The Himalayan village of Munsiyari, at a driving distance of 650 km from Delhi, is the closest you can get to experience the mesmerizing Panchachuli Peaks. Stories and myths around Munsiyari have given a distinct mystic sense to this Himalayan village which was calling me since many years. So finally, we embarked upon an epic road trip which first took us to Dharchual on India-Nepal Boarder and then we followed a real road less travelled from Jauljibi via Madkote all along Gauri Ganga River to reach serendipitously serene Munsiyari.
At 2200 mt above mean sea level, Munsiyari is a quintessentially gorgeous and peaceful town that offer best view of the Panchachuli Ranges. The expanse of Panchachuli is visible from many places in Kumaon, however, here at Munsiyari, famed five peaks of Panchachuli stand tall right in front of you. As soon as we reached Munsiyari the entire scene of spread out panchachuli range was magical. It indeed was a dream land where we were inside a natural nest of beauty, chirping of birds were omnipresent, air was refreshing and green was the color of the land and panchachuli peaks had snow sprinkled over it. The virgin landscapes in each direction offer breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain ranges.
By now we have travelled enough in Kumaon to realize that legends and myths form an essential part of local culture & historical ethos, and Musinyari also has its share of legends. As per Hindu Mythology, Munsiyari was the exact point where Legendary Pandawa started their journey to their Heavenly Abode thus it has an important mythological importance for Hindus. Further, due to its strategic location in a remote corner of Kumaon bordering Tibet and Nepal, for centuries it was an important socio-economic trade-point on ancient Salt Route from Tibet and also known as the gateway to historically prosperous Jauhar Valley. People lost their livelihood after Sino-Indo war when one sudden morning Indo-Tibet border was sealed and trade stopped completely.
Highlights from Road Trip to Munsiyari
Road to Munsiyari from Jauljibi:
There are two roads to reach Munsiyari, first via Thal which is commonly taken by travellers and second is one via Jauljibi and Medkot along Gauri Ganga River which is hellishly adventurous. It runs right under mighty Himalaya and gives you a real kick of driving on a real-no-road. So, taking this no-tarmac road with my hatchback was indeed a tough decision which I had to take as my adrenaline senses were ruling over all other rightful senses. During this audacious road trip of 120 KM, we witnessed some of the truly virgin landscapes while driving right under great himalayan mountain ranges.
Roadtripping Tip: When planning an offbeat road trip in Himalaya most important aspect is to ensure you have your car ready for Himalayan Terrain. During this ultra offbeat road trip, we were running on CEAT Tyres and their performance really helped us in driving thru rugged roads along Gauri Ganga. So, ensure that you have best in class tyres so that your road trip across Himalaya is trouble free.
Imposing Panchachuli Ranges:
As soon as you reach Munsiyari, five distinguished peaks welcome you with open arms. Panchachuli is a group of five Himalayan peaks deriving its name from two Hindi words where Pancha means Five and Chuli means Chimney. As per Hindu Mythology, famed five brothers of Mahabharat The Pandava’s cooked their last meal on these peaks before proceeding to Heaven and hence the name Panchachuli. Best place to photograph Panchachuli is from Helipad near KMVN guest house and also one can go upto Nanda Devi Temple to have wholesome view of Panchachuli.
Golden Hour shots of Panchachuli:
Panchachuli Peaks like any other himalayan range looks gorgeous especially during morning golden hours. After checking-in at KMVN Guest house, the first thing that I enquired about was vantage point for golden hour photography and I was told to reach Helipad early in the morning. We woke up at 5:30AM next morning so that can have ample time to find location. However, when we reached the helipad at 5:45AM, we were surprised to see that all the vantage points are already occupied by more passionate photographers and hence we decided to make a move and find other vantage point as time was still there for sunrise. We started towards Thal and reached a place from where it was possible to capture decent photographs of Panchachuli. Although I could take some nice clicks but I realized there is no better place than the Helipad to capture Panchachuli at its best. So, to all dear fellow travellers my suggestion is to wake up real early so as to occupy right place at right time enabling you to capture sun rays kissing the Pachachuli.
Important places to visit in Munsiyari:
Munsiyari has many near by attractions such as ancient temple of Nanda Devi, splendid 400 ft high Birthi fall, and beautiful grassy meadows of Khaliya Top. Tribal Art Museum established by Masterji of Kumaon, Dr. Pangtey must be visited as it offers an opportunity to understand the History, Culture, Crafts, and Arts of Bhotiyas of Johar Valley. To appreciate the craftsmanship of Kumaon people visit Darkot village which is 6KM from Munsiyari and is famous for handcrafted Pashmina Shawl. There is a Cooperative shop also in Munsiyari which is managed by women of Munsiyari and houses hand woven Angora and Pashmina woolen items. At this shop you can also buy organic Rajma and local herbs.
Trekking routes from Munsiyari:
Munsiyari is a real paradise for Himalayan Trekkers as it serves as the base for trekking route to glaciers of Milam, Namik and Ralam. Also one start from here to reach Nandadevi east base camp. Milam is the sad reflection of negative impact of 1962 Sino-Indo war which had a devastating socio-economic effect on the livelihood of Bhotiyas of Milam. Still one can see deserted stone houses in Milam and around. At 3,800m, Milam probably has the dubious distinction of being the highest abandoned village in the world.
Munsiyari is a rising winter sport destination:
During winter, Munsiyari gets heavy snowfall and transforms into snow slop for skiing and winter sports. As a winter sport destination it is yet to catch up with likes of Auli or Gulmarg but soon it may become one. So, better to be there now and enjoy yet to be spoilt beauty of Munsiyari.
Where to stay in Munsiyari:
Munsiyari has all kind of options from Budget stay to Luxury stay. We stayed at KMVN and found it really good option. Luxury travellers may opt for Wayfarer Mountain Resort. There is one more option that is Zara Resort which offers awesome view of Panchachuli.
Reaching to Munsiyari is a sheers road tripper’s joy and then once there, immense natural beauty all around Munsiyari makes it a traveller’s paradise. In this quaint town of Munsiyari, there is no mall road, no crowded street with shops or restaurants which adds serene charm to this peaceful town. You can take an undisturbed long stroll enjoying simple Himlayan way of life along rhododendron laden curvy by-lanes. Perched at the edge of horizon, Munsiyari is far from anywhere and in the middle of nowhere yet offers everything to every travel thirsty soul. Go there and come back with your story.
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