Tag Archives: Joshimath

5 Most Beautiful Himalayan Towns

Originally posted on AsiaRooms

No matter how much I write about this beloved destination that I adore, there’ll never be enough to express the awe inspiring, breath taking, beautiful wonders that the Himalayan Mountain Range brings to all! While trekking within the Himalayas during the summer is quite a popular thing to do, there are many other ways to enjoy the magical spirit of the mountains – especially if you aren’t an ardent mountaineer, a huge trekking enthusiast or an avid lover of walking across the mountains. For starters you could try experiencing the beautiful serene towns that lie at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, and these five are my recommended.

1. Joshimath, Uttarakhand

The city of Joshimath serves as a good base to explore the mountains and smaller towns across the North Western Himalayas in the Garwhal and Kumaon reigons. If you drive 250km southwest, you will get to the holy town of Rishikesh and Haridwar, a glimpse of the beautiful escapades in the Uttarakhand Himalayas. From this place you can drive up to Govind Ghat, which is the base for the trek to the Valley of Flowers National Park. 20km away is also the beautiful skiing resort in Auli. Auli is known to be a skiing paradise in the Kumaon Himalayas. If not for skiing in the winters, this place makes for spectacular views and a ride on the cable car ropeway is quite fun even during summers. With a sneak peek towards many beautiful regions within North Western Himalayas, this is the perfect spot to snuggle up and relax if you want a peaceful retreat away from the madness of cities.

Auli is a famous skiing resort in the Kumaon Himalayas

2. Leh, Jammu and Kashmir

Leh was the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh. It now forms part of the Leh district in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. Though this is a huge stretch and has beauty varied with geographical diversities, it is more popular for its roadtrips on high altitudes, and the view of the expansive and different landscapes it has to offer. More importantly, the lakes and waters of this place make for magnificent viewings. On one side, there’s Tso Moriri and on the other side by the India-China border is Pangong Tso Lake. If it were up to me, I’d just go and settle down in this beautiful haven. With beautiful monasteries, the highest motorable road and the cold deserts of the Nubra Valley, Leh has a lot to offer and makes for a great stay especially during the months of July to October. What’s more, there are direct flights to Leh from Delhi, making the commute a lot easier.

With the view of the Himalayas in the backdrop, Tso Moriri Lake is a magnificent stopover

3. Kaza, Himachal Pradesh

Situated in the Western Himalayas, Kaza is the gateway to the forbidden valley of the Great Western Himalayan Kingdom, known as the Spiti Valley. While getting there is an arduous task without any direct flights and the roads being one of the most dangerous in the world, once you’re there, the experience makes up for all the bumps and backaches you’ll incur on your journey there. Check out the views across Rohtang Pass and the short hike to Chandertaal Lake, and yes, once you’re there, the opportunity to visit one of the coldest villages in the world, Kibber, at 14,200 feet is the most blissful experience you’ll ever discover. One of the most spectacular views is of a gorgeous tall statue of Buddha sitting in the middle of nowhere, looking out onto the majestic mountains. The feeling you get out there is nothing short of magical.

Take a short hike to Chandertaal Lake before arriving in Kibber, one of the coldest villages in the world

4. Darjeeling, West Bengal

Known as the Queen of Hill Stations, Darjeeling is one of the prettiest towns in the North East Himalayas. As soon as you near the town, you’ll start to see views of the Kanchenjunga Peak. But there’s more to this place than just that view which almost sits in the background no matter which part of town you’re in. Darjeeling has some amazing restaurants, beautiful vantage points and a splendid ambience with its rustic Victorian legacy having served as a British hill station in the past. Wake up early at 4am for a visit to Tiger Point for a stupendous view of the sunrise. On your way back down, you can visit theGhoom Monastery, Japanese Pagoda which has some really amazing statues of Buddha in different poses.  Darjeeling is also famous for its teas, so stop by for a cup of Darjeeling tea as you view the sunset on the terrace of the century-old Keventer’s Café.

Darjeeling was a British hill station that is popular for its tea plantations

5. Mcleod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh

If you want to experience cool weather all year round, complete with chilly breezes, magical misty roads and some serious time and space to think about the meaning of life, then you’d want want to head to Mcleod Ganj. Located in the suburb of Dharamshala, it is also home to the Dalai Lama’s Temple known as Tsuglagkhang Temple. The town is also nicknamed “Little Lhasa” due to the large population of Tibetans living there. For me, a visit to the temple during prayer times was an enchanting experience. Whether you believe in any form of God or not, the spiritual journey is something that you’ll cherish for quite a while. The town centre gets crowded due to the hoards of tourists that come from all over the world to catch a glimpse of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, but you can quietly slip away to a small part of town called Naddi. It’s quiet, beautiful and serene here. Either way, don’t miss Mcleod Ganj, especially if you’re in Manali or New Delhi.

McLeod Ganj is home to the popular Tsuglagkhang Temple, known as the Dalai Lama Temple

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To the people of Uttarakhand

A couple of years ago, my travel trails took me here…

Rudraprayag

Rudraprayag

Badrinath

Badrinath

Near Badrinath

Astounded with the beauty of the mountains, coupled by the flowing multiple confluences  of the river Ganga along with other rivers such as Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, Mandakini, Pindar this place has an aspiring sense of tranquility and most serene and yet roaring its guts out to engulf you into its madness. Every bit of the road that we traveled back then from Rishikesh to Joshimath to Govindghat to Ghagaria and later on towards Badrinath, we remember being surrounded by the mighty confluences and the flowing water all along. The gutso this river shows as it emerges from the Vishnu Prayag on the Alaknanda river covers a major part of Uttarakhand. We were of course during our journey told that there will be times when we might be in the midst of landslides and we will have all that is needed with the help of the Indian Army / BRO who keep a close watch on such landslides. In fact, there were a couple of occasions when we were stuck and had to make our way walking across the mountains and board another bus to move forward. Another occasion I distinctly remember is our bus swaying while the landslide commenced and narrowly escaping while I could see some rocks and smaller boulders fall down upon the mountains.

Landslide Landslide 2

Today when I look at all the devastation in the NEWS channels and all across the newspapers, my heart goes out to the people, who’re stranded, lived or who passed away in this enormous region of Uttarakhand! They live there knowing this is certain for sure and this is something they won’t be easily able to escape, come the time of such a natural calamity. Yet, to these people and their villages, they have no other way out.  Truly there are very few words to describe this wrath of nature that has happened. As much as possible, we can try to salvage the fact that the brave Indian Army and relief workers are trying their best to help folks out there. To many sitting on their couches or inside the comforts of their homes, it would be a trivial endeavor and of course many could just pray for the situation to be handled to its best. While some of us of course would try to help out in whatever way they could as we sit here and watch the devastation in horror.

 

Rishikesh

Reminds, me of how, such beauty that I encountered was always and will always be at the disposal of a world, a world that keeps deteriorating time and again all because of human need and that’s where nature decides  to give it back. It’s very sad, but us humans need to understand that this is just the beginning. Unless we strive towards making a better earth or a better planet this is going to keep on continuing.

Words fail me in that endeavor but as I sit here in front of my laptop, helpless to do much, I tell myself only this… Look for a better tomorrow, for the nature around you is just an encompassing mirror of what you do and how you show your beliefs, for it can come back real hard and bite you where it hurts the most…

P.S: If you want to contribute towards relief efforts of Uttarakhand, check out http://goonj.org/  Something I looked up and went ahead and contributed too. You can donate, food, clothes or if not, you can donate any sum of money if you’d like. The least you can do to help relief, rehabilitation ‘To the people of Uttarakhand.’

Joys in Joshimath – Uttarakhand Chronicles

Joshimath in Uttarakhand was our first basecamp, in the Himalayas… This is one of the most amazing places where you can actually start getting immersed in the white clouds and snow peaked mountains that surround the Himalayas. Very close to Western Himalayas, Joshimath is a hub if you want to enter Auli of the Kumaon Himalayan region, go to Badrinath or for that matter reach towards Govindghat. (starting point to go to Ghagariya ghat, which is the village where people  usually stay during their visits to Valley of Flowers or Hemkund Saheb.)

Our journey to reach Joshimath crossed about 250 kms via mini bus. Now the journey towards Joshimath if you start early in the morning from Rishikesh, is certainly one that is enchanting and of course filled with a constant gaze to the confluences of the river Ganga with other rivers. Every where you go while your bus is doing the hairpin bends, you are bound to see the confluence of River Alaknanda with Bhagirathi and you will definitely get to go through Dev Prayag and Rudra Prayag. One of the two prayags (Confluences) before you reach Joshimath.

Confluence of Alaknanda & Bhagirathi enroute Joshimath

Confluence of Alaknanda & Bhagirathi enroute Joshimath

What is most exciting is the beautiful weather and the peaceful roads will start giving you an enchanting sense of belongingness towards what you would want your Himalayan trek to start off with. Plenty of occasions where you might just drop your jaws with serene and scenic beauty of huge cliffs and mountains in the Uttarakhand region, not just one or two, but stretches of it. That’s something that made the journey all the more exciting.

Beauty of the cliffs & Mountains...

Beauty of the cliffs & Mountains...

Cloud Covered Mountains

Cloud Covered Mountains

After a gruelling 8-9 hours of a bus ride, full of hairpin bends, your entry in Joshimath is one that shall certainly refresh you.

Hairpin Bend Road

Hairpin Bend Road

Waterfalls at the entrance of Joshimath is one of the pit-stops that you have to take before you get into the buzz of the small town of Joshimath. Even as you do that, you will feel the weather change, much different from Rishikesh’s humid texture to a colder ad more fresh air of the Kumaon Himalayan region.

Waterfalls at the entrance of Joshimath

Waterfalls at the entrance of Joshimath

Jyotirmath is the uttarāmnāya matha or northern monastery, one of the four cardinal institutions established by Adi Shankara, the others being those at Shringeri, Puri and Dwaraka. Their heads are titled “Shankaracharya”. According to the tradition initiated by Adi Shankara, this matha is in charge of the Atharvaveda.
Jyotirmath Lord Narasimhar Temple

Once you reach Joshimath, besides getting acclimatized to the weather, one of the things you would want to do is to check out two things.

1. Shankracharya Math (One of the 4 maths in the world) – It also has the Rudraksha tree, which is simply enchanting.

2. Narsimha Temple (Also known as Bhavishya Badrinath Temple) Legend has it that once the Badrinath temple in the future is destroyed, it would be placed here. In fact even now, during the winter, people move the Lord Badrinath shrine here and is worshipped religiously here.

Narsimha Temple

Narsimha Temple

This palce is a certain pitstop if you go towards Auli, Tapovan or anywhere in the Western Himalayan regions of Uttarakhand. Something you’ll cherish deeply.

Valley of Flowers – Yet another SriniOnTour…

Valley of Flowers - Backpacking Begins...
Valley of Flowers – Backpacking Begins…

So, I’m all set with my backpack  and with a lot of hopes from this trip. This journey has long been on my bucket list and I’ve been working quite hard to make it happen. Finally, this is part of my first ventures as a part time travel writer, and beginning my career into a whole new dimension. Yes, there are a lot of ifs and buts still, as far as my whole plan goes, but that’s the best part about it…

As far as this trip is concerned… I’m sure there isn’t any doubt, that this is going to be another #SriniOnTour that will rock. This time around, I may not be able to blog on the go, due to connectivity and rains, I’ve decided to  avoid carrying my laptop… besides my backpack is already about 10 kgs… which we would carry all the way up to the West Himalayas. So I’ve decided, I’d upload a lot of photos on twitter and facebook and showcase my journey as a live photo-blog.

http://facebook.com/srinistuff

http://twitpic.com/photos/srinistuff

Also joining me on this trip are a some of my close friends with whom i regularly go on trips/treks.. Swapnil, his wife, Mangesh and his friend…

From the twitterverse, my new found friends @irohan and @_vishalg would be part of this trip.

This journey is also inspired by my conversation time and again with Chris Collins – (http://nicolaskumar.com/) Author of (Valley of Flowers)  – Chris, thanks for all your advice and help… As soon as I’m back from this trip, the first thing on the agenda is to get the book and read it… That way, I’d be able to relate to everything in it much better. 🙂

So here’s the plan (Some details might be helpful for others who plan to travel here)

Leave for Haridwar via Dehradun Express tonight…

Reach on the 31st July, just in time for the Maha Aarti.. Which is a beautiful and a spectacular sight and something that we should not miss… Hari-Ki-Pauri as it’s popularly known…

Haridwar

Haridwar

1st August

A few more locations in Haridwar, mainly…

Maya Devi Mandir , located on upper road. This temple is one of the 51 “shakti peeths” and its the presiding deity of Haridwar. It is from this temple Haridwar derives its other name Mayapur.

Maya Devi Temple

Bharat Mata Mandir, 5 km north of the center. Dedicated to Mother India, this is half temple, half nation building exercise, with seven floors stacked with deities, saints, and secular heroes of all Indian faiths. Some signage in English.

Bharat Mata Mandir

Bharat Mata Mandir

Bilkeshwar Mahadev Mandir , Shiva temple located on a hill.

Depending on how much time we have on our hands, we’d plan to see these places.

2nd August

Rishikesh

We take an early morning train to Rishikesh. Hemkunt Express – Leaves Haridwar at 6.50 AM and reaches Rishikesh by 8.00 AM. That’s the only train available in the morning. Else we might have to take Vikrams/Rickshaws costs (Rs.60-70) max per rick.

I checked out info for white-water rafting and most places say the season is September-November and March-April-May ideal for rafting. But we can get to know once we are there….My friend Swapnil has also got a few contacts, who say they might be able to arrange for the rafting.

White Water Rafting

White Water Rafting

 

Let’s see how it goes. Besides River Rafting we can visit these places on the 2nd at Rishikesh…

 

Lakshman Jhula, Trayambakeshwar Temple, Lakshman Jhula. is 13 stories high, with different deities throughout.  edit

Lakshman Jhula

Lakshman Jhula

Triveni Ghat, This is a bathing ghat. Daily in the morning and evening there are thousands who take bath here and enjoy the Maha Aarti being performed. It very soothing to sit on the banks of the river and enjoy the cool breeze from the river.

3rd August onwards we report to YHAI Basecamp and follow their itinerary…

4th  August – We take a bus from Rishikesh – Joshimath

Enroute Joshimath

Enroute Joshimath

5th August –  Orientation walk / Visit to Auli and Tapovan

6th August – Joshimath to Govindghat by Bus…

Joshimath to Govindghat by Bus

Joshimath to Govindghat by Bus

6th August – Govindghat – Ghangaria Ghat (A trek of 13kms) This one’s going to be the real test as the place that we would trek would have rain, and there are some really slants that we have to overcome carrying at least 10kgs of backpack is certainly going to be a challenge. While we have trekked over 20-30 kms in a day, this 13km trek would be with full supply backpack and the altitude would be quite challenging, add to that the cold and rain… Should be fun at the same time.

Govindghat to Ghangaria Ghat

Govindghat to Ghangaria Ghat

7th August – Ghangaria Ghat to Valley of Flowers… Now this is the most beautiful place that we hope would really make the 13km trek the previous day, worth it’s while… It’s about 8kms to and fro. This should be easier as our backpack would be at the camp and the trek is much lighter. But the beauty of the park and the flowers in the valley… would really be amazing.. The photos will tell you for sure 🙂 Stay tuned… In the meantime you can also read my poem about the Valley of Flowers here

Valley of Flowers

Valley of Flowers

8th August – Ghangaria Ghat to Hemkund Saheb – This is another amazing place, a worshipping shrine for Sikhs, this place is divine and much more beautiful in terms of the scenic locations and I hope to get a glimpse of some glacier / Ice as well…

Hemkund Saheb

Hemkund Saheb

9th August – We trek back to Govindghat.. The 13km trek.. This should be easier as it’s downhill…

10th August – Govindghat to Badrinath is around 25 kms and this would be a bus journey. Some rest to our ailing legs 😛

Badrinath Temple

Badrinath Temple

11th August – Badrinath – Vasudhara falls around 16km trek to and fro. This is a beauty… In the cold and the rain, it’s quite a pretty sight I’ve heard.

Vasudhara Falls

Vasudhara Falls

12th August –  Badrinath to Rishikesh and check out after breakfast…

Post that, since it’s a long weekend and we have a couple of days on our hand we may just chill in Rishikesh and then head back to Delhi on 13th or 14th August, from where we catch a train and reach Mumbai by 15th August and celebrate Independence Day at home 🙂

All this ordeal would be quite an experience and certainly a journey worth sharing… For now, I’d be updating pictures at

http://facebook.com/srinistuff

http://twitpic.com/photos/srinistuff

 

So stay tuned and hope you enjoy the updates.

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