For a small state, Uttarakhand (formerly Uttaranchal) packs in an incredible amount. You can be taking yoga classes at an ashram in Rishikesh and white-water rafting down the Ganges one day, trekking in the shadow of the Himalayas the next. Walk with pilgrims to ancient temples near the source of Ganges and Yamuna Rivers, or take puja (offering or prayers) with thousands of devotees on the ghats at Haridwar. Put your feet up and relax in Raj-era hill stations, or ride an elephant and take your camera on a hunt for tigers at Corbett or Rajaji National Parks. If you get your timing right, it’s all possible in Uttarakhand.
This is a region where nature takes control – rolling forest-clad hills, snow-topped 6000m peaks, rivers, waterfalls, lakes and glaciers. The state is 90% hills and 80% forest. The sacred Ganges River, which rises at Gaumukh Glacier in the far north, winds its way down to the plains via the significant pilgrimage centres of Gangotri, Rishikesh and Haridwar.
The British, fleeing the oppressive heat of the plains in summer, built enduring hill stations in the Himalayan foothills with Raj-style houses, hotels, churches and boarding schools that still exist. Mussoorie and Nainital have a real holiday atmosphere year-round and distant Himalayan views. Further north, the high Himalaya attracts trekkers, mountaineers and skiers as well as pilgrims on the Char Dham and Hem Kund routes. But it’s Rishikesh that draws most foreign tourists for its ashrams, yoga, meditation and all-round spirituality. Whatever your interest, square for square, this is one of India’s richest regions for travellers.