Honeymoon Destination: Kumaon

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Kumaon, one of the most beautiful regions of India, is a place of beauty, culture and adventure. With a splendid backdrop of the Nanda Devi Range, one can spend hours just gazing. Here, the first rays of dawn bathe the stunning snow capped mountains into a bright crimson before spreading out in a kaleidoscope of colors. The valleys are deep, laced with snaking roads and green meadows. The mountain drives in Kumaon are the best in India with fabulous views of the Himalayas. Ancient temples, local fairs and traditional rural life are some of the cultural highlights.

With a lot of scope for romance, adventure and sightseeing, there is a lot honeymooners can look forward to. You can chill out in privacy at the secluded mountain lodges overlooking the mountains, or take quiet walks and hikes through the forests. One of India’s finest sanctuaries, Corbett National Park, is located in Kumaon. One can spot a wide range of animals and avian species in the dense jungles. Uttaranchali people are known for their hospitality and you can find a superb Indian meal almost anywhere. The cave temple of Patal Bhuvaneshwar comes in the 12 Jyotirlingas (sacred shrines of Shiva) and is not to be missed.

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Best Season to Visit

The hills of Uttaranchal are best visited from October to June when you can expect clear blue skies. In the months of Dec, Jan and Feb snowfall occurs at almost all places north of Nainital. In the summer months of April to June, avoid the plains (though wildlife viewing at Corbett can be well worth the endeavor) and take to the hills instead. Rains occur from the end of June through September, and though the snow-clad Himalayan views may not be visible, the monsoons in themselves could be quite delightful.

Where to Stay

Tourism is well-developed in Uttaranchal and one can find excellent places to stay. However, one should avoid the touristy hotels in towns and select places at a little distance. All the hill stations are close to one another and one can easily stay at a base and take day trips to the other places. Kalmatia Sangam Himalaya Resort is by far the best place to stay. Once the armory of Almora’s erstwhile Chand rulers, it has cottages overlooking the Himalayas. Built in British colonial style with Kumaoni influences, each one is named after birds, like Scarlet Minivet, Pheasant etc. All of them offer the privacy and quiet needed for a relaxing honeymoon. And the staff have a reputation of spoiling the guests ROTTEN! It is priced on the higher side but worth every penny.

Another good option is Mountain Resort at Binsar (45 mins from Almora) popularly known as Khali Estate. Furnished in colonial style, the resort has an antique look and a collection of Jamini Roy paintings. The rooms and cottages offer great views and the meals are legendary, though vegetarian. You can go for hikes in the nearby forests or climb up to the top for a panoramic mountain view. At Ranikhet, you have two good options, Trishul Lodge and Holm Farm Heritage. The former has only three rooms while the latter is a renovated heritage property. We don’t suggest a stay at Nainital as it is too congested with tourists the year round.

Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam or KMVN has basic tourist lodges all over the region. These are meant for those on a shoestring budget.

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Transportation

Honeymooners can drive down to Kumaon from Delhi. In this case, we suggest that your first stop be at Corbett National Park. One can also take a train from Delhi to Kathogodam and a taxi to Almora, about a 1 hour trip. Exclusive cars are easily available from Delhi. The drives in Kumaon are short and on good roads.

What to Eat

The Uttaranchalis are known for their culinary skills. One can find restaurants and dhabas almost anywhere. Indian food is widely available with Chinese as a second option. Most of the hotels offer buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner. Local cuisine is available, though not very popular with tourists. Some traditional dishes include aloo ka gutka, bhatt ki churdkani, and gulgula. Interestingly, hash seeds are used to spice up some of these dishes. Dhabas offer excellent fares at reasonable prices. Tea is consumed anytime and the Pahari people never say no to it. You must try out sweets like Bal Mithai or Singodi found at local shops. The latter stay fresh for around 15 days. Please stick to mineral water only.

What to Buy

Almora and Nainital are great places to pick up souvenirs for family and friends. These include idols, trinkets, brass objects, shawls and Tibetan jeweler. The Shawl & Tweed Factory at Ranikhet is known for excellent quality of woolens.

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Places to See

Almora: The capital of Kumaon’s Chand rulers, it’s the cultural hub of the region. From here one can see the four ranges of hills- Banari Devi, Kasan Devi, Shvahi Devi and Katarmal and beyond them to the greater Himalayas and the peaks of Trishul and Nanda Devi. Tourist places in Almora are Lala Bazaar, Chitai temple (famous for its brass bells) and Bright End’s Corner. We suggest a walk on the banks of the Balta River towards Bintola Village, passing some lovely gorges and waterfalls. The trail leads to some famous Kali Temples, a Vishu temple (dated 9th- 12th C) and prehistoric rock paintings towards Lakhudiar.

Binsar: This is one of the offbeat holiday destinations in Kumaon and the summer retreat of Almora’s Chand rulers. Perched on top of the Jhandi Dhar hills and completely surrounded by dense foliage of oaks, pine, deodars and colorful rhododendrons, Binsar epitomizes peace and solitude. A notified forest reserve and bird sanctuary, it has overwhelming nature trails and spectacular sights. Other attractions are the temple of Shiva, also known as Bineswar, which was built by King Kalyan.

Excursions near Almora/Binsar:
1. Jageshwar Temple: Considered as one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, Jageshwar finds a mention in the epic Mahabharata. The temple complex is situated in a narrow and beautiful valley covered with Cedar trees. There are 124 temples in the complex and hundreds of magnificent statues of exquisite craftsmanship. The oldest shrine is of the 'Mrityunjaya' and the biggest shrine is of the 'Dindeshwara'.

2. Patal Bhuvaneshwar: This is a must see. The main passage to the underground cave temple is 40 meters long. After reaching the bottom, the main passage opens into several small horizontal caves, out of which the longest accessible cave is 120 meters in length. The most important thing to notice is the mystery of natural carvings of many animals, Gods and Goddesses in such a fine way that all it seems real. The cave temple of Patal Bhubneshwer is traditionally believed to be the abode of thirty three crore deities. This superb creation of nature evokes awe and reverence from devotees and non-devotees.

3. Bageshwar: Leave early in the morning for a trip to Bageshwar. The ancient temple of Baghnath is located here. At Bajinath one can see the exquisite eight foot image of Goddess Parvati.

4. Kausani: The 50km drive from Almora to Kausani takes you beside one of the most beautiful, rich and fertile valleys of the Kosi River. The town is like an alpine village with sweet clear air sharpened by the scent of pine forests.

Corbett National Park: Named after the famous hunter, author and conservator Jim Corbett, this is one of India’s best wildlife sanctuaries. It encloses a large section of the foothills of the Shivalik Mountains, the Patlidun Valley and the swiftly flowing Ramganga River. Ramnagar, 50 km from Corbett is the obligatory point of entering the park. Though the tiger is the main attraction of the park, it is highly elusive in nature. Besides, one can spot panthers, wild boar, sloth bear, elephant, deer, crocodile etc. It is a great birding destination with over 585 recorded species. Honeymooners can choose from luxurious resorts to comfortable camps and log huts. Activities here include jeep safaris, elephant rides, bird watching, nature walks and village explorations.

Nainital: The most famous hill station in Kumaon, it’s a lake resort at over 6000 feet set in a beautiful wooded valley. Surrounded by seven hills, the sparkling waters of the natural lake make it a gem among hill resorts. Though congested, it still offers visitors the charm of shopping on its mall, boating on its lake and soaking in the atmosphere of a bustling hill station. It is 318 kms from Delhi, 36 kms from Kathgodam (the nearest railway station), 65 kms from Almora and 54 kms from Ranikhet.

Ranikhet: Ranikhet is set against a backdrop of snow capped Himalayan peaks. It is 50kms West of Almora. According to legend, this site was so breathtakingly beautiful that a visiting royal empress reserved the area as her particular encampment and gave it this name. There is an Army cantonment here and it’s also the home of the Kumaon Regiment. There are beautiful lodges offering spectacular views of the Himalayan peaks. Sightseeing places include Jhula Devi Temple, orchards of Chaubatia, Bhaludam and Shawl & Tweed Factory. One must spend a couple of days at Ranikhet to soak into its salubrious environs.

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The Wanderers
Email: thewanderers@vsnl.com
Phone No: + 91 22 6702 3377/1870/71/72
Fax: + 91 22 6702 1873
Web: www.indianwanderers.com

Kumaon, one of the most beautiful regions of India, is a place of beauty, culture and adventure. With a splendid backdrop of the Nanda Devi Range, one can spend hours just gazing. Here, the first rays of dawn bathe the stunning snow capped mountains into a bright crimson before spreading out in a kaleidoscope of colors. The valleys are deep, laced with snaking roads and green meadows. The mountain drives in Kumaon are the best in India with fabulous views of the Himalayas. Ancient temples, local fairs and traditional rural life are some of the cultural highlights.

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