Munsiyari sits comfortably somewhere in the middle aisle of a grand amphitheatre. In front, like a 70 mm projection, is the Panchachuli range, Hansling, Rajarambha and Chiplakot, all peaks over 19,000 ft. At sunset, its sky is ablaze with all the colours of an artist’s palette, and then, all of a sudden, as if someone has thrown a switch, the colour drains out in front, leaving the sky and mountains in soft tones of pink and grey, like the colours of a dove in a Mughal miniature. At night it is perfectly still and quiet. A few flickering lights mark the houses of the town and villages in the far hills. That is all.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

There are a number of sights in the immediate vicinity of Munsiyari, most of which should be visited on foot. For the sights further away, drive, or take a taxi, if you haven’t driven up yourself.

Maheshwari or Mehsar Kund

Walk uphill a couple of hundred yards from the Munsiyari Forest Rest House and you will find a paved path moving uphill on your right. After a half an hour’s walk through a pretty forest, you’ll arrive at a small meadow ringed by huge oaks and rhododendrons. On the northern edge of the meadow lies the lake. Today it’s just a pond, but still a charming spot for a picnic accompanied by great views of the Panchachuli Range. The Forest Rest House is 3 km from The Last Frontier– Wayfarer Munsiyari, a popular retreat.

Abhinandita Mathur
A gorgeous sunrise in Munsiyari
A gorgeous sunrise in Munsiyari

Dar Kot

About 6 km from Munsiyari on the Mad Kot Road lies the small village of Dar Kot. Visit the 100-year-old wooden houses with traditionally carved doors and windows. Also, this is the best place to shop for hand made pashmina and angora shawls and sheepswool blankets.

Goriganga River Bed

Drive 17 km from Munsiyari down the Mad Kot Road to Bhadeli, marked by a tea shop near some fields. Walk a bit upriver and find a spot for a picnic and take a dip in the icy Goriganga river.

Wikimedia Commons/Reshma Ray
A clear view of the Panchachuli massiff from the bugyal above Munsiyari
A clear view of the Panchachuli massiff from the bugyal above Munsiyari

Picnic on the Munsiyari Bugyal

Hike up to this lovely meadow just east of the town off the Zara Resort Road. It’s a very easy walk and a must for magnificent views of the Panchachuli Range, the Johar Valley with its route to the Milam Glacier, and the village of Harkot, dropping far below in the valley to your right, nestling among terraced green fields. Walk straight due east as the bugyal dips down towards the Nanda Devi Mandir. Return to town via the old Gas Godown Road. The bugyal is 6 km from The Last Frontier – Wayfarer Munsiyari, a three-hour walk one-way.

Masterji’s Museum

Dr SS Pangthi, or Masterji, a retired school-teacher, trekker, traveller, author and authority on the Bhotias of the area, has put together a small collection of antiques at his residence in Nanasen Village. Of great interest are the original documents, which enabled trade between the Johar Valley and Tibet and the personal effects of the traders.

Balanti

About 8 km from Munsiyari heading back up towards Kalamuni, some 400 m off the main road, is the Balanti Potato Farm. From here there are breath taking 180° views of the snowpeaks. There is also an ancient oak and rhododendron forest, with great, benign trees.

Abhinandita Mathur
Scenic landscape en route to Munsiyari
Scenic landscape en route to Munsiyari

The Bala Cascades

When heading out of Munsiyari, start early for the return trip armed with a packed lunch and swimsuit, and stop at Bala just past the Birthi Falls. Park the car by the tea shop and head back across the bridge. Find a path moving upriver and jump down across the rocks to find beautiful, clear blue natural swimming pools on different levels.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

The Sarmoli Village Home Stay (SVHS; Cell: 09411194041/ 42; Tariff: 800-1,500 per person; W munsiyari.com) offers comfortable rooms and home-made meals, in about 12 households.

Set on a terraced ridge a kilometre from the main bazaar is The Last Frontier – Wayfarer Munsiyari (Delhi Tel: 011-47603625; Tariff: 3,550, with two meals), a comfortable retreat with excellent views.

On a hill on the eastern side of Munsiyari, away from the town is Zara Resort (Tel: 05961-222524, Cell: 09212461776; Tariff: 1,800-2,200), the largest hotel in the area.

A decent budget option, Hotel Bilju Inn (Tel: 222555; Tariff: 1,000-2,500), arranges trekking in the Munsiyari region.

KMVN’s Tourist Rest House (Tel: 222339, Cell: 07534001701; Tariff: 1,200-2,600, dorm bed Rs. 150) in the main bazaar has rooms, dormitories, a restaurant, room service and TV.

Apart from the restaurants at Wayfarer, Zara Resort and the KMVN, there are only a few tea stalls.

Sonia Jabbar
The Last Frontier-Wayfarer Resort
The Last Frontier-Wayfarer Resort

When to Go End February to mid-June, October to December. The best time to view the rhododendrons in bloom and the peaks is early March to end April Location Munsiyari sits at 7,000 ft in the Johar Valley carved by the Goriganga river, in far northeast Uttarakhand Air Nearest airport: Pantnagar Rail Nearest rail: Kathgodam

THE INFORMATION

Chamba

GMVN

Tourist Bungalow

Chamba

Tel: 01376-255245

STD code 01376

Gwaldam

GMVN

Tourist Rest House

Gwaldam. Tel: 01363-274244

Cell: 09568006660

STD code 01363

Munsiyari

KMVN

Tourist Rest House

Munsiyari

Tel: 05961-222339

Cell: 07534001701

STD code 05961

Askot

KMVN

Tourist Rest House

Pithoragarh. Cell: 08650002538

STD code 05964

Binsar WLS

Wildlife Warden

Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary

Range Office, Ayarpani

Cell: 09412928289

DFO

Civil Soyam Forest Division

Almora. Tel: 05962-230229

KMVN

Binsar. Cell: 08650002537

STD code 05962

THE INFORMATION

Ramgarh

KMVN

Tourist Reception Centre

Ramgarh. Tel: 05942-281155

STD code 05942

Nandhaur WLS

Divisonal Forest Office

Haldwani Forest Division

Tikonia Campus. Tel: 05946-220002

Nandhaur WLS SDO

Cell: 09411076337

STD code 05946