A gateway to the best of Uttarakhand, Almora offers so much more than meets the eye. A step out of Almora gives you stunning snow views, dense jungles, idyllic villages, rare temples and clear rivers. Almora is a surprise package, and this is not just about its ‘bal mithai’ fudge with roasted khoya and sugar balls. A mere 10-kilometre uphill drive from the main road to Almora town leads you to the heart of one of Uttarakhand’s best-kept secrets, the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary. Birds, tall trees and solitude are the best by-products of Binsar. Quaint villages at the fringes and inside the sanctuary have their own stories to tell. The Sun Temple of Katarmal is one of the only two sun temples in all of India. All this and more, Almora waits to be untraveled.
un[travel]’s Top Picks
Katarmal Sun Temple
A 2km walk from the parking area, the temple compound, enchantingly shrouded in the early morning mist, looms with intricately designed walls and panels. An ancient idol of Vraddhaditya, a sun God and the custodian image of this temple, is illuminated by the very first rays of the sun as it breaks the horizon. With a lush forest backdrop, feel the warmth of devotion (or maybe it’s the sun) wash over you while you enjoy these mystical ruins.
Walk to the Kosi River
Just short of the Sun Temple, this walk is an unforgettable journey through a verdant forest smeared with idyllic villages and a healthy ecosystem brimming with an array of wildlife and birds. Jump across the smooth rocks that have been ladled quite generously along the banks of the trickling waters of Kosi keeping an eye out for the pleasant culture shock you may be dealt here.
Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Visit
This is the place in Uttarakhand where mystery and spirituality embrace like estranged brothers. A pilgrimage site located 1350m above sea level and devoted to Lord Shiva, it is an enigmatic limestone cave stretching for 160m and going as deep as 90m. Descend into the electrically lit cave with your wavering shadows mirroring everything you do except your foggy breath dodging stalagmites and glimpsing countless other deities.
Forest Walk at Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary
Uttarakhand’s finest enigma, Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is unique and like none other. While wildlife here is not the biggest attraction due to the close proximity between man and animal here, it does give you the idea of an ideal world. In a world as exclusive as Binsar, walking through tall ancient trees with the background of numerous birds, spotting a leopard is not exactly unexpected.
A must-do for nature lovers, the initial 4-kilometre hike may extend to 10 kilometres. Different species of wildlife and the winged creatures found here in abundance.
When to un[travel] Almora
March to June is the popular tourist season when the weather is perfect for outdoor activities and quite pleasant. If you’re the type to lace up your adventure boots, this is the time to visit here with paragliding, trekking, camping and rafting all up for grabs.
July to September sees heavy rainfall and quite a drop in visitors. On the up side the rains make the hills more luxuriant and if you’re the kind who prefers dripping weather and lonesome hikes, this time has your name all over it.
October to February gets chilly and the higher regions in Almora see some snow too.
Although a year-round destination, the activities open to you may vary based on when you visit. So, plan accordingly.
un[pack] That Bag
Pack as light as possible given the amount of road travel involved here.
• Cotton clothing for summer and a light jacket would work for when evenings get cooler. If you’re un[travel]ling in winter, warmer clothes complete with thick socks and warmer jackets. Carry your windcheater and umbrella if you’re here in the monsoons as well.
• Sturdy walking shoes, mandatory if you’re hiking, make sense given the amount of walking involved here.
• Sunscreen, especially if you’re going up to the higher reaches. Usual prescription medications.
• Mobile and tablet electronic chargers.
un[travel]’s Top 5 Places to Stay
• Mary Budden Estate, Binsar
• Kalmatia Sangam, Almora
• Van Serai, Jageshwar
• Grand Oak Manor, Binsar
• Misty Mountains, Jhaltola