Munsiyari is as beautiful as it sounds. Located at an altitude of 7,200 ft. Munsiyari is a paradise for nature and adventure enthusiasts and a destination that is gaining popularity by seconds.
Situated at the entrance of Johar valley, Munsiyari falls en route the ancient trade route between India and Tibet and offers a grand view of the Panchchuli Range, Hansling, Rajarambha and Chiplakot (another scenic place of small lakes and bugyals) and most of these peaks are towering over 19000 ft!
The Johar valley extends along the path of the Goriganga River to its source at the Milam Glacier (59 Kms). Skilled trekkers can also trek to Nimak Glacier and Ralam Glacier (45 Kms) glaciers. For this reason too, Munsiyari is the most preferred base for mountaineers, glacier enthusiasts and other high altitude trekkers.
Munsiyari is inhabited by the semi-nomadic Shauka people who were active during the Tibet-India trade across the difficult Himalayan passes. These men carried cloth, salt and other provisions on the backs of mountain goats (each carrying more than 40 kgs). Later the Britishers named them ‘Bhutiyas’ however they are not related to Buddhists, as the name might suggest, but they are Hindus that worship Goddess Nanda Devi. A temple dedicated to Nanda Devi is located 3-4 km away from the main town and the place offers lovely views of the surrounding hills.
The Tibet-India trade was stopped in 1962, leaving many villages deserted but a handful remained and now living in and near Munsiyari.
Places to Explore in Munsiyari
Short Day Treks
Mesar Kund: a deep little wishing pool in the middle of a dense forest full of rhododendron trees. Also known as Meesar and Maheshwari Kund, this is an easy walk of 1.5 Kms one way and has well-marked directions and stone laid trails in most places. The journey is not at all tiring but refreshing. The walk starts 300 m near Milam Inn. You can read more about it in an interesting blog Here
Legend was that there was a Yaksha who lived by the lake and fell in love with a Village Girl who frequented the place. Much to the disappointment of the villagers, they decided to dry the lake, meaning to let the Yaksha go away, but the Yaksha decided to take revenge upon them and consequently, the entire town was struck with a series of droughts until the villagers apologized before him for the rains. People in the village still pray for rains at the lake and it seems to come true every time.
Thamri Kund: It is a tiny perennial natural lake located amidst the paper trees and is often frequented by the Musk Deer. The trek starts at Ganesh Temple located at a distance of 7 Kms from the Munsiyari town and from the temple it is another 3 km hike uphill. The trek is simple without any steep patches.
Betuli Dhar: a 6 km trek takes you on a hill covered with rhododendrons in spring and a white snow-covered wilderness in winters.
Kalamuni Temple Top: 10 km from Munsiyari, this place is sacred and houses an ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Kali. The place offers good views of the mountains. Interestingly, like many temples of the Northern region, the temple at Kalamuni too follows a tradition of devotees tieing bells in the temple compound while praying to their deity.
Balati Farm: The Balati Farm is a potato farm but located at an altitude of 9,000 ft, the view the place offers is wow as from here, the snow-covered peaks of the Himalayas, the Balati Glacier and the Ralam Glacier are visible. Balati Farm is a 45-minute trek from the main town of Munsiyari and a perfect spot for a picnic.
Birthi Falls: These falls are located 35 km from Munsiyari and can be viewed from the road itself. To reach near the falls, you simply park your vehicles and walk. The area is also home to a large variety of butterflies and rare species of sparrows.Wayside amenities and fast food centre is also available here.
Below are other local sightseeing options, only if you have extra time
Long Day Treks
The locals and the hotel can help you plan your treks and guide you on directions and other details.
Khalliya Top : is an 8 km trek that offers amazing views of the entire Panchachuli Ranges along with beautiful stretches of meadows.
The trek takes you along a densely forested trail and then opens up to beautiful meadows. A trek to Khaliya top can be termed easy and is ideal even for kids and even for a 60-year-old.
Lal Sing Gair is where you may opt to camp out for a night on your return back from Khalia Tanti.
Madkot: 22 km from Munsiyari, Madkot is on the Jauljibi road and is famous for its hot sulphur springs that cure health ailments like skin burns, body ache and rheumatism. The road to Madkot runs along the Gori Ganga River, making the trip an extraordinary experience.
Darkot: Darkot is en route Madkot and only 6 km away from the main town of Munsiyari. Darkot has 100-year-old wooden houses with traditionally carved doors and windows. The old artistic houses of Darkot represent the rich culture and creativity of the people of Kumaon. Here you get a chance to witness the handlooms of several kinds that are used to spin wool and cotton and then weaved into pashmina and other sheep-wool garments and carpets. You can also buy authentic handmade shawls made of Pashmina and Angora wool and come really nice sheep wool blankets.
Sarmoli – Shankhdhura (Day walk)
Dhapha – Qwiri Jimiya (Day walk)
Dhapha – Paton (Trek, Night Stay)
Seraghat – Golfa (Trek, Night Stay)
Nanasen: Please visit the Tribal Heritage Museum or famously know as the “Masterji’s Museum’ from where you may buy authentic handmade shawls of Pashmina, Angora wool and sheep wool blankets.
Tribal Heritage Museum: This is a private museum of Dr. Sher Singh or ‘Masterji’ and showcases his collection of ancient art, culture, trade, life in the hills and many antiques.
Entry Fee: 10 rupees. Check out a video made by Rishi Raj Gupta of the Museum to get a glimpse of this amazing place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQ71W9s2ANM&feature=youtu.be
Shopping: Visit the Tribal Museum in Nanasem, Sarmoli, Shop for Gifts, Traditional Products and Organic Foods from ‘Maati’ a Women’s Group at Sarmoli Village. The whole region is popular for beans, potatoes and large rugs (thulmas). Do buy the Munsiyari Rajma, that’s really unique in its taste.
- Visit the Hot water springs at Sera
- Cross the Gori Ganga river on a cable Trolley at Madkot
- Experience the Gori river at Madkot and Bungapan
Best Time to Visit: April to June and then from Mid September to October endNotes
- Make sure you fill up fuel at Thal as there no fuel pumps after Thal. At times, even at Thal due to a shortage in supply, they give you only limited fuel.
- Raju Guide is quite good and informative. You can reach him at 08958687822.
- Buy local herbs from Darkot Village. These herbs are really effective, for e.g Jambo is used to flavour Dal, Thoya much like Kala Jeera is cooling, Tehmur like Kali Mirch keeps you warm in soups, Gandraini sticks although bitter in taste, it is extremely beneficial in relieving constipation.
- Pandey Hotel & Lodge (100-1500 INR)
- Hotel Biju Inn (2000-2500/- INR)
- Milam Inn (2250-4050/- INR)
- Wayfarer’s Eco Resort Phone: (O) 011-47603625 (M): +91-9818644050 / +91-9716648348
- Vijay Mount View Resort (1000-5000/- INR)
- Zara Resort (1450-2800/-INR)
- Bramh Kamal is another cheap stay option but has been recently constructed and is a neat & Clean stay option. It is owned by a local newspaper journalist Mr. Davendra Singh Deva – +91-9411130334 & 05961-222627. He serves family prepared food.
A quaint little Village Sarmoli at Munsiyari offers beautiful Homestays right in the lap of natural surrounding and breathtaking views of the snow laden Panchachuli Mountain Range. You can visit Sarmoli to see the women work on the handlooms from their home. The locals also collect yarsa gamboo (Cordyceps sinesis), an exotic mushroom that has loads of medicinal properties but is very expensive @ INR 80,000 per kilogram approx.
Thanks to the efforts of Shivya Nath, an incredible traveller and writer, the village locals learnt the art of posting pictures for the world to see and now runs its own Instagram account@VoicesofMunsiari that share amazing pictures, videos and stories about their daily mountain life!
Local Food & Cuisines: Kulka is a very delicious local delicacy comprising of flour and potatoes fried in dhungar (a local herb). Rice and Hash seeds known as ‘Bhaang’ are essential elements of any platter here. Bhatt ki Churdkani, Arsa (a sweet dish), Kafuli(a preparation of local green leafy vegetables), Phannu, Badi, Rus( preparation of a number of lentils), Gulgula (a sweet snack), Kandalee ka Saag, Palau are the local and unique preparations almost unique to the area, with which the cuisine of Uttarakhand is defined.
Visit Milan Restuarant at Munsiyari and try the delicious Continental & Kumouni Cuisines.
Trekking in Munsiyari
Till recently, Munsiyari was a restricted area in the Himalayan Inner Line, wedged in between the borders of India, China and Nepal. Restrictions have now eased, placing Munsiyari on the trekking map of the Kumaon Hills. From Munsiyari, there is a gentle 11 km trail which extends to the famous Kalika Pass (2700 meters). It is here where a small Shakti temple is situated amidst dark pines. A more exhausting trail leads via the Matkot (12 km) village to the glaciers of the Panchuali group, to the alpine meadows of Chiplakot Bugyal (30 km), dotted with tiny lakes, and even up to the Milam Glacier and Johar Valley.
Glacier distances nearby Munsiyari
Munsiyari – Lilam – 12 kms; Lilam – Bagudiar – 19 kms; Bagudiar – Rilkote – 15 kms; Rilkote – Milam – 14 kms; Milam – Milam Glacier – 5 kms Munsyari – Lilam – Patan Gaon, 15 kms; Patan Gaon – Saba Udiar 15 kms; Saba Udiar – Ralam, 15 kms Munsyari – Jimighat, 10kms; Jimighat – Jimian, 8 kms; Jimian – Namik 25 kms.
Nainital to Munsiyari: 300
New Delhi to Munsiyari: 624 kms
Almora to Munsiyari: 192 kms
Kathgodam to Pithoragarh: 200 kms
Kathgodam to Munsyari: 280 kms
Pithoragarh to Munsiyari: 150 kms