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Munsiyari means the “place with snow”, translated from the local language, due to the numerous snow-capped peaks of the Kumaon Himalayas surrounding the place. It is located right near the border of India, China and Nepal. It is quite a popular destination amongst nature enthusiasts and Himalayan glacier trekkers. The lush green Himalayan forests with snow-clad peaks provide a wide variety of wildlife at the place including the birds and animals like wagtail, whistling thrush, hawk cuckoo, falcon, serpent eagle, leopard, mountain bear and musk deer. It is one of the newly discovered favourites amongst tourists but has been one of the popular hill stations amongst regular trekkers in Uttarakhand. It is located at a height of approximately 2200 m from sea level in the Pithoragarh district of the state. The place is a popular haven amongst the nature photographers too. The town is situated on the banks of the Goriganga river and is the Gateway of Johar region and also its centre. It is 128 km from Pithoragarh and 624 km from Delhi. From Nainital, the distance is around 300 km and 192 km from Almora. The town lies on the salt route from Tibet and is inhabited mostly by the Shauka people, who were regular traders with the Tibetan people until the borders were sealed in 1962. As the region does not support agriculture, they had to migrate to other regions to survive. Forming the entrance to the Johar valley that extends by the Goriganga river right from its source at the Milam glacier, the town offers a picturesque scenery of nature. The Khalia Top trek is one of the most famous routes from the place.
There are a plenty of treks from the place, ranging from beginners’ level to a few very difficult ones to take upon. There are jeep safaris that are conducted to nearby areas of interest like Madkote (22 km), Baneanani and Jaulijibi (66 km) and Birthi Falls (31 km). The most famous attraction of this place is the Panchachuli peaks which is a group of five peaks which stand tall like towers overlooking this heavenly abode in the “Land of Gods”. The peaks range in altitude from 6334 m to 6904 m and make up the watershed between the Gori and Darmaganga valleys. Other important places to visit include the Balanti Potato Farm, Darkot village, Betulidhar, Maheshwari Kund, Kalamuni Kund, Nanda Devi Temple and the Thamri Kund. The town is also the base camp for three major glacier treks namely Milam, Ralam and Namik. The Namik glacier is situated at a height of 3600 m and is surrounded by the gigantic peaks like Nanda Devi (7848 m), Nanda Kot (6861 m) and Trishul (7120 m). The glacier is around 40 km form Munsiyari and is the source of the Ram Ganga river.
History and People:
There is a very famous story related with the epic Mahabharata associated with the place. It is believed that when Pandavas were going to heaven finally after the battle of Kurukshetra, they commenced their journey from Munsiyari and the five huge peaks of Panchachuli were the five “chulhas” or stoves where Draupadi cooked the last meals for each of her husbands. Though most of the villages like Milam, Burfu, etc. are deserted today after the borders were sealed in 1962 and the locals couldn’t get their commodities easily from Tibet, there are a few communities that live in Munsiyari. The locals worship the Goddess Nanda Devi and there is a famous temple dedicated to her.
Things to do:
Trekking is usually the first thing people visit this place for. But apart from trekking, the nature lovers also flock the place for some bird watching, nature walks and to visit the villages to soak in the mountain culture. The local handwoven carpets are also pretty famous and travellers like to take them as handy souvenirs from the trip. The saplings of Himalayan variety of plants can also be bought from the place. Adventure sports like river rafting and skiing are also available.
The temperatures remain pleasant for most part of the year, only extreme during middle of the winters. The summers are the time when trekking routes are open for the trekkers and the skies are also clear to enjoy the beautiful views of the surrounding peaks. They stay from March till June. The monsoons going on for 3 to 4 months till September are not a good time to visit the place due to heavy downpours and landslides which make travelling here difficult. The winters again bring some joy November onwards and go on late till March. The whole is area is covered in snow and honeymoon couples can be found clicking pictures while a lot of adventure seekers indulge in a variety of activities too.
Best time to visit:
The best time to visit Munsiyari is the onset of summers from March going on till April when the view is the most clear and the sun shines over the peaks, while the beginning of winters in October and November is a pleasant time too. The region is covered in red with rhododendrons then. There is heavy snowfall beginning from late December lasting till as long as February.
How to reach:
By road: Munsiyari is well connected by road from the major cities in Kumaon region like Almora, Tanakpur, Pithoragarh, Champawat, Haldwani, etc. Local taxis available on sharing basis as well as individual are easily available from these places while there are also timely public buses. Buses to these places are easily available from Delhi, though the journey is very long and it is advisable to take a halt at these places and to start afresh to best enjoy the flavour of nature Munsiyari has got to offer. One can take a bus to Almora or even Pithoragarh and plenty of options are available from there. By rail: The nearest stations are Kathgodam and Tanakpur. They are around 275 km and 290 km away from Munsiyari respectively, though they are well connected by both major stations of northern India and the state and also with Almora, Pithoragarh, Bageshwar and Munsiyari. Taxis and buses are regularly available to these places from these stations. By air: The nearest airport is Pantnagar Airport. It is situated 249 km from Munsiyari in the Nainital district of the state. Naini Saini airport is present in Pithoragarh but flights are not very frequent to this place. Pantnagar is very well connected via road to Munsiyari and the nearby cities of Almora, Pithoragarh and Bageshwar. There are around four round trip flights per week from Delhi to Pantnagar, and Delhi is the nearest international airport to the place too.
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