Panjshir Valley: Incredible Afghanistan Lives Here

 The picturesque peaks kissing the clear azure sky; the icy-cold water surging down the glacial heights; the brackish lakes dotting the breathtaking landscape; the lush green meadows dancing in the breezy air and the rich heritage seeped in history.

Meandering through the serpentine roads tucked into the rocky mountains; you land up in an exotic place, unarguably Afghanistan’s best-kept secret. The drive to Panjshir valley, 150 kilometers north of Kabul, in the lap of majestic Hindu Kush Mountains, is both adventurous and exhilarating.

Panjshir valley, which translates into ‘valley of five lions’, gets the name from five brothers who quite astonishingly made a dam here for Sultan Mahmoud Ghazni, the most prominent ruler of the Ghaznavid empire, in 10th century. Their shrine greets visitors at the entrance of valley.

Bordered by Hindu Kush Mountains, which divide Central Asia and South Asia, Panjshir valley with its shimmering rivulets and rocky terrains is an incredible sight to behold. A silent and blissful place, its intimacy belies the rugged 4,500 meter peaks enveloping the former kingdom.

Bordered by Hindu Kush Mountains, which divide Central Asia and South Asia, Panjshir valley with its shimmering rivulets and rocky terrains is an incredible sight to behold

The valley starts at Dalang Sang and stretches for 100 kms right to the Anjoman Pass, through beautiful fields of wheat, maize, walnut and mulberry. The fast flowing Panjshir River is famous among locals for fishing escapades.

For foreign tourists and water sports enthusiasts, the river is ideal for kayaking, which has evolved into a popular water sport.

Passing through well-irrigated farms and fields, you come across a football stadium, which is expected to become better than the one in Kabul city.

Among the major attractions of Panjshir valley is the green-domed mausoleum of Ahmad Shah Masoud. Hailed as the ‘Loin of Panjsher’ because of his resistance to Soviets, the Tajik guerilla leader also fought Taliban and Al Qaeda as the commander of Northern Alliance, and was assassinated two days before the 9/11 attacks. A massive portrait of Masoud sits at the entrance of the valley and his beautiful mausoleum attracts large number of visitors, both locals and foreigners.

Panjshir, claim some historians, was not just a hiding place for Masoud, but was a source of income for him and his party because of emerald mines. Even today, miners are digging deep into the mountains of Panjshir valley to extract some of the world’s finest emeralds. The huge deposits of rubies, sapphires and lapis lazuli, which are currently sold for about $200 million USD every year, could well lay the foundation of a robust gem industry here in future.

Panjshir has become a favourite destination for tourists not only because of the tranquility and calm, but also because of the history and legends associated with this place, which is the central setting of Ken Follett’s 1985 spy novel ‘Lie Down with Lions’. This is truly a delight.

Source: Afghan Zariza (http://afghanzariza.com/2014/03/06/panjshir-valley-incredible-afghanistan-lives-here

Advertisements

Mazar e Sharif: The Bustling Beacon of Beauty

Some 400 kilometers northwest of Kabul is the second largest city and the sprawling urban centre of Afghanistan. They call it Mazar e Sharif. The province is tremendously popular with foreign tourists thanks to its breathtaking landscape, and more importantly, peace and serenity. In all the years of civil war and political unrest, this part of the war-torn country remained unaffected since it existed as an autonomous region until the late 1990s. It borders Uzbekistan and is populated with large number of Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. This diversity is reflected in the city’s rich culture, from exquisite food to enchanting music, from quirky markets to fine arts and crafts.

Unlike many other restive provinces of Afghanistan, which are still trapped in ultra-conservative, old-fashioned, orthodox traditions; women in Mazar e Sharif enjoy complete freedom and access to higher education. There is zero tolerance for discrimination. People come across as warm and unpretentious. Quite interestingly, the local provincial government has done a fine job. There is a Women’s Music College too, something unthinkable elsewhere.

Mazar e Sharif remained unaffected in the years of civil war; however, it faced its own problems in the post-Taliban era, after 2001. The warlords and strongmen from Uzbek and Tajik tribes got embroiled in a power struggle and control of natural gas reserves. The situation has limped back to normalcy now but the tensions spark occasionally.

Worse, post 2001, this province made news for war crimes by US led allied forces. After the Taliban were ousted in 2001, fierce military operations swept the country including Mazar e Sharif. A documentary film ‘Massacre at Mazar’ made by an Irish filmmaker Jamie Doran shows the extent of involvement of US soldiers in torture and murder of captured rebels and disappearance of around 3,000 men in Mazar e Sharif province barely a year after Taliban regime was shunted out.

The noise of traffic on the road drowns in the quietude and calm of the park, the chirping and warbling of birds, the cooing of the white doves waddling all around

Mazar e Sharif is home to the national sport of Afghanistan, Buzkashi. The aggressive sport, in which players riding the horseback seek control of a goat’s carcass, is being played here since the 13th century. It is played in open fields on weekends, especially in the winter season until the Afghan New Year (Navroz) that falls on March 21. On Navroz, Mazar e Sharif turns into a virgin bride and is flooded with massive number of visitors. The auspicious occasion coincides with Gul e Surkh festival, named after red tulip flowers, invoking prosperity and productiveness.

However, the main attraction of city, which draws tourists and pilgrims from across the world, especially on the New Year, is Blue Mosque. The mosque is surrounded by the picturesque, lush-green park filled with the intoxicating smell of flowers. The noise of traffic on the road drowns in the quietude and calm of the park, the chirping and warbling of birds, the cooing of the white doves waddling all around. The doves, which are an integral part of the Blue Mosque compound, are looked after by the attendants of the mosque. According to caretakers and gardeners here, the doves are pure white in color because of the sanctity of the mosque, and even the doves with speck of color turn white here.

On Navroz, which marks the first day of spring and the beginning of Afghan New year, all the routes lead to this beautiful shrine; the festivities kick off days before and continue for more than two weeks 

The Blue Mosque, enveloped in thousands of colorful and intricately designed tiles in various exquisite patterns, houses the revered shrine of Hazrat Ali, the cousin of Prophet Mohammad. The shrine was built in the reign of Husain Baiqara. The open hall to the southeast of shrine dates back to Timurid period. The marble gravestone is from the Ghazanavid period. Legend has it that the body of Hazrat Ali was shifted here from its original burial place in Najaf, Iraq.  The deeply revered shrine was demolished by the marauding ruler Genghis Khan and his Mongol army in the 13th century, but it was later rebuilt as a pilgrimage site and a tourist destination.

Today, the shrine has become cynosure of all eyes, and people cutting across sects and tribes in Afghanistan hold it in deep reverence. On Navroz, which marks the first day of spring and the beginning of Afghan New year, all the routes lead to this beautiful shrine. The festivities kick off days before and continue for more than two weeks. Every year, on the day of Navroz, the guards of shrine (pehelwan e roza) hoist a massive flag called ‘Jahanda’ in the compound of the shrine. Thousands of people from across the country witness the ceremony, which has become a part of tradition now. Mela-e Gul-e Surkh, a popular festival of blooming tulips in Mazar e Sharif, starts a week before the New Year.

Well, little wonder why a trip to Afghanistan is incomplete without visiting Mazar e Sharif and Blue Mosque. The beautiful meets bustling here.

Source: Afghan Zariza (http://afghanzariza.com/2014/01/27/mazar-e-sharif-the-bustling-beacon-of-beauty/blog)

Bamyan ruins tell many fascinating stories

Mark Henry, a boisterous English traveler, came to Afghanistan in the summer of 1976 on a short trip. After taking pleasure in the modest comforts of Kabul city for a few days, he headed north to Bamyan, which was a forlorn and isolated place tucked in the Hindu Kush Mountains. The staunch lover of nature and beauty, he was fascinated by the ancient caves of Buddhist monks, the imposing statues of Buddha – one of which stood 50 meters tall, and the shimmering blue water lakes. He roamed around, clicked pictures, took notes and enjoyed his time.

Mesmerized by the beauty of rugged mountains, crystal clear lakes and awe-inspiring landscape of Bamyan, he made a pact with himself: to return soon for a longer stint. But, some years later, the country descended into chaos and Henry had to shelve his plans.

The all-out war broke out and fierce clashes erupted, mostly in the frontier border provinces. Many foreign ministries began to issue travel advisories to their citizens, singling out Afghanistan as the most dangerous destination for tourists. For the next two decades, it was all chaos and confusion. Tourists stopped coming. Many Afghans fled their homes and became refugees in other countries. Tourism sector was in shambles. The once-beautiful tourist places scared the daylights out of people.

In 2001, the bloody juggernaut was broken, after the fall of Taliban. And, over the years, the situation has been gradually limping back to normalcy, though the war continues with different set of actors and a different stage. Henry, now 68, returned back this year after delaying it for too long. The years of civil war followed by the period of uneasy calm made him wary. But, he rues the fact that the Buddha statue in Bamyan has been reduced to rubble. The good old memories haunt him.

After groping in the dark for years, Afghanistan has bounced back strongly in the last one decade. Tourism sector is again on the boom, despite sporadic incidents of violence and the continuing war between Taliban and the U.S. forces. Like Henry, many foreign tourists are returning to Afghanistan to see and experience the ‘change’.

There are two routes leading to Bamyan from Kabul: through Parwan province, which is 237 km; and through Wardak province, which is 180 km

Last week, I headed to Bamyan, where the giant Buddha statues, surrounded by 3000 caves, once used to be the cynosure of eyes. There are two routes leading to Bamyan from Kabul: through Parwan province, which is 237 km; and through Wardak province, which is 180 km. But, it takes no less than 6 hours to reach Bamyan from Kabul because of the deteriorated roads and poor security.

The spectacular valley, once known for the imposing statues of Buddha, is now known for ruins of those statues. Constructed sometime in the 6th century, they were a target of cultural vandalism over the centuries; and finally in 2001, Taliban rolled in the tanks and destroyed them. Soon after, the Taliban regime was ousted and the valley was declared the world heritage site by UNESCO.

There was a talk of UNESCO rebuilding the statues – both small and big – but the world body last year laid all speculations to rest, announcing that it was not considering their restoration. Now, visitors mostly go there to see the ruins, which are as beautiful as the original statues.

There are other attractions like the historic caves inside with painted frescos that attract lot of visitors. Then there is Shehr e Gholghola, a majestic fort overlooking the town that gives the breathtaking view of the whole area.

The stunning Band e Amir lakes are prime attractions here. The six shimmering blue water lakes separated by dams take your breath away. The lakes quietly sit in the lap of Hindu Kush Mountains, on the west of famous Buddha statues.

The province offers wonderful opportunities for horse riding, trekking, biking and photography. The Koh e Baba Mountains south of the valley offer a lot to adventure seekers and explorers. Towards the east of Bamyan town, the Kakrak valley is one of the three sacred sites in the region for Buddhists. Shehr e Zohak, towards the east of town, is a fortified compound dating back to 15th century, with spectacular view of the Hajigak valley. Ajar Valley is regarded as the one of the best tourist attractions in the province.

Bamyan is known for its rich cultural heritage and civilization that dates back to early first century when it was the center of Kushanas, and later Ghoryads between 10th and 11th century. The Buddha statues were carved during the Kushana period. It is the confluence of east and west, with an archeology that has traces of Persian, Greek, Turkish and Chinese.

The province is mostly mountainous with no forest cover and very little agricultural land. Mineral resources are in abundance but the illegal excavation of coal mines goes unchecked. Hajikak area, bordering Bamyan and Wardak, has rich deposits of iron ore. Pujnab area is known for marble, and some other areas have sulphur deposits. These rich minerals, if exploited well, can immensely contribute to economic development of Bamyan.

The literacy rate is abysmally low and labor is mostly unskilled. Most of the school buildings here were destroyed in the years of war, and according to locals, government has always discriminated against Hazaras, who constitute the majority here.

However, unlike many other restive provinces in Afghanistan, Bamyan is comparatively safe. It is one of those places where you can move freely without being hit by a Taliban missile or an American drone. The Buddha statues are no longer there, but the beautiful ruins tell many fascinating stories.

Source: Afghan Zariza (http://afghanzariza.com/2014/01/07/bamyan-ruins-tell-many-fascinating-stories/blog)

The rugged beauty

By Syed Zafar Mehdi

The picturesque snow-clad peaks kissing the clear azure sky; the icy cold waters surging down the glacial heights into the brackish lakes; the rhythmic chant of the monks in beautiful, ancient monasteries; the rugged terrains, expansive meadows, rich wildlife, glorious cultural heritage. There is something special about Ladakh – The Roof of the World. A journey through Ladakh’s rocky landscape is enough to take your breath away.

Bordered by two of the world’s largest mountain ranges and surrounded by alpine desert, Leh’s dry barren landscape full of historic Buddhist monasteries makes it an incredible sight to behold. A silent, blissful place, its intimacy belies the rugged 6,500 mt peaks enveloping the former kingdom. Travelers can trek through the hilly terrain of Ladakh, enjoy a game of polo or watch an archery contest where local residents compete in a contest that has remained unchanged for years. White water rafting, wildlife tours and mountaineering are hit here.ladakh2

Three regions

Ladakh comprises of three main regions, all distinct in their own way.  Perched at 3500 mts, Leh & Upper Indus Valley is the historical and cultural heartland of Ladakh, home to numerous Buddhist monasteries, quaint villages, fairs, festivals and bazaars. Other is the Zanskar Valley, a relatively isolated valley to the south of Indus Valley. Among Ladakh’s remotest regions, Zanskar is ringed by mountains and only accessible by high passes. The twin peaks of Nun-Kun, its monasteries and its extremely rugged, awe-aspiring landscape are its main attractions. Then comes Kargil & Suru Valley, falling just behind the famous Zoji La Pass. Kargil is a small town with cobbled streets surrounded by apricot grooves.

Lakes taking breath away

The major attraction is Pangong Tso Lake, located at an altitude of almost 4,500 meters, a five-hour drive from Leh, most of it through rough mountain route, traversing the third-highest pass in the world, the Changla pass. The Pangong is a delight to the eye. The golden colored range to the north, with its rolling spurs culminating in chiseled peaks, spreads before your eyes a panorama of spectacular dimensions. In winter, the lake freezes completely despite being salt water.

pangong-lakeThen comes Tsomoriri Lake, a beautiful mountain bounded expanse of water, located at 14,000 ft in Rupsho Valley. The nomads are focus of attention here, who graze herd of goats and yaks on lakeside. Tsokar Lake, around 76 kms from Tsomoriri is also a breathtaking lake. A trip to these two lakes can be organized in two or three days by jeep or two to three weeks by trek.

The sights to behold

The village Alchi situated on the bank of Indus River is home to one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh known for its 11th century wall paintings, depicting both artistic and spiritual details of Buddhist and Hindu kings of that period in Kashmir. Down the Indus, on the route to Balistan, at an altitude of 2600 mts, lies a small community called the Drokpa, tracing their roots to Aryans. They are Buddhist but also worship nature gods and spirits. Numbering a few thousands, they have preserved their racial purity through centuries, but only two of the five Drokpa villages are open to tourists. The Nubra valley, referred as the orchard of Ladakh, because of being richer in vegetation, offers unparalleled trekking opportunities for adventure travelers.

Spectacular side trips

Among the most spectacular side trips from Leh is a journey along the Zanskar River. You’ll see hanging glaciers, green villages, Buddhist monasteries, and towering Himalayan peaks. The Nubra Valley, on Khardung La, the world’s highest motorable road, is another unforgettable trip. The sights of Himalayan icicles, wild yaks, horses, and hairy double humped camels, you’ll be rewarded with water, mountains, and desert all in the one area.

Monastries, the cynosure of eyesLadakh New 323

Among the largest, oldest and most famous monasteries in region is Hemis Monastery, around 45 km from Leh. Here Hemis festival is celebrated every June. Shanti Stupa, located on the hilltop, boasts of state of the art work, which pulls in lot of tourists to the place. Stok Gonpa and Palace, 14 kms from Leh, is the residence of present day royal family. The three days trek from Stok to Spituk and the 8 days trek of Markha Valley starts here. The palace has an exquisite collection of royal dresses, and king’s crown that is open for visitors. Lamayuru monastery, remarkably built on a rock, on the Leh-Srinagar highway is a major attraction too. Besides these, Thiskey Gonpa, the most beautiful of all the monasteries in Ladakh is the place for witnessing amazing sunsets.

Adventure trails

Ladakh provides great opportunities for adventure sports such as river rafting, trekking, mountaineering and mountain biking. Adventure tourism has contributed in a big way to Ladakh’s economy. For trekkers, Ladakh offers numerous trails to choose from such as the ones from Likir to Temisgam, and Markha Valley from Spituk. The joy of walking through tough tracks, deep gorges and rivers can be a rewarding experience for all levels of enthusiasts. The trekking season is roughly between May and October.

ladakh-adventure-tours

Mountain biking is also a hit here. The most popular route for biking is the Manali-Leh. Biking tours generally involve a 12 to 13-day bike rides. After a few days of fairly easy biking along the Manali-Leh route, the difficult ride begins with the climb to Baralcha (4,880m) as the altitude increases. The toughest part of the ride is the climb to Lachung La (5,065m). Mountain climbing trips can be booked to peaks such as Stok (20,177 feet), Goleb (19,356 feet), Kangyatse (20,997 feet) and Matho West (19,520) in the Zanskar Mountains. For river rafting, the best stretch is between Spituk and Saspol on the Indus, as well as the Shayok River in the Nubra Valley, and Zanskar River in Zanskar. The Nubra Valley offers camel safaris as well.

Travel Feature: Lansdowne, Uttarakhand

 

Himalayan beauty 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Meandering through the small hamlets and thickly forested countryside roads, you land up in an exotic place with breathtaking landscape, breezy air and a magnificent view of the snow capped peaks. The drive to Lansdowne is arguably one of the best.

Ensconced amidst the lush oak and pine trees of the Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand district at an altitude of 1,700mts, Lansdowne with many natural treks and hiking trails is the place to be this summer. Lansdowne got its name from Lord Lansdowne, who was the then Viceroy of India during the period of 1888 – 1894. Presently, Lansdowne has the command office of the Garhwal Rifles division of the Indian Army.

Hitherto, owing to the strong presence of the Indian Army (Garhwal Rifles) where soldiers are trained on the huge parade ground right in the middle of the town, Landsdowne has maintained a low profile on the tourism map. The Army is believed to have hugely contributed to the Lansdowne culture, that is so evident in the surroundings and has even seeped into the moral and social fibre of the local populace.

Much to cherish 
At Lansdowne, there is something for everybody. If there is Siddhpeeth route for the religious, there is wild life route for nature and animal lovers, adventure sports for the health freaks and cultural tourist attractions for the rest.

For first timers, the places to be are Tip-n-Top (org: Tiffin Top), Regimental Museum, Bhulla Taal, St. Mary’s Church, Lover’s lane and Church Point.

Adventure trails 
The best adventure activity that the tourists can enjoy here is trekking. The trekking trails are held in the fine-looking fields passing through the dark and deep forests.

If you are fit enough, you can go for hiking, urges Rajendra Ghansela, a local. There are simple and tougher climbs to choose from. Or you can go for an easygoing and delightful nature walk. Then again, go camping, snow viewing and forest walking. Just make your own permutations and combinations, whatever works with you.

For an extra dose of adventure sports, you can visit the Kalagarh Wildlife Sanctuary, famous for the Asian elephants. The dam across the Ram Ganga River is a must-visit destination.

Around 50 kms from Lansdowne is Jim Corbett National Park. The easy route to reach there is through Dugadda, Dhountiyal Vatanbasha, 30 kms from park.

Religious tourism 
For those who love to make a spiritual journey, Lansdowne is home to number of temples and shrines. There is the Tarkeshwar Mahadev Temple, around 30 kms away, which has the distinction of being the oldest sidhapeeths in India. The temple is ensconced in the jungle encircled by mighty deodar trees, and has a kund where its a must for pilgrims to bathe in. “It is a haven of serenity, where you go for meditation and come back rejuvenated,” says Harish Jadli, Secretary, Uttarakhand Lok Manch. We second it.

Jwalpa Devi Temple is 47 kms from Lansdowne on the Pauri- Kotdwar Road. Other temples in the vicinity include Durga Devi Temple. Sidhbali Temple, Santoshi Mata Temple, Bhairav Garhi Temple. There is an ancient British church which isn’t well kept but you can visit it to see the beautiful stained glass windows and the mystical ambience. The mosque of Lansdowne is unique as both the Shia and Sunni Muslims offer prayers there.

Places to stay 
Amongst the old hotels here, there are the Blue Pine Resort, Fairydale Resort, Retreat Anand Jungle Resort. There are accommodation facilities also available at the local Forest Rest House and PWD Inspection House. There are more hotels and resorts coming up now. For queries and online booking, log onto http://www.uttaranchaltourism.in

Travel Feature: Kashmir

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Those snow-capped mountains, lush-green meadows, blooming orchards, gushing blue streams and romantic houseboats. The paradise on earth is beckoning you.

Historically, the city of Srinagar, built around sparkling Dal Lake and an hour’s flight from Delhi, was among the most visited destinations in India. But the political turmoil wreaked havoc with local tourist industry. Now as the violence wanes, tourism is undergoing a tentative recovery. Travelers are returning to this Himalayan region of alpine forests and crystal clear lakes.

 Hotspots:

Among the most popular sights is the Gulmarg ski resort, known for its lush-green sprawling meadows, where the world’s highest gondola lifts ferry skiers up to 12,900 feet. In spring and summer, golfers head to the area’s emerald courses. In the south, Pahalgam has rolling meadows, trout-filled streams, shimmering lakes, and mighty glaciers that feed the rivers below. Visitors flock here in summer for white-water rafting and fishing.

Gardens in Kashmir are home to a variety of flora and delightful water systems. Shalimar and Nishat are visitors delight. Chashmashahi (Royal springs) is renowned for the spring of refreshing digestive mineral water. Harwan is a huge garden with a beautiful canal passing through its heart. For trekkers and mountain climbers, the scenic hill towns of Sonamarg and Yousmarg make excellent bases. Sonamarg serves as the gateway to Ladakh or Little Tibet, through the 11,575-foot-high Zojila Pass barely 12 miles away. Ladakh‘s high-altitude desert is famed for its moonscapes.

Stay in Houseboats:

While Srinagar has several deluxe hotels, lined up on the boulevard, the more romantic option is to stay on one of the nearly 1,200 registered houseboats, which offer varying degrees of luxury. Guests can lounge in the sun on their deck or ride shikara (canopied boats) across the lake, particularly on moonlit nights when the waters reflect the town’s glittering lights and brooding mountains. Dal‘s adjoining sister, Nigeen, now has a water sports center, recently revived by the department of tourism after 25 years.

  Golf destination:

Efforts are on to re-brand this heavily militarized Himalayan region as a global golfing destination. Lyrical brochures are out, declaring the state to be a “golfers’ paradise.” Government has set out to develop a chain of world standard golf courses in Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Srinagar, Sonamarg and Sidhra to attract foreign golfers to visit the state.

The Royal Springs Golf Course, offering panoramic views of the Dal Lake and pine dotted mountain peaks, is without doubt one of the most beautiful golf courses in Asia. It is as affordable as it is picturesque: $20 for a round on the 18-hole course, plus $10 for a golf cart and $3 for a caddy.

Religious Tourism:

Kashmir is the melting pot for different communities and cultures. Religious pilgrims from across world throng here to pay obeisance at shrines like Dargah Hazratbal, many Sufi dargahs, revered shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi, St Mary Church and Dharamshala Gurdwara among others. Now of late, Buddhist pilgrims have also been coming in hordes. Places like Parihaspora, Harwan and Kanispura-Ushkura, which still have ruins of Buddhist monasteries, have become huge attraction. Parihaspora is one of the famed sites of Gautam Buddha.

Total Recall of Mughal Period:

Mughal safari for the route that Mughal emperors took to reach Kashmir via high mountains is opening for the visitors in 2010. This exciting package, a total recall of the Mughal era, is going to mark the tourism calendar of Jammu and Kashmir next year.

This campaign has been christened as “In the footsteps of Mughals”, and under this campaign, all heritage places of Mughal period would be showcased.

Bottomline:

Pack your bags and head off to paradise on earth and experience the magic yourself. It’s going to be J&K all the way – start count down.

Lansdowne: Himalayan beauty

 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Meandering through the small hamlets and thickly forested countryside roads, you land up in an exotic place with breathtaking landscape, breezy air and a magnificent view of the snow capped peaks. The drive to Lansdowne is arguably one of the best.


Ensconced amidst the lush oak and pine trees of the Pauri Garhwaldistrict of Uttarakhand district at an altitude of 1,700mts, Lansdowne with many natural treks and hiking trails is the place to be this summer. Lansdowne got its name from Lord Lansdowne, who was the then Viceroy of India during the period of 1888 – 1894. Presently, Lansdowne has the command office of the Garhwal Rifles division of the Indian Army.
Hitherto, owing to the strong presence of the Indian Army (Garhwal Rifles) where soldiers are trained on the huge parade ground right in the middle of the town, Landsdowne has maintained a low profile on the tourism map. The Army is believed to have hugely contributed to the Lansdowne culture, that is so evident in the surroundings and has even seeped into the moral and social fibre of the local populace.

Much to cherish 


At Lansdowne, there is something for everybody. If there is Siddhpeeth route for the religious, there is wild life route for nature and animal lovers, adventure sports for the health freaks and cultural tourist attractions for the rest.

For first timers, the places to be are Tip-n-Top (org: Tiffin Top), Regimental Museum, Bhulla Taal, St. Mary’s Church, Lover’s lane and Church Point.

 

Adventure trails 

The best adventure activity that the tourists can enjoy here is trekking. The trekking trails are held in the fine-looking fields passing through the dark and deep forests.

If you are fit enough, you can go for hiking, urges Rajendra Ghansela, a local. There are simple and tougher climbs to choose from. Or you can go for an easygoing and delightful nature walk. Then again, go camping, snow viewing and forest walking. Just make your own permutations and combinations, whatever works with you.

For an extra dose of adventure sports, you can visit the Kalagarh Wildlife Sanctuary, famous for the Asian elephants. The dam across the Ram Ganga River is a must-visit destination.

Around 50 kms from Lansdowne is Jim Corbett National Park. The easy route to reach there is through Dugadda, Dhountiyal Vatanbasha, 30 kms from park.

Religious tourism

 
For those who love to make a spiritual journey, Lansdowne is home to number of temples and shrines. There is the Tarkeshwar Mahadev Temple, around 30 kms away, which has the distinction of being the oldest sidhapeeths in India. The temple is ensconced in the jungle encircled by mighty deodar trees, and has a kund where its a must for pilgrims to bathe in. “It is a haven of serenity, where you go for meditation and come back rejuvenated,” says Harish Jadli, Secretary, Uttarakhand Lok Manch. We second it.

Jwalpa Devi Temple is 47 kms from Lansdowne on the Pauri- Kotdwar Road. Other temples in the vicinity include Durga Devi Temple. Sidhbali Temple, Santoshi Mata Temple, Bhairav Garhi Temple. There is an ancient British church which isn’t well kept but you can visit it to see the beautiful stained glass windows and the mystical ambience. The mosque of Lansdowne is unique as both the Shia and Sunni Muslims offer prayers there.

Places to stay 


Amongst the old hotels here, there are the Blue Pine Resort, Fairydale Resort, Retreat Anand Jungle Resort. There are accommodation facilities also available at the local Forest Rest House and PWD Inspection House. There are more hotels and resorts coming up now. For queries and online booking, log onto http://www.uttaranchaltourism.in