Tag Archives: Uttarakhand

What are the best places (other than famous ones) to visit in India?

Answer by Srinivas Kulkarni:

Trekking in the Himalayas

I’m an avid travel bloger and blog about my escapades regularlyhttp://www.srinistuff.com. I always enjoy trekking in the Himalayas,  An experience in the Himalayas itself is something that classifies as one of the best activities to do in India… Of course there are local terrains, local treks, mostly Shayadaris since I live in Maharashtra… But Himalayas is something else… A complete transition into a world that takes you to the best state of mind let alone the whole physical and spiritual experience engulfing you out there.

So far I’ve been on the J&K side of Himalayas, Leh & Ladakh part… Uttarakhand/Uttaranchal (Valley of Flowers) and Been to certain territories of North Eastern Himalayas with the Sandakhpu trek and a bit of Nepal with the journey towards various villages across the India Nepal border. It’s very tough to choose between all of these three trips. So I’d give list down a couple of treks that I did which fall among the best activities I’ve done in India. with a few images to give you an idea of how amazing the himalayas are…

Trekking in the Valley of Flowers (Uttarakhand) (14000 feet above sea level)

Starting from Haridwar, Rishikesh, we began doing some local sight seeing and exploring various aspects of Uttarakhand slowly moving towards desolation and complete bliss amongst nature. Uttarakhand in itself is a beautiful place with spirtuality integrates well with nature and the amazing landscapes and terrains find themselves accompanied with various significant mythological / religious / spiritual references from the vast history of India… All the 5 confluences while on your way towards Joshimath are something to look forward too… The beautiful Ganga river flowing all the way on your side accompanying you along on the road side. But the best experience begins when you reach Ghagaria ghat… after a tiring trek of 13kms which is more like 30 kms cause of it’s steep level of climb… From there on an early morning trek to the Valley of flowers where you could see the Himalayas at a glance is what you should enjoy the best… Some pictures of how the trek looks like…

The best time to go here would be between June and September. Ideally flowers bloom during this period and as a matter of fact, every week you’ll get to see a whole range of flowerbeds across the valley. When we went, we had a possibility of viewing a new flower that had bloomed in the valley and we were also told that in a span of 5 years, first time there was a glacier that appeared enroute the Valley of flowers.

Now that is something that sounded really amazing as this would have been the first time I’d ever get to see glacier, though technically not snow, yet something worth experiencing.

Trekking across Villages in Nepal (Sandakphu Trek) 14200 feet above sea level..

This experience was simply stunning only because of the most amazing  landscapes that we experienced on our way to the top, but also the amazing Nepalese culture that we got to encounter during our trip. One of the most interesting thing that amazes you on this trip is that constantly you are crossing borders between India and Nepal, but barring a few check posts, there’s hardly anything to distinguish whether you are in Nepal or India… Unless you have a trekking guide along with you. Which we had and a good one too. The whole aspect of the beautiful terrains  and landscapes, no connectivity and total realm of realism sinking in to each pore of your skin is something that gives you a joy that you realize is something that we people take for granted. We went in November, hence the cold weather was something to enjoy as well… Some of these glimpses will give you a better idea.

Overall this trek was a mix of both nature trail, wild mountains, and most importantly a different culture altogether. However, there are many infamous terrains in the Himalayas that I’m planning to visit, and get more experiences as these. My list of places in Himalayas would be:

1 Everest Base Camp
2. Gomukh Gangotri trek
3. Kangra Valley trek
4. Parvati Valley
6. Trekking extensively in Ladakh, Spiti
7. Dalhousie trek
8. Saur Kund and Saur Pass trek.
9. Kailash Manasarovar
10. Har Ki  Dhun.

As an avid traveler, travel blogger and trekker, I encourage a lot of people to try out experiences in Himalayas, for I can’t tell you how it is, you have to experience it yourself to know better. 🙂 Hope this answer helps people travel to India and experience Himalayas themselves…

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Spiritual Badrinath – Uttarakhand Chronicles

One of the last legs of our Uttarakhand Chronicles was our trip to Badrinath. After a rigorous trek to the Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Saheb, we were definitely overworked and the trekking had taken a toll on our feet and totally exhausted. Amongst that exhaustion, this visit to Badrinath, by a bus was a life saver.

We were almost nearing Hanuman Chatta. Yes, the traditional and very famous temple of Lord Hanuman… This has a historical significance to it  from the Mahabharta, where Lord Hanuman tested Bhim of the Pandavas fame. Yes, this the place where this story took place. Bhim was crossing the forest when he saw an old ape sleeping in the way and his tail was crossing his path.

The then arrogant Bhim asked the ape to move away the tail. To which the ape replied that he’s too weak to move it and why doesn’t he move it himself. Getting irritated, he tried to move the tail with his mace. He kept trying and trying, real hard, with all his might that he could use, but to no avail… That is when he realised that the ape was no one but Lord Hanuman! Only then did he admit his mistake and realized the importance of humility and how that is significant in a warrior’s life.

And as luck would have it… Lord Hanuman, decided to test us too. I wonder if he disguised himself as modern day Mr. Murphy?

What happened was that we encountered a landslide during our route to Badrinath and our bus was stalled for over an hour. We were waiting for the BRO (Border Roads Organization) to clear the landslide.  Hence I guess it was time to pray to the Lord and make our own way towards Badrinath! For God helps them, those who help themselves… So cliched, yet so, true isn’t it?

So, being the trekkers we were, we decided to walk it up past the landslide affected area and then we could get another bus, one that was arranged by YHAI to come from the other side to take us towards Badrinath. And after a brisk walk and a shorter detour via hilly terrain and some teamwork, we managed to reach the other side of the landslide affected area. From then on it was smooth sailing.

We reached Badrinath late at night and crashed into our respective beds. The next day was going to be a relaxed one, where no more incessant walking or trekking in terrains of toughness. And what we got was one of the most comfortable night’s sleep in quite a while.

The next day was a little bit of shopping in the city and of course, visit to the Holy Temple of Badrinath. Quite a relaxed day to a relaxed weather and setting.

Hanuman Chatta Temple

Hanuman Chatta Temple

Lord Hanuman inside the temple..

Lord Hanuman inside the temple..

The Landslide...

The Landslide...

Beautiful Waterfall View from our Room

Beautiful Waterfall View from our Room

Badrinath Temple

Badrinath Temple

Valley of Flowers – Paradise on Earth – Uttarakhand Chronicles

Of the great misty clouds.
The rainbow began to shine,
Some said it was the great white light,
While some said it was about time…

There came the foggy strokes of sunlight,
Sometimes dark and pitchy as they could get.
Beauty of horizons, across the various mountains,
Colors that shone, knew no boundaries as they fret…

The dawn shone upon the great valley,
It took us some time to realize.
What did not come upon us until now,
Till it struck us heavily as a ray of surprise…

They came back again with some hope and some prayer,
Without which they could have never made it so far.
Upon the sunlight they knew they could go higher,
Yet, we tried hard and tried fast, to breathe the air…

It is this place where I would like to seek enchantment,
Forsaken in the depth of this long lost beauty,
I pray to my soul, where you must seek reprise for thee,
Beyond these mountains,into the ‘valley of Flowers’
I seek my penance and here is where I ask ye to bury me…

This was my poem written when I had set my sights on reaching this paradise on earth. But when I look back at this now and relive my experience of the journey to the Valley of Flowers, I certainly feel speechless. No matter how beautiful these words might seem like, nothing can beat the magic of the fact of being in Valley of Flowers.

Besides the fact that the journey to the place was a daunting 8-9 hour trek, first, from Govindghat to Ghagariya ghat. Then the next day, another 6 hour steep walk to the Valley of Flowers, the most amazing and enchanting feeling is the beauty of the surroundings that set forth another level and a whole new world out to yourself.

The best time to go here would be between June and September. Ideally flowers bloom during this period and as a matter of fact, every week you’ll get to see a whole range of flowerbeds across the valley. When we went, we had a possibility of viewing a new flower that had bloomed in the valley and we were also told that in a span of 5 years, first time there was a glacier that appeared enroute the Valley of flowers.

Now that is something that sounded really amazing as this would have been the first time I’d ever get to see glacier, though technically not snow, yet something worth experiencing.

Here are a few glimpses from the Valley, just a little showcase of what is something you have to encounter yourself to really experience it.

Queen of the HImalayas - Blue Poppy

Queen of the HImalayas - Blue Poppy

Waterfall streams enroute the Valley

Waterfall streams enroute the Valley

Diamond Dew Drops

Diamond Dew Drops

Besides that, this early morning walk to the enchanting valley certainly refreshed a lot of my senses and something that will get me visit the place yet again.

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.

Magical Rishikesh – Uttarakhand Chronicles

This was another one of the destinations that had the magic and enchantment of the natural beauty that surrounds you. One of the reasons besides of course the travel enthusiasm that I had to visit the famous Ram & Laxman Jhoola at this destination, was to go to the Parmarth Temple. I was told that every evening the aarti that happens here is truly spiritual and that this quest is not to be missed.

On the banks of River Ganga, across the temple worshipers sit in front of a majestic Lord Shiva statue behind the Parmarth Ashram temple… It is truly a magnificent view and something that I wanted to experience it myself. But that had to wait. Before we did that on a beautiful evening, we decided to explore in and around Rishikesh. It was certainly very amazing as we went out for a stroll at night towards Laxman Jhoola and explored the shops that sold amazing handicraft and artworks across the river…

Laxman Jhoola At Night...
Laxman Jhoola At Night…

The whole experience of looking at the gigantic bridge which has lasted there for ages takes you off your feet. You keep wondering how long it’s been hanging there… Well certainly about a 100 years. But what’s important is how quickly it takes you from one side to the other and you wonder how the sight completely changes. Once you get on the other side, you can take a long walk towards Ram Jhoola and other places that are even more enchanting. But the long walk makes you ponder how you got there in the first place.

Some really great work you find in the shops when you walk past them across the bridge. This is when you are walking towards Ram Jhoola.

That’s a sight of the Laxman Jhoola during the day… All buzzing and clear… Very few people really take the time to admire the sight of this amazing heritage! Most regulars just walk by it nonchalantly. Little do they know that this has great significance for many people and how beautifully arduous this majestic architectural symbol is…

Ram Jhoola
Ram Jhoola

Now, that’s the Ram Jhoola. Much bigger and more magnificent than the Laxman Jhoola. Incidentally we were told by one of the locals, that even though it’s called the Ram Jhoola, it didn’t really carry any significance to Lord Ram. In fact this bridge was made for Lord Shiva, as you can also see in the Shiva Statue near the Parmarth temple… However, since there was a Laxman Jhoola, (near to the oldest Laxman Temple in Rishikesh)  they decided to credit this one as Ram Jhoola…

Lord Shiva at the Parmarth Temple
Lord Shiva at the Parmarth Temple

As the evening sets in around 5.30, I recommend that you drop all the work you are doing and head towards this beautifully amazing and enchanting place called the Parmarth temple and set yourself for a showstopper that will spiritually heal you and take your breath away. It truly did for me. Sitting across this magnificent statue while the river Ganga flows steadily and voraciously under it’s feet, it gives you a clear view of what you want to see. There are no cloudy judgements, there is no way to think beyond anything that is blurry. Just clear view and conscious thought. They start the Maha Aarti around 6.30, but the best thing to do is to go and seat yourselves on either side of the steps that are near the river. With the cold water gushing at your feet, an enchanting spiritual chant at the back of your head, this is true devotion. Something that will make you think about what the true meaning of life is. A MUST-DO if you are in Rishikesh.

This had to be one of the best experiences there and I have to attribute it to the most beautiful and enchanting place there is in Uttarakhand. If you have ever been there or planning to go there. Do let me know what your views are…

Mystic Haridwar (Uttarakhand Chronicles)

Sometimes you have to realize that the mystic nature of certain destinations have to be always something that you cherish besides the true spirituality that lies within you. It’s always a discovery that you want within yourself that you try to find in destinations all around the world. As a traveler you realize that the journey within yourself is what you make of the journeys outside.

With that thought, I realized, a journey was about to begin, it was certainly going to be a trip of our lifetime. My friends and I had embarked upon a beautiful trip that would certainly change our life for the best of the reasons!! West Himalayas, was going to be the ultimate destination for all of us to reach to finally. But before that, we had our fair share of adventure, journeys and certainly some spirituality…

On that note, we realized that what better to start upon a journey than to visit the ultimately spiritual and holy city of Haridwar…

Har Ki Pauri

Har-ki-Pauri is quite the place to be especially at the evening. The prayers and the aarti there are really enchanting, besides the brightly lit temples at the foot of the Holy Ganges. Quite a spectacle to capture indeed.

This revered place is the major landmark of the holy city of Haridwar. Literally, “Har” means “Lord Shiva”, “ki” means “of” and “paudi” means “steps”. Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu are believed to have visited the Brahmakund in Har ki Paudi in the Vedic times. There is a large footprint said to belong to Lord Vishnu on a stone wall.

It is believed that it is precise spot where the Ganges leaves the mountains and enters the plains. The ghat is on the west bank of Ganges canal through which the Ganges is diverted just to the north. Har ki pauri is also the area where thousands of pilgrims converge and the festivities commence during the Kumbha Mela, which takes place every twelve years, and the Ardh Kumbh Mela, which takes place every six.

Each evening at sunset priests perform Ganga Aarti here, when lights are set on the water to drift downstream. This is the most amazing and soul touching spectacle. A large number of people gather on both the banks of river Ganges to sing its praises. The priest hold large fire bowls in their hands, the gongs in the temples at the Ghat start ringing and the chants flowing out of lips fill the air. People float earthen diyas, with burning flickers and flowers in them as a symbol of hope and wishes .The golden hues of floral diyas reflected in the river Ganges present the most enchanting sight.

A Naga Baba, relaxing in the morning near the river….

Naga Baba

People by the Holy Ganga in the morning…                             

Ganga River in the morning

Ganga River in the morning

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Mumbai-Delhi-Haridwar – Detour (Uttarakhand Chronicles)

Well, what can I say about this amazing journey that began with an amazing start… Something like the Amazing Race! I was slated to go on a Friday  to Haridwar, via Dehradun express on a train with all my friends. Little did I know that my destiny had something else in mind… As much as I could avoid the whole slurry of a detour, it was something I just couldn’t.

I was all packed for my journey as you read in my previous post. The backpack was ready and I had already taken a rickshaw to go to the railway station and that is when this twist happened…

It all started with a phone call…

“Srinivas, we have been trying to reach you through out the day….”

“Yes? Who’s this?”

“I’m calling from Reliance BIG entertainment… You had auditioned for Fox Travelller’s show right?”

“Oh yeah… I did… ‘This Journey is fun’  I know…

“Well you have been shortlisted in the finals, you need to come tomorrow for an audition…”

BANG!!!!

Now what do I do? Here I was at the crossroads for between ‘My First Himalayan Expedition’ & ‘A life changing opportunity.’ My train was in an hour from LTT to go to Haridwar. I had already booked my tickets, they were confirmed… for crying out loud…

“Can this happen some other time? Any chance I can come back and give this audtion?”

“Dude, this is a national audition… There’s no way it can happen any other time…” said Afreen, who was handling the production for this show.

That was about it… I had to make a split second decision and tell her what I was going to do. I bought some time and told her to message me the address in any case… I needed some time to make the decision.

What were my options??

1. Go, board the train and set off for my First Himalayan Adventure (Valley of Flowers Trek)

2. Go for the auditions and once it’s done, take a flight to Delhi and catch the same train on Sunday morning to regroup with my friends…

Interestingly option no. 2 gave me enough time to actually catch the same train in Delhi, on the morning… Quite an adrenaline pumping situation and what do you think I decided to do??

Option 2 it was…. I called Afreen back and told her that I’ll make it for the auditions….

But, that was just the beginning of my detour… A story that I’ll remember for life…

Once I finished the auditions, I decided to call up my agent and get me a flight booked to Delhi that night or early in the morning so that I reach Nizamuddin Railway Station by 5.30 AM and catch the same train…. Or so it seemed 😦

That was just not going to happen… I guess… Most of you know Mr. Murphy from the infamous ‘Murphy’s Law’. He was stalking me like crazy…  I had just missed one flight by the time I finished my auditions and the one that was available now reached in the morning by 6 am… So there was no way I was going to make it to catch the same train…

Well, that was it then… I finally did board the flight, and thought I’d take a bus from Delhi-Haridwar (Uttarakhand Parivahan)

But wait… there was something I had forgotten…. My other friends @irohan & @vishal_g were still in Delhi and they were going to go to Haridwar via a bus!!!  I quickly called em up and rushed in an auto towards Kashmiri Gate and caught up with them at the last minute as their bus was leaving… Finally I managed to get some company at least, before I could reach Haridwar and catch up with all the friends… Rest is history of course.

Quite an exciting start to a journey that was going to be filled with a lot more adventure! What do you think?