Uttarakhand is best known for its raw hills. The state may not be as colorful as its counterpart, Himachal Pradesh but its charm lies in its unpreparedness. Lack of good roads, ill planned construction work, depleting green cover on hill slopes and underdeveloped tourist places, they all add up to its uniqueness. At first glance Uttarakhand may appear to be well known for its Char Dham Yatras [Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri], main attractions like Nainital, Haridwar, Rishikesh [well known for its adventure sports], Mussorie and many small and hard treks but divert from main routes a bit and you land up in many unexplored, mysterious and serene places.
Some of the places that I feel are tucked aside waiting to be explored are:
Avoid Mussorie. Hardly 80 Kms from Dehradun, you will love the route especially you are driving. Very dry with no river along the route [if you go via Herbertspur]. Not picturesque but scantly populated and hardly any food joints on the way. Chakrata itself is a sleepy town with hardly any activity. Being a cantonment it is under constant vigil of the army. No view of the snow clad mountains. With only couple of hotels you only love the greens and stillness. Idle around in lazy sun or take small excursions to the Lakhmandal [An ancient temple complex], Tiger Falls [At an elevation of 312 ft, it is considered the highest direct waterfall in India], Chilmiri [A sunset point] or Deoban. Recommended for maximum of 2 days. For blog: CHAKRATA
Far off if you are coming from Delhi side but close to Bareilly [390 Kms]. It is at the end of the road which will test your patience and driving skills, Perched at 2200 mts it gives a 3D view of majestic Panchachuli peaks. The view from the Nanda Devi temple is truly spectacular where the river Gori Ganga makes a C turn. It is a base for treks to Milam Glacier, Ralam Glacier, Balati Glacier and many more. Small excursions to Mesar Kund, Thamri Kund and Khalia top will make you familiar to some mysterious folk lores and stores. Medicinal plants and local flora and fauna [especially the trees of BhojPatra] are a delight. Snow clad mountains, chilled weather, bright sunshine and if you are lucky you may experience occasional snowfall even in summers. Small market and local woolen garments are enough to quench shoppers thirst. Recommended for 2 to 3 days trip. For blog: MUNSIYARI
Skip Nainital and Ranikhet. Just keep moving along the good road towards Almora. 20 Kms more and you are at the entrance to the Binsar Forest Reserve. You need to purchase entry tickets here. Before you proceed beware of the steep incline and scary narrow path to the top. The reserve has 3-4 hotels and a KMVN hotel too but they are relatively expensive. If you really want an economical option move 5 kms to Kasar Devi. [I would especially recommend Hotel Dolma near Kasar Devi temple for spectacular sunrise and good food]. Forest reserves are good for birds and deodar trees but don’t expect any wildlife other than monkeys, though locals will vouch for sighting of leopards etc. Recommended for maximum 2 days before you can move on to Gwaldam, Bageshwar, Jageshwar or Kausani. For blog: BINSAR
Some call it Switzerland of India. The place is ideally located in Kedarnath forest reserves. 25 Kms from Ukhimath [Winter seat of Lord Kedarnath] it is the entry point of trek to Tungnath [The highest of the Panch Kedar] & Chandra Shila Peak. Small hamlet on road to Gopeshwar, the place is surrounded with blooming dense Rhododendron trees in summers. In winters it is covered with snow. Couple of small road side restaurants serves good quality food. Walk along the quiet lonely roads or explore the green grassy meadows around. Day long easy trek to the Tungnath temple is heavenly. Stays are either very cheap [ordinary rooms] or very expensive [Resorts etc.] Recommended for 2 days before you move on to Badrinath or Kedarnath. For Blog: CHOPTA
Approachable from Tanakpur side via Champawat or via Almora you will surely love the drive on some winding lonely roads. A sleepy town on the banks of Lohawati river is a lovely place that gives you a true essence of small town in the hills. Not too expensive and lovely food to offer it is a plain delight. Best is that you can go for small excursions to Shyamla Taal, mysterious Abbot Mount (8 km), Vanasur fort (Vanasur-Ka-Kila) (7 km), or Mayawati Ashram (Advaita Ashrama) (9 km). Recommended for 2 days maximum