Summer is a season when everyone loves to go out on vacation, say it children, teenagers or adults everyone wants to escape their day to day life and go to a cooler place. This time let’s not go to the popular crowded destinations. So here’s the guide to your new and offbeat summer escape routes.
- Uttarkashi- On the banks of Bhagirathi river, lies the holy land of Uttarkashi. This ancient city is known as Kashi of North, the other Kashi is known as Varansi (Benaras). Both the Kashi of the plain (Varanasi) as well as the Kashi of north are situated on the banks of the river Ganga (Bhagirathi). One of the holiest Ghats in Uttarkashi is Manikarnika so is the one by the same name in Varanasi. Both have temples dedicated to Vishwanath. The land of Uttarkashi district has been held sacred by Indians since ages where the seers and sages had found solace and spiritual aspirations and performed penances and where devas performed their sacrifices and Vedic language was better known and spoken than elsewhere. People came here for learning Vedic language and speach. Nevertheless, with trekking and mountaineering gaining popularity as adventure sports, the importance of this region cannot be discounted. The region has some high-altitude lakes and the Gangotri and Yamunotri glaciers lead on to several major peaks-the hunting grounds for serious mountaineering buffs.
Places in Uttarkashi to visit:
- Gangotri Dham :
Gangotri, the origin of the River Ganges and seat of the goddess Ganga, is one of the four sites in the Char Dham pilgrimage of Uttarakhand. The river is called Bhagirathi at the source and acquires the name Ganga (the Ganges) from Devprayag onwards where it meets the Alaknanda. The origin of the holy river is at Gomukh, set in the Gangotri Glacier, and is a 19 km trek from Gangotri.
- Yamunotri Dham :
Yamunotri is the source of the Yamuna River and the seat of the Goddess Yamuna in Hinduism. It is situated at an altitude of 3,293 metres (10,804 ft) in the Garhwal Himalayas in District Uttarkashi. It is one of the four sites in Char Dham pilgrimage of Uttarakhand. The sacred shrine of Yamunotri, source of the river Yamuna, is the westernmost shrine in the Garhwal Himalayas, perched atop a flank of Bandar Poonch Parvat. The chief attraction at Yamunotri is the temple devoted to the Goddess Yamuna and the holy thermal springs at Janki Chatti (7 km. Away).
- Gomukh :
Gomukh is the source of the Bhagirathi River in Gangotri Glacier, one of the primary headstreams of the Ganges River. The place is situated at a height of 13,200 ft (4,023 m) in Uttarkashi district.
- Dayara Bugyal :
Dayara Bugyal is grass land starting at 2600 meter and goes up to 3500 meter. The 9 kms of trek through the woods and rhododendron tress takes one to this pristine place, in summers the shepherds reach here with their cattle and stay till the onset of winters. In winters the meadows turn into snow land with potential of skiing and snow activities.
- Kasol– Kasol is situated in Parvati Valley in Himachal Pradesh. The town is having an excellent view from all sides, with perfect scenic beauty. Housed on the banks of Parvati river, the little town has become the top offbeat destination in the country. Surrounded by forests, alpine trees, Kasol is a paradise for adventure and nature lovers. Also known as Mini-Isreal, Kasol’s natural beauty, flora and fauna are no less than Israel. Also, according to the sources, a decade before Israeli people started visiting the Kasol and then some of them settled here and from then onwards the place becomes the hub of the travellers who are coming here in groups. Israeli people feel safer here because local villagers are also trying to provide the services according to their need and thus the tourists are contributing a lot to the local village’s economy. That’s how Kasol becomes the hub of Israeli travellers, and generating employment for the locals in the hospitality sector.
Places to visit near Kasol:
- Kheerganga: Kheer Ganga (3050 meters) lies at the extreme end of Parvati valley and the last inhibited village while trekking to pin valley via Pin-Parvati pass. Kheerganga’s panoramic skies and vast greenery are a much-needed delight to the trekker’s eyes and especially the tired legs. It is a holy place with a hot water spring, a small temple of Lord Shiva and a bathing tank. It makes a rare combination for any trekker to bath in hot spring water when everything is covered by snow.
- Tosh: Popular for its cannabis plantations, the beautiful village of Tosh is just another example of the unparalleled natural beauty that Himachal Pradesh holds within its bounds. Located at the far end of Parvati Valley, Tosh is untouched by modernisation and fast-paced life. With its gradual terrain and the waters of river Parvati flowing through its bosom, the Tosh – Kasol trek is the go-to expedition for all adrenaline junkies. The hippie culture and otherworldly vibe of this village will surely transport you to another world.
Tosh has scattered villages across the lush green hills juxtaposed against snow-dusted peaks. Here you can experience the bounty of nature in all its glory, combined with some indigenous as well as exotic experiences. This destination is quite often thronged by visitors from other countries, and you can interact with them and experience their cuisine at local eateries as well.
Tosh has become quite popular in recent years due to its proximity to the famous hippie town – Kasol. With every step you take into this quaint village called Tosh, you feel more in love with this city of hash and trance!
- Malana Village: Malana is an ancient solitary village in Himachal Pradesh in an isolated and charming plateau by the side of the Malana River. Known as Malana Nala, it lies in Parvati Valley which is a quaint corner away from rest of the world. One of the unique aspects of this destination is the strong culture and beliefs of the locals, who follow their rules with the utmost tenacity.
According to them, Malana is the place where democracy is best followed with the well-organized parliamentary system, guided by their deity Jamlu Rishi. It is believed that Jamlu was worshipped during the pre-Aryan times. Malana is most famous for its production of Hashish, which is hailed as the best in the region.
- Kangra Valley: This peaceful “Land of Gods” is a true spiritual abode. The mighty Beas that runs through this valley makes Kangra a lush green place of beauty. In the Hindu texts, Kangra is often called the “Devbhumi”, which has a lot of religious and spiritual significance. Other than the religious spots, there so many places to visit in Kangra that let travelers enjoy the hill town. The scenery along the wide valley stretching southeast from Dharamsala is dramatic on clear days, with the Dhauladhar Range rising to the north, and the valley sweeping away towards the plains. There are several interesting places to stop on a journey to Mandi or Shimla. The Bir-Billing area in particular is attracting growing visitor numbers, for its world-class paragliding along with a large number of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and institutes.
Places in Kangra Valley to visit:
- Kangra Fort: Lying on the outskirts of the town of Kangra, this massive fort has been an important landmark in the history. It has witnessed thousand years of grandeur, invasion and war. The origins of this place go back to the ancient Trigarta Kingdom, which has a mention in the Mahabharata. Kangra fort is one of the largest fort in the Himalayas and the oldest fort in India. There was a time when this fort was home to unimaginable riches. One of the best places to visit in Kangra valley.
- Kareri Lake: A picturesque lake which is located in the midst of Dhauladhar ranges, Kareri lake is one of the best places to visit in Kangra. This lake lies 9 km to away from Dharamshala. It is now a popular trekking destination as its located at an altitude of 2,934 metres above the sea level. While a trek to Triund is much overdone, a trek to this lake is a much more peaceful experience.
- Indrahar Pass: One of the most breathtaking treks in the Himachal, this trail starts from Mcleodganj, covers Lahesh and Triund Caves, and lasts about 14 km one way. Do this trek for spotting the most amazing ranges like Pit Panjal range and also other smaller ranges. The best time to do the trek is from April to October. This is one of the best places in Kangra.
- Bir- Billing Area: Often termed as a “Paragliding capital of India” Bir Billing is undoubtedly one of the best paragliding destinations in India. Bir is one of the best places to visit near Kangra Himachal Pradesh. Located 70 km of Dharamshala and situated north of Bir at the distance of 14 km. Bir is a Buddhist village and has a monastery and a Tibetan handicraft centre. Go here for a fantastic Paragliding experience.
- Spiti Valley: Known for its mystical topography, monasteries, trekking routes, semi-frozen rivers and lakes, Spiti Valley in June is a charming and quaint place. Owing to all these things, Spiti has become a popular destination for nature buffs, photographers, and adventure enthusiasts. The best time to explore Spiti valley is during summer months of May and June, as they are ideal for sightseeing and adventure activities.
Places to visit in Spiti Valley:
- Chandra Taal- Located at an altitude of 4300 m, this is a crescent shape lake, located near Kunzum Pass. Literally translating to ‘lake of moon’, because of the shape, this is one of the best places to visit in Spiti valley in June. The colour of the lake keeps changing from blue, green to reddish and orange throughout the day and this phenomenon along with clear views of the place due to June weather, make the scene even more magical and panoramic. Popular as a trekker’s heaven, people hike through Lahaul ranges surrounding the lake and enjoy overnight camping at the vast green meadows, adjacent to Chandra Taal.
- Suraj Taal Lake- Honoured as the third highest lake in India, Suraj Tal lake is another gem of Spiti, situated at 4950 m. Ideal for Spiti Valley trip during June, this emerald green lake is best known for awe-inspiring views of Baralacha Pass, mountains and semi-frozen streams. The summer weather here is calm and perfect for all kinds of adventure activities like trek, road trips and biking. Are you ready to embark on a serene journey here like never before?
- Konik- Perched at an elevation of 18,000 feet, Komik is the highest motorable village in the World. Undoubtedly this is one of the lesser known places, but most exquisite places to visit in Spiti Valley in June. Komik is surreal, scenic and has bare minimum resources like a monastery which offers accommodation to tourists and an eco-kitchen (the only café in the village). Summer is the best time to visit, as it has bearable weather and people can enjoy clear views of the surrounding. Star gazing is popular thing to do in Konik.
- Kibber- Locally popular as Kyibar, this is another scenic village of Spiti. Encircled by lofty mountains and barren stretches of cold desert, people can enjoy jaw dropping views and indulge in one of the most hard core Spiti Valley trek in June. The clear weather and comfortable temperature of summer have placed Kibber on the list of best places to visit in Spiti Valley in summer. Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary is an attraction here, which is home to common as well as rare fauna like Tibetan Wolle Hare, Tibetan Wild Ass, Blue Sheep, Red Fox, Himalayan Wolf, Pika and Lynx.
- Kausani- Window to the snow-crested Trishul, Nanda Devi, Nandakot and Panchchuli peaks, there are very few places in the Himalayas whose beauty can be compared to that of Kausani – a picturesque hill station famous for its scenic splendor and its spectacular 300 km-wide panoramic view of the Himalayas. Kausani experiences a moderate climate. Summers are pleasant with a maximum temperature 25°C and a minimum of 11°C. During winters the maximum temperature is 15°C and the minimum comes down as low as 2°C. Winters are accompanied with heavy snowing. Monsoons (June – August) makes the hilly regions slippery and have medium rainfalls. The serene nature of Kausani wrapping up beautiful temples like Baijnath temple, and Somnath temple that lies near the gushing Rudradhari falls and caves, which is another point of interest for the tourists including pilgrims. The nature lovers can also visit Kausani tea gardens and get pleased by witnessing its stunning tea plantations scattered over an area of 208 hectares. Among the other best places to visit, there is Sumitranandan Pant Gallery; which is a peaceful respite for those who have a fascination for poetries. Be it a nature lover or a honeymoon couple looking for a romantic seclusion, or even an adventure enthusiast, Kausani remains as the one stop for all with its attractions. Once visited by the legend Mahatma Gandhi, who by being mesmerized by its superfluous beauty called it ‘The Switzerland of India,’ Kausani is definitely a place to add to your sightseeing tour when in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand.
- Kufri- Kufri is a small hill station in Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh state in India. It is located 20 km from the state capital Shimla. The name Kufri is derived from the word kufr meaning “lake” in the local language. The highest point in the surrounding region, Kufri has a Himalayan wildlife zoo which hosts rare antelopes, felines and birds including the Himalayan monal, the state bird of Himachal Pradesh until 2007. During winter a meandering path through the potato plantations turns into a popular ski track.
Places to visit in Kufri-
- Himalayan National Park- One of the most famous tourist attractions in Kufri, the Himalayan National Park boasts of 180 species of birds and rare mammals. It was established in 1984 and formally declared as a National Park in the year 1999. Spread over an area of 754.4 sq. km, it’s a large eco tourism hub where tourists from all across the world converge to witness rare species of animals like musk deer, snow leopards, etc. This park spread awareness about a huge variety of flora and fauna in Himalayas. The scenic view of snow covered peaks and abundant landscape makes for a wonderful experience.
- Kufri Fun World- Kufri Fun Campus Himachal’s first advanced Amusement park, surrounded with great Hiking, skiing, beautiful scenes and loads of adventure that’s all about Kufri Fun campus. From adventure sports to great snow activities in winter, one can find all inside this campus.
- Mahashu Peak- One of the highest point in Kufri, this place gives a surreal view of Badrinath and Kedarnath ranges. Hiking is the best ways to explore through a thick forest of deodar and spiff up to the top. Here, you’ll find Mahasu ridge, which is an ideal spot for the one who practice before hitting the cruder slopes. Many tourists visit the peak during winter season to have some fun in the snow.
- Turtuk- The village divided by borders between India and Pakistan. Turtuk is the last village of India. Turtuk lies in the north western part of Ladakh and the district is Leh of Jammu & Kashmir, and on the bank of Shyok River. It is the only Balti region under the Indian administration and was under Pakistan’s control until 1971, after which India gained control over this strategic area.
While the whole of Ladakh is a predominantly Buddhist area, Turtuk residents are following Islam as the main religion. It is a village where you can experience a totally different culture expressed in the way people look, behave, dress. Some of the villagers are descenders from central Asia which adds a further cultural mix to the place. The main language of communication among local people is Balti. It’s a mix of Old Tibetan and Persian languages. Despite Turtuk is a small village, it is visually divided into three parts. The upper village is the oldest part where you can see heritage homes that have been there for centuries. The lower village was expanded later.
Turtuk is a place to connect to people and listen to their stories. Nevertheless, there are also some interesting places and activities which will give you a broader overview of the history and cultural background of the village.
Places to visit in Turtuk:
- Balti Heritage Home- It’s one of the heritage homes where several generations have lived for centuries. It’s built in an old style – low-height roofs (tall people, get ready to bump your head a few times), very small window to avoid cold air coming in during winters, storage rooms in the basement. You can see several arms, dishes, royal gifts, dresses, furs dating 400 years back inside the house. There are 4 small rooms which you can explore in 10 minutes or so. Nevertheless, there is an extra value if any of the family members can explain to you what you see. There are presents from kings of the land, some old technology of cooking and several other interesting facts.
- Balti Museum- This is another heritage home converted in a museum. Here you can learn the history of the whole dynasty, see the maps of the village during different centuries as well as the livelihood items that were used a few centuries back. There is no entry fee to Balti museum, though donations are accepted. It is situated in the area beyond the wooden bridge. There is just one room and a yard, thus the tour takes around 20 minutes.
- Turtuk Gompa and View Point- This is the Gompa of the village from where you can see breathtaking views of the whole valley overlooking mountain peaks. It takes around half an hour to reach here from the bridge. There is also a waterfall if you trek 2 km up the hill. It’s relatively close to the Gompa. I recommend taking advice from the local people according to the situation. For instance, if there is no snow during winter, the waterfall will be small.
There are quite a few cafes in the village serving Indian food, so you will always find a place for lunch. Nevertheless, I recommend trying something local: Buckwheat pancake with dry fruit or apricot chutney, Thathuk (soup), all noodle dishes – you name it. What are some popular places to try Balti cuisine?
- Balti heritage house
- Friends Café
- Balti kitchen – this is a seasonal café that might not work in low-season time.
So what’s your favourite escape route to beat the summer this year, let us know which one you found the best?