The mountains never fail to spring surprises! Once in a while, when negotiating hairpin bends, or trekking through velvet-green forests, you will come across little hamlets which most often than not are never mentioned in all those tourist handouts and trust us, you'll be nothing but glad that they aren't. They stay secret, hidden safe in the arms of the mountains, in the folds of ancient forests only for the discerning traveler to find and luxuriate in their serenity. Far from the mad bustle of the more touristy hot-spots, they celebrate the bounty of nature in her most pristine avatar. Here's a list of 7 such Offbeat Destinations in Kumaon that you must visit.
Still mostly undiscovered, Dhanachuli is an enchanting little village close to Mukteshwar. The hills rise up perfectly in symmetry over small stone houses with smoke rising up in curls. The Nanda Devi and Panchachuli peaks can be glimpsed from here. A variety of birds like Grey Bush chats, Blue-capped Rock, Streaked Laughing Thrushes, Scarlet Minivets, Blue-fronted Redstart, Warblers and Babblers can be spotted on moss-barked trees and flying overhead. Leisurely walks through an ancient oak forest and along winding tracks down the charming village are a must do. There are lovely apple orchards and pine and rhododendron forests too.
View from Dhanachuli
A short distance from Almora, Chalni Chinni, is a lovely village nestled in a quiet corner of the Kumaon Himalayas and offers spell-binding views of the Nanda Devi massif. The area has a rich avi-faunal population and birds like Scaly-breasted Munia, Grey Shrike, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Himalayan Whistling Thrush etc are often spotted. Lose yourself in silent forests of pine, oak and rhododendron trees; walk down terraced fields laden with seasonal fruits and vegetables; lie next to a gurgling perennial natural spring - this place is the epitome of peace. Share your stories with the locals as you join us on a village walk. The skies are immaculate and stars sparkle like diamonds. Photographing star trails is something you can try your hand at here!
Located near Chaukori and Patal Bhuvaneshwar in the Pithoragarh district, Jhaltola is an almost untouched destination. Unspoilt forests, a profusion of vibrant mountain flora and over 120 species and sub-species of birds make this a paradise for naturalists. Stunning views of snowy mountains standing tall against clear blue skies will make your catch your breath. Treks to the Lamkeshwar Temple and Pokhar- for that majestic sunset- are must dos! If you like activities, you can try your hand at rappelling, ziplining, rock climbing, Burma bridge and jumaring. Other places of interest include the Shiva temple and underground caves at Patal Bhuvaneshwar (16 km), Chaukori Tea Gardens (30 km) and the Musk Deer Park at Kotmanya (35 km).
A Verditer Flycatcher spotted at Jhaltola
One of the lesser-known gems of Kumaon, Peora is cradled in the Shivalik Range and offers a panoramic vista of over 350 km of towering snow-capped mountains. A fruity bouquet of apples, pomegranates, plums, and chestnuts mingle with the perfume of wildflowers and hang in the cold clean air. You can go on long hikes through coniferous forests to the valley below or go on village walks and interact with the locals.
The forests of Peora (Image Courtesy: ghummakar-biswas.blogspot.com)
Skirting the Pangot and Kilbury bird sanctuaries, this little gem offers excellent views of the Cheena Peak Range, and is an excellent birding spot. With over 500 species been recorded here, Pangot is a haven for bird-watchers. A variety of Himalayan species such as lammergeier, Himalayan griffon, blue-winged minla, spotted & slaty-backed forktail, rufous-bellied woodpecker, rufous-bellied niltava, khalij pheasant, variety of thrushes etc have been spotted. Not only birds, you can also spot animals like leopards, yellow-throated Himalayan martens, Himalayan palm civets, ghorals, barking deer and sambhar. You can also trek to the beautiful hamlet of Jeolikot.
Bird spotting at Pangot (Image Courtesy: Ashoka's Nainital Chalet)
This small hamlet fringed by orchards of luscious apples, 40 km from Mussoorie, offers mesmerising views of the snowy Himalayas. The dense Kodia forest is ideal for trekkers. An 8 km trek through the beautiful forest laced with bright scarlet rhododendrons is refreshing. A steep climb will bring you to Chamba, 16 km away. Located on the confluence of the rivers Bhilanga and Bhagirathi, the Tehri Dam nearby also makes for an interesting visit.
One of the finest jewel of Uttarakhand's lake district, Bhimtal is blessed with bountiful nature and a salubrious climate. In the heart of the town, is the tal- lake- with an island in the middle. Bhimtal is one of the numerous holy lakes in the Himalayas. It is said that when Draupadi was thirsty, Bhima struck the ground with his mace and water oozed out to form the lake. The Pandavas spent a part of their exile in this part of the Shivaliks. The little town has its fair share of colonial bungalows featuring wood paneling in the rooms and stained glass windows. Hiking around Bhimtal and the Sattal Lakes is exhilarating because of the overdose of beauty. There are lovely forests of deodar and cypress and from the ridge, you can enjoy views of the Bhimtal Valley. The area's rich birdlife attracts a lot of birding enthusiasts.
The Bhimtal Lake (Image Courtesy: Triphills)
Kumaon is dotted with remote villages, some of which can only be reached on foot. Removed from crowds and pollution, Solitude reigns supreme here. The Himalayas dazzle under clear skies and suddenly your soul is a free bird. As it soars higher and higher in these realm of peace, existence assumes its true meaning. Visit Kumaon and let the mountains spin their magic on you.
Article by: Mohana Das