Welcome to the Little Kashmir! 650km away from the actual Kashmir, but just as good, Munsiyari is the underrated star of the Himalayas. Known for its picturesque snow clad mountains and trekking trails, Munsiyari is an ideal vacation destination for people all over North India. This cosy town doesn’t lack in the historical or cultural department either; it is the Gateway to Johar Valley which was the starting point for the ancient trading route between India and Tibet. Munsiyari is also home to a world full of nature and wildlife and is surrounded by dense forests.
However, Munsiyari’s claim to fame comes for its thrilling treks and mountain climbing. It is the base for most of the major glacier treks in the Kumaon Ranges with it being the stepping stone to treks to the Milam, Ralam and Namik glaciers among others. These treks are so satisfying that just a couple of treks in, you will want to stay back on the top of the mountains! So let us get to know the best trekking destinations in Munsiyari.
Treks in Munsiyari
- Milam Glacier Trek
Imagine this scene: You sitting on top of an endless sheet of ice, staring into the stunning vista of the Himalayan Mountains in all directions, and knowing that you are on top of the world. Sounds like a pipe dream, right? Not really, a trek to the Milam Glacier in Uttarakhand will help you fulfil this dream – and more!
Located some 45km away from Munsiyari and just 15km from Nanda Devi Peak, the Glacier is actually pretty big, about 37 km2. It is the origin of the Goriganga River, and has an altitude between 5500m and 3900m, making it ideal for pleasing views of the world below you.
However, to conquer the Milam Glacier, requires a 9 day trek from Munsiyari and back. The trek starts about 10km away from Munsiyari town centre, in the village of Dhapa, where you will be greeted by the roaring Goriganga River. There are plenty of Dhabhas and army camps along the way for you to replenish yourselves and call a break for the night. The first settlement you’ll find on this trail is the Lilam village, following which comes one of the most arduous parts of the trek, a steep climb to the Mainsingh Top. All along the hike to Milam you will find many quaint villages, sparkling streams and waterfalls, dense jungles and scintillating sights of the Himalayan Mountains as the beauty of Johar Valley hits you right on the face. No wonder ancient people used this Valley for trade between India and Tibet!
A couple of days into the trek and the snowy peaks start beckoning to you, you will find snow, icy river crossings, lakes, green pastures for livestock to graze on and a general sense of calm. Oh, and this is when you can start viewing Nanda Devi in its full glory. Once you reach the Milam village, you will find a desolate setting. Most of the houses are abandoned throughout the year other than in the summer, when the villagers migrate up the Valley. Despite being a tiny hamlet in the middle of nowhere, Milam has a rich history, with some structures dating back to the 17th century! This area also contains a lot of wild bears, so hey, you never know, if you’re lucky you’ll find one.
All things considered, this is one of the best treks in Uttarakhand and probably even in the whole of India.
Trek Time: 9 days for the average person (60km).
Trek Difficulty: Moderate – Tough
Best Time to Visit: In the summer months, April to September.
- Ralam Dhura Pass Trek
The Best View comes after the Hardest Climb.
The Ralam Glacier is one of the majestic glacier of the Kumaon Himalayas and is situated near the Ralam Dhura Pass or the Sipu Pass, as named by the locals. So is it any wonder that the above statement holds true for a trek to the Ralam Dhura Pass, which takes you through the Ralam Glacier. The Ralam Dhura Pass is at an elevation of over 5000m.
This Trek isn’t the easiest one but is totally worth it once you reach the top. The fresh, cold air at the summit, the unadulterated environment around you, the chilly frozen ground of the glaciers and the feeling of adrenaline while climbing the mountains aren’t easy to recreate. Even the most rudimentary of photographers will get enough great pictures throughout the trek to win ‘Photograph of the Year’; that is how enchanting the views are.
Despite being one more of the popular treks of Munsiyari, this trek starts of in the village of Chilamdhar, a few kilometres off Munsiyari. Your first stop of the trek comes in the Paton Village, following which come many more tiny yet triumphant villages that include the Lungrani, with the rejuvenating Ralam River flowing right by it and the scenic Killadum Village, with green landscapes and vegetation.
Nonetheless, the highlight of the trail comes in the form of the Ralam Glacier, which you will reach in around the 6th day of the trek. This glacier is a 15km hike from the mesmerising Ralam Village, where you’ll have to set camp for a night. It truly is a bewitching sight watching three smaller glaciers collude into the larger Ralam Glacier. Another great day of the trek comes towards the 10th day, as you reach the pinnacle of the trip in the form of the Ralam Dhura Pass. From here you get spellbinding views of Nanda Devi, Chiring We, Kuchela Dhura and Nanda Kot among other peaks.
It is not surprising that this trek lures travellers all around the world to Munsiyari and Ralam. Just writing about it is luring me too! So …… see you in 12-13 days!
Trek Time: 12-13 days as mentioned above (80km).
Trek Difficulty: Tough
Best Time to Visit: In the summer (April-June) or from September to October. Avoid the winter months as the snow makes it inaccessible while in the monsoon it rains too much for you to enjoy the trek.
- Namik Glacier Trek
I apologise for the stupid pun but moving on let us learn more about the Namik Glacier. It is as indispensable a feature of the Uttarakhand mountain landscape as namak is to Colgate ads. At a height of 3600m and is the source of the Ramganga River. The glacier falls on the ancient Indo-Tibetan trade route and is surrounded by the many mighty peaks of the Himalayas such as Nanda Devi, Trishuli, etc.
A trek to this Glacier starts off in in Munsiyari as you climb up to the Senar Gad Meadows, a lush green area nestled between the mountains. A night camping there, right in the middle of nowhere, with the whole universe above you and the whole Earth below you, will make all your troubles go away. The next day you go on a robust 11km trail that is mainly used by shepherds until Dhaldauk. It feels like the mountains are all accompanying you along your path.
A couple of days more and you will reach a glacier. No, not Namik, but the Hiramani Glacier. Yes, this trek takes you across not one but two glaciers! This glacier will fully captivate you and prepare you for your next glacier. Once you reach the Namik Glacier, the zenith of this trek, you will realise why your monumental effort to climb till here was worth it and your satisfaction will increase tenfold. The sunrise and sunsets as you camp by the glacier are gorgeous as the twilight gives the giant sheet of ice an orange hue. Nevertheless, what the glacier is really known for is the number of waterfalls and sulphur springs originating around this glacier. Infact, Namik itself means the place where saline water springs are present.
From Namik Glacier you will trek down to the village of Namik. This village has a very independent and strong culture and the houses are built in the traditional style with wood carvings. You get a chance to explore the local lifestyle. Your next destination on this journey is the Gogini Village, which quite similar to Namik, has its own authentic culture. Influenced by the Indo-Tibetan trade and nomadic lifestyle, these cultures are unique and should be preserved. Another village nearby Gogini is Kimu, where you get the opportunity to meet shepherds and play in vast, green meadows.
All in all, this trek should be near the top of every search page for ‘Best treks in Munsiyari’.
Trek Time: 8-9 days should be enough for a moderately fit individual (85km)
Trek Difficulty: Moderate- Tough
Best Time to Visit: April-June or September to October.
- Khaliya Top
The white of the snow-dressed peaks, the green all around your trail and in the forests, the brown of the rugged mountain terrain, and the blue of the sky; the only four colours you will observe on your way to Khaliya Top. A meandering meadow at the height of 3300m, Khaliya sits in the lap of the most imposing mountain range in the world. This trek to the Top will take you through splendid alpine forests and grasslands of the area, where you can spot a plethora of endemic species such as the barking deer, mountain antelopes, black bears, Bharals and a list of graceful Himalayan birds.
Once on the Khaliya Top, you can savour yourself to a wide array of awe-inspiring views of the innumerable peaks in sight like the Nanda Devi and Panchachuli Range. The striking panoramas and rich flora and fauna make it the model trek for photographers and nature-lovers. The whole hike will be on a carpet of green with bright burst of colour as it is sprinkled with flowers and other flora. The forests surrounding the trail are made of cedar, pines, oak and rhododendron trees. Recently, a lodge has also opened up near the top for a viable accommodation option.
Unlike the other major treks around Munsiyari, winter wouldn’t be a bad time to do it. The steep slopes and hills of Khaliya Top are perfect for skiing and skimming cross the snow laden landscape will give you the sensation of being in a snow globe. To keep in mind, however, is that the temperatures get chillingly cold in this season, always sub-zero and it may get hard for beginners. But if you put in a little extra effort, you will thoroughly enjoy this trek. Summers are also a great time to visit Khaliya Top as you get to escape the torrid heat of the plains and you can revel in the pleasant weather of the Himalayas and Munsiyari.
Whenever it is that you visit, this trek to the fairytalesque paradise of Khaliya Top is worth its weight in gold.
Trek Time: 1 day (4-5km one way).
Trek Difficulty: Easy-moderate
Best Time to Visit: December-January for a more exciting and adventurous experience and summer for a more relaxing experience.
- Thamri Kund Trek
“A Lake so surrounded by colour and vitality that it looks like a fine art painting.” That is the perfect way to describe the Thamri Kund – or lake.
The beauty of the Thamri Kund is astounding; situated right in the middle of a thick jungle right in the outskirts of Munsiyari, a trek to the lake is an ethereal experience. Thamri Kund is a very offbeat destination so the whole region is just completely untouched and pristine. The trees seem to be fresher, the bushes and flowers more colourful, the animals more lively and the water more glistening and pure. In this trek, you will feel more alive than even the busiest of cities.
Birdwatchers beware, the hills and forests adjacent to Thamri Kund are bursting with an assortment of birds such as Monal, Raven, Falcon, Wagtail and more. It is also bubbling with wildlife such as fox, musk deer, Himalayan black bears, leopards among others. This trek also offers several vantage points for fabulous views of the mountains and peaks of the Himalayas. The greenery of the forests on the way to the Kund will blow your mind away as you sit in the lap of Mother Nature. This is one of the most tranquil and relaxing little hikes in Uttarakhand as the fresh mountain air and nature reenergise you soul and body.
Winters in particular are special for a trek to this cute petite lake as the whole world appears to be covered by snow. This is the best picnic spot around Munsiyari and the most doable treks with a family. Hiring a guide might help you relish the trip as he will have an encyclopaedia of knowledge about the Kund, the forest and its history and nature. Once you begin this trek, you will truly be Into the Wild.
Trek Time: Half a day (3km one way)
Trek Difficulty: Easy
Best Time to Visit: Winters for experiencing the serene snowy nature while summers are better for a greener landscape.
What else to do in Munsiyari
As you can see, Munsiyari has its hands full when it comes to trekking and mountain climbing. But it definitely doesn’t lack in the other aspects as well. Even if you aren’t the most avid trekker or hiker, Munsiyari to show for itself. This charming town will surprise you in many unexpected ways.
Being tucked in the Himachal (not to be confused with the state) ranges of the Himalayas; the whole area of Munsiyari is riddled with natural beauty. One such example of this is the Birthi Falls, at a distance of 35km from the city centre. This hidden gem is located amidst some of the typical Himalayan forests and falls from the height of 126m! The best time to visit right after monsoon in the months of August-September, when the whole place seems to be gushing with water. As the water falls from the top of the hill with the backdrop of lush green surroundings blushing in a mixture of vivid colours, Birthi Falls becomes ideal spot for lunch or a picnic.
The cultural and shopping haven of the Pithoragarh district, Darkot, is another must visit on your trip to Munsiyari. This is one of the few places in Uttarakhand that has retained the traditional customs and cultures of the Kumoan region. Whether you are a nature lover, art freak or shopaholic, you got to visit this village as you get a sneak peak of the authentic culture of the upper Himalayas. Another reason for Darkot’s fame is its sale of Pashmini shawls, sheep wool blankets or other similar fabrics, handwoven by the villagers. The culture and expertise craftsmanship of the Kumoan people is also portrayed by the artistic houses and buildings of Darkot.
One more way to get in touch with the history, culture, tradition and lifestyles of the indigenous inhabitants of the region, the Bhotias, is by paying a visit to the Tribal Heritage Museum. The Bhotia people are an ethno-linguistic group of Tibetan origin living in the upper Himalayan valleys, particularly in Uttarakhand. Some of the unique items at display include artefacts, wooden utensils used by the Bhotia, bags made of Yak skin, Tibetan brick tea, jewellery made of bear claws, vanity boxes, bowls and more such objects. Sounds so interesting, eh?
Other well-known tourist attractions in Munsiyari include the Nanda Devi Temple for the devotional; Betulidhar, Kalamuni Top and Maheshwari Kund for anyone who wants to be surrounded by nature and river rafting on the Goriganga River for the more adventurous. Skiing is also very popular in the winter season when the slopes of the Himalayas are filled with soft, luscious snow.
Ah well, there is a LOT to see and do and trek in Munsiyari. Considering how good the trekking trails are in and around Munsiyari, it is justified to call it the trekking capital of India. Apart from the high of skipping across the mountains, you can also jump into the nature, greenery, culture and history of the town. This really is the idyllic vacation destination for any season, any time, with anyone!
So don’t waste any more time and book those tickets to Munsiyari, pack your bags and get going! Have a great holiday!
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