Things to Do in Uttarakhand: The Ultimate Travel Guide

Kusum Tewari
Kusum Tewari 22 Min Read

Uttarakhand, nestled in the lap of the mighty Himalayas, is a state blessed with immense natural beauty and spirituality. Known as the ‘Devbhoomi’ or Land of Gods, Uttarakhand abounds with temples, ashrams, ancient pilgrimage sites and much more that give the state an almost magical feel. This northern state of India is full of so much cultural, spiritual and natural wealth that travellers are spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do in Uttarakhand.

An Overview of Uttarakhand Tourism

From adventure activities like trekkingcamping, and water sports to spiritual escapes in Rishikesh and Haridwar to scenic hill stations like Nainital and Mussoorie, and wildlife encounters in Jim Corbett National Park, this Himalayan state has experiences that cater to every interest.

Whether you are a nature lover wishing to explore the state’s rich biodiversity and stunning mountain landscapes, an adventure junkie looking for your next thrill, or a spiritual seeker hoping to rejuvenate your soul, Uttarakhand will surpass your expectations.

It leaves such an unforgettable imprint that travellers find themselves returning to create new memories time and again. So, bookmark this page to keep coming back for travel tips for Uttarakhand as you plan your journey through this must-visit destination.

How to Reach Uttarakhand

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The primary access points to enter Uttarakhand are:

By Air

The nearest international airport is New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. From there, you can take domestic flights to Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, which is the airport nearest to top destinations like Rishikesh, Haridwar, and Mussoorie.

You may find cheaper flight fares to Pantnagar Airport, which caters to locations like Nainital and Jim Corbett.

By Train

The most important railway stations in Uttarakhand offering rail connectivity to the state are Dehradun Railway Station and Haridwar Railway Station. Major Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Varanasi, etc. have regular train services (including trains like Shatabdi) to Dehradun and Haridwar railway stations.

By Road

Three National Highways connect Uttarakhand to other parts of northern India:

  • NH 58: Connects Delhi to Mana (near Badrinath in Uttarakhand)
  • NH 108: Connects Nainital to Haridwar via Haldwani
  • NH 109: Connects Rudraprayag to Kedarnath

Delhi, Chandigarh, Lucknow, and major neighbouring states have state-run and private buses that offer comfortable rides to Dehradun on a daily basis. From there, destinations within Uttarakhand can be reached via local transport.

So, depending on your starting point and mode of travel, you can easily plan an ideal itinerary covering the attractions that interest you within Uttarakhand.

Now that accessibility is sorted, let’s look at the top things that make Uttarakhand an alluring destination.

Best Time to Visit Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand has four distinct seasons, each bringing its own charm:

Spring (March – April)

Pleasant weather and colorful flowers like rhododendrons make spring ideal for sightseeing, especially in lower regions like Rishikesh, Haridwar, and Dehradun as temperatures in higher hills may still be cool. Festivals like Holi and Basant Panchami add to the magic!

Summer (May – June)

Hill stations in Uttarakhand provide welcome respite from scorching summer temperatures in other parts of India. Destinations like NainitalMussoorie and Almora come alive with plush greenery, seasonal fruits and pleasant weather, making summer ideal for sightseeing. However, this is peak tourist season so expect crowds and slightly expensive hotel tariffs. Travel to higher altitudes like Munsiyari and Auli opens up too.

Monsoon (July – September)

While the hills look their greenest best in the monsoon season, landslides can disrupt travel plans. Raging rivers swell with rainwater, which creates excellent rafting opportunities but trekking isn’t advisable during this time. Lower areas like Rishikesh, Haridwar, and Rajaji National Park remain accessible and attractive in the monsoon season.

Winter (October – February)

Hill stations become magical winter wonderlands after snowfall! Himalayan peaks sport snow caps while skiing destinations like Auli turn into adventure hotspots. With snow-clad trees and landscapes at places like Chopta, Tungnath, and Valley of Flowers, it is the best time for photography. Bhimtal, Naukuchiatal, Nainital, and Mukteshwar offer scenic lakefront views amidst the nip in the air. Lower areas too remain pleasant for sightseeing tours.

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View best places to visit in Uttarakhand by month

While the suggestions above work as a guideline, keep buffer days to account for unforeseen situations like rain or blocked roads.

For more details on weather conditions in Uttarakhand month-wise, use these links:

  • Uttarakhand in January
  • Uttarakhand in February
  • Uttarakhand in March
  • Uttarakhand in April
  • Uttarakhand in May
  • Uttarakhand in June
  • Uttarakhand in July
  • Uttarakhand in August
  • Uttarakhand in September
  • Uttarakhand in October

Uttarakhand boasts of a number of fabulous tourist destinations spread across its districts like Dehradun, Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal and Uttarkashi.

Revered religious sites, ancient temples and ashrams, scenic mountain getaways, wildlife reserves, adventure sport hubs and more dot its landscape.

Let’s take a look at the must-include destinations in your Uttarakhand sightseeing itinerary:

Things to Do in Rishikesh

No trip to Uttarakhand is complete without a visit to Rishikesh – the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’ and starting point for the renowned Char Dham pilgrimage.

Attending the magical Ganga Aarti ritual at sundown on the Rishikesh ghats and exploring classic ashrams like the Beatles Ashram and Parmarth Niketan are just some of the highlights.

But that’s not all. As the ‘Adventure Capital of India’, enjoying thrills like white water rafting on Grade III-IV rapids of the Ganges Riverbungee jumping, and giant swing over the river takes adventure a notch higher!

Rishikesh’s credentials as the ‘Yoga Capital’ also ensure travelers can deepen their practice through sessions at riverside yoga ashrams.

“Rishikesh’s ghats resonate with chants and laughter, offering a tapestry of spirituality and thrill.” – Ruskin Bond

Read more about things to do in Rishikesh

Things to Do in Haridwar

Haridwar has been a key Hindu pilgrimage town since antiquity given its location along the holy Ganges river. An evening ‘Maha Aarti’ ritual with waving of large lamps and chanting of Vedic hymns accompanied by drums and conch shells offers magical vibes.

A dip at iconic ghats like Hari-ki-Pauri (said to have imprints of Lord Vishnu’s footprints) believed to wash away sins is a defining experience. The popular Kumbh Mela fair, held once in 12 years, draws millions of pilgrims too.

Apart from the devotional angle, pay respects at the Samadhi of Adi Shankaracharya or soak in the tranquil Sapt Rishi and Maya Devi temples and Chandi Devi temple with sweeping river views.

“The Ganges flows through Uttarakhand, carrying stories of faith and renewal, washing away worries with every dip.” – Arundhati Roy

Read more about things to do in Haridwar

Things to Do in Nainital

Cradled amidst scenic Kumaon hills and sprawled around its sparkling namesake lakeNainital woos travelers with its laidback vibes. Enjoy sunrises by the lake and go boating on the pedal and row boats.

Capture memories of cascading water at waterfalls like Naina Peak offering bird’s-eye views over the lake or shop your way through The Mall and Bara Bazaar. And who can forget devouring crispy momos or digging into piping hot aloo ke gutke on cold winter evenings!

“Nainital shimmers like a sapphire jewel, inviting boat rides and strolls along its charming lakeside.” – Amitav Ghosh

Read more about things to do in Nainital

Things to Do in Mussoorie

Dubbed as ‘the Queen of Hills’Mussoorie wrapped in the Garhwal Himalayan ranges lives up its reputation with captivating landscapes. Going up to viewpoints like Gun Hill or Camel’s Back Road gifts unhindered panoramas of snow-capped mountain peaks.

Trekking trails like Jharipani Falls, Nag Devta Temple, and Mussoorie Lake add doses of nature while enjoying adventure sports like zip lininggiant swing, and rappelling keep adrenaline levels high. End with some shopping therapy at Camel’s Back Road or digging into piping hot garhwali cuisine.

“Mussoorie shimmers like a sapphire jewel, inviting boat rides and strolls along its charming lakeside.” – Amitav Ghosh

Read more about things to do in Mussoorie

Things to Do in Jim Corbett National Park

Home to endangered Bengal tigers and Asian elephants, the Jim Corbett National Park is among India’s best wildlife parks, spanning 520 sq. km. of rich grasslands near Ramtirth region.

In addition to tigers and elephants, Jeep safaris and Elephant safaris reveal rich biodiversity like leopards, Himalayan black bears, 600+ bird species and more. Other highlights are the mesmerizing Corbett Waterfalls tucked amidst scenic wilderness and stays at sustainable jungle resorts.

“Jim Corbett’s jungles teem with life, each rustle promising an encounter with India’s wild heart.” – Valmik Thapar

Read more about things to do in Jim Corbett

Things to Do in Auli

Perched at 2800-3050 m height amidst snow-capped Himalayan peaks, Auli transforms into India’s premier skiing destination with locals steering tourists on skis for an unforgettable ride.

But even without snow, Auli is beautiful with meadows flush with wildflowers like white and yellow anemones, potentillas and more. The journey to Auli also gifts view of mighty Nanda Devi and Neelkanth along the slopes.

“In Uttarakhand, the air is crisp, the stars are bright, and the silence is a symphony of nature’s wonders.” – Chetan Bhagat

Read more about things to do in Auli

Hill Stations in Uttarakhand

The Himalayan ranges in Uttarakhand have given rise to some of India’s most scenic hill stations which double up as cool escapes to beat the summer heat.

Cradled amidst snow-capped peaks, conifers, rhododendrons and rolling meadows – they make for picture perfect vacations with their laidback vibes. Family holidays, honeymoons or simply rejuvenative breaks – there are picks to match all moods.

Let’s take a look at the best hill stations for your Uttarakhand holiday:

Nainital

We just touched upon the charms of Nainital or the emerald colored ‘City of Lakes’ ringed by mountains and its sparking namesake lake that is shaped like an eye – hence the name ‘Nainital’ meaning ‘Naini’s lake’.

Boating on this lake with views of surrounding peaks is an all time favorite memory alongside capturing colorful sunsets on boat ride nights. With ancient temples, charming colonial architecture and great food – there is so much more to experience in Nainital!

Mussoorie

Another jewel in Uttarakhand’s crown is the ‘Queen of Hills’ – Mussoorie. Perched atop a horseshoe shaped ridge in Garhwal hills – it treats travelers to unrestricted vistas of snow-capped Himalayan peaks to the north and Doon Valley and Shivalik ranges to the south.

The happy vibes continue with fun activities like ziplininggiant swings, and easy nature treks to stunning waterfalls nearby. And just sinking your teeth into hot piping garhwali meals is an experience of its own after walks across the bust

Almora

Nestled in Eastern Uttarakhand amidst shape-shifting Kumaon hillsAlmora gives travelers a glimpse into rich cultural heritage through its handicrafts markets or chowk bazaar and nearby traditional Kumaoni villages.

Handicraft shopping at markets near ** Bright End Corner** unearths treasures like intricate wood carvingsbrassware items and woolen clothing in appealing shapes and vibrant hues.

Beyond that, panoramic Himalayan views from spots like Kasar Devi and rejuvenating ayurvedic therapies make Almora an offbeat rewarding getaway.

Lansdowne

Previously a quiet British cantonment town founded in 1887, Lansdowne finds place among popular Uttarakhand getaways for good reason. Cradled amidst Pauri Garhwal hills at 1700 m, it charms with its untouched beauty, quaint churches, pristine air and scenic treks to places with views like Tiffin Top or Bhulla Tal.

Birdwatching near Kalagarh Tiger Reserve, temple visits and even simple nature walks across meadows and oak woodlands – Lansdowne promises tranquil vibes.

Read more about best hill stations in Uttarakhand

Things to do in Uttarakhand by Activity

Uttarakhand bursts at its seams with stunning landscapes and distinctive cultural experiences which shape several memorable activities for travelers.

Depending on whether you seek adventure or wish to attune with nature and spirituality or want a mix of everything – the state has got you covered.

Adventure Sports in Uttarakhand

The dramatic Himalayan landscape offers the perfect adrenaline-pumping playground for adventure junkies. Rushing rivers, towering cliffs, and mountain trails set the stage for activities guaranteed to get your heart racing!

River Rafting in Rishikesh

River rafting along Grade III and IV rapids on the Ganga river provides the ultimate thrill. The icy fresh waters churn and splash offering heart-thumping excitement as rafts bob up and down. Rishikesh is considered the river rafting capital of India.

Trekking in Uttarakhand

With towering Himalayan peaks, lush green valleys and gurgling mountain brooks – Uttarakhand is every trekker’s paradise. From high altitude alpine treks like Roopkund and Kuari Pass to short nature trails like Chopta Tungnath – options for all fitness levels exist.

Bungee Jumping in Rishikesh

Take your adventure several notches higher by bungee jumping amidst Rishikesh’s scenic mountainscape from a dizzying 83m height! Trained experts ensure safety with secure harnesses as you take the ultimate plunge of courage!

Check out all adventure activities in Uttarakhand

Spiritual Experiences in Uttarakhand

Living up to its ‘Devbhoomi’ status, Uttarakhand houses several places sacred to Hindus that host iconic rituals, festivals and events that add magic to any spiritual pursuit.

Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh & Haridwar

Witnessing evening prayers on the banks of River Ganges accompanied by chanting, drums, bells and diya lamps – it’s an iconic and peaceful experience. Har Ki Pauri ghat in Haridwar and Triveni Ghat in Rishikesh are key aarti locations.

Char Dham Yatra in Uttarakhand

One of Hinduism’s most important pilgrimages involves trekking to four Himalayan temples – Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. The difficult journey symbolises shedding ego and materialistic wants to attain nirvana or heaven.

Check out places and activities for spiritual experiences

Nature & Wildlife in Uttarakhand

Some of India’s most gorgeous mountainous landscapes with sparkling rivers and diverse exotic wildlife can be witnessed in Uttarakhand’s many parks and reserves.

Jim Corbett National Park

India’s oldest national park is a key site to spot endangered Royal Bengal Tigers alongside over 600 avian species including raptors, pheasants and more. Safaris reveal a vibrant habitat including spotted deer and endangered Asian Elephants.

Valley of Flowers National Park

A UNESCO World Heritage site, this high alpine valley comes alive with over 600 floral species during monsoon like White Jhulsa flowers, lichens, saxifrages, sediams, lilies and poppies! July to early September is ideal.

Asan Barrage Waterbird Reserve

Located along the Ganges near Dehradun – the wetland sanctuary attracts over 200 bird species like gulls, wagtails, greenshanks and terns in winter offering great views for birding enthusiasts.

Check out national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Uttarakhand

Local Experiences in Uttarakhand

Beyond marquee attractions, Uttarakhand offers many community experiences reflecting local artculture and heritage across its Garhwali and Kumaoni districts.

Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh

From classic hatha and ashtanga yoga to healing versions like laughter yoga – over 1000 ashrams offer yoga teacher training programs of 100, 200 or 300 hours focused on asanas, anatomy, philosophy and meditation.

Volunteer in Sustainable Community

Volunteer programs supporting rural women empowerment, education for underprivileged children or managing community infrastructure exist where you can apply your skills meaningfully.

Learn Pottery Making

Master clay pottery used traditionally for storing grains in hill villages. Using hands and pottery wheel, craft diyas, pitchers or decorative items as souvenirs under able guidance.

Check out unique local cultural experiences in Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand Trekking Guide

With grand panoramas of snow-clad Himalayan peaks, gurgling highland brooks and windswept flower meadows – Uttarakhand promises memorable trekking experiences. Trails pass quaint Garhwali villages, ancient shrines and hidden gems of nature. Ranging from easy day hikes to challenging multi-day expeditions – choices exist for both beginners and veterans.

Popular treks are centered around destinations like Rishikesh, Mussoorie, Dhanaulti, Auli, Chopta, Kedarnath, Har ki Dun, Pindari Glacier, Valley of Flowers, Roopkund and Dodital.

Let’s explore key details for planning epic winter treks in Uttarakhand:

Best Time for Uttarakhand Treks

April to June and September to November are ideal with pleasant weather. Monsoons (July-August) can be risky due to landslides while peak winters see sub-zero temperatures and blocked routes due to snowfall.

Permit Requirements

High altitude treks (over 3000 m) like Roopkund require permits beforehand from local forest department offices. Carry valid ID proof. Permits aren’t needed for lower altitude treks.

Physical Fitness

Evaluate fitness levels carefully based on trek grade – easy, moderate or challenging. Prior cardio exercises, yoga and short practice hikes help build strength, stamina and flexibility needed to fully enjoy multi-day treks.

Planning Essentials

  • Route maps – Carry offline maps of planned trails on phone/print
  • Weather reports – Check forecasts using Uttarakhand weather links shared earlier
  • First aid kit + medicines – Have minimum supplies for emergencies
  • Proper layered clothing & gear – Carry woolens, water resistant jackets, sturdy shoes etc.

Some popular treks are highlighted below for your reference:

Chopta Chandrashila Trek

Level: Easy-Moderate Duration: 2 Days Key Highlights: Tungnath Temple, Deoria Tal Lake, Panoramic Himalayan Views

Kuari Pass Trek

Level: Moderate-Difficult
Duration: 4-5 Days
Key Highlights: Views of Nanda Devi, Trishul, Kamet and other peaks

Roopkund Trek

Level:

Difficult
Duration: 6-7 Days
Key Highlights: Skeleton Lake, Junargali Pass, Panoramic Himalayan Views

Valley of Flowers Trek

Level: Moderate
Duration: 6 Days
Key Highlights: Colorful flowers, Nanda Devi views, Hemkund Sahib

Har Ki Dun Trek

Level: Moderate
Duration: 7 Days
Key Highlights: Remote Himalayan villages, Ruinsara Tal, Swargarohini views

Dodital Trek

Level: Easy-Moderate
Duration: 4 Days
Key Highlights: Dodital Lake, Darwa Top views, Sangam of Asi Ganga and Yamuna rivers

Find details of all popular Uttarakhand treks here

Do remember to trek responsibly by not littering trails, avoiding environmentally harmful products at camps, limiting plastic use, conserving forest resources and respecting local culture. Traveling in small manageable groups also causes lesser disturbance to fragile Himalayan settings.

With towering peaks on horizon, vivid meadows underfoot, cool mountain air filling your lungs, trekking opens doors to Uttarakhand’s mesmerizing beauty!

How Many Days for Uttarakhand Trip?

Now that you know of all the iconic locations and abundance of potential holiday experiences Uttarakhand has to offer, your next practical concern is deciding an ideal duration that lets you soak it all in.

With around 10-12 days, you can cover one entire tourist circuit comfortably including travel time between key hotspots.

Here are the best itinerary splits based on places that interest you:

North Uttarakhand Itinerary

  • 4 Nights Rishikesh for adventure and rafting
  • 2 Nights Auli for snow fun and skiing
  • 2 Nights Chopta for views and treks
  • 2 Nights Mussoorie for views and walks

South Uttarakhand Itinerary

  • 2 Nights Rishikesh for rafting and views
  • 3 Nights Jim Corbett for jungle safaris
  • 3 Nights Nainital for boating and nature walks
  • 3 Nights Almora/Kausani for culture and heritage

Spiritual & Cultural Itinerary

  • 2 Nights Rishikesh for Ganga aarti and ashrams
  • 2 Nights Haridwar for bathing ghats and temples
  • 2 Nights Valley of Flowers for nature and treks
  • 2 Nights Auli for mountain views and walks
  • 2 Nights Almora for handicrafts shopping and heritage tour

Offbeat Destinations Itinerary

  • 2 Nights Lansdowne for walks in oak forests
  • 3 Nights Munsiyari for views of Panchachuli range
  • 3 Nights Chopta for meadows and hidden gems
  • 3 Nights Auli for ski slopes and mountain peaks

You can extend duration to 14 or 16 days for a more relaxed exploration of Uttarakhand. Or mix-and-match destinations based on interest. Having your own vehicle allows better customization too.

Build a detailed Uttarakhand itinerary using a trip planner tool

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