Delhi – half day guided tours of Old and New Delhi. Almora – old British hill station in the western Himalayas. Four day trek through the unspoilt Kumaon region. Traditional life in Kumaoni villages. Spectacular views of the Himalayas and dramatically terraced valleys. Jagdeshwar - 8th century temple complex. Lakhudiar - pre-historic rock art.
Sketch Itinerary :
New Delhi | Kathgodam | Almora | Deora Village | Paliu Village | Sokyatal Village | Jageshwar | Almora | Kathgodam | New Delhi
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This shorter tour concentrates on the Kumaon region, a corner of India where traditional life has been little disturbed by tourism. Our village trek offers the chance to see something of the lives, and the daily routine, of the Kumaoni people, as each day, whilst on trek, we end our day with an overnight stay at a village house, staying with local families.
The accommodation is basic and simple, but clean, and has all the basic amenities. We start from the hill station of Almora, and trek for four days through the Kumaon Uttaranchal region. The area lies in the western Himalayas, below some of the tallest mountains in India. Several different cultures have left their imprint on the region, and amidst the villages, lying on their green terraces, are ancient temples and pre-historic paintings.
With an average daily walking time of 5 to 7 hours, our journey offers a taste of both the culture and the dramatic landscape of the region as we walk through this unspoilt corner of India. The Kumaon Trek Our route over our four days on the old village trails takes us through several villages, in some of which the houses have wonderfully carved doors and windows.
Old traditions and culture are still part of daily life here, and we pass through some villages where castes are still strictly segregated. Between the villages we walk along terraced fields, and traditional irrigation channels, pass waterfalls, follow winding streams and walk through rhododendron, oak, cedar and pine forests.
Whilst the best time to be here is between mid February and April, when the rhododendron flowersare in full bloom, the scenery is never less than stunning, with views of both the Himalayas and the valleys below from the ridges where we walk. Along the way are several ancient temples, devoted to Kali and Vishnu.
The countryside along our route is mostly quite easy to walk, though there are some slightly steep sections, and our altitude over the four days sees us at between 1450 and 2250 metres. The people we meet are one of the highlights of the trek. Kumaoni people are always welcoming and happy to talk and be photographed as we pass by, and each evening we spend time with a particular village family.
The routine each night is much the same: after arriving at our overnight village we enjoy a welcome drink, probably in the garden, while traditional Kumaoni food is cooked by the villagers. Our host might well collect some of the ingredients for our dinner from the fields around the house; we can sit back and watch or offer to help in the preparation. Life here usually entails going to bed early and rising early. By the end of our four day trek, with three overnight village stays behind us we will have had a priviliged insight into these traditional communities.
Highlights: Old Delhi - Once capital of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan
Description: After checking in to our hotel this morning we meet our Tour Leader and discuss the week ahead. In the afternoon we head for the narrow streets of Old Delhi. Once capital of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, Old Delhi is a maelstrom of colour, noise and chaos, and, using a mixture of the old and the new - the metro and a cycle rickshaw ride - we reach the Chadni Chowk Bazaar, at the heart of the Old City. A highlight of Old Delhi is the Jami Masjid mosque. Built of Red stone, the Jama Masjid, also known as Masjid-e-Jahanuma, is the largest mosque in India. The courtyard of the mosque measures around 1000 square meters and has a capacity of 100,000 people. In the centre of the courtyard is a tank and Hauz. This was built for the purpose of Wazu, compulsory ambulation done before Namaaz. In front of it is a raised platform called the Dikka. The mosque is so big that the Muatllawi (the second cleric), used to stand on the Dikka and repeat the Ayats said by the Imam (the chief cleric) to the devotees who were unable to hear him. The mosque took some 14 years to construct. From the top of the southern minaret there is a view of New Delhi, where we will explore tomorrow. Nearby is the imposing Red Fort. Built in the 1600s its imposing red sandstone walls stand over 30 meters above the heart of the Old City which swirls around it. We'll take a rickshaw ride through Chadni Chowk and have a wander through the Spice Bazaar. Be sure to have a camera ready to capture all the wonderful sights including the chaotic electrical wiring, monkeys, traders on bikes with massive loads, and the traffic in general which by some kind of sixth sense and tolerance means drivers and pedestrians seem to just miss each other.
Highlights: Guided tour of the other side, the modern side, of the city.
Description: After breakfast we spend the morning on a guided tour of the other side, the modern side, of the city. New Delhi was designed by Lutyens in the 1930s and still retains the feel of colonial India. We'll see the Parliament buildings, India Gate, the Rajpath, and the 13th century Qutab Minar, as well as visiting the sixteenth century Humayan's Tomb, a precursor of the Taj in Agra. After our tour the rest of the day is left free for us to explore at our own pace. In the evening we transfer to the railway station and take the Ranikhet Express, travelling 2 tier AC sleeper class to Kathgodam.
Highlights: Almora - Old British hill station in the Western Himalayas.
Description: We arrive at Kathgodam station in the early morning, and waiting for us is our transport for the drive to Almora, where we should arrive around breakfast time. Before beginning the trek we spend a night at Almora, allowing time to adjust to the altitude and offering the chance for an initial walk to allow both ouselves and the trek support staff to assess our abilities. After checking in at our hotel and having breakfast we head out for our first walk of the tour. We drive to Binsar then walk up through dense rhododendron and oak forest to Zero Point; after drinking in the views here we hike downhill to a Shiva temple. From here we continue downhill, following the western Binsar ridge in the direction of Kangarchina, with good views of both the Himalayas and the terraces in the valley below. After a walk of some five to six hours, descending from 2400metres to 1700 metres, we drive back to Almora in the late afternoon.
Highlights: Our first day's walk takes us through picturesque villages, along terraced fields, waterfalls, along a winding stream and through Chir (pine) forests.
Description: After breakfast this morning we set out on our four day trek through several Kumaoni villages. Our first day's walk takes us through picturesque villages, along terraced fields, waterfalls, along a winding stream and through Chir (pine) forests. This gentle walk through the valleys will take about 6 hours, as we cover about 12 kilometres. Shortly after visiting the 1000 year old temples of Kali and Vishnu we reach our overnight stop at Deora. Deora is a lovely village, overlooking the valley and its ancient temples, and with houses displaying wonderfully carved doors and windows. After we have freshened up there is time to enjoy a welcome drink while the traditional and delicious Kumaoni dinner is cooked by our host. Guests are welcome to watch the cooking. The evening is one of relaxing with, and chatting with, our local hosts and listening to tales from the past. Our altitude during today's walk drops from 1950 metres to 1500 metres.
Highlights: Traditional life in Kumaoni villages.
Description: Today we continue walking along the old village trails, passing through several villages which give you a fascinating impression of Kumaoni life, where the old traditions and culture are still part of daily routine. We pass ancient flour mills, powered by the water from local streams; we can stop to see how they work. After passing more villages, and making our way through terraced fields and along traditional irrigation channels we finally, after a walk of some 6 hours, and after covering about 12 kilometres, climb up to Paliu village. As everywhere in the Kumaon the people are friendly and more than happy to chat and be photographed and our evening passes much as did yesterday evening. Today we gained a little altitude, from 1500 metres to about 1650 metres.
Highlights: Spectacular views of the Himalayas and dramatically terraced valleys.
Description: Today we walk through chir (pine) forest, along terraced fields, and past a few scattered small villages as our path now climbs steadily, and we gain altitude from around 1650 metres to about 2250 metres, up to Sokyatal, amidst forests of oak and rhododendron. (If you can make it between mid Feb. and Apr. you will be rewarded with the lovely sight of the rhododendron flowers in bloom, a blaze of colour). The panoramic views of the Himalayas from the top of this ridge are magnificent, and, after a walk of some 6 to 7 hours, and after covering some 14 kilometres, we should be able to end the day watching the setting sun covering the Himalayan peaks with fire as we stretch out with refreshments in the quaint, stone courtyard of our village house in Sokyatal, with views down into the Jageshwar valley.
Highlights: Jagdeshwar - 8th century temple complex; Lakhudiar - pre-historic rock art.
Description: This morning we walk from Sokyatal to the end of our trek at Jageshwar, walking for some two hours down through terraced fields, villages and magnificent cedar forests. We lose altitude during the walk, from 2250 metres to 1850 metres. Reaching Jageshwar after a walk of some 5 kilometres, we can visit the ancient temple complex built by the Chand and Katyuri rulers between the 8th and 12th centuries A.D. Just 2 kilometres further down the road, if we follow a narrow hill stream through dense cedar forest we come to the temples known as Dandeshwar.From Jagdeshwar we have a drive of about 2 hours, during which we can also stop to see the prehistoric rock painting at Lakhudiar, before we reach our overnight accommodation in Almora.
Highlights: We leave the unspoilt world of the Kumaoni people behind and take the afternoon train to Delhi
Description: After breakfast we have a morning at leisure before we drive to the railway station at Kathgodam. From here we leave the unspoilt world of the Kumaoni people behind and take the afternoon train to Delhi, travelling AC Chair class. Arriving back into Delhi in the late evening the city seems vast, noisy and a world away from the tranquil valleys behind us.
Highlights: After breakfast today our tour ends.
Description: Return to Onward Destination.