Ever since the Beatles rocked up at the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late ‘60s, Rishikesh has been a magnet for spiritual seekers. Today it styles itself as the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’, with masses of ashrams and all kinds of yoga and meditation classes. Most of this action is north of the main town, where the exquisite setting on the fast-flowing Ganges, surrounded by forested hills, is conducive to meditation and mind expansion. In the evening, an almost supernatural breeze blows down the valley, setting temple bells ringing as sadhus, pilgrims and tourists prepare for the nightly Ganga aarti.
But Rishikesh is not all spirituality and contorted limbs; it’s now a popular white-water rafting center, a bungee jumping site, backpacker hang-out and Himalayan-trekking gateway.
Climbing this 4000m summit is one of the most rewarding day hikes in the whole Indian Himalaya. A pre-dawn start from the village of Chopta can pay off with stunning panoramas of the Garhwali and Kumaoni Himalaya, with awesome views of major mountains including Nanda Devi, Trishul and the Kedarnath group. The 5km hike is moderately strenuous and takes a few hours, passing Tugnath Mandir – the world’s highest Shiva temple – along the way.
British mountaineer Frank Smythe stumbled upon the Valley of Flowers in 1931. Over 300 species of flowers are found here.The bugyals (high-altitude meadows) of tall wildflowers in the Valley of Flowers are a glorious sight on a sunny day, rippling in the breeze, and framed by mighty 6000m mountains with glaciers and snow decorating their peaks year-round.
This famous reserve was established in 1936 as India’s first national park. Jim Corbett National Park is spread across an area of 520.8 square kilometers and is visited by nearly 50,000 visitors each year. It is home to a huge verity of flora and fauna with a total of 586 bird species, 33 species of reptiles and amphibians and around 25 species of animals, like Tigers, Elephants, Deer, Leopards, Jackals, Wild Boar, Indian porcupine etc.
Auli is India’s premier ski resort. But you don’t have to visit in winter only, to enjoy the awesome views of Nanda Devi (India’s second-highest peak) from the top of the cable-car station.
One of the most important Sikh pilgrimage sites in the world, Hem Kund, set at 4300m, is a sacred lake surrounded by seven peaks where Sikh Guru Gobind Singh is believed to have meditated in a previous life. It’s believed that a dip in the frigid waters purifies one’s soul.