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UTTARANCHAL

RishikeshUttaranchal is blessed with magnificent glaciers, majestic snow-clad mountains, gigantic and ecstatic peaks, valley of flowers, skiing slopes and dense forests. This Abode of Gods includes many shrines and places of pilgrimage. Lying in the north of the vast and beautiful expanse of India, cradled in the awesome beauty and calm serenity of the stately Himalayas, Uttaranchal, the Devbhumi (Land of Gods) has sacred pilgrimages of different religions including the holy town of Haridwar and the world famous Char Dham or the four Hindu Pilgrimage sites. The rich cultural traditions, rare natural beauty and the cool and invigorating climate of this land of origin of the holy Ganga and Yamuna rivers have been its prime attractions.

Culturally, Uttaranchal has a rich and vibrant heritage. There are several local fairs and festivals like Jhanda Mela (Dehradun), Surkanda Devi Mela (Tehri Garhwal), Magh Mela (Uttarkashi), Nanda Devi Mela (Nainital), Chaiti Mela (Udham Singh Nagar), Purnagiri Mela (Champawat), Piran Kaliyar Mela (Haridwar), Joljivi Mela (Pithoragarh) and Uttarayani Mela (Bageshwar), indicative of the immense possibilities for cultural tourism in Uttaranchal.

The Queen of Hills - Mussoorie, the Lake District of India - Nainital, Kausani, Pauri, Lansdowne, Ranikhet, Almora, Pithoragarh, Munsyari and many more attractive tourists destinations are part of Uttaranchal. Uttaranchal is a paradise for adventure sports. The sheer variety ranging from mountaineering (Bhagirathi, Chowkhamba, Nanda Devi, Kamet, Pindari, Sahastrataal, Milam, Kafni, Khatling, Gaumukh), trekking, skiing (Auli, Dayara, Bugyal, Munsyari, Mundali), Skating, water sports (in all the lakes and rivers including the Tehri Dam in Uttaranchal) to aero sports like hang gliding, paragliding (Pithoragarh, Jolly Grant, Pauri) make Uttaranchal one of the most attractive destinations for adventure sports.

Uttaranchal has flora and fauna that is diverse as well as rare. Along with the world-famous Corbett National Park, Uttaranchal has several breath-taking destinations for wildlife tourism. These are the Rajaji National Park, Govind Pashu Vihar, Asan Barrage, Chilla and Saptarishi Ashram, the last four being a delight for bird watchers.


HARIDWAR & RISHIKESH

HaridwarIn the foothills of the Himalayas, at the point where the sacred Ganga river reaches the plains, lies Haridwar, an ancient pilgrimage site that has been held in reverence for centuries. It is here that the famous Kumbha Mela is held once in every twelve years, at the time when Jupiter transits to the zodiac sign of Aquarius. The five main bathing spots that are considered sacred in Haridwar are Gangadwara, Kankhal, Nila Parvata, Bilwa Theertha and Kusavarta. Hari-ki-Pairi, twisted to Har ki Pauri, is the main ghat at Haridwar, which is so named because it is believed that it sports a footprint of Vishnu on a stone in a wall. The best sight at Haridwara is the “aarti” of river Ganges in the evenings performed simultaneously at all temples in Haridwar. Thousands of oil-lit lamps being swayed in circular motions in a rhythmic manner and crowds of devotees singing are quite a spectacle just like the floating lamps and flowers that create a majestic sight in the river.The Rajaji National Park is just 10kms. from Haridwar. It's an ideal destination for wildlife and adventure lovers.

24-kms from Haridwar, the celebrated spiritual centre of Rishikesh is situated amidst a calm environment, impressive waterfront, dense forest and hills. Virtually a town of saints, sages and scholars, Rishikesh is a large religious centre located on the right bank of river Ganga. There are a number of Ashrams (hermitages) where religious discourses are held. The place is also a renowned centre for yoga teachings. Rishikesh is not only an attraction for pilgrims but it also attracts foreigners who want to know about Hinduism, who want to spend some time close to the Lord, people who love rafting come here to conquer the rapids of Ganga. Rishikesh is also an ideal base camp for trekking in the nearby Himalayas.

DEHRADUN

Dehradun is one of the oldest cities in India. In the Vedic times, the Garhwal Mandal, of which Dehradun is a part, was known as the Kedar Khand. Legend has it that Guru Dronacharaya, a Brahmin teacher of warfare, considered Dehradun a place fit for meditation and worship and therefore, the valley of Doon was christened Drona Ashram, which means "The Abode of Drona". The written history of Dehradun dates back to 250 BC and King Ashoka's inscription at Kalsi, on the outskirts of the city, is proof of this. There are 14 edicts carved on a rock and nearby is the site of three horse sacrifices by Raja Shilvarma of the Vrisheri dynasty. Large bricks with writing on them are laid out in the shape of a huge bird with a fire altar in the middle. The Sikh saint Guru Ram Rai also camped here at the place where the present Guru Ram Rai Durbar is located. Like most other Indian hill stations, the British found the climate and the serene environment of this place closer to their home and established many well-known institutions here.

The tourist attractions in this place include Tapkeshwar, a cave temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, Tapovan, which is situated amidst beautiful surroundings where Guru Dronacharaya underwent his penance here. The Malsi Deer Park is a newly developed tourist spot at the foothills of the Shivalik range.

MUSSOORIE

Mussoorie is located in the Garhwal hills. Due to its immense natural beauty, Mussoorie is known as the queen of hill stations. In 1820 Captain Young from the British army was influenced by the beauty of this place and made this place his residence. This marked the foundation of a hill station called Mussoorie.

Mussoorie is situated at a height of 2,500 m in the green Himalayan range. Due to its location and beauty Mussoorie may be considered as the best hill station in the northern region. The popular one is Gun hill, which offers outstanding views of Mussoorie town, the beautiful Doon valley and the Bunderpunch, Srikantha, Pithwara and Gangotri group of the Himalayas, Jwalaji temple, perched on top of Benog hill is another viewpoint. It is situated 9 km from the town of Mussoorie, the first 7 km can be covered on vehicle by road but the remaining 2 km have to be covered on foot. Mussoorie is an excellent respite for tourists and people who want relief from the hot sultry conditions of the plains during summer.


NAINITAL

A small town in the hills of Kumaon, Nainital is a lovely hill station surrounded by mountains on three sides. Once this area had many lakes and it was called the City of 60 lakes or 'Chakta'. Most of the lakes in the region have disappeared and whatever remains is just a glimpse of what they might have been in the past. Today the life of Nainital revolves around the lake of Naini. But there are few other lakes around Nainital which are equally beautiful and attractive as the Naini lake.

Nainital is well known for its salubrious climate and scenic beauty, the town is a popular health resort and attracts tourists around the year. Nainital in Uttaranchal and Srinagar in Kashmir are comparable as both have lake and mountain scenery. The two towns are nevertheless different in morphological structure and setting. While Srinagar has urban core off the Dal lake, the Naini has the entire town around it.

Nainital's peripheral tourist zone extends upto MulwaTal to the east where Bhimtal, Sattal and Naukachiatal have recently developed as tourist centres. These resorts have grown up as additional recreational grounds and can provide even to casual visitors holiday activities such as canoeing and yachting.


CHARDHAM

The sacred Hindu shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri together form the Char Dham (the Four Holy Shrines). The region is referred as the land of the gods in the ancient Puranas. Scores of pilgrims visit the shrines by trekking arduously along the mountain paths, all for a communion with the divine. Over the centuries, these sites have been described in sacred scriptures as the very places where devotees could earn the merits of all the pilgrimages put together. Subsequently, temples were built at these sanctified sties for all and sundry.

Each of the four holy shrines of the Char Dham is located above 3,000 m above the sea level. The four temples in a geographical context form two distinct groups, that of Badrinath-Kedarnath and Gangotri-Yamunotri, with the common starting point at Rishikesh. Badrinath-Kedarnath lies towards the northeast of Rishikesh. Gangotri and Yamunotri are up north from Rishikesh. Of these sites, Badrinath and Gangotri are directly accessible by road while Kedarnath is reached by road followed by a short trek of 15 km from the Gaurikund road head. Yamunotri is a 13-km trek from Hanuman Chatti. Nestling in the lofty peaks, Char Dham is one of the most revered destinations of Hindu pilgrimage. For centuries, saints and pilgrims, in their search for the divine, have walked these mystical vales known in ancient Hindu scriptures as 'Kedarkhand'.

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