Captivating Uttarakhand, bordered by Nepal and Tibet, and shadowed by towering Himalayan peaks, is full of unspoiled natural beauty. It's divided into two regions -- Garhwal in the north, and Kumaon in the south. Ancient holy places, forests and valleys, and an abundance of trekking options are some of the attractions that make travel to Uttarakhand worthwhile.
Here are some of the top Uttarakhand tourist places.
The stunning landscape of The Valley of Flowers National Park in the Gharwal region comes alive with the monsoon rain. This high-altitude Himalayan valley has around 300 different varieties of alpine flowers, which appear as a bright carpet of color against a mountainous snow capped background. It's a favorite trekking destination.
The hill settlement of Nainital, in the Kumaon region, was a popular summer retreat for the British during the time they ruled India. It features the serene, emerald colored Naini Lake and action filled strip called The Mall, lined with restaurants, shops, hotels, and markets. Enjoy one of the many forest walks, explore the surrounding area on horse back, or relax on a boat in the lake.
Ancient Haridwar (the "Gateway to God") is one of the seven holiest places in India, and one of the oldest living cities. Located at the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, it's particularly popular with Hindu pilgrims who come to take a dip in the holy waters of the fast flowing Ganges River and wash away their sins. The evening Ganga Aarti holds special appeal.
Rishikesh, located not far from Haridwar, is as popular with western spiritual seekers as what Haridwar is with Indian spiritual seekers. Known as the birthplace of yoga, people flock there to meditate, do yoga, and learn about other aspects of Hinduism in the various ashrams and yoga institutes. Despite the growing number of visitors, the town's lanes and alleys retain a old-world charm, and it remains a wonderful place to relax and unwind amongst nature.
Corbett National Park makes an interesting side trip from Nainital. Named after hunter turned conservationist Jim Corbett, it has dense forest and an exotic array of wildlife. One of the best ways of exploring the park is on the jeep or elephant safaris that take place daily in the early morning and afternoon. The park has a tiger reserve, but tiger sightings are less common than at some of India's other national parks. The Dhikala zone of the park is the most panoramic, with stunning valley views, and offers the best change of animal sightings. You may even get to see wild elephants.
6. Char Dham
Located high up in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, the Char Dham (four temples) mark the spiritual source of four holy rivers: the Yamuna (at Yamunotri), the Ganges (at Gangotri), the Mandakini (at Kedarnath), and the Alaknanda (at Badrinath). Hindus consider visiting the Char Dham to be very auspicious. Not only is it believed to wash away all sins, it will also ensure release from the cycle of birth and death.