Shadowed by the glorious Himalayas and bordered by Nepal and Tibet, Uttarakhand is a state in India that is replete with untainted natural magnificence. Broadly divided into two regions; ‘Garhwal’ in the north and ‘Kumaon’ in the south, Uttarakhand is home to numerous Hindu legends. Believed to have been an abode to humans since prehistoric times, this enchanting region’s colossal number of holy places have accorded it the befitting name of ‘Devbhumi’, translated in Hindi to ‘Land of Gods’.
So, you might be wondering what exactly Uttarakhand is famous for? Uttarakhand is known for the composed Himalayas, holy rivers, spiritual centres, and spellbinding landscapes. Uttarakhand is also famous for adventure sports, an enrapturing variety of flora and fauna, a charming history recorded in antiquated stones and the most modest people.
Uttarakhand is a place where you would want to get wonderfully lost in trails leading to unexpected paths. Fantasies, tales and stories form a part of each scene that unfurls itself in front of the one visiting this sacred land. If you are someone looking for serenity or an unexpected adventure, then Uttarakhand definitely should have a spot in your travel plans. Here is a guide to acquaint you with everything that Uttarakhand is famous for!
The hill town of Nainital is probably the most popular tourist getaway in Uttarakhand. Nainital was a summer retreat for the British when they were ruling India.
Its center of attraction is the Naini lake, surrounded by mountains on all sides. It runs along the hustle and bustle filled ‘Mall road’ which boasts of possibly everything under the sun, from hotels to gaming arcades and shops selling authentic Indian stuff. You would want to buy some wooden handicrafts and handloom while you are there. And if you start getting hungry on your shopping trip, don’t miss out on the mouth-watering momos served with the signature ‘chutney’ at numerous roadside stalls!
There is much more to Nainital than these famous attractions. You can enjoy numerous forest walks or explore the neighbouring mountainsides on horseback (highly recommended). There are several lesser-known surrounding places to make a day trip to, such as Bhimtal, Mukteshwar, Ramgarh that are slightly underdeveloped but offer great nature walks!
Tip: Nainital is a pleasant destination for any time of the year. But I would recommend you to refrain from coming here in the summer months to avoid huge crowds. But, if exploring an area with a lot of people doesn’t bother you, then you can go ahead!
2. Jim Corbett National Park
This is one of India’s most famous National Parks and was named after the famous hunter turned conservationist, Jim Corbett. It is famous for a wide array of wildlife, most popular of which are the Bengal tigers. You can explore this park by elephant or jeep safaris. Furthermore, hiking trails through the buffer zones are organized throughout the year, which can be a treat for wildlife enthusiasts!
Don’t miss the Dhikala zone that offers astounding panoramic views of the surrounding valleys. If you are passionate about photography, you will most certainly have a field day exploring the Corbett area.
Just an hour’s drive away from Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand, is the hill town of Mussoorie, also referred to as the ‘Queen of Hills’. Mussoorie boasts of the most popular thing that Uttarakhand is famous for: stunning views of forest canopies and the glorious Himalayan mountain ranges.
Add to this view a road strip featuring an open market setting lined with cafes, local handicraft stores, street food stalls and you have a great weekend destination. There are numerous heritage and antique shops on this market strip, where you will find really old paintings and collector’s items, perfect for gifting to family or friends. This market also features the ‘Cambridge Book Depot’, where the popular author Ruskin Bond comes down every Saturday to sign books and meet fans!
You can take a cable car headed to the Gun Hill, or a horseback ride to Lal Tibba, the highest point of Mussoorie to further enjoy the befuddling magnificence of the Himalayan ranges. If a good trek is what you fancy, you should travel to the close mountainside town of Landour on foot, which is a quieter version of Mussoorie. The key lime pie served at the ‘Mudcup cafe’ at Landour is to die for!
Rishikesh, famous as the birthplace of yoga is a major hub for yoga study and other spiritual practices. It gained its popularity by the Beatles’ visit in the late 1960s.
Located at a short distance from Haridwar, one of the oldest living cities at the Himalayan foothills, Rishikesh is the place to be for spiritual seekers. You can come here to hone your knowledge about spirituality, yoga, meditation, or learn more about Hinduism. Even if your interests don’t lie in the obvious activities that this town is famous for, you can come here to unwind amidst its untainted natural beauty, or relax at an ashram.
Or, if you are an adventure sports enthusiast, you can go for the many different options Rishikesh has to offer, in the form of mountain climbing, canoeing and much more. Despite being a very popular destination among tourists, the town of Rishikesh has retained an old-world charm in its lanes and alleys – something that Uttarakhand is famous for.
This is one of the offbeat options to cover if you are someone who is attracted to quaint villages and unexplored forest paths. In 1560, Almora was the summer capital of Chand Kings. If you are looking to have a tranquil time, you can stay at one of the many private cottages located right outside the town.
You can visit the Kasar Devi Temple, known to be the place where Swami Vivekananda meditated. If you are enthusiastic about Hindu architecture, you can visit the Jageshwar temple complex, an ancient Hindu worship site. It houses more than 100 temples that date back to the 7th to 12th centuries!
Almora is a charming town where you can get wonderfully lost. Every path will lead you to small villages, where people will invite you to share a meal with them.
6. Abbott Mount
This is an old town perfectly encapsulating a bygone era in the present. A beautiful church along with thirteen cottages spread across a hill make up for a scenic view. The town stands at a height of 6400 ft above sea level and is the perfect location for photography enthusiasts, bird watchers and trekkers.
You will be spellbound by taking the enchanting mountain views in, and enjoying a relaxing stay in this small town!
7. Spiritual pilgrimages
If someone asks the question, ‘What Uttarakhand is famous for?” then a unanimous answer would be the ‘Chota Char Dham Yatra’.
If you are seeking to derive pleasure from something other than mountaineering, trekking for leisure, rock climbing or other touristy pursuits, then there is no better way than diving into the spiritual and religious essence of Uttarakhand. ‘Chota Char Dham’ translates to ‘The small four abodes’ and comprises of a set of four holy pilgrimage sites. Visiting them helps one achieve salvation, according to Hindu belief.
The temples of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath make for the entire pilgrimage circuit. These temples mark the source of the holy rivers of Yamuna, Ganges, Mandakini and Alaknanda, respectively. Records of these pilgrimages date back to thousands of years in authentic documents. People undertake these pilgrimages with the objective of spiritual emancipation and enlightenment, and you could too!
8. Adventure sports
You’ll be delighted to know that Uttarakhand is famous for being a skiing destination too!
Auli, located adjacent to the holy place Badrinath, has gondola rides, chairlifts and Poma ski lift options. If you want to indulge in skiing, the best time to visit Auli would be from January to March. For those who like trekking, the Kuari Pass trail near Auli is a great option. Passing through the Nanda Devi National Park, this trekking trail offers breathtaking views of the snow-capped Himalayas.
Auli runs short on accommodation options, and I would recommend you to stay at ‘The Himalayan Abode Homestay’ near Joshimath. Hosted by a skiing champion and coach, this homestay offers great comfort and coziness!
If you are looking for more conventional adventure sports experiences, then you can go for the many different options in the form of mountain climbing, canoeing, paragliding and much more. All of these are offered in all popular destinations such as Rishikesh, Joshimath, Ranikhet, Mussoorie.
9. Valley of flowers
One of the most visually striking spots in Uttarakhand is The Valley of Flowers in the Gharwal district. This high-elevation Himalayan valley houses over 300 varieties of flowers, all spread across the valley like a colorful bright carpet against the snow-topped Himalayas. The valley makes for one of the most stunning treks and is located near Hemkund Sahib, a holy shrine for the Sikh community.
If you fancy visiting this place, then keep in mind that it is open only from June to October!
10. Quaint villages
Uttarakhand has numerous remote villages that are completely off the tourist map. Some of these are only accessible by foot. If you want to experience the quiet treks headed by shepherds and a taste of simple village life, you should visit villages such as Pokhara, Kalap or Chakrata.
Dotted with postcard-sized houses, offering a view of serene mountains, located in the lap of nature, thick with flora; Uttarakhand is famous for many undiscovered treasures such as these. In my visit to Pokhara, I stayed with a lady who had an apple orchard, and she generously offered me bags full of them!
11. Organic products
Uttarakhand is climate-wise a cold state, and hence, replete of suitable fruit orchards and farms, such as those of apricots, apples, plums, peaches and pears. You will find shops selling jams, nectars, juices and pickles throughout your journey to different places, and in local markets. Fruits picked from local orchards go into the production of these items. Age-old traditional home recipes add to their authenticity. They offer an unforgettable natural taste and goodness.
You can buy them for yourself or your loved ones and they will serve as great souvenirs of your pleasant time spent in the state. The villagers and locals will also get an incentive to continue their small home-based businesses.
12. Picnic destinations
One of the most popular things that Uttarakhand is famous for is a destination called Lansdowne. Also known as ‘India’s Switzerland’, this is a perfect weekend getaway to relax and make a departure from city life. Lansdowne is located at an elevation of 1700 ft above sea level and offers panoramic views of the snow-topped peaks of Mt. Kedarnath and Chaukhamba. Densely packed with Deodar and Pine trees, Lansdowne is a breathtaking place to visit.
Do take out time to visit the ‘Travel cafe’ during your stay here. The conversion of a 100-year-old mule shed formed this unique community-based establishment! It boasts of a small library, a souvenir section and everything else to offer you a memorable experience! Other weekend picnic getaways in Uttarakhand are Landour, Mussoorie and Jeolikote.
Also Read: What is Goa Famous For?
I hope that any doubts regarding the question, ‘What is Uttarakhand famous for?’ have been put to rest. With enough reasons to visit this land of serene magnificence, you should set out to preparing your itinerary for your upcoming trip to Uttarakhand ASAP!