Alice Guram, Travel@ The Hush Post: If Kashmir is too far and volatile, there is a place, almost a parted geo-twin of the valley you can visit. Munsiyari is known as mini-Kashmir of Uttarakhand. It is snowclad in winters and shows a tri-junction of borders of India-Nepal-Tibet from one location.
And here is a story you would like to read about Munsiyari in Pithoragarh and probably visit the place sometime in your life.
An ancient story about Munsiyari goes that there was a non-jungle spirit Yaksha who was a benevolent caretaker of the forest and water bodies. Yaksha fell in love with a local lass, who lived in Munsiyari. But the locals took objection to this and decided to teach Yaksha a lesson by drying up the lake where he lived. This angered Yaksha and he cursed the village. There were no rains for many months and the villagers had to go and apologise to Yaksha.
This and many such local legends abound in Uttarakhand’s very own `Little Kashmir, — Munsiyari. This cursed lake is now known as Maheshwar Kund. Munsiyari in Pithoragarh Uttarakhand is at an altitude of 2,298 mts above sea level and is 135 kilometres from Pithoragarh. The picturesque valley is snuggled between snow clad mountains and is popular with high altitude trekkers and adventure enthusiasts since the place is the base of glaciers like Namik, Milam and Ralam.
HOW TO REACH:
By Bus: Munsiyari is well connected by a good road network from major destinations of Uttarakhand and north India. Buses from ISBT Delhi are available to Champawat, Almora, Tanakpur, Haldwani from where you can hire a taxi/bus to Munsiyari.
By Car: Munsiyari is a long drive from Delhi and a break journey at Vijaypur, Chaukori or Almora is advisable.
By Rail: The nearest railheads to Munsiyari are Kathgodam (275 kms) and Tanakpur (286 kms). Cabs from these places are easily available to Munsiyari.
By Air: The nearest airport is Pantnagar (249 kms) which is well connected with Delhi via four flights per week.
PLACES TO VISIT:
Munsiyari is ideally located for high altitude trekking to various glaciers. The scenic hill station boasts of over a dozen tourist spots. The thrill of long treks can be undertaken amidst birch, walnut, juniper and rhododendron trees. There are a number of rolling lush green meadows. Khaliya Top and Betuli Dhar have been developed as skiing and winter sports resorts.
Birthi Falls is situated amongst dense forest and offers a spellbinding view of the Himalayas. Set up in the year 2000, the Tribal Heritage Museum is one place which offers you an insight into the history, culture and traditions of the Bhotia community, an ethno-linguistic group residing in the upper Himalayan valley of Kumaon and Garhwal.
Balanti Potato Farm is placed 9,000 feet above sea level and is an offbeat place offering views of the Panchachuli Peaks. The farm is famous for potato and apples and also houses oak and rhododendron trees. Madkot Village is a picturesque hamlet, blessed with scenic vegetation. The place houses scenic thermal springs that have healing powers that can cure joint pains and rheumatoid arthritis and even skin infections. Darkot Village is very famous for its Pashmina Shawls and of course its beauty.
Betulidhar is best visited in the winters as it offers great opportunity for skiing. Dusk and dawn are beautifully captured here amidst sprawling rhododendron trees. Maheshwari Kund is another must place to visit in addition to the Nanda Devi Temple and the Kalimuni Top famous for the Kali Temple. A visit to the Thamari Kund will get you to see the musk deer.
Rafting in Gori Ganga River, skiing at Khalia Top, Trekking, Bird watching, camping are major activities undertaken in Munsiyari.
BEST TIME TO VISIT:
In the months of March-April the entire forest turns red with rhododendron flowers with the snow-capped Himalayas clearly visible. Best months to visit are March, April, May, October and November.