Uttarakhand formerly known as Uttaranchal is often referred to as “Devabhumi” the Land of the Gods, due to a large number of religious and pilgrimage centres found throughout the state. Uttarakhand is also known for the natural environment of the Himalayas. The natives of the state are generally called Uttarakhandi, or more specifically either Garhwali or Kumaoni by their region of origin.
The one thing that is unique about the cuisines of Uttarakhand is they are mostly cooked over burning wood or charcoal, which bestows them with additional nutritional qualities and flavor. Kafuli, a nutritious dish made from spinach and fenugreek leaves is eaten with steam rice. Bhang ki chutney is made from hemp seeds and can be had as an accompaniment with anything. Garhwal ka Fannah is a must try. Phaanu is a rather complicated dish made by mixing lentils of different varieties that are soaked overnight in water. Baadi is another nutritional dish here abundant in Vitamin B12 and Vitamin A. Kandalee Ka Saag is prepared with a green leafy vegetable called ‘bicchu ghas’ which is what gives the unique taste. Chainsoo and Dubuk are dishes rich in protein and made from different dals. Kumaoni Raita is yet another dish that accompanies every other cuisine of Uttarakhand and is prepared from curd, turmeric, and cucumber. For those with a sweet tooth, Jhangor Ki Kheer, Gulgula, Arsa and Singori are must haves.
Hindi is the official language of the state. Sanskrit is the second official language of Uttarakhand. Other languages used in Uttarakhand include Garhwali, Kumauni and Jaunsari which are all Pahari languages. Punjabi, Urdu and Nepali are also spoken here by some.
Fairs & Festivals
From the spiritual ghats of Ganga in Haridwar to the snow-capped mountains of Auli, Uttarakhand is viewed as a holy place. It has a varied and vibrant culture and is home to people of different ethnic groups, tribal communities, and even immigrants. The Garhwali and Kumaoni people wear different traditional dresses and celebrate various festivals. Some of the festivals celebrated in the Uttarakhand region are Basant Panchami, the celebration of Spring, Bhaitauli and Harela, which celebrates the sowing of seeds and the reaping of harvest and Ganga Dasshera celebrates the advent of the holy river Ganga from the heaven above. The Nanda Devi Fair, Makar Sankranti also known as Uttarayani, Holi and Bissu are some of the other festivals here. Kumbh Mela is celebrated here every twelve years. People congregate here to take a dip in the holy Ganges river hoping to eliminate the cycle of birth and death. A 3-month long festival, it rotates between four religious places in India namely Nashik, Allahabad, Haridwar and Ujjain. The International Yoga Festival held in Rishikesh attracts people from all over the world.
Known as the ‘Gateway to God’, Haridwar is one of the seven holiest places in India, and one of the oldest living cities. As per Hindu mythology, this ancient city is where Lord Shiva released Ganga from his locks. Located at the foothills of the Himalayas it is popular with pilgrims who come to take a dip in the holy Ganges river. The Kumbh Mela which is held once every 12 years here and ‘Ganga Aarti’ both hold special appeal.
Rishikesh, located not far from Haridwar is known as the birthplace of yoga. People from around the World flock here for Yoga, spiritual studies and meditation. Despite its international popularity, Rishikesh still retains an old-world charm. Very popular for white water rafting, Rishikesh is also an adventure lover’s paradise. The Laxman Jhula, Ram Jhula, Beatles Ashram and Triveni Ghat are popular sights to visit
The hill settlement of Nainital in the Kumaon region was a popular summer retreat for the British. The emerald colored Nainital Lake, Maal Road lined with restaurants, shops, hotels, and markets, Cave garden and Naina peak are some of the attractions here. Mukteshwar and Corbett National Park can be visited from here.
Mussoorie, the Queen of the hills is very popular amongst tourists as there is a lot to do. The cable car to Gun Hill, nature walk along Camel’s Back Road, picnic at Kempty Falls and horse riding up to Lal Tibba (the highest peak in Mussoorie) are some of the enjoyable things to do.
Nestled amongst the higher peaks of the Himalayas, Almora adorns the southern edge of the Kumaon Hills. The Kasar Devi Temple where Swami Vivekananda meditated, the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary and Katarmal Sun temple are some of the popular tourist spots. Ranikhet can also be visited from here. This region alone boasts of 4000 plus species of plants, thus a hot favorite for Botanists and nature lovers.
Uttarakhand’s skiing destination! Auli lies on the way to Badrinath and has a 3-kilometer long slope, gondola, chairlift, and Poma ski lift and is famous worldwide as one of the best destinations for skiing in India. Gorson Bugyal trek is popular. You can also see the highest man-made lake in the world here.
Uttarkashi is a religious place for spiritual and adventurous tourism. Uttarkashi town is also called Shivnagri because of the world renowned Vishwanath Temple or Kashi Vishwanath Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. This city is famous amongst pilgrims due to the number of temples here.
Neatly tucked amidst the Doon valley with the Garhwal hills in the backdrop, Dehradun is a popular destination for many. The town boasts of several caves, natural springs, waterfalls and trekking trails. The Malsi Deer Park, Tiger Falls, Nag Tibba, Rajaji National Park, Tapkeshwar Temple, Mind rolling Monastery, Robber’s Cave and Sahastradhara are some of the sights worth visiting.
Badrinath is a holy town in the state of Uttarakhand. It is one of the four sites in India’s Char Dham pilgrimage and gets its name from the temple of Badrinath. Though the Badrinath temple has been destroyed by natural catastrophes several times, it still manages to draw maximum no. of tourists every year. The Badrinath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is mainly what people come to this town for. Tapt Kund, the hot water spring adds on to the magical beauty of this place.
The rhythmic chants of Shiva by the devotees fills up this place with divine bliss. It is another one of the four sites in India’s Char Dham pilgrimage and gets its name from the temple of Kedarnath. The rich flora and fauna of this place make it a hot favorite for nature lovers along with pilgrims.
Valley of Flowers
The remarkable landscape of The Valley of Flowers National Park 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 popular trekking destination, open from the start of June until the end of October.
Magical Munsiyari, a small town surrounded by towering mountains is paradise for mountaineers and trekkers. It is the base for the challenging eight-day Milam Glacier Trek, and the much easier 2-3-hour trek to Khalia Top is another attraction. The Tribal Heritage Museum, filled with artifacts from Munsiyari’s trade with Tibet on the ancient salt route, is also worth seeing.