Almora An Enriched Experience

Hill Station
Bored with visiting the same hill stations on your weekend holidays? How about trying Almora next time when you plan your weekend break? Almora is not your usual hill station. While Shimla, Mussoorie, and Nainital have a fixed kind of travel menu, Almora has a rich mix of culture, history, and sightseeing to offer.

Though some of its old magic is gone but it still retains its charm for those looking for some quiet escape and rejuvenation. Why not? This ancient hill station is reputed for its health-giving climate. Though Almora is one of the few hill stations not established by the British they did nurture it under their rule because they found it was good for their health. For the uninitiated it was here in Almora at Kasar Devi Swami Vivekananda came to meditate. "These mountains are associated with the best memories of our race: Here, therefore, must be one of the centers, not merely of activity, but more of calmness of meditation, and of peace and I hope someone to realize it," said Swami Vivekananda replying to the address given to him by the people of Almora. 

For those interested in history, Almora, before its establishment was under the possession of Katyuri king Baichaldeo. He donated a major part of this land to a Gujarati Brahmin Sri Chand Tiwari. Later on, when Chand kingdom was founded in Baramandal, the town of Almora was founded at this centrally located place in 1560 by Kalyan Chand. Its historic importance can be gauged from the fact that the mountain on which Almora is located is described in the famous epic Manaskhand as follows:

Kaushiki Shalmali Madhyey Punyah Kashaya Parwatah` `Tasy Paschim Bhagam Kshetra Vishnyo Pratishthtam`.

In the days of the Chand Kings, it was called Rajapur. The name `Rajpur` is also mentioned over a number of ancient copper plates. The town of Almora is situated over a horse saddle shaped ridge of a mountain. The eastern portion of the ridge is known as Talifat and the western one is known as Selifat. The market is at the top of the ridge where these two, Talifat and Selifat jointly terminate.

If you are one of those in search of snow views then this place is ideal for such activity because from here you can have a panoramic view of the snowy peaks of Himalayas on clear days. In addition, you also get a glimpse of the township with its tiled roofed houses and paved streets would take you to the sixteenth century in some thoughtful moment.

Nearby places of tourist interest where an excursion can be made within a day are Bright End Corner`s unforgettable sunset, Chitai temple with its unique collection of brass bells of all sizes, gifted to the temple by devotees of the Gollu devta who has been worshipped in Kumaon for centuries. Six kilometers ahead of the main city is Kasar Devi which houses many Europeans who have settled down in nearby villages. Kasar Devi stands on what is still known as the Crank`s ridge, formerly a haunt of artists and writers. Literary giant D H Lawrence spent two summers here, it has also attracted Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and Timothy Leary, known as the father of the hippy movement.

Also not to be missed are Nanda Devi Temple, the cultural and religious center of Almora, for now, hundreds of years, and Lala Bazar a unique market of more than two hundred years with paved streets of stone. 

While you are in Almora, don`t forget to travel to Binsar to get one of the best views of snow-clad peaks including the Nanda Devi and the five peaks that form the majestic Panchachuli. Situated only 30 km away from Almora, it lies nestled amongst thick forests of Oak and Rhododendron offering surprisingly close views of the Himalayan peaks. The entire region is now a wildlife sanctuary and has a host of wildlife such as Panther and Barking Deer.

Another main attraction around Almora is the Jageshwar group of temples. Situated around 35 kms from Almora, Jageshwer is one of the most important religious places of Hindus in Kumaun and is believed to be the abode of one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. It is even mentioned in the great epic of Mahabharata. The great temple complex is situated in a narrow and beautiful valley covered with Cedar trees. Two streams - Nandini and Surabhi - flow down the hills and meet near the sacred spot. A dense grove of Cedar trees and sweet murmur of the rivers give a peculiar charm and sanctity to this place. 

There are some 124 temples and hundreds of magnificent statues of exquisite craftsmanship in Jageshwar. The oldest shrine is of the `Mrityunjaya` and the biggest shrine is the Dandeshwar Temple.

If you still haven`t had enough of these ancient temples then head for Katarmal temple. Situated around 17 kms from Almora, Katarmal is famous for 800 years old temple dedicated to the Sun God. The only other temple in India dedicated to the Sun is the Konark temple in Puri in Orissa. 

How you can Reach Almora: 
The nearest airport to Almora is at Pantnagar, about 127 km from Almora. The nearest railway station is at Kathgodam situated around 90 km away. Kathgodam is connected by rail directly with Delhi, Lucknow, and Calcutta. From Kathgodam local transport, private taxies as well as buses run by private operators, and buses run by the state government corporation.

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