Thursday, March 12, 2009


Bells in the Mist

Once called Rajpur (the Land of the Kings), Almora is nestled over a horse saddle shaped ridge of the Uttranchal mountains. Unlike, the once summer-retreats of our erstwhile British colonizers, Almora is down-to-the-core Indian hill beauty, which has very covetedly preserved her cultural past amidst the tourist and pilgrim hum-drum. The temple of Goddess Nanda Devi located right in the center of the town, the Durga temples at Doonagiri, Harikhan Temple (4 km from Ranikhet), Chitai Temple (6 km from Almora) lend Almora its religious edge and make it the cultural heartland of Kumaon. Quaint hill resorts such as Chaukori, Ranikhet, Sitlakhet, Binsar, Kausani and Bageshwar further add to vacationers love for Almora. The eastern portion of the ridge is known as Talifat and the western one is known as Selifat. The market is at the top of the ridge where these two, Talifat and Selifat jointly terminate. For the celestial mountain sunsets head some 2 km further to Bright End Corner.


The Mall : If you are thinking Is there the Mall in every Indian hill station,well, coincidently, there’s one in most of them and this undoubtedly is the main promenade where the pedestrian traffic squat about the shops. That is to say, the Mall is where to hub is. Overlooking the Mall is the Nanda Devi shrine built in typical Kumaoni style of stone temple architecture. The Nanda Devi festival in the month of August has the whole area resonating with cultural performances at the temple.

Govind Vallabh Pant Public Museum : Houses archaeological finds from the Katyur and Chand periods, a collection of apen or folk paintings and other remains of Kumaoni art, culture and history. (Open: 10:30 am till 04:30 pm. on all days except Monday).

Deer Park : Some 3 km from Almora is this interesting reserve that houses many deer species, leopards and the Himalayan black bear amidst tall pine groves. Another quick getaway in the forested hills is Simtola, about 3 km from Almora.

No one can trek just once : Almora is a trekker’s haven. Some of the most popular trekking routes with base camp at Almora are Almora (1638 m)--Shitalakhet (1828 m)--Ranikhet (1829 m), Almora--Pandhar--Jalna--Lamgarha--Saharphatak--Mornaula, Almora--Qarab--Mukteshat, Almora--Barechhina-Pannwanaula--Artola--Jageshwar, Almora (1638 m)--Kappharkhan--Biasar ( 2412 m). And with Kausani (Mahatma Gandhiji's staging point in 1929) as base, you can trek these routes: Kausani - Garur - Baijnath - Bageshwar, Kausani - Garur - Baijnath - Gwaldham, Kausani - Chhota Pinath - Bara Pinath.

Almorian memories : Right from the saint Swami Vivekananda, Nobel Prize winning poet and freedom fighter Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, First Indian PM Jawahar Lal Nehru, great dancer Udaya Shankar, musician Ravi Shankar, Bollywood actor of yore Guru Dutt - all have found their share of paradise and replenishment in the pine forests and serene breeze of Almora.


Almora is definitely not a shopper’s paradise but its local handicraft items are unique and must-buys if you are holidaying there. The Woollens at Showroom Mall Road and Copper Works at Tamta Mohalla are the most famous Almora handicraft buys. The Almora women are excellent weavers and most of the woolens in the neighboring Nainital shopping hubs are exported from here. A special breed of Rabbit, Angora, produces this wool which is extremely soft, fine and very warm. The Garud Woollens of the Kumaon Schedule Tribe Development Corporation at Shikhar Hotel compound also has good priced woolens. For Bronze and Brass wares and decorative items you can hunt about in shops at Lal Bazaar and Chowk Bazaar.


Woolens apart, Almora’s other pride of place are sweets, especially the Singora and Bal Mithaiare. Glory Restaurant (The Mall, across the Madras Cafe) is a very good vegetarian place with Indian and Continental food. Mount View Restaurant, in the Hotel Shikhar, Swagar Restaurant (next to the Hotel Shikar), Soni Dhaba (at The Mall bus stand) are names gourmets should mug-up.


Appetizing Quotes on Almora :
“In these hills, nature’s hospitality eclipses all men can ever do. The enchanting beauties of the Himalayas, their bracing climate and the soothing green that envelopes you leaves nothing more to be desired. I wonder whether the scenery of these hills and the climate are to be surpassed, if equaled, by any of the beauty spots of the world. After having been nearly three weeks in Almora Hills, I am more than ever amazed why our people need go in Europe in search of health.” -- Mahatama M.K. Gandhi

“These mountains are associated with the best memories of our race: Here, therefore, must be one of centers, not merely of activity, but more of calmness of meditation, and of peace and I hope some one to realize it.” -- Swami Vivekananda

Hollywood connection : The popular Hollywood star, Uma Thurman (of Kill Bill fame) spent considerable period of her childhood at Almora and being devout Buddhists, the Dalai Lama used to be one of their notable guests.


Kasauni (51 km): The Katyur Valley, the picturesque hills, Mahatma Gandhi’s Anakshakti Ashram and the innumerable treks make Kasauni more than a part of the Almora vacationers itinerary. Pinnath (10 km), Bura Pinnath (5 km) and Bhakot are the highest points near Kausani.

Binsar Hills (30 km): Binsar hill, locally known as Jhandi Dhar, rises to a height of 2,412 m and plays a host to some of the most enchanting wildlife like the Panther and Barking Deer in its little wildlife sanctuary. A temple legend there threatens - should anyone take away anything belonging to the God or his worshippers and avenging spirit and compels him conscience stricken to restore it twenty fold.

Bageshwer (90 km): Situated at the confluence of the rivers Saryu and Gomti, every January Bageshwar hosts the famous Uttaraini fair. Visit its temples or explore the glaciers of Sunderdunga, Kafni and Pindari near Bageshwar.

Ranikhet (50 km): Ask an Indian army man and he will tell you, with pride, the lores of Ranikhet. Officially, this is where the prestigious Kumaun Regiment of Indian Army has its center. The Kumaun Regimental museum and amicably maintained green golf course are sites of interest for vacationers. From here, some 4 km away is Chaubatiya gardens famous for their sprawling orchards of delicious apples, plums, peaches and apricots. In and around Ranikhet there are some famous temples of the Hindus for religious minded like Jhoola Devi Mandir, Ram Mandir, Herakhan Mandir, Kalika Temple and Binsar Mahadeva.

Katarmal (17 km): Famous for the 800 years temple dedicated to the Sun God. The only other temple in India dedicated to Sun is the Konark temple in Puri at Orissa.

Patal Bhubneshwer(110 km): As you travel from Almora towards Gangolihat, in Pithoragarh district the underground cave of Patal Bhubneshwer beckons with its 40 m vertical tunnel shaped path. After reaching at the bottom, the main passage opens into several small horizontal caves, out of which the longest accessible cave is 120 meters horizontal in length. What interests the vision most is the mysterious natural carving of many animals, Gods and Goddesses inside the cave.

Location :
71 km North of Nainital, Uttaranchal

Go there for :
Treks, Temples, Woolens

Altitude :
1646 meters (5400feet)

Climate :
25-29°C (Sum); 8-14°C (Win)

When to Go:
April - June; September - November

Local Tongue:
Hindi, English & Kumaoni

STD Code :
+91 - 5962

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