Lodged on the northern frontier of the country and the southern part of the Himalayas, Uttarakhand is a destination that offers sky-scraping mountains, quaint mountain culture and local cuisine.
Given the dramatic topography of the state with lowlands, hills and rugged mountains, the climate varies during all the seasons but winters especially are extended.
#WhiteWinter is an initiative by the state tourism board to focus attention on the Himalayan state’s many winter charms. Winter in Uttarakhand begins by October and ends in March. The state transforms into a surreal winter wonderland with travellers and thrill-seekers visiting destinations, such as Auli, for their adrenaline fix.
Winter adventure sports and treks
Ever wondered what a bird’s eye view would look like? Paragliding in Uttarakhand promises a scenic avian journey. Besides the adrenaline rush and the freedom to fly, it acquaints you with beautiful blue skies and the tapestry of mountains as you soar and descend on this aerial journey. You don’t need previous experience in the sport; you have the assistance of experts at destinations such as Bageshwar, Bhimtal, Maldevta in Dehradun and Kausani.
The trek to Kuari Pass begins at Joshimath. You are treated to an impressive skyline of the mighty mountains, even as you meander through lush green meadows, vast green pastures and past Himalayan views. On rare occasions, you might stumble across the footprints of the Himalayan bear or a leopard. The Pindari glacier trek in the Kumaon region takes trekkers across the southern rim of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary and pretty local villages.
Auli, Uttarakhand’s best-kept secret, is India’s answer to Aspen. Skiing enthusiasts throng the destination in winters to strap on their equipment and paraphernalia and tame the towering, rugged snow-capped peaks. Given the velocity of the wind at the height and the risks involved, you need to be a trained skier. Local resorts are equipped with gear and specialists. Munsiyari and Mundali are among other popular ski slopes.
For aquatic adventures, rafting is a popular sport in Rishikesh. Even though it is an all-year-round sport barring the monsoon, in the winters the water is cold enough to send a chill down your spine. This adventure is calibrated considering your expertise and the length you choose to raft in the chilly roaring waters of the Ganges. Other locations to relish this streamy adventure are Alaknanda, Dhauliganga, and Kali rivers.
If you aren’t a dyed-in-the-wool adventure seeker and prefer more down-to-earth stuff (pun intended), Uttarakhand’s contours—from the low-lying plains to the mighty Himalayas —offer an array of treks and hikes. Adventure activities have an accommodative range, from easy to moderate, that can be accomplished in few days, such Chopta Chandrashila or Valley of Flowers to a more strenuous Auden Col’s trek.
Located roughly 100 kilometres from Nainital, the sleepy town of Binsar is surrounded by an eponymous wildlife sanctuary. Enveloped in the wide eclectic array of flora and fauna that you rarely gets to see elsewhere in the country makes it a favoured destination for trekkers. The town promises marvellous views of Himalayan peaks such as Chaukhamba, Nanda Devi, and Kedarnath.
Pilgrimage and spirituality
If there’s anything the pandemic has taught us, it is to be grateful and have faith. Uttarakhand, given its historic significance, is also known as the ‘Abode of Gods’ or dev bhumi. It is home to ornately carved temples and shrines from numerous kingdoms and faiths. Haridwar, loosely translated to mean ‘Gateway to God’, is an ancient city on the banks of the mighty Ganges that hosts the Kumbh Mela every 12 years. The Ganga aarti, a practice to worship the river is covered extensively through documentaries, movies, literature and travellers’ accounts.
Mukteshwar, a 350-year-old temple dedicated to Shiva, is perched atop a Kumauni hill in Nainital district. The state also houses religious circuit of temples—Chota Char Dham, Kedarnath and Badrinath.
Jageshwar Dham is a cluster of temples located in the titular valley, fringed in by a dense deodar forest. The temples date back between 7th and the 12th century, assuming an archaeological, architectural, and religious significance.