Uttarakhand (formerly known as Uttaranchal), a state in northern India, is known as the Land of the Gods – Devbhoomi. It is largely a hilly state that shares international borders with China in the north and Nepal in the east. This vast Himalayan region showcases the beauty of nature and devotion to deities. It has two main regions – Garhwal and Kumaon – that have the charm of mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes, glaciers, and several sacred temples. Tourists from all around the world visit Uttarakhand for skiing, its wildlife sanctuaries, river rafting, meditation and the Char Dham Yatra. Here are the top 10 must-visit places in Uttarakhand.
How to reach Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand has two domestic airports – Jolly Grant Airport near the state capital, Dehradun, and Pant Nagar Airport near Nainital. Jolly Grant airport is connected with Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. Pant Nagar airport connects only with Delhi.
Uttarakhand has a well-connected network of roadways, making it arguably the best way to travel through the state. Delhi and many Indian cities in and around the area can easily be reached by interstate buses or taxis.
Uttarakhand has around 12 major railway stations that connect Uttarakhand with other Indian cities. Uttarakhand, being a hilly state, does not have railway stations above 1,500 meters. You can only find railway stations in the foothills.
Best time to visit Uttarakhand
Most of the hill stations in Uttarakhand have snowfall in December, making it the best time to visit.
Places to Visit in Uttarakhand #1: Rishikesh
Rishikesh is among the best tourist places in Uttarakhand. It is popular for its serene temples and thrilling adventure sports such as river rafting, bungee jumping, zip-lining, trekking, giant swing and rock climbing. Set against the scenic Himalayas, Rishikesh has the holy Ganga. Tourists come here for spiritual pilgrimage and wellness, since it is famous as the world capital of yoga and meditation. The twin bridges – Ram and Lakshman Jhula – are architectural achievements as these bridges are suspended at 750 ft over the Ganges. The holy Ganges is worshipped at various ghats in Rishikesh. The Ganga Aarti at Parmarth Niketan and Triveni Ghat is an experience to cherish. Hundreds of lit-up diyas float across the sacred river to illuminate the area and the sounds of bells and chants make it a blissful spiritual experience.
See also: Top 10 places to visit in Rishikesh
How to reach Rishikesh
By air: Jolly Grant airport, Dehradun, is the nearest airport to Rishikesh, which is around 35 km from the city.
By road: Rishikesh is well connected to major roads and national highways and can be easily reached from all parts of the country.
By rail: Rishikesh has a railway station that is not connected to major Indian cities apart from Haridwar. Therefore, the nearest major station is Haridwar, which is well-connected with other cities.
Uttarakhand tourist places to visit #2: Dehradun
Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand, is situated in the Himalayan foothills and is one of the tourist places to visit in Uttarakhand. The natural beauty of Dehradun and the tranquil pace of life help tourists relax. Dehradun tourist places that one can explore, include caves, waterfalls and natural springs. Sharadha, which means ‘thousand-fold spring’, is a popular attraction. It is famous for its therapeutic and medicinal properties, as the water contains sulphur. The ropeway near Sahastradhara transports visitors to a high point to enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding area. Other tourist attractions in Dehradun include Robber’s Cave, Malsi Deer Park, Rajaji National Park and the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE). Dehradun also has beautiful and ancient religious centres. The Laxman Siddh Temple, the Tapkeshwar Mahadev Temple, the Santala Devi Temple and Tapovan are famous temples of Dehradun. The Mindrolling Monastery has a history of over 300 years. It is one of the most important Buddhist landmarks in India and has the tallest stupa in Asia. The monastery is 9 km from the city centre in Clement Town.
Monastery timings: 9:00 am to 7:00 pm (all 7 days)
Entry fee: Free
How to reach Dehradun
By air: Jolly Grant Airport is situated 20 km from Dehradun city centre. There are daily flights to Delhi. The nearest international airport is situated at about 235 km from Delhi.
By road: Dehradun is well-connected to other cities via NH 72. Normal, as well as deluxe buses are easily available from ISBT Kashmiri Gate, Delhi, to Dehradun.
By rail: Dehradun Railway Station has train services from all major cities of the country.
Best places to visit in Uttarakhand #3: Nainital
The scenic hill station of Nainital is one of the best places to visit in Uttarakhand. Aptly called the Lake District of India, it is surrounded by several lakes. There are huge snow-capped peaks all around the hill station that is 7,000 ft above sea level. Naini or Nainital is a natural fresh lake in the centre of Nainital. This eye-shaped lake is one of the most famous lakes in the Kumaon region. It is an ideal spot for boating, picnic and evening walk. The Nainital Lake is an enchanting place surrounded by seven peaks. Take a boat ride to see the lofty mountains, especially the lovely sunset over the mountains. Offer prayers at the Naina Devi Temple, surrounded by lofty Himalayan mountains. It is one of the most sacred and popular Shakti Peethas in India, dedicated to Goddess Naina. Among the other places to visit in Nainital, is the Nainital Zoo, also called Bharat Ratna Pt. Govind Ballabh Pant High Altitude Zoo, is the only zoo in Uttarakhand. At an elevation of 2,100 m above sea level, it has various animals that live only at a high altitude like Siberian Tiger, Serao, Goat Antelope and Snow Leopard. The zoo is located at a distance of 1.8 km from the Nainital bus stand at Sher Ka Danda hilltop.
Timings: 10:30 am to 4:30 pm (every day except Monday)
Entry fees: Rs 50 (adults, between 13 – 60 years), Rs 20 (children, between 5 – 12 years)
How to reach Nainital
By air: Pant Nagar Airport, 55km away, is the nearest domestic airport to Nainital. The airport is well connected to New Delhi and Mumbai. Dehradun airport is 283 km away from Nainital.
By rail: The nearest railway station, Kathgodam railway station, is 23 km away from Nainital. Many direct trains run daily from New Delhi, Kolkata, Agra and Lucknow.
By road: Nainital is well-connected by roads with major destinations in northern India. Nainital is connected to National Highway No. 87. Regular buses run from Delhi, Agra, Dehradun, Haridwar, Lucknow, Kanpur and Bareilly. Luxury coaches are available from Delhi. Private taxis and overnight buses are easily available from Delhi to Nainital.
Uttarakhand famous places #4: Jim Corbett
Jim Corbett Park is one of the most famous tourist places in Uttarakhand. The oldest national park in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand is known for the endangered Bengal tiger. Corbett National Park is part of the Corbett Tiger Reserve. Famous for its wildlife safaris, the Park has more than 650 species of birds. Other predator species include leopards, jungle cats, fishing cats, leopards, elephants, water buffalo, barking deer, sambar deer, chital, black bears and mongoose. Corbett National Park is divided into five zones. Visitors can get close to the animals in the park’s core section, demarcated as a buffer zone or core area.
Timings: Dhikala and Bijrani zones are closed from June to October/November. Dhela and Jhirna zones remain open the entire year. However, Jim Corbett National Park is prone to flooding during the monsoons.
Safari Timings: 07:00 am to 10:00 am and 02:00 pm to 05:30 pm (timings are subject to change)
Entry fees: Rs 200 (Indians)
Jeep safaris: Rs 5000 (Jeep; maximum 6 people and 2 children (5 to 12 years))
It is advisable to book the Jungle safari in advance.
How to reach Corbett
By air: Pant Nagar Airport is the nearest domestic airport, which is around 80 km from Corbett. Indira Gandhi International Airport (Delhi) is the nearest international airport, roughly a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Corbett.
By rail: The nearest station is Ramnagar Railway Station, located around 12 km. Several trains connect Ramnagar with Delhi and other cities and towns of north India. Ranikhet Express, a direct train that runs from Delhi to Ramnagar, is the best train to reach Corbett from Delhi. Local taxis are available outside the station, to get to hotels and parks.
Corbett is 12 km from Ramnagar and 227 km from Dehradun. It is linked through the Uttarakhand State Road Transport Corporation (USRTC) and some private travel services.
Uttarakhand tourism places #5: Ranikhet
Ranikhet, the best tourist place in Uttarakhand, is in the Almora district of Uttarakhand at an elevation of 1,829 m above sea level. Ranikhet is a tiny hamlet in the Himalayan rgion, with colonial architecture. Beautiful British era stone buildings add charm to the little town, making it one of the most beautiful places in Uttarakhand. Ranikhet, which means the Queen’s Land, is an all-season tourist place ideal for nature lovers. It has beautiful gardens interspersed with apple orchards, apricots and pine trees. It also has dense forests and cascading waterfalls. Ranikhet is popular for its view of the Nanda Devi Peak, trekking ranges and mountainous climbs. Ranikhet is also the Headquarters of the Kumaon Regiment of the Indian Army and has the Kumaon Regimental Centre Museum. The best places to visit in Ranikhet are Bhalu Dam, Haidakhan Babaji Temple, Jhoola Devi Ram Mandir, Golf Ground and Mankameshwar. Tour the British-era buildings or visit the beautiful temples in and around Ranikhet.
How to reach Ranikhet
By air: Pant Nagar Airport is the nearest airport.
By rail: Kathgodam is the nearest railway station.
By road: Ranikhet is well connected by motorable roads with major cities of Uttarakhand and northern India. The distance between Delhi and Ranikhet is around 350 km and takes almost 10 hours. The distance from Nainital to Ranikhet is around 60 km.
Best tourist places in Uttarakhand #6: Mussoorie
Mussoorie is another Uttarakhand tourist place that attracts tourists in large numbers. Mussoorie derives its name from the word Mansoor, which refers to a shrub which is found here in large quantities. Located amid the Garhwal Himalayan ranges, Mussoorie enjoys pleasant weather all year round. Home to hills, lakes and temples, Mussoorie in Uttarakhand is one of the best honeymoon places in India. It has spell-binding views of snow-capped mountains and lush green valleys. There are ample things to do in Mussoorie, from scenic walks and trekking to visiting misty lakes and majestic waterfalls. Must-visit Mussoorie tourist places are Kempty Falls, Camel’s Back Road, Lal Tibba and Company Garden. Gun Hill is one of the highest peaks in Mussoorie and can be accessed by a cable car from The Mall. Situated at a height of over 2,024 metres, it is surrounded by the snow-covered peaks of the Himalayas. Mussoorie Mall Road is famous for picturesque viewpoints with stunning views of the Doon Valley. Drive up to Landour hill station to rejuvenate amidst serene nature. You could also bump into Ruskin Bond.
How to reach Mussoorie
By air: Dehradun’s Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest.
By rail: Dehradun railway station serves this hill station.
By road: State government and private buses connect Mussoorie with major states like UP and Delhi.
Most beautiful place in Uttarakhand #7: Auli
Hailed as one of the best ski destinations in India, Auli is one of the most beautiful places in Uttarakhand. It has scenic places like Chattrakund Lake, Nanda Devi National Park and Jyotimath. Auli is renowned for natural vistas and enchanting coniferous forests. This Himalayan hill station and ski resort is a popular tourist place in Uttarakhand surrounded by oak trees. Auli, the picturesque hamlet, is a great honeymoon destination with a panoramic view of the Himalayan ranges. It attracts skiing enthusiasts from all over the world. The state-of-the-art amenities and a world-class ski resort add to the charm of Auli. The cable car in Auli, covering 4 kms, is the second-highest and the longest in Asia after Gulmarg. The journey starts at Joshi Math and ends at Auli. Although a man-made wonder, the Auli Artificial Lake is worth visiting in winter.
See also: 15 breathtaking places to visit in Auli
How to reach Auli
By air: Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun is the nearest airport.
By rail: Rishikesh is the nearest station.
By road: Bus and taxi services are available from all major cities to Auli. From Dehradun, it is most convenient to travel by taxi or bus to Joshi Math and then take the ropeway or road to Auli.
Best places in Uttarakhand #8: Haridwar
Haridwar is one of the places to visit in Uttarakhand for pilgrimage and sightseeing. Known as one of the holiest cities in India, Haridwar is home to several temples and ashrams. Translated as the ‘Gateway to the Lord’, Haridwar is famous for the Kumbh Mela. Apart from different temples, Haridwar has a renowned 13th-century dargah. Har ki Pauri ghat is a must-visit place. It is believed that the ghat was made by King Vikramaditya in memory of his brother. Attend the evening aartis in Haridwar, which is a divine sight. The Brahmakund is known to have one of the most amazing aartis. The Chilla Wildlife Sanctuary, part of the Rajaji National Park, is a popular destination for nature and adventure lovers. The scenic beauty and rich biodiversity attract wildlife lovers from India and abroad to enjoy 23 species of mammals and about 315 avifauna specimens. The major wildlife species here include elephants, tigers, leopards and bears.
Timings: 06:00 am to 10:00 am and 02:00 pm to 06:00 pm. The park is closed during monsoon.
Entry fees: Rs. 150 per person for a 3-hour Jungle Safari
How to reach Haridwar
By air: Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest airport.
By rail: Haridwar Junction is well-connected through rail with major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Dehradun, Ahmedabad and Patna.
By road: Haridwar is well-connected with other major north Indian destinations like Delhi, UP, Haryana and Punjab along with other parts of Uttarakhand. Bus services are frequent and economical. One can also drive to Haridwar or hire a taxi. A/C, non-A/C and deluxe buses connect Haridwar with major Indian cities and tourist spots.
Places to visit in Uttarakhand #9: Badrinath
Badrinath is a popular pilgrimage centre and tourism place in Uttarakhand. Badrinath is located at an average elevation of 3,100 metres above sea level and situated on the banks of River Alaknanda. It is one of the Char Dhams in India. The town also has several trek routes and is famous for mountain expeditions. Badrinath Temple is the main attraction. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is an important part of the Char Dham and the Chota Char Dham Hindu pilgrimage. The temple is also one of the 108 temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu by the Tamil saints known as the ‘Divya Desams’. The hot springs near the Badrinath temple complex are revered for their religious and medicinal values. There are three main hot springs – Tapt Kund, Suraj Kund and Narad Kund. The hot sulphurous water rises in temperature as the day progresses and a bath in the waters is believed to cure skin ailments.
The temple opens every year in April-May and closes for winter in the third week of November. Thus, prayers to the Badri Vishal continue at the Narsimha temple in Joshimath.
Timings: 04:00 am to 12:00 pm and 03:00 pm to 09:00 pm
Entry fees: Free entry
How to reach Badrinath
By air: Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest airport. Board a flight from Delhi for Dehradun and travel by road or helicopter to Badrinath. From the Sahastradhara helipad, you can also board a helicopter to Badrinath Dham.
By rail: Rishikesh is the nearest railway station. Rishikesh railway station is situated on NH58 and is well connected by the Indian railway network with major destinations in India.
By road: Badrinath is connected with major cities of Uttarakhand by a motorable road. Regular buses from Dehradun, Rishikesh and Haridwar are also convenient ways to reach Badrinath.
Places to visit in Uttarakhand #10: Kedarnath
Kedarnath, located in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand, is a small town located in the Garhwal Himalayan ranges. It is considered one of the holiest pilgrimage places for Hindus. It is home to the famous Kedarnath temple which is part of the Chota Char Dham Yatra. Situated near the sacred River Mandakini at an elevation of 3584 m, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Kedarnath temple houses one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva in India. It is believed that the temple was built by the Pandavas, to absolve themselves from the sin of the killings they committed during the war. Behind the Kedarnath temple stands the Kedarnath peak, Kedar Dome and other Himalayan peaks. The second highest lake in the world, Gauri Kund is worth visiting. It is considered to be the place where Goddesses Parvati performed penance to please Lord Shiva and the place where Lord Ganesha was created by Parvati Devi, after taking a bath in this lake. This place is also the base camp for people trekking to Kedarnath temple.
Kedarnath Temple Timings: Open daily from April to November. The temple remains closed from 03:00 pm to 05:00 pm.
Entry fees: Free entry
How to reach Kedarnath
By air: Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest airport. Helicopter services to Kedarnath are available from helipads between 06:30 am and 11:10 am. Pilgrims can use an online booking facility for pre-booking the aviation service. The helipad is in Sersi village, which is 22 km from Guptkashi and 7 km after Phata village.
By rail: Rishikesh Railway station is the nearest railhead. This railway station is well connected with major cities and towns of the country.
By road: Gauri Kund is the nearest motorable area. There are inter and intrastate bus services that connect the vicinity with Chamoli, Srinagar, Tehri, Pauri, Rishikesh, Dehradun, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Uttarkashi and Haridwar.
How to reach the Phata helipad?
Gauri Kund is only 18 km from Phata. One can hire a taxi or take sharing jeep or bus from Rudraprayag.
What are some of the best things for a tourist to do in Uttarakhand?
Uttarakhand offers various activities as per the tourist’s interest. Ganga Aarti in Haridwar, bungee jumping and river rafting in Rishikesh, Jungle safari in Jim Corbett, boating in Nainital, skiing in Auli and exploring cave gardens are some of the experiences to enjoy in Uttarakhand.
What is the must-have food in Uttarakhand?
The cuisine of Uttarakhand is divided into two distinct regions – Kumaon and Garhwal. Rabri (made with Jhongora Shyama ka chawal, buttermilk and radish leaves), Khadi or jhwāi (made with curd or buttermilk) and Arsa (made with rice and jaggery) should not be missed. Also, try Kafuli, a famous food of Uttarakhand prepared from spinach and fenugreek leaves. Aloo Ke Gutke is another delicacy made of potatoes and spices and eaten with puris. Bhang ki chutney is a part of Uttarakhand cuisine.
How many Dhams are there in Uttarakhand and is registration compulsory for the Yatra?
Char Dham of Uttarakhand or Chota Char Dham (small four abodes) is one of the most important Hindu pilgrimages in India. Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri together form the Char Dham. It is believed to wash away all sins and ensure freedom from the cycle of birth and death. Char Dham registration was made mandatory in 2014. It is a compulsory document for visiting Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri temples or Hemkund Sahib. All registered devotees are issued biometric cards that allow pilgrims to avail of special facilities. Visit the official website of Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board (UCDDMB) for registration.