Munsiyari, a road less travelled in Uttarakhand.

“Those mighty Himalayas!  So mighty that you shun your ego and reckon your insignificance. Miles of silence paves a way to hear yourself, the countless curves and vastness intriguing the mystic in you. The beauty captivates and you smile with serenity.”

Every single time I visit the mountains, I have this feeling inside me. High yet placid, rugged yet meditative. It’s a very peculiar feeling that no other landscape has ever given. So magnanimous that nothing can pass through, no thoughts, no worries, no routines, no people and no emotions. A great disconnecting experience from the world. Just make sure you have the right people around to get lost with! 

Munsiyari and its peaks- first sight!

Reaching Munsiyari seemed like falling right into the lap of great Himalayan range III. The mysterious mountain magic never felt so real and near before. I am not sure of what to call it yet. A hill station or an escape from everything and everyone? 

Uttarakhand, the Himalayan mountain state in the northern part of India is majorly divided into two regions, Garhwal in the west and Kumaon in the east. Most well-known place in Kumaon region is Nainital and the farthest and less frequented is probably Munsiyari. 

Munsiyari, travel plan and itinerary:-

Munsiyari, which literally translates to “a place with snow”, is situated at an altitude of 7200 ft in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. Atypical to other regions in Uttarakhand, this is lesser known, less traveled and very beautiful. It’s far far away and takes a long drive to reach but once you do, it’s all worth it! 

I started my trip from Delhi with 9 other friends. We rented two SUV s from Zoom car and headed towards Uttarakhand.

Distance from Delhi – 635 kms  via NH 125 and NH – 24 from Delhi.

How to reach Munsiyari :-

Drive 1: Delhi to Bhowali ( via Nainital)

  • Distance – 320 km, takes about 7 – 8 hours including lunch and tea stops.
  • Route:- Delhi–>Ghaziabad–>Moradabad–>Choti Haldwani–>Nainital. 
  • Stay in Bhowali– The Himalaica, Airbnb
The road to Uttarakhand from Delhi. You’ll get a feel of Jim Corbett National park during this drive, although this isn’t the actual forest area.

We took about 9 hours to reach Bhowali as we stopped for an hour at Nainital to watch the sunset and sip some coffee. I must say I fell in love instantly with this enchanting city. I would need an entire post to describe Nainital and its beauty. So let me park that for a while.

You can also choose to stay in Nainital or Mukteshwar or Bhimtal. These are some of the beautiful places around that belt offering beautiful resorts & homestay options for a laid back holiday.

We chose Bhowali to stay a little secluded from the crowd plus we fell in love with this homestay, The Himalaica. Below picture shall give you a glimpse of it.

My first view of Himalaica, homestay at Bhowali
Waking up be like..

Drive 2:– Bhowali to Munsiyari ( via Berinag )

  • Distance – 250 km, takes about 9.5 – 10 hours including lunch and tea stops.
  • Route:- Bhowali–> Almora–>Berinag–>Thal–>Munsiyari.
  • Alternate Route: Bhowali–>Almora–>Bageshwar–>Kapkot–>Munsiyari ( took this route while returning, took almost same time)
  • Stay in Munsiyari– The Milam Inn & Rooms by Alpine Resort (Khaliya top).
The narrow road to Munsiyari

We chose to drive up the mountains aggressively and covered the 250 km ghat road in 9  hours (which by the way is totally doable). But if you are skeptical about the drive time, you can add a rest stop at Chaukori or Peora or Patal Bhuvaneshwar and start again the next day.

Also, keep a note on the sunset timings and try to complete the drive before dusk. Though the roads are beautiful, they are very narrow and it’s usually not suggested. Plus my personal preference has always been to reach the destination before sunset

What will you find on the way to Munsiyari –

  1. Birthi falls – KMVN reception center will let u go inside for better views.
  2. Kalamuni Top – 9500 ft.

Kalamuni Top is located at an altitude of 9500 ft and it is the highest motorable point in Kumaon region.

Sunset at Kalamuni pass

It’s about 10 km ahead of Munsiyari and you will be driving through this beautiful pass to reach Munsiyari. If you can start early from Bhowali or Nainital, you will be able to reach Kalamuni by 4 pm. We skipped Birthi falls as we wanted to reach Kalamuni top for the sunset.

What to do in Munsiyari:-

Small Treks or Hikes:- 

  1. Khaliya Top
  2. Thamri Kund 
  3. Mesar Kund

1. Khaliya Top Hike – Khaliya top according to me is the most exciting hike and a must do while you are at Munsiyari. This hike starts from Balati Band which is located around 6 km from the town.

Total time for ascent =  5 – 6  hours (max)  and Descent = 5 hrs (max).

Balati Band gate

You can hire a guide for this hike at a price of Rs.1000 – Rs.1500 depending on the number of people in the group. They make the journey little assuring if you are not a great fan of wilderness and unknowns. Yes, you guessed it right, we had no guide! 🙂 

Khaliya top trek can be divided into 2 parts.

Part 1 – Balati Band gate to Maggi point. (Maintained by Alpine Resort)

  • Altitude:-  around 10000 ft,
  • Distance – 3.5 km approx,
  • Time approx. – 2 – 2.5 hrs.
  • Fitness level needed – Below Average – Average
Started the hike, it was cloudy and we witnessed light snowfall. It’s a steep ascent uphill from 7500 ft till 10000 ft

Alpine rest rooms popularly known as Maggie point is a small rest house maintained by Alpine resorts. They have 6 basic rooms for travelers who wish to spend the night. It was a KMVN property earlier. If you aren’t staying, you still get to chill here for a while, sip hot tea/ coffee, have Maggie, roti etc and have a look at the magnanimous Panchachuli peaks. It provides a 180-degree view of the Himalayas and an amazing sunrise and sunset experience.

View of Panchachuli Peaks from Alpine Resort
View of the mountains and the rising sun from Alpine resort

We chose to visit Munsiyari during its harshest period. It was the coldest month of the year with minus 8 degrees Celsius and lower temperatures in the town. As we started the hike, we faced a heavy snowfall which made our trek both dangerous and difficult. There came a point midway, where we had to choose whether to trek further up or give up and start descending before it gets dark.

But we being we, the crazy, wild, enthusiastic travelers, we decided not only to trek upwards but to spend the night at the resort and hoped for a clear sky the next day. The temperatures dropped up to minus 21 degrees Celsius in the night.

How we survived that night is entirely another story. Will be writing about it in a different post.

Heavy Snowfall midway during the trek

Part 2 – Maggi point/ Alpine Resort to Khaliya Top

  • Altitude – 11,500 ft,
  • Distance – 2.5 km approx.,
  • Time approx. –  1 – 1.5 Hrs

Khaliya top point is further ascent from the Maggie point and it offers 360-degree views of the Himalayan peaks and Uttarakhand mountains. Unfortunately, we couldn’t trek up there due to heavy snow. If your fitness levels are above average to good, you can hike up to the top and come back on the same day given that the weather conditions are in favor.

Seemingly if you trek further up from Khaliya top you will reach a zero point which is at an altitude of 13000 ft. Interested folks can find out about this at Milam Inn hotel or Alpine resort.

View of Panchachuli peaks from the top

2.Maheshwari Kund (Mesar Kund) – 10kms from Munsiyari at Munsiyari- Madkot road. This is again a small hike which will lead you to a serene lake.

3.Thamri Kund – 9 km from Munsiyari and around 2 km from Balati Band. The entry point itself offers a good view of the peaks and amazing sunset. Further 3 km hike into the forest will lead you to a beautiful lake surrounded by forest.

I could not do this hike due to lack of time and our tiresome adventure at Khaliya. But would love to visit again for this.

Other places to visit nearby:-

  • Sarmoli Village – Visit this village or stay here at their homestays. This place has around 80 homestay options run by women. They maintain their own Instagram page too. This is around 7 km from Munsiyari. 
  • Madkot Village – Known for hot water springs
  • Dharkot Village – Known for weavers.
  • Nanda Devi Temple for beautiful views.

Best time to visit:-

  • For regulars:- March – June.
  • For crazy souls like us:- Nov – Feb ( you will experience snowfall only in these months)

Interesting Trivia:-

  1. Munsiyari is a base camp for many trekkers.
  2. It is the last motorable town in the Kumaon region.
  3. Munsiyari is known to have a mythological history as well. The town is believed to be the place from where the Pandavas along with Panchali ascended on their final journey to heaven (Mahaprasthanam).
Clear sky and a ray of hope! – Sunrise, the day after the snowstorm.  Temperature – Minus 16C

Like every other travel story of mine, there are a lot of crazy experiences in this trip. While I am still stuck with mesmerizing memories, I am also struggling with where to begin from. But owing to some requests on my Instagram page to share my itinerary asap, I decided to do it first. 

Hope you find this post useful as well as interesting. Let me know your opinions in the comment section below! 


2 thoughts on “Munsiyari, a road less travelled in Uttarakhand.

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