Surprises that Himachal & Uttarakhand offer : The Tribune India

Surprises that Himachal & Uttarakhand offer

Looking for a holistic experience at quaint little hamlets in the hills? Drive to these offbeat destinations

Surprises that Himachal & Uttarakhand offer

The golden-hued Buddha statue in Langza. Photos by the writer

Purnima Sharma

IF looking for an off-the-beaten-track getaway in the Kumaon hills, Satoli could well be the balm for the city-frayed nerves. This little hill town in Uttarakhand, nearly 50 km from Nainital (and Mukteshwar), will charm with its beautiful vistas, rain-soaked lush valleys, dense pine and oak forests, and clouds rolling in and out of the valley.

On way to Thanedar.

A sturdy pair of walking shoes and a large umbrella, which can double up as a walking stick, are enough to get one going in this year-round destination.

Visitors can relish the many attractions that Satoli and nearby areas offer. A short drive, or even a leisurely stroll, will take one to Kosi river, about 6 km away. The beautiful Dhokaney waterfalls, about two hours from here, are among the relatively less-explored areas of Kumaon. The 350-year-old Shiva temple in Mukteshwar offers spectacular views of the rugged terrain. Close to the temple is the historic Chauli ki Jali that villagers say is frequented by childless couples.

Journey to Satoli, along the Kosi river.

Up in the land of gods

Those looking for a date with the high altitudes of Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh can head for the relatively unexplored tiny hamlet of Langza, which is one of the world’s highest villages accessible through a motorable road. From verdant green mountains to barren peaks and cold desert terrains, the drive towards the upper reaches unveils a variety of landscapes.

With a population of barely 170, this ‘land of the gods’ lies at a height of 14,300 feet, close to a peak called Cho Cho Kang Nilda, which the locals believe emanates light both during the day as well as at night.

One can take a halt at Kaza, the sub-divisional headquarters of Spiti valley, which is known for Sakya Tangyud Monastery. From here, it will take another 14 km to reach Langza, where the jagged, saw-edged peaks suddenly seem to make way for a breathtakingly beautiful plateau. The piece de resistance is a huge golden-hued Buddha statue near a 500-year-old temple, visible from a long distance. White-and-red painted mud-houses, decorated with multi-hued prayer flags, will take one to the homestay.

A major attraction here is the Fossil Park, which is said to have the remains of creatures from the prehistoric Tethys sea. Children here might offer ‘chaudua’ (fossils), for a price, of course. But carrying these is illegal. Early risers can see the mountain goats and yaks grazing, or might even catch a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard, if lucky.

One can take a short trip to another village nearby, Komic, which houses two monasteries and the world’s highest restaurant.

Not very far is Hikkim village, which boasts of the highest post office. The postal services here are still operational, although a tad slow.

Apple bowl of Kinnaur

A more than 15-km-long picture perfect drive from Narkanda, near Shimla, will take one to the quaint little town of Thanedar, also referred to as the ‘apple bowl of Kinnaur’. The hosts of the homestay are likely to regale the visitor with the tales of how the Red Delicious variety of apples became the mainstay of Thanedar.

It all began when a wealthy young American, Samuel Evans Stokes, who later took on the name Satyanand and participated in India’s freedom struggle, decided to make this place his home. Although he had brought the curtains down on his old way of life, Satyanand often craved for the apples that grew in his hometown Philadelphia. His mother mailed him saplings, which upon being planted in Thanedar took root as if they were indigenous to the region. Satyanand distributed the seeds and saplings to local farmers, and the rest, as they say, is history.

While there, take a walk in the Saroga forest, which will unveil the rich flora of the region. Another attraction is Hatu Peak, the highest point in the area, besides St Mary Church and the pretty Tani Jubbar lake.



How to reach It takes an eight-hour drive from Delhi to reach Satoli. Kathgodam, two-and-a-half hours away, is the nearest rail point. Taxis are available but it’s better to book these in advance.

FOOD Small dhabas offer the staple of the hills: tea and Maggi. Popular cafes like Satv café, Ek Satoli, etc, offer a variety of local dishes such as saag, bhang ki chutney, singori and muspani as well as sweets like baal mithai, singora and arsa.

SHOPPING Check out a variety of spices, handmade jams, chutneys, soaps and creams, etc.


HOW TO REACH It takes a road journey of about 12 hours from Chandigarh to reach Langza, which is located near Kaza, headquarters of Spiti.

FOOD Try out local specialities such as thenthuk, thukpa and momos, which are available in homestays. Indian, Tibetan and Chinese cuisine is also available.

SHOPPING Pick up Zama pottery, rugs, and cardigans made of fleece, wool, etc.


HOW TO REACH It lies 80 km from Shimla and 198 km from Chandigarh.

FOOD Small dhabas offer North Indian fare. Try out the apple jams and chutneys.

SHOPPING Take home the Red Delicious variety of apples.

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