who took southern, western, and eastern route, Khas Aryan took whole new route of walking northern route of great Himalaya from Caucasus Mountains of Europe to North-Western Himalayas. Among the other rulers of the region at different times, were the Pauravas, Kushanas, Kunindas, the Guptas, Katyuris, Palas, the Chands, and Parmars or Panwars, Shahs and, of course, the British at the end. By the medieval period, the region was consolidated under the Garhwal Kingdom in the west and the Kumaon Kingdom in the east. From the 13th–18th century, Kumaon prospered under the Chand Rajas who had their origins in the plains of India. Modern-day Garhwal was likewise unified under the rule of Parmar/Panwar Rajas, who along with a mass migration of Brahmins and Rajputs, also arrived from the plains.In 1791, the expanding Gurkha Empire of Nepal overran Almora, the seat of the Kumaon Kingdom. In 1803, the Garhwal Kingdom also fell to the Gurkhas. With the conclusion of the Anglo-Nepalese War in 1816, a rump portion of the Garhwal Kingdom was reestablished from Tehri, and eastern British Garhwal and Kumaon ceded to the British as part of the Treaty of Sugauli.
The official language of the state is Hindi while the major regional language is Garhwali
In order to better understanding and exploration as well as research, many geologists divide the entire state into several physiographic zones , placed parallel to each other from North to South East. These are Himadri –the Northern zone (that includes Zaskar and the great Himalaya) . This is also the highest elevated grounds ranging from 10000 feet to 25000 feet ((3,000 to 7,600 metres). The other zones adjusten to Great Himalyas are are known as Lesser Himalays (popularly called Himachal) with two linear ranges –Mussoorie and Nag Tibba. The southern stretch adjustment to Himachal zone is known as Siwalik Ranges. The entire area that includes all the three –the Himadri, Himachal and Siwalik is broadly known as Kumayun Himalays. The Southern part of the Siwalik with lesser elevates ranges are locally known as duns (such as Dheradun).
The Amazing Travel destinations
The heavenly beauty, serenity and proximity to nature of this great Himalayan state have always been attracting travelers all across the world. Whether you are a professional trekker, paraglider, a photographer or wildlife lover or a causal tourist looking for a real nature escape – Uttarakhand has everything for everyone. An all- season destination- the God’s own state is indeed a paradise for all.
A bouquet of natural beauties’ is distributed in the 13 districts of Uttarakhand:
- Udham Singh Nagar
A Few Major Tourist Attractions
It is the most difficult task for anyone to select a few out of the numerous travel destinations in the Himalayan state. Also, it varies to a large extent on the choice of the travelers, nature of travel, purpose of travel and duration of the trip.
Still, let us try to explore the impossible and list out a few of the major travel destinations in Uttarakhand.
Valley of Flowers
Unspoiled by human invasion, surrounded by Greater Himalayan mighty mountains and glittering glaciers from all sides lies the most charismatic Valley of Flowers- the gateway to heaven. A world heritage site, this is also the conversion point of Himalayan ranges of Western and Eastern Himalayas.
How to reach
An 11 hours drive from Dheradun (294.5 Km) will take you to Joshimoth, a small little hamlet in Uttarakhand. Another one hour drive from there will take you to Gobindghat, the nearest place to Valley of flowers one can reach through car. The trek starts from Gobindghat.
Tungnath is located at an altitude of 3,680 m (12,073 ft), and just below the peak of Chandrashila. The temple is believed to be more than 1000 years old and is the third (Tritiya Kedar) of the Panch Kedars. Chopta –tungnath chandishila is not only about highest shiva temple in the world , it’s not about the one of the most colourful trail with rhododendrons red and pink all around in summers and springs , this is not about the mysterious beauty of hide & seek with mist and rain in monsoon, nor this is only about the mesmerizing views of forest greens and snow white glaciers in winters or a paradise for rare Himalayan birds including elusive monals – the memory of this trek is all of these together and much more. Perhaps this is one reason no travelers can stop themselves from the urge of visiting this place again and again.
How to reach:
Distance from Haridwar to Chopta valley is 186 km . Chopta is located in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand and lies on the Ukhimath – Chamoli – Gopeshwar road.
One of the lesser known beauties of Uttarakhand, located at an altitude of about 7000 ft above the sea level, is the little hamlet Chakrata in Dehradun District. This is a hidden treasure for nature lovers, Trekkers, bird watchers and wild life enthusiasts. Even this is an ideal place for tourists looking for a less crowded destination to spend a few days in the lap of nature. A trek to tiger fall or a nearby drive to the Deovan would make anyone fall in love with this place forever.
How to reach:
Chakrata is well connected with motorable roads. Luxury and normal Buses to Mussoorie, Dehradun and Chakrata are available from ISBT Kashmiri Gate, New Delhi. Buses and Taxis to Chakrata are easily available from major destinations of Garhwal regions.
Corbett National Park
For a large percentage of wildlife photographers around the world Corbett National Park is the most favorite wildlife destinations in the subcontinent. The unique combination of Himalayan landscape nestled with dark blue mountain rivers like ramganga , widespread grassland , dense forests and ofcourse, the amazing varieties of mammals and birds make this a dreamland for anyone who loves nature.
How to reach:
The nearest town is Ramnagar which is well connected by road and rail from New Delhi and other major cities. It is just 5 hours drive from New Delhi.
Perhaps no article on Uttarakhand is complete if it has not talked about Kedarnath one of the Panch-Kedars. Located on the Garhwal Himalayan range near the Mandakini River, Kedarnath is undoubtedly one of the most prominent and worshipped religious places in the world. Due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open to the general public only between the months of April and November the autumn full moon). During the winters, the vigraha (deity) from Kedarnath temple is carried down to Ukhimath and where the deity is worshiped for the next six months.
How to reach:
The trekking route for the first 07 km is gradual but after Rambara the trek is steep for the next 07 km. The trekking route for the last 03 km goes up and down gradually. A normal person takes around 07 hrs to reach Kedarnath from Gaurikund.
All you need is a long weekend – an 8 hours smooth and beautiful drive from Delhi. You may start early and enjoy a relaxing long drive in the mountains to reach the little village in Kumayun called Mukteswar . Nestled in the Himalayan Mountains at an elevation of 7,500 feet, lies the little Hamlet – Mukteswar in the Kumayun zone of Uttarakhand. A rich treasure of flora and fauna almost hidden from the popular tourist destinations this place is has a beauty of its own. The simple living villagers and beautiful landscape would take your heart away easily.
How to reach:
Mukteshwar is at a distance of 353km from Delhi, 51km from Nainital and 42 km from Haldwani.
Art & Culture
Uttarakhand boasts of their rich and old heritage of culture and traditions broadly divided into Kumauni and Garhwali culture. There are so many interesting and meaningful aspects of the state closely related to the mountains, economy, religion, food and festivals.
If anything that comes after the influence of Himalayas (which is common to all over the state) on the people of the region, it is the religious aspects. Almost every corner- every mountain peak of this beautiful region is telling a story of a God and Goddess.
The famous mountain peaks are Nandadevi, Kamet, Trishul, Badrinath, Dunagiri, and Kedarnath. The Alaknanda River, one of the main sources of the Ganges, receives with its affluent the whole drainage of the district. At Devprayag the Alaknanda joins the Bhagirathi, and thenceforward the united streams bear the name of the Ganges. Cultivation is principally confined to the immediate vicinity of the rivers, which are employed for irrigation.
Garhwali is the main language spoken here. Garhwali language has a number of sub-dialects that includes Jaunsari, Marchi, Jadhi and Sailani.
The famous panch-kedars or five most famous Hindu temples of lord Shiva are situated in the Garhwal district only. The five temples are the Kedarnath at an altitude of 3,583 m (11,755 ft), the Tungnath 3,680 m or 12,070 ft), Rudranath (2,286 m or 7,500 ft), Madhyamaheshwar Madmaheshwar (3,490 m or 11,450 ft) and Kalpeshwar (2,200 m or 7,200 ft).
On the day of ‘Makar Shankaranti’, ‘Gindi’ fairs are organized at some places in the southern part of the district. These fairs have its own distinctiveness and importance in the hills. These fairs are symbols of bravery, joy, courage & competitive spirits, in which two teams of the villagers are formed to participate in the game of specific kind of ball in a plain ground. In this game, each team try to pull the ball in its side and the winning villagers carry the ball with celebrations and dances.
Vaikunth Chaturdashi Mela of Srinagar
On the occasion of ‘Shukla Chaturdashi’ of Kartik month, also called ‘Vaikunth Chaturdashi’, a fair is organized at the Kamleswar Mahadev Temple of Srinagar which is not only for recreations & entertainments but also attached with some traditions.
Every year on ‘Vaikunth Chaturdashi’ & ‘Kartik Purnima’, a two days ‘Binsar Mela’ is organized at ‘Bindeswer Mahadev’ temple situated at the remote & district border area between ‘Chauthan Patti’ & ‘Dhoodatoli’ forests in which people from different areas of the Districts Pauri, Chamoli, Almora and Rudraprayag are participated and worshipped God Shiva.
Kumauni or Kumaoni are people from the Kumaon region of the Indian state of Uttarakhand and in the Far western Nepal. The language of the region is Kumaoni language.
After harvesting season people mostly relax, rejoice, dance and sing, and thus a festival is generated. At the transition of the sun from one constellation to another Sankranti is observed. Each Sankranti has a fair or festival connected to it somewhere in Kumaon. Fooldeyi, Bikhauti, Harela, Ghee Sankranti, Khatarua,
Ghughutiya are the most-observed Sankranties throughout the region.
Other festivals include Basant Panchami, Shiv Ratri, Kumauni Holi, Uttarayani, Samvatsar Parwa, Ram Navami, Dashra, Batsavitri, Rakshabandhan, Janmastmi, Nandastmi, and Deepawali etc.
Recent Stories from The State
An exclusive interview of Hon’ble Secretary Tourism Uttarakhand- Mr. Dilip Jawalkar
” Uttarakhand is blessed with the rolling mist and towering deodars which has always attracted travellers and tourists from all over the world. The post-pandemic travel behavior analysis has brought Health & Wellness and Rural tourism into the lime-light and we see a huge potential of these new segments of tourism in our state. We are working along with the relevant partners to explore the opportunities and develop the tourism-friendly ecosystem around these sectors. Our initiatives now are focused to provide maximum benefits to the stakeholders associated with the tourism arena. However, we should not forget that fighting Covid-19 is still a challenge. Hence we should continue to take great care of ourselves and follow the mandatory rules to break the chain. “
- What are the upcoming projects of Uttarakhand Tourism?
With the onset of winters, Uttarakhand is all ready to embrace tourists for a wonderful experience amidst snow and chilling weather. Places like Auli, Mussoorie,Nainital, Almora are all ready to host their annual winter festivals like Pre- Covid times. Various events and festivals like Nainital Winter Carnival, Mussorie Winter Line Carnival, Auli skiing festival and Paragliding competition Maldevta are all lined up for an enthralling experience to the tourists. Indeed UTDB is also in constant touch with local entrepreneurs so that more regional products and crafts can be marketed through these festivals. Apart then that, UTDB this year is focusing more on local delicacies for the upcoming year to promote Uttarakhand as a hub for ‘Himalayan Immunity Cuisine’ which offers the best authentic culinary experience of Garhwal and Kumaon region. And to promote religious tourism, the circuits like ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’ for better connectivity of all the sites associated to respective myths and stories have also been envisaged by the department.
- Steps taken to support the tourism industry post Covid period
The tourism sector remains an important contributor to the state’s economy hence it is imperative to take measures that can restore the tourism sector which has suffered a lot due to COVID. The UTDB is concerned on creating a fine balance between the revivals of tourism and ensuring health safety of the tourists as well as residents. Various initiatives to ease the financial woes of the stakeholders related to the tourism business are been addressed by the department. Some key steps towards a fast revival and for an inclusive development of all the stakeholders are as follows:
- One time financial support @ 1000 Rs/ person given to employees working in tourism sector. The total support amount committed is Rs 25 crore.
- Waiver to the tune of Rs. 23 Cr given by the Transport Department for the permit renewal fees for the year 2020-21.
- Deferment benefit to the tune of Rs. 6 Cr extended to hotels, dhabas and restaurants on fixed charges of electricity bills for 3 months.
- Bar license fee reduced for 3 months, thereby passing a benefit of Rs. 2.5 Cr. to the industry.
- Relaxation to the tune of Rs 2 Cr on the water bills.
- Exemption to the tune of Rs 60 lakh given to the tourism units from registration and renewal fees, under Uttarakhand Tourism and Travel Trade Rules for the year 2020-21.
- One time financial support amounting Rs. 35 lakh given to the registered River Rafting guides through DBT.
- Rafting and Aerosports firms exempted from yearly renewal fees for the year 2020-21.
- A waiver of around Rs 25 lakh given on the interest payable for 3 months on loans availed under “Veer Chandra Singh Garhwali ParyatanSwarojgarYojna” and “DeenDayal Home-stay Scheme”.
- Home Stay initiative – how is it working well for the people and plan in future?
We see a huge potential of Home Stays especially in the post-pandemic era. People who came back to their villages after Covid-19 can find good employment opportunities in their places and build a business. It can be an active way to finally dream for a possible reverse migration. We have many success stories at present where people have turned their traditional houses into homestays and are receiving good footfall now. Many of them desire to stay back and thrive in tourism business.
Attracting more such people, UTDB has started the online registration facility for the Veer Chandra Garhwali Scheme and Chief Minister Self-employment scheme for homestays. In future, we hope to create more such projects where people can come back and contribute more towards a thriving tourism industry in the state.
“Uttarakhand being blessed with picturesque valley and scenic beauty of nature is famous all around the globe. But apart from that, Uttarakhand is also a repository of polyherbs, spices, known for its therapeutic uses. Our government is considering developing the state as a culinary tourism hub of ‘Himalayan Immunity Cuisine’ by combining the rich heritage of Kumauni and Garhwali cuisines. We are also promoting ‘Religious Tourism’ in our state where we have started working on the circuits like Ramayan Circuit, Vivekanand and Mahabharat circuit. We are determined that the upcoming months will act as a boon for the tourism industry in Uttrakhand. “
Shri Satpal Maharaj, Tourism Minister, Uttarakhand