First and foremost “A very very Happy New Year to you and your family”… Also, apologies for missing out on articles for the last couple of weeks but I assure that things will be back to normal weekly articles right from this article itself 🙂
It was that time of the year when I plan a trip to Uttarakhand especially Kumaon region for sighting the clear skies and views of mighty higher Himalayas including Trishul – Nanda Devi – Nanda Kot – Panchchuli ranges. However, with this trip, I planned to close down the majority of Kumaon region covering the leftmost belt of Manila – Ranikhet, the rightmost belt of Pithoragarh – Lohaghat along with a topmost belt of Munsiyari – Dharchula.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
The Kumaon Travel Plan
The center belt of Nainital – Mukhteshwar – Almora – Binsar – Chaukori was already covered in previous years. Also, I was eyeing on experiencing the snowfall hence planned the trip right in between holidays or festive season of 25th Dec to 1st Jan.
However, there was no luck on snowfall but we could find plenty of snow all around right from Kausani, Gwaldam to Munsiyari and Chaukori with Dharchula being a little disappointment apart from crossing the border into Nepal.
Well, the conditions lived up to the expectations, quite cold especially at nights but scenic views of higher Himalayas especially at sunset and sunrise right from the hotels were WORTH the effort we put in.
The road conditions in most of the regions were quite excellent, barring few patches in between and the lonely roads to Dharchula and higher up roads from Munsiyari. We were a set of 3 families and three boys, in a total of 9 splits into two cars and it was one very nice vacation spent with the family in yet another winter.
Though I am going to write a detailed Travel Tale and reviews of the guesthouses I stayed in, but just before that I would like to share what itinerary I followed, the route I took and the updates on road conditions for reaching these places in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand.
Itinerary for Munsiyari – Dharchula – Chaukori Trip in December
Well, I had 8 days in hand for my Gwaldam – Munsiyari – Dharchula – Chaukori trip including a couple of buffer days and I followed the itinerary as below:
Day 1 | Delhi to Manila
Started the drive from Delhi – Moradabad – Kashipur – Jim Corbett – Mohaan – Marchula – Maulikhal – Manila. Stayed at KMVN Rest House at Manila, an offbeat place located in the Ranikhet region of Kumaon, Uttarakhand. Mohaan to Manila is 60 km. The route is Mohaan – Marchula (14 KM) – Maulikhal (35 KM) – Dotiyal (51 KM) – Manila (60 KM). Delhi to Manila is 365 KMs. We started at 6.30 AM and ended at 3.30 PM.
Resumed the drive from Manila to go through Jainal – Masi – Chaukotiya – Dwaraghat – Somehshwar – Kausani – Baijnath – Gwaldam. Stayed at Nature’s Treat Resort at Gwaldam. The route details are Manila – Jainal (22 KM) – Masi (40 KM) – Chaukotia (51 KM) – Dwaraghat (69 KM) – Someshwar (102 KM) – Kausani (113 KM) – Gwaldam (152 KM).
From Dwaraghat, you need to take a left road from the Main bazaar to Dunagiri / Someshwar. There will be a Y-fork after about 5-6 KM from where you need to take the road to Someshwar. Then, you will reach a place called Binta from there you need to take another left to Someshwar. After reaching Someshwar, take a left towards Kausani. We started at 10.00 AM and ended at 5 PM.
Day 3 | Gwaldam to Munsiyari
Completed the final leg of the drive to Munsiyari from Gwaldam – Baijnath – Bageshwar – Chaukori – Thal – Birthi – Kalimuni Top (2700 Mtrs) – Munsiyari = 185 KM. Stayed at KMVN Rest House Munsiyari. Gwaldam to Bagshwar is 42 km and Chaukori is 91 km. From Chaukori, Munsiyari is further 94 km.
The route from Kapkot that bifurcates from Bageshwar is shorter and meets near a police checkpost between Tejam & Qwity / Birthi ahead of Thal. However, locals forced us not to take that route and follow the longer route from Chaukori due to terrible roads. We started at 10.25 AM and ended at 7 PM.
Day 4 | Rest Day and Munsiyari Sightseeing
We went on to play in the snow towards Kalimuni Top and explored the Snow Trek to Thamri Kund. The trek took us about 3.5 Hrs to complete up and down. The total length of the trek is about 6 km, 3 km each side from the Hanuman temple near Kalimuni top.
Sethan Valley – so close yet so far! This tiny little unknown hamlet lies ridiculously…
Day 5 | Munsiyari to Madkote to Dharchula
Took the upper route from Munsiyari to Darkot (8 KM) – Madkote (22 KM) – Jaulijibi (66 KM) – Dharchula (96 KM). Stayed at KMVN Rest House at Dharchula. After playing in the snow for an hour started for Dharchula at 11.30 AM from Munsiyari and ended at 6.00 PM with an hour break at the heritage village of Darkot. There is a waterfall near Bangapani, which is about 46 km from Munsiyari.
Day 6 | Dharchula to Chaukori
Crossed the border into Nepal on foot. Dharchula was a bit disappointing as it was more of a market and a big town though besides the Kali river. Since, there wasn’t much nature we dropped our second day booking at Dharchula and went to Chaukori via Askote – Didihat – Thal route. Stayed at Ojaswi Resort. We started at 12.30 PM and ended at 6.30 PM with more than an hour’s break at Thal.
The route with distance was Dharchula – Jaulijibi (30 KM) – Askote (43 KM) – Narain Nagar (50 KM) – Didihat (56 KM) – Thal (83 KM) – Chaukori (109 KM). From Askote, you take a right like a u-turn from a place where there is a signboard to Pithoragarh. After reaching the Askote village, take a u-turn to Narain Nagar – Didihat on your left.
The lovely road through the jungle to Gauchar, (2 KMs before Thal) on which you can spot many birds too. At Gauchar, if you take a right, then it goes to Munsiyari, and left goes to Thal – Chaukori. Narain Nagar offers amazing views of Nanda Devi.
Day 7 | Chaukori Rest Day
Rest day at Chaukori and we went to Patal Bhuvaneshwar which is 38 KMs and celebrated the new year night at Chaukori.
Chaukori weather turned upside down but had to leave for Delhi, so it was a bit disappointing on missing out the snowfall as had few days of a buffer. Took the route Chaukori – Berinag – Sheraghat – Dhaulchinna (77 KM) – Barechinna (91 KM) – Almora – Bhimtal – Kathgodam (197 KM) – Haldwani – Rampur – Moradabad – Delhi (513 KM). We started at 8.30 AM and were at Kathgodam at 4.15 PM almost 8 hrs after the start of Chaukori. Jageshwar Temple diversion is 17 km from Barechinna.
The total drive over the trip was 1535 KM. Overall it was quite a nice family vacation in Uttarakhand and the best part was the little kiddo enjoyed the snow and the snowman. We enjoyed the snow trek in Munsiyari and the drive over the lovely, beautiful roads through the jungles.
Following is the breakdown of road conditions for the trip:
Delhi – Moradabad: Excellent, smooth sailing.
Moradabad – Kashipur via road parallel to Thakurdwara: 2-3 KMs of the road in horrible state rest mostly good though single lane. After crossing Moradabad, you take a left to Kashipur, and after driving for 3—4 KMs, you will see a board saying Nainital on the right. Take that right, that road will take you towards Baazpur. Do not go to Baazpur, but on that road, there will be one crossing after 6-7 KMs, where you need to take a left. That road is narrow and pathetic for 2-3 KMs. However, it will save you from a similar mess of 10-12 KMs on each Parallel road running towards Nainital via Baazpur and Kashipur via Thakurdwara, respectively. This road will take you to Kashipur from where you follow the route to Ramnagar and then to Jim Corbett – Mohaan. If it is night, it is better to take the route from Haldwani – Rampur, IMO.
Kashipur – Ramnagar – Jim Corbett – Mohaan – Marchula: Mostly good roads with some bad patches in between.
Masi – Chaukotia: Mostly bad road, pavement underway.
Chaukotia – Dwaraghat – Someshwar – Kausani – Baijnath – Gwaldam: Very Good roads mostly.
Gwaldam – Bageshwar – Chaukori – Thal: Very Good roads mostly but single-lane having quite many curves. Guys with motion sickness take care on this route. Earlier, we planned to take Kapkot – Tejam route to Munsiyari, but locals asked us to go via the Chaukori route from Bageshwar as for small car Kapkot route was too bad in shape. Mostly High GC vehicles run over that route. However, the Kapkot route is about 30 KMs shorter than the Chaukori route.
Thal – Tejam – Birthi – Kalimuni Top – Munsiyari: The road starts to deteriorate after Thal towards Munsiyari. There are some steep stretches where you need to push the vehicle though not physically ;), some bad stretches where if in the small car, then you need to be careful. About 30-35% of the road is in such a state. But the rest of the road is in good condition. Though we found some hard ice after Kalimuni Top, it was manageable.
Munsiyari – Darkot: Good roads mostly being well tarred.
Darkot – Madkote – Jaulijibi: Mostly bad roads but very scenic drive. I will say 60% of the road is quite bad with about 12-15% very very bad and rest 40% odd road is good and excellent in patches. It was one of the most beautiful roads with the unique scenic landscape around to drive in Uttarakhand. Gori Ganga river accompanies you up to Jaulijibi, adds the charm to the drive. There were multiple landslide points, water crossings, creaking wooden bridges. The Water crossings in summers/rains would surely mean trouble due to swollen water levels. If you have been to Kinnaur Valley up to Nako in Himachal Pradesh then you can co-relate the road conditions much to it as it made me remind of those roads & views in Kinnaur only with Sutluj flowing beside 🙂
Jaulijibi – Dharchula: Mostly bad and very bad in shape, broken.
Jaulijibi – Askote – Didihat: Mostly bad in shape with few good patches in between. Jaulijibi is a merging point where the road from Munsiyari and Pitthorgarh – Askote meets. We planned to go via Pitthoragarh – Lohaghat earlier, but then as Dharchula was not that good, we planned to go to Chaukori via Askote – Didihat road and rest there for a couple of days.
Didihat – Thal – Chaukori: Mostly good and very good in shape.
Chaukori – Berinag – Sheraghat – Dhaulchinna – Barechinna – Almora: Mostly excellent roads with lovely dense forests, totally loved the drive. The road between Golu Devta Temple and Barechinna was in bad shape, else like I said mostly perfect.
Chaukori – Patal Bhuvaneshwar: Very bad in shape after Raigara. Butter smooth roads from Berinag to Chaukori.
Almora – Bhimtal – Kathgodam – Haldwani – Rudrapur: Very good roads, smooth sailing.
Rudrapur – Rampur – Moradabad: Mix of bad and average roads. The road between Rudrapur and Rampur has improved but still has a lot of potholes where the car gets some abuse as you tend to drive fast.
If you are particular about brands in Liquor, then you should carry your own as we ended up shocked with even no availability of Old Monk 😉
While in Uttarakhand, you can buy some packets of buns every day you start if you like them. They are quite a good partner for tea on a roadside tea shack 🙂
While going to Manila, Maulikhal has an ATM.
On the way to Kausani – Gwaldam from Manila, Dwaraghat has a petrol pump.
While going to Munsiyari, make sure you have filled fuel at Thal as there is no fuel pump after Thal. At times, even at Thal due to shortage in supply, they give you only limited fuel.
At Thal, just aside the petrol pump, there is a nice restaurant by the name JJ Hotel and Restaurant. The food served was quite nice up there.
Darkot is a heritage village 8 km ahead of Munsiyari. You can get yourself the Pasham (Mountain Rabbit) wool Shawls, Cardigans, Caps, crafted by hand as a heritage run by an old lady Prema Ji who is the mother of a well-known guide of this region named Raju guide. You can reach him at 08958687822. These are in the purest form of that woolen and crafted by hands only, so a bit costly but very, very warm & pure. The white one is pure while the grey one is a mix and comes a bit cheaper.
You can also get some local herbs from Raju at Darkot Village such as Jambo used to flavor Dal, Thoya much like Kala Jeera, Tehmur like Kali Mirch (in case you need warmth in cold, you can drink a soup having lot of Tehmur in it), Gandraini sticks though bitter in taste but good for constipation.
Munsiyari also sells quite famous local Rajma (Kidney Beans) & potato and you can get some of them for you in case you like them.
The road from Darkot – Madkot – Jaulijibi runs along the Gori Ganga river. Also, offers views of Johar Ghati towards Milam which is surrounded by Tibet from one side and Nepal from the other if I am not wrong??
There is a petrol pump 5 KMs before Dharchula.
Jauljibi & Dharchula also have ATMs.
Didihat to Thal is a lovely road through the forest where you can spot many birds too.
Ahead of Almora while coming from Chaukori, Kakrighat to Khairna is 10 KM. At Kakrighat, you can go inside the village and then sit by the river on the opposite bank from the road.
Udupiwala Restaurant at Kathgodam is expensive and service is not that great, quite slow in case it is full.
Fifth toll at Moradabad just after the previous one: Rs 15
As always with my year-end trip, this trip was no surprise. Away from the crowd, this Kumaon trip to Gwaldam, Munsiyari, and Chaukori was a fantastic family break for me. I hope this detailed itinerary and road conditions updates will help you on your trip as well.
I will start sharing the detailed Travel Tale of this Munsiyari – Dharchula – Chaukori trip, the reviews of the properties I stayed and places at which I ate food, very soon. So, stay tuned guys 🙂