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Almora…………..

Almora, with its  untouched, barely commercial look had a comforting feel to it,  getting us adapted to its scenic environs in no time at all. Standing at 1638  meters above sea level, this ancient hill station is set on a horse saddle shape  ridge between the rivers Kosi and Suyal. Famous for its rich culture,  handicrafts and extravagant cuisine, its roads and pathways are largely  unplanned with the majestic snow peaked Himalayas standing as a rock steady  unwavering backdrop. While the best option would be to just find a nice rocking
chair and watch the Himalayas awestruck but if wanting some action, then you  could set off on a trek or even hire a bicycle and head out on a trail that can  give you a feel of what it is to be truely free spirited.

Alluring charm

This charming hill station was once ruled by  Katyuri King Baichaldeo who later donated major part of the land to Sri Chand  Tiwari, a Gujarati Brahmin. Later in the year 1568, the town of Almora was  founded by Kalyan Chand.  Evidence of its rich past is available in the relics  of old forts, palaces and monuments built by Chandravanshis and Katyur  dynasty. Uday Shankar, the internationally acclaimed dancer was enchanted  by the place and setup the cultural academy here. Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar,  artist Zohra Sehgal, the film star Guru Dutt came here and became earnest lovers  of the town. During the British rule, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru served a  term of imprisonment in the jail at Almora.

Lots to see and do

1.    Chittai temple – The Chittai temple or the ‘temple
of a million bells’, is just 6kms from Almora. With its large number of brass
bells hanging within the premises, the temple which is dedicated to Golu Devta
(Lord Shiva) sees thousands of devotees thronging to seek blessings daily.
Devotees write their requests on a stamp paper to seek desired judgment in
litigations. Once their wishes are fulfilled, they hang a bell or sacrifice a
goat to show their gratitude to the deity. It is considered one of the most
sacred temples to the people of Almora.

2.    Nanda Devi temple –
This temple is believed to be a thousand years old. It boasts of magnificent
stone carvings. Nanda Devi was the patron goddess of the Chandravanshi kings. It
comes alive during the Nanda Devi dance festival in September every
year.

3.    Bright End Corner – Just 2 kms from Almora is a calm
and peaceful place from where you can get a view of the beautiful sunrise and
sunset over the snow clad mountains. It is a vantage point which will tempt you
with awe inspiring views of the horizon. A government circuit house is close to
this spot and is a must visit for its sheer location and the view it provides. A
centre for meditation known as Shri Ramakrishna Kutir Ashram has been set up
near Bright End Corner. Tourists from all around the world come here seeking
tranquillity. For book lovers, there is the Vivekananda Library.

4.    Jageshwar – At an elevation of 1,870 mts above sea level
and about 37 kms from Almora is this temple of Lord Shiva. Believed to be the
home of one among the twelve Jyothirlings (a shrine where Lord Shiva, an aspect
of God in Hinduism is worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlingam or “Lingam
(pillar) of light.”) it is surrounded by dense deodar forests. Around it are as
many as 124 small and large stone temples. The oldest temple being Mrityunjaya,
and Dindeshwara. Dotted with statues reflecting the craftsmanship of the period,
there is a strong a Buddhist influence in the architecture here.

5.    Ranikhet – Just about 50 kms from Almora is a fascinating and beautiful hill
station, offering a magnificent view of the Himalayas. Ranikhet meaning “queen’s
fields” is situated at 6000 feet above sea level and is an all-weather tourist
destination.

6.    Kausani –
Once called the “Switzerland of
India” by Mahatma Gandhi, this hill station is about 52 kms away from Almora. It
is a place for honeymooners and a great weekend getaway. Pinnath (10KMs), Bura
Pinnath (5KMs) and Bhakot are the highest points near Kausani. Nanda Devi,
Trishul, and Panchachuli peaks are visible from Kausani.

7.    Binsar
Nestled amongst thick forests of oak trees lies the small hill town of
Binsar about 30 kms from Almora. Perched at an elevation of 2412 meters above
sea level on top of the Jhandi Dhar hills, Binsar offers a grand view of the
Kumaon Himalayas. It was once the summer capital of the Chand rulers. The entire
area is now a wildlife sanctuary and is rich in flora and fauna. Binsar is the
perfect place to take long peaceful nature walks.

Travel  Tips

Getting there

By air – The closest airport
is Pantnagar, 127 kilometres from Almora. Flights are available during
summers.

By rail – The closest railhead is Kathgodam (90 kms)
which is well connected by trains to Delhi, Lucknow, Dehradun, Agra, Bareilly
and Kolkatta.

By road – There are daily route to Delhi to Almora
bus service (380 kms.), Lucknow (466 kms.), Dehradun (415 kms).

Best
season –
April to June, September to November

Where to shop – 
Lala Bazaar and Chowk Bazaar

What to buy – Woollen  garments, brass decoratives, Kumaoni-style Jewels

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