Munsiyari is a lowly hill station situated in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. Located about 600 km from Delhi and 200 km from Almora, the place is a hidden gem that attracts only the most avid travellers. It offers some of the most majestic views of snow-capped mountains all around. The average altitude here is about 2200 meters.
Panchahuli peaks, a group of five peaks in the eastern Kumaon region, is a prominent attraction of Munsiyari. On a clear day, one can experience the spectacular golden sunset on these peaks from the luxury of their hotel room. Dense forests around Munsiyari add to its picturesque beauty and provide for a peaceful hiking experience.
Munsiyari is a trekker's paradise. It acts as a base camp for many important high altitude Himalayan treks, including Milam Glacier and the mighty Nanda Devi. A few years ago, the place was seldom visited by tourists because of its secluded location and bad road conditions. But slowly it is gaining popularity, thanks to its unmatched beauty and pristine nature that the famous hill stations fail to provide.
1. Panchachuli Peaks
Panchachuli is a group of five peaks having altitudes ranging from 6,334 metres to 6,904 metres. Because of its location deep in the Himalayas, Munsiyari provides the most sublime views of these peaks. The sun rises from behind the peaks and sets with a golden glow on these snow-capped mountains. Munsiyari also acts as a base camp for trek to these peaks.
2. Maheshwari Kund
Maheshwari Kund is a small lake in Munsiyari which is also known as Meshar Kund or Maheshwar Kund by locals. It can be reached after an easy one hour trek from the town. The entire path is well laid out and no guide is required as such. One can enjoy a majestic view of Panchahuli Peaks from the trek. Keep in mind that you will encounter a small artificial lake along the trek. You need to go a few hundred meters further to find the actual Kund.
Legend has it that the lake was the home of Yaksha, a daemon who fell in love with the Sarpanch's daughter. The villagers were enraged by such a dare and, to teach the daemon a lesson, they dried the lake. Yaksha wasn't intimidated and instead cursed the villagers. A long time of drought followed and the village suffered a lot. When the villagers finally gave in and apologized to him, the curse got annulled and the Kund was restored.
The lake is skirted with rhododendrons and huge oak trees. It can also act as a perfect picnic spot.
3. Thamari Kund
Thamari Kund is a little lake nestled in the forests of Munsiyari. Villagers revere the lake sacred and pray before it if there is scarce rainfall in a season.
It can be reached after a 3 km trek that starts from the Hanuman Mandir near Munsiyari. You can see a clearly marked board at the start of the trek. The entire visit takes around 5-6 hours and passes through dense forest cover. It is recommended to hire a guide to avoid losing your way in the jungle.
The pristine lake is loved by nature enthusiasts and photographers. It can act as a nice picnic spot. Please keep the lake clean as it is a sacred water body for locals.
4. Birthi Falls
Birthi Falls is a 400 feet high waterfall that lies 35 km before Munsiyari while coming from the Thal side. Birthi falls is a huge waterfall and can be seen from quite a distance. A short trek of 10-15 mins from the main road leads to the waterfall. Fresh atmosphere, cool breeze, lush greenery, and all-natural environment are some key attractions here. The waterfall is eternal but swells considerably during monsoons.
On the main road, you can find many food joints where you can enjoy Maggi, tea and other delicacies. There is also a KMVN Tourist Rest House where you can stay overnight.
5. Nanda Devi Temple
Nanda Devi temple dedicated to goddess Nanda or Parvati is a sacred Hindu temple in Munsiyari. It lies a short 2 -3 km walk from the town's main market. The temple is aptly located in an open area and provides arguably the best view of Panchachuli peaks. Sunrise and sunsets here are an absolute delight.
There is a modest Rs 20 entry fee which is used in the maintenance of the temple. It is one of the oldest temples in Munsiyari. You can easily spend a few hours here, admiring the splendid views around.
6. Darkot Village
Darkot is located on the Madkot road about 6 km from Munsiyari. A road diverges from the taxi stand that will take you straight to the village. The village is known for its warm hand-woven clothes and all homes in the village are engaged in this work. The raw material used is wool gathered from Angora rabbits. You can visit a local home and see how they do the weaving of clothes. People are simple and welcoming.
7. Gori-Ganga River
Gori-Ganga is a Himalayan river that originates from the Milam glacier and carves a valley through the hills of Munsiyari. The mighty flow of the river makes the water froth and appear white. Thus the name "Gori Ganga".
The river lies near Madkot village which is about 20 km from Munsiyari. The road is a bit treacherous but has a stunning scenic beauty. Just after crossing Madkot you can find a slope that will take you up to the river. The flow of water is very strong and it is not recommended to swim in it or go very near it. The scale of the valley is pretty overwhelming and a sight to behold.
8. Khaliya Top Trek
Khaliya Top is a famous trek that starts from Munsiyari. It is a meandering meadow situated at an altitude of 3500 meters.
The trek is 4 - 5 km long and a combination of gradual and steep inclines. It is of easy difficulty and can be done by an individual of any age. You will walk through the forest for the first 2-3 km, after which landscapes will be dominated by meadows. There is a KMVN rest house halfway along the trek where a room can be rented for an overnight stay. There are no natural water sources along the trek so it is recommended to take enough water with you.
One can go further after reaching the meadows of Khaliya Top to reach Zero Point. This is the summit point of the trek.
The panoramic views of the majestic Panchachuli, Rajrambha, Hardeol and Nanda Kot peaks are visible from Khaliya Top. Many tourists stay here till evening to watch a majestic sunset unfold.
9. Tribal Heritage Museum
Tribal Heritage Museum is a small cultural private museum in Munsiyari, which was established in the year 2000. The museum showcases the history, culture, traditions and lifestyle of the Bhotia people who are an ethnolinguistic group of people residing in the upper Himalayan valleys of the Kumaon and Garhwal divisions of Uttarakhand. The museum’s owner and curator Sher Singh Pangtey has spent over 15 years collecting the artefacts from the villages of the Bhotia people.