This Uttarakhand Travel Guide is all you need to know top places to see in Uttarakhand, how to travel there, travel costs and more.
Described by many as the land of Gods, Uttarakhand is the abode of the towering Himalayas, mesmerizing lakes and holy rivers.
Due to its close proximity to New Delhi, it lures a significant number of Indian tourists every year and offers them a perfect reviving holiday.
It is moreover here where the holy Ganges finds its origin before making its way to the other Indian states.
The four holy pilgrimage sites for Hindus – Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath – are also located here.
Uttarakhand Travel Guide
It often confuses people to choose one of the two travel destinations: Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. (check my Himachal Pradesh travel guide if you are confused too).
Both are pretty similar in landscapes but what differentiates the two is the kind of tourists they get. Where Himachal Pradesh is more a holiday destination, Uttarakhand is a cultural and religious destination.
Having said that, expect better experiences like better buses and better infrastructure while travelling in Himachal Pradesh and a little less of everything while travelling in Uttarakhand. Also, expect more of Indian tourists here.
Now, moving forward in our Uttarakhand travel guide, let’s discuss a few useful tips before I talk about top places to see in Uttarakhand.
- Avoid the popular towns of Nainital, Mussoorie and Dehradun.
- Most treks here require you to hire a guide, as per the local tourism authorities. Guides charge nearly 1000 Rupees per day. So make sure you bargain accordingly. You can also check the latest government-approved prices and other such useful information on the government tourism website.
- Unlike in Himachal Pradesh, camping is highly limited here. In 2018 the Uttarakhand High Court ordered the state government to remove all permanent campsites from the grasslands and meadows. It also put restrictions on temporary campsites.
- This state witness some of the most brutal rains in entire Indian Himalayas. Between the month of June and August, landslides, in high altitudes are quite common. Be sure to check the weather report before you travel to Uttarakhand
- Since it is considered a land of god and Hinduism discourages and moreover curbs tourists to eat any meat and consume liquor – getting both, particularly around 50km radius to the four pilgrim sites (Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath) is almost next to impossible. Many hotels and restaurants here don’t even serve Onion and Garlic.
These were a few quick tips. Next in this Uttarakhand travel guide now is top places to see there.
Top Places To See In Uttarakhand
Rishikesh is the yoga hub in India. Every year thousands of tourists travel top Rishikesh to learn yoga and meditation. Naturally, there are hundreds of yoga schools to choose from.
It is in Sivananda Ashram, in Rishikesh where even I once spent 2 months learning yoga and taking spiritual lessons. And the experience has literally changed me as a person. I suggest you the same if you are visiting Rishikesh and have 2 months to spare. The only thing is, you need to be a male of Indian origin as Sivananda Ashram doesn’t admit females and non-Indian males. Check their website to apply. The course, including 2 months of accommodation and food, is moreover free.
Rishikesh is moreover a perfect place to meet other travellers; to eat, sleep and live on a budget; and to enjoy a laid-back hippie life. Remember to get your accommodation near ‘Laxman Jhula’ as this is the best area in the entire town. You can check my best hostels in Rishikesh blog if you are looking for some recommendations on hostels. Also, read my Rishikesh travel guide for more on the top things to do there.
Nest, in my list of top places to see in Uttarakhand, is Auli.
To learn skiing or snowboarding in India, Auli is the closest place from New Delhi. The ski courses in Auli are moreover among the cheapest in the world.
A beginning level 6 day course, including your food and stay, costs no more than 15,000 Rupees. The town moreover has a long chairlift-car ride, many trekking routes and camping as other adventure activities. Read my Auli experience when I visited and camped there with locals during summer.
Auli is located about 8-10 hours drive from Rishikesh.
As I said above, travelling in Uttarakhand is all about travelling religious destinations. And among all, the four sacred sites of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath are the most popular ones.
Open between April/May to Oct/Nov each year these four destinations are moreover the most visited and top places to see in Uttarakhand.
Where Gangotri and Badrinath temples can be visited in a car or a bus, to reach Yamunotri and Kedarnath temple, you need to trek 5 km (and back) and 16 km (and back) respectively.
Read my Char-Dham yatra blog for more details on how to do a self-planned trip to these places.
Munsiyari Road Trip
Though of course, you can ride to one of the Char Dham locations mentioned above, the other travellers you are going to find on the way won’t share the interest. Naturally, the journey feels a little incomplete.
Out of all the places I have been to here, Delhi to Munsiyari is the only route where people travel for leisure, making it the only route for a motorcycle trip in Uttarakhand.
Haridwar, For Ganga Arti
Though some find it a crazy, frenzied experience, in my view, if you can handle a little chaos of Indian cities, attending the daily Aarti at Har Ki Pauri, in Haridwar, at least once in your lifetime is a no miss.
Since it’s only a 45-minute drive from Rishikesh, you can come to Haridwar for a few hours and head back to your silent refuge in Rishikesh.
You read any Uttarakhand travel guide out there, and you will find mentions of Haridwar Ganga aarti in it.
Located right next to the Nepal border in its East, and stretching all the way to Tibet, Darma Valley, by far, is my personal favourite tourist destination in Uttarakhand.
According to the Indian mythology, it was in Darma valley that the Pandavas cooked their last meal on the five peaks of Panchachuli before leaving for heaven. ‘Panchachuli’ or`Panch Chuli’ literally does mean `five-pointed oven’.
The popular Panchachuli Base Camp Trek is also located in Darma Valley.
Kalagarh and Jim Corbett
If you are into wildlife, visit the national parks of Jim Corbett and Kalagarh, located very close to New Delhi.
Valley of Flowers
Imagine a colourful endless sight spread over an uneven land for as far as you can see – that’s what the Valley of Flowers, in nutshell, is. And since the place is all about flowers, it is open to visitors only during monsoon only – between the month of June and September.
To reach the valley, you need to do a min 3 days trek that takes you through the charming meadows of alpine flowers, germinated and burst into reds, and purples and yellows.
Valley of Flowers trek is apparently the most beautiful trek in the entire Indian Himalayas. The Valley of Flowers trek is located in the UNESCO heritage recognised Valley of Flowers National Park.
Since Gomukh is the source of the Bhagirathi river, an important tributary of the Ganges, Gangotri Gomukh trek is totally recommended. If you’re planning trekking in Uttarakhand, that is on Char Dham route but not a part of the pilgrimage, you should try this.
The Gangotri Gomujh trek is fairly easy and can be done in 2-3 days time. You can hire a guide or go on your own, though a guide is recommended as the walk is a little confusing at times. It was moreover the first trip I did after I quit my job and became a blogger in 2016. So yea, an obvious mention in this Uttarakhand travel guide.
This was all about top places to see in Uttarakhand. Next in our Uttarakhand travel guide is the cost of travelling and the best time to visit Uttarakhand.
What Is The Best Time To Travel Uttarakhand
For Rishikesh, Haridwar and Auli, the ideal time to visit is the winter months of November to March.
For most of the other tourist places, with high altitudes, the best time is between April and June or September and October.
Monsoon (except for Valley of Flowers) is the worst time to visit.
What Is The Cost of Travelling In Uttarakhand
Food in Uttarakhand is quite cheap. And if you’re on a strict budget just go to any seemingly cheap-looking hotel and ask for a ‘Thali’. This is standard Indian food which gives you unlimited rice, Chapattis, Dal and some kind of mix vegetable – all in a price of 70 Rupees (expect the usual +/- 20 Rupees depending upon the kind place you’re dining at).
For better quality food in a good restaurant, expect to pay somewhere around 150 Rupees per person.
You can get a private room for as low as 300 almost in any season, and in most of the places.
That’s all in this Uttarakhand travel guide. If you have anything to add in the tips, or in the top places to see in Uttarakhand list, please leave a comment below. Your suggestions can help someone plan their trip better!