Uttarakhand also referred to as “Devbhoomi” or “Land of Gods” is formed of two main regions – Garhwal and Kumaun. Together, these two regions comprise of 13 districts. The districts under Garhwal region are Chamoli, Dehradun, Haridwar, Pauri Garhwal, Tehri Garhwal, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi, whereas Almora, Champawat, Bageshwar, Pithoragarh, Udham Singh Nagar and Nainital come under the Kumaun region.
The natural beauty of Uttarakhand makes it amongst one of the most beautiful states of the country, as each region has its own unique topology and landscape. In his first visit to the areas of Uttarakhand, Mahatma Gandhi had referred to it as “The Switzerland of India”!
Besides the natural beauty of Uttarakhand, it is also the origin of the holiest of rivers of India, “Ganga” or “Ganges” as it is known in the world. Ganga originates from Gaumukh in Gangotri and travels all along the heart of India South and East through the gangetic plains, covering 2525 kms (1569 miles) and joins into the Bay of Bengal. All along its path, Hindus flock to take a dip into its holy waters and attain purification with the blessings of goddess Ganga!
Uttarakhand perhaps is most known for the “Char Dham Yatra” which comprises of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. This pilgrimage is considered as the most important in Northern India and every year hundreds of thousands of devotees converge to complete it and attain Nirvana. The Char Dham Yatra commences from the West and ends in the East. Yamunotri the starting point of the yatra is dedicated to Goddess Yamuna and it is believed that whoever completes it is saved from untimely death. Gangotri as the name suggests is dedicated to Goddess Ganga, Kedarnath to Lord Shiva and Badrinath to Lord Vishnu.
Uttarakhand is also the gateway to one of the holiest pilgrimage for Hindus – “Kailash Mansarovar”. Kailash parvat, the home of Lord Shiva, the sacred lake “Mansarovar” and “Meru”, the mountain of heaven are only accessible through Lipulekh pass in Kumaun and the pilgrimage is managed exclusively by Kumaun Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN) in association with Government of India and Government of China!
Added to the religious significance of Uttarakhand, is its incredible flora and fauna and forest reserves boasting of tremendous wildlife. The world famous Jim Corbett national park stretches all across the heartland of Uttarakhand and offers an excellent opportunity to observe wildlife in their natural habitat. The exquisite beauty of the Valley of Flowers is awe inspiring. The valley is a sprawling 87 square kilometers and is the conversion point of Western and Eastern Himalayas. In the spring season, when the snow has melted, the valley floor gets covered with thousands of variety of wild flowers, some of them, only found here and nowhere else in the world! This world heritage site is an incredible place and a must do for visitors to Uttarakhand!
Uttarakhand is full of cities and towns which offer natural beauty and breathtaking landscapes. Nainitail, Bhimtal, Naukuchia taal, Almora, Ranikhet, Pithoragarh, Ramgarh, Mussoorie, Dhanaulti, Chamba, Kanataal, Auli all offer something unique to the travelers in a picturesque setting. Rishikesh which is just on the foothills of the Himalayas is known as the “World capital of Yoga”.
Uttarakhand, besides its natural beauty, is also house to several important organizations and institutions like Survey of India, Archaeological survey of India, Zoological Survey of India, Defense Electronics Application Laboratory (DEAL) and several prestigious institutions like the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy (IGNFA), Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (IAS) etc.
For more information on Uttarakhand, you can visit the UK tourism site at Uttarakhand Simply Heaven