July 17, 2015 The Gypsy Diary 0Comment

There was a time when picnics were a winter staple and an annual vacation with the family by the sea or in the hills was an absolute necessity. But today life is a busy busy affair, and leisure is a word that is looked down upon. Business trips and jaunts to the amusement park are all we have and even our children are subject to this life without meaningful travel. But not anymore. We've got 10 exciting and engaging holidays in the hills, less than 12 hours out of New Delhi that you and your family, and especially the children, would love.

#1 Rudraprayag

Located in Uttarakhand, Rudraprayag is one of the panch prayag or confluences of the Alakananda River. At Rudraprayag, it merges with the Mandakini. Though primarily a religious centre since ancient times, Rudraprayag has undergone many changes in recent years and is now being developed as one of the best activity tourism destinations in the region.

Hike along scenic trails overlooking the beauty of the hillside, enjoy a picnic by the riverside, or indulge in activities such as a trek to Kartik Swami temple, kayaking or take yoga classes. The rustic and laid back feel of the eco-lodge and freshness of the organic farm in Rudraprayag is a cherry on the cake. Rush to the place if you want a peaceful outing, a perfect break from the hassles of the city.

Things to Do: Visit the Koteshwar Shiva Temple, Trek to Kartik Swami Temple, Rafting in the Alakananda River, Trek to Tungnath & Chandrashila, Trek to Deoria Tal & more.

Fact sheet:

Distance from Delhi: 371.4 km via NH 58, 7 hrs by road
Altitude: 800 to 8000 m above sea level
Approx. Budget Per Person Per Day: Rs. 3500 - 4000 (Includes transportation to and from Rishikesh/Haridwar, accommodation, food and certain activities. For details, click here.)


A lodge amidst the greenery at Rudraprayag

#2 Nathuakhan

Tucked away safely from the much touristy parts of the Kumaon hills, Nathuakhan is a picturesque little village located amidst woods of pine, oak, rhododendron and deodar. Take long, relaxing walks through the village and fill in your lungs with the crisp mountain air. Lose yourself in sweet orchards of apple, plum and peach and when exhausted, take in long swigs of rhododendron squash. The serenity is overwhelming and will soothe your taut, overworked nerves.

Kids will have fun playing explorer and trekking through the jungles. The vast meadows are open playgrounds for children growing up in cramped concrete cityscapes. How about packing a hamper and picnicking on the sunlit slopes? Just don’t forget to pack in some of the local Pahari delicacies!

Things to Do: Hike around the mountainside, Picnic by the riverside in Khwarab, Jungle Walks & more.
Fact sheet: 

Distance from Delhi: 335.5 km via NH 24, 6 hr 30 min by road
Altitude: 1940 m
Approx. Budget Per Person Per Day: Rs. 3000-3500 (Includes accommodation, meals & treks to Mukteshwar. For details, click here.)

Sunflowers in Nathuakhan

 #3 Binsar

Once the summer capital of the Chand kings, Binsar is nestled in the Kumaon hills of Uttarakhand. Established in 1988 for the conservation and protection of the shrinking broad leaf oak, the Binsar Sanctuary has over 200 species of bird, including endangered and endemic species. The entire area is a bird watcher’s haven. Explore the sanctuary, and visit the many lovely villages that dot the area. The generosity of the villagers will win you over. Take your kids along on a bird-watching trip, and don’t forget the binoculars! Children will love the flora and fauna museum too.

Khali estate, the erstwhile home of Sir Henry Ramsay, is also located in Binsar. 9 km away is the Kasar Devi Temple where Swami Vivekananda had meditated. Many famous personalities like Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, W. Y. Evans-Wentz, Lama Anagarika Govinda, Alfred Sorensen and many others have visited this place and consider it a power center.

Things to Do: Visit the Bineshwar & Kasar Devi Temples, hike through the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, spend an afternoon at the Binsar Sanctuary Museum, bird-watching, village walks & more.

Fact sheet: 

Distance from Delhi: 390.7 km via NH24, 7 hr 45 min by road
Altitude: 900 to 2500 m
Approx. Budget Per Person Per Day: Rs. 3500-4000 (Includes accommodation & meals. For details, click here.)

 Birdwatching at Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary

#4 Barot

A popular haunt for backpackers and day tourists, Barot is located in Himachal Pradesh and is mostly popular for its trout breeding centre. The Uhl River that runs through the V-shaped valley that Barot sits in is very popular with anglers looking out for brown and rainbow trout. Sprawling alpine meadows, the mighty snow-capped Himalayas towering in the background, and a sparkling cold river all add to the quaint charm of the place. Barot also forms the gateway to the Nargu Wildlife Sanctuary which lies across the Uhl. The sanctuary is home to the monal, black bear and ghoral. Beautiful trekking trails criss cross through woods of cedar and pine. You can even trek to the nearby villages of Lohardi and Swar. The temple of Dev Pashakot, the local deity of rain is a must visit.

Kids will love angling in the Uhl River. The sheer delight of having caught a fish is something extraordinary!

Things to Do: Angling in the Uhl River, Trout fishing, Trek to the Nagru Wildlife Sanctuary, Rock climbing, Trek to Dansar Lake & more.

Fact sheet: 

Distance from Delhi: 495 km via NH1 & NH3, 9 hr 35 min by road
Altitude: 1819 m
Approx. Budget Per Person Per Day: Rs. 4000-4500 (Includes accommodation, meals and angling gear. For details, click here.)

Angling at Barot

#5 Jibhi

A stellar symphony of blooming wild flowers and alluring terraced fields, Jibhi is one of Himachal Pradesh's gems. Located in the Banjar valley, Jibhi is dissected by the Tirthan river and Jibhi stream. The construction of dams on the Tirthan River is prohibited by the Government to protect its aquatic biodiversity. You can choose to go fly-fishing and look out for rainbow trouts. Enjoy the solitude of the mountains as you sit on the pebbled river banks. Campfires in the evening add to the magic. A trek to Chaini Fort, 4 km from Jibhi, is a trail that takes us through small villages, cedar forest, apple plantations, and waterfalls. On the way stands the ancient Sharingi Bagi temple.

Things to Do: Trek to Chaini Fort, Fly fishing, Apple picking, Visit Jalori Pass & Seolsar Lake, Dak Runner's Trail, Raghupur Garh fort & more.

Fact sheet: 

Distance from Delhi: 496 km via NH1 & NH3, 9 hr by road
Altitude: 2300 meters
Approx. Budget Per Person Per Day: Rs. 1500 - Rs. 2000 (Includes accommodation, meals and certain activities. For details, click here.)

Trout fishing in Jibhi

#6 Chalni Chinna

Accessible only by a short trek, this little hamlet near Almora in the Kumaon Himalayas promises perfect solitude. The terraced hills are a shade card, predominantly green, streaked by the occasional burst of sun-kissed gold. Beautiful forests of oak and pine, laced with bright red rhododendrons abound. The area boasts of the rich bird population, including the Scaly-breasted Munia, Grey Shrike, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Himalayan Whistling Thrush etc. You can go on long hikes, share your stories with the cheerful locals, join them as they work in the fields or enjoy a picnic with the Nanda Devi Massif looming right in front of you. A long walk will take you to the charming villages of Thikalna and Ganghet. Enroute offer your prayers and write your wishes to Golu Devta at his shrine. The night sky is glorious - thousands of stars seem to have descended closer to the earth.

Things to Do: Trek to Thikalna & Ganghet, Village Walks, Farming & Gardening, Bird-watching & more.

Fact sheet:

Distance from Delhi: 375 km, 10 hr by road via Bhimtal
Altitude: 1800 meters
Approx. Budget Per Person Per Day: Rs. 7500-9000 (Includes accommodation and meals. For details, click here.) 

Chalni Chinna on a rainy day

Chalni Chinna on a rainy day

#7 Bhimtal

One of the gems of Uttarakhand's Lake District, Bhimtal skirts the edges of a lake of the same name. The lake was named after Bhima, one of the five Pandava brothers in the epic, Mahabharata. Towering mountains, including the hill of Karkota, sheath it. In the centre sits an island housing an aquarium. The revered Bhimeshwar Mahadev Temple stands on the shores of the lake. Bhimtal has a rich avi-faunal population and is a naturalist's haven. Stroll along the edges of the lake or hike to the serene Sattal, a group of clear lakes fringed by dense forests. 2 km away is the sacred Nal Damayanti Tal, where King Nal is supposed to have drowned. Every Thursday, devotees flock to Sayed Baba ka mazar to offer their prayers. From this location, the whole lake, dam and the island and also nearby places like Jhangaliyagaon, Nakuchiyatal can be viewed.

Things to Do: Trek to Sattal & Nal Damayanti Tal, Village Walks, Bird-watching & more.

Fact sheet:

Distance from Delhi: 300 km, 6-7 hr by road
Altitude: 1370 meters
Approx. Budget Per Person Per Day: INR 6000-8000 (Includes accommodation in a heritage bungalow and meals. For details, click here.)

Stay at a colonial bungalow

Stay at a colonial bungalow at Bhimtal

#8 Kanatal

The hills around Kanatal appear floating in the mist at daybreak. The sky is a riot of colors. Life shakes itself out of its shell and breathes deep. This small hamlet is a revelation! Located in the mesmerizing Tehri district, Kanatal offers spectacular views of snow capped peaks and dense forests, including the Kodia forest that opens out onto a plateau laced with crimson dollops of rhododendrons. The village has been named after a lake that has ceased to exist- kana means dry and tal means lake. Go cycling around the hamlet or fruit picking in the many apple orchards that skirt the village. A visit to the revered Surkanda Temple is a must.

Things to Do: Trek to Surkanda Temple, Apple Picking, Cycling, Village Walks & more.

Fact sheet:

Distance from Delhi: 319 km via NH58, 7-8 hr by road
Altitude: 1370 meters
Approx. Budget Per Person Per Day: INR 3000-3500 (Includes Accommodation on MAPAI basis & certain activities. for details, click on Kanatal)

The lovely village of Kanatal

The lovely village of Kanatal

#9 Dharamshala

The flavours of Tibet are rife in the hills in this part of the Kangra Valley. With a backdrop of the magnificent Dhauladhars, Dharamshala is surrounded by dense deodar forests and is a favorite haunt of backpackers. While Lower Dharamshala is a busy commercial centre, choc-a-bloc with hotels and establishments, Upper Dharamshala is the home to the Tibetan government in exile. Colorful shops selling everything from Tibetan jewellery to delicious dumplings line the streets. A number of trekking routes like Triund Hill Trek and Kareri Lake Trek branch off from here. Dharamshala and the nearby Pong Wetlands has a rich bird-life and draws a lot birding enthusiasts from around the world.

Things to Do: Trek to Triund Hill and Kareri Lake, Visit Dalai Lama Temple, Bhagsu Nag Temple and The Church of St. John in the Wildnerness, Bird watching, Shop for antiques, Go on a street-food eating spree, Visit Norbulingka Institute, Learn the art of Thangka Painting & more 

Fact sheet:

Distance from Delhi: 490 km via NH1, 9-10 hrs by road
Altitude: 2000 meters
Approx. Budget Per Person Per Day: INR 2500-3000 (Includes accommodation, food and birding gear. For more details, click here).

Birding in Dharamshala

Birding at Dharamshala

#10 Mussoorie

One of India's premier destinations, Mussoorie, the Queen of hill stations, is located in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. Though mostly overrun by tourists, Mussoorie still retains her magic; tall mountains and dense forests that are ablaze with the scarlet of rhododendrons in summer surround the town.The town offers spectacular views of the Doon Valley and the Shivaliks. The colonial architecture of Mussoorie is worth seeing. Christ Church, Everest House and Union Church are wonderful specimens of the British architecture. The Nag Tibba Trek starts from Pantwari, near Mussoorie. However, the hyped tourist spots like Kempty Falls can be skipped unless you prefer soaking in with crowds of loud tourists. Instead go on nature walks and hikes and experience the beauty of this town. Rafting down the Yamuna to Judo is a thrilling experience. The Gun Hill Ropeway is a great way to get a bird's eye view of the town.

Things to Do: Trek to Surkanda Devi, Gun Hill Ropeway, Nature Walks, Mountain Biking, Rappelling, River Crossing, Rafting, Rock Climbing & more. 

Fact sheet:

Distance from Delhi: 286 km via NH98
Altitude: 2000 meters
Approx. Budget Per Day: INR 3500-5000 (Includes transportation from Dehradun, accommodation, meals & activities. For details, click here.)

The Yamuna in Mussoorie

The Yamuna in Mussoorie

If you spending quality time with your family, pack your bags and head out to these beautiful destinations. The mountains are calling!

Article by: Mohana Das

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