Askot is known for its Musk Deer Sanctuary (also referred as Askot Wildlife Sanctuary), and is still a destination that is hardly ever visited by frequent travellers. And those who do travel here are transported to a land that’s carpeted with Rhododendron and verdant valleys that are simply spectacular.
Valley ablaze with rhododendrons jungles
This Eastern most region of Uttarakhand is also called the ‘Kali Kumaon’ and has you looking at some of the best mountain sights and natural beauty of the region, some of which still unexplored!
The Region was once home to 80 forts , hence the name ‘Assi Kot’ and borders India with Nepal and China. Askot is located at a height of 3629 feet and lies on a ridge between Pithoragarh district, India and Dharchula. Askot is easily accessible from Pithoragarh (54 kms) and the journey to the mountains is truly exciting as you pass through dense forests of Pine and Deodar and River Streams. With the backdrop of Chhiplakot and the Panchchuli range with the Nepal Mountains, Askot is truly an offbeat travel destination.
This region also includes the important pilgrim sights of Bhanar, Chiplakot, Niirikot, Panchachuli, Kalapani and Chota Kailash (Adi Kailash).
Askot is a trekker’s paradise that offers treks ranging from High Altitude to simple easy ones that are ideal for beginners. However, the most popular treks in this region take you along the Dharchula Range up towards the Kailash and Mansarovar.
The Lipu Lekh Pass, Lumpiya Lekh Pass and theMankshang Lekh Pass are also located in the sanctuary’s zone. While the Gori Ganga River passes through it, the sanctuary also is the origin of the River Dhauli and Ilki River.
The Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary stands at a height of 5,412 feet and luckily the intensive efforts and initiatives have been successfully conserving the rare species of the Musk Deer. Musk Deer has been hunted and killed for its extraordinary perfumed secretion part of a male musk deer called ‘Musk’. This is one of the most valuable natural products used for its fragrance and medicinal properties. But now the rampant hunting has been stopped and severe measures have been taken in order to protect this rare species who is almost on the verge of extinction.
It is also photographers destination and one of the best places to capture a variety of high altitude birds, flora & fauna in their natural surroundings. It is also home to an endangered Tribe known as Van Rawats who reside high up on the mountain slopes of village Ghangdura, located inside the Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary. And you might just cross them as they walk around indulged in their daily chores. There are regular Jungle Safari’s that travel through the Sanctuary giving you a chance to view the amazing wildlife of the region. Every minute here is worth your travel time!
Do visit Lakhanpurkot, a tiny little village located across the River kali, that later joins Nepal to become Mahakali and offers you a picturesque and scenic spots. There are some ruins of the old fort and market area that still attracts many. And yes enjoy a picnic at the River Kali. And there are plenty of other Himalayan spots some still unexplored, so travel around and never know you might just make a new discovery.
Askot also became known more after the Yuvraj of Jodhpur, Prince Shivraj Singh got married to Gayatri Kumari, the Princess of Askot. Although the Small town had plenty of rulers ranging from the Katyuri Clan, Chand Dynasty and the Gorkhas much before the Britishers took over, Askot today have the Rajbars as the ceremonial heads.
What to Expect enroute
Your first scenic spot after you cross Kathgodham would be Bhimtal, one of the largest lake in the region and a scenic little hill town. You then cross Bhowali (pick up seasonal fruits from here) and then move along the Kosi River towards Almora via Khairna/Garampani (famous for Spicy Alu Parathas, Alu Sabzi and the quintessential Kheera ka Raita the Pahadi region loves). You may visit the Kakrighat Temple located right on the Kosi River Bank.
It is when you almost reach Almora that you get amazed by the Himalayan Snow clad peaks welcoming you to the magical land. Do buy the famous Baal Mitthai from Almora and pack some for the family & friends back home!
Many take a night off at Almora and move on the next day and few opt to stay at Munsiyari. So it depends on what time you actually make it here.
Once you head off and leave Almora try and stop over to take blessings at the Golu Devta Temple at Chitai. It is about 4 km from the main gate of Binsar wildlife sanctuary and 10 kms from Almora and is also called the Temple of bells!
A little detour to visit the sacred Shiva temple complex of Jageshwar (36 kms from Almora). It is also one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva.
Just 3 kms uphill from the main temple complex of Jageshwar takes you to Vriddha or Vridh Jageshwar. This is said to be the original abode of Lord Shiva before he came down to Jageshwar.
The route after Almora is mesmerizing as the snow peaks offer you wonderful views especially from a place called Dhaulichhina (near Binsar). And all along the road, there are thick forests of Pine and Deodar trees making the drive more beautiful.
Visit HERE to read a wonderful travel blog on some unique treks in this region
As you head further up you cross the Kalamuni Pass that has a temple, Munsiyari, Gori Ganga Valley, Madkot and then reaching Jauljibi.
Jauljibi is a town located on the India-Nepal border and you can view Nepal side of the villages here. Taking Photographs is strictly prohibited so be aware.
Jauljibi is also the very spot where the Gori Ganga meets the mighty River Kali that later once reaching the Nepal zone becomes the Mahakali River. From here on the drive is steep to Askot and you need to be careful with numerous bends that take you along the lush green dense forests which is actually the Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary.
You may wish to read Travel Blog on Bageshwar
Road Guide: The road from Bhimtal to Almora is wide enough to give you a smooth ride but once you cross Almora, be prepared for few bad patches as you move towards
Directions to Reach: You can take a train till Kathgodham and drive thereon. Else self-drive keeping in mind to break off and avoid night driving.
Route Guide after Kathgodham: Bhimtal-Bhowali-Ratighat-Khairna/Garampani- travel along Kosi River until you reach Almora-Visit the Golu Devta Temple at Chitai-Stop over at Jageshwar (Ancient Shiva Temple Complex)-Dhaulichhina-Cross Seraghat and go along Saryu River-Berinag-cross over Ramganga River at Thal-Birthi-Kalamuni Pass-Munsiyari-Madkote-Jauljibi (India-Nepal Border)-go along the Kali River and finally you reach – Askot
- New Delhi to Askot: 560 Kms via NH 24 and NH125
- Kathgodham to Askot: 226 kms via Pithoragarh-Almora Rd
- Almora to Askot: 173 kms via Almora – Berinag Rd
- Pithoragarh to Askot: 54 Kms: Pithoragarh is connected by airways at its Naini Saini Airport also Known as Pithoragarh Airstrip, so people not into driving the hills may take this faster mode to reach Askot!
Best Season to Visit: April-September
Travel Days: You are suggested to plan 6-7 days off to enjoy the drive and visit the numerous places along this route.
From Askot one may also visit Dharchula, that lies on the India-Nepal Border and offers amazing views of the Himalayan Mountains.
Night halts/Preferred Stay: Driving in the mountains at night is not recommended so please plan to break off your journey before the last light. Almora and Munsiyari have a decent range of hotels to choose from. Another option is to opt for KMVN rest houses that are located at Munsiyari/Birthi and at the PWD Rest House at Askot. Pithoragarh offers all kinds of stay options and is the suggested place for stay as you visit Askot. Places like Tejam, Rugling, and Kaflani also have a number of Rest houses.
For those looking for another offbeat destination this side of Uttarakhand, Dharchula, India is your next travel trip. Located along the River Kali, Dharchula is a lower hilly region that has flourishing forests abundant with dry fruits, Apples and Pears.
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