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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Soul Of Kumaon – Sitlakhet

Sitlakhet in Almora district of Uttarakhand is not significantly noted on the tourist map and this is bliss for most travelers.

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Pradeep Chamaria
Pradeep Chamaria
I am a photojournalist. Love to travel to unknown and unexplored vistas. Since 1992, I make places desirable for other travelers through experiential Travel Writing.

INDIA. Sitlakhet, Uttrakhand: Last month I was on a scheduled trip to the Kumaon hills in Uttrakhand. The destination was a remote place called Sitlakhet in Almora district. It is not the kind of place that is significantly noted on the tourist map and that I guess this was bliss for me. This place goes off completely unnoticed as it is slightly off the route from Ranikhet.  There is a KMVN guest house here though.  

I, personally also like going to the unexplored or less frequented places now in the hills, as I found the tourist crowd thronging hills nowadays too disturbing.  So when my friends planned for this unexplored area in the Kumaon hills I immediately packed up and started out.

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Driving to Sitlkhet

As we drove to Sitlakhet from Kathgodam, the last railhead in Uttrakhand, it was a hilly road journey and jerky ride. Sitlakhet is about a 4-hour journey from Kathgodam, 30-45 minutes ahead of Ranikhet. When we reached, I found it to be a rather small place, only a few houses lining the road leading up to the KMVN guest-house located on a fabulous edge, offering a remarkable view of the town of Almora and the peaks beyond. We drove a little further on a kutcha road as our final destination, a campsite on the outskirts.

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We finally managed to reach the campsite by early evening. It was a little cold here, so after refreshing a little and a quick evening tea, I set out to explore the place around, which seemed incredibly immersed in tall trees. It was like one of those deep forests, asleep and dreamy, people moving around in slow, drawn-out, almost floating movements. I walked a bit, reached a small flat area, and sat down there to enjoy the gentle evening breeze. As the sun began to set, the sky took on a bright glow; the air took on a sharp chill and forced me to get back to the campsite.

I was trying to locate the snow line at the far horizon but because of the haze, nothing was visible. According to local people, Sitlakhet offers one of the most beautiful views of the Himalayas in Kumaon.  

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Activities at Sitlakhet

At Syahidevi Temple at Sitlakhet, Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria

The next day, after breakfast we set out for a trek to the famous Syahidevi temple which was about 3-4 km from the camping site. The trek was a very easy one, with gentle slopes at places and also steeper climbs. On our way, we knocked on a couple of doors to get some drinking water, got chased by fierce dogs, and rested several times in the fields. The landscape on the way to the village was awesome. We rested in the village for a while and then started on our journey back.

Young Girl at School at Sitlakhet, Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria

The whole place is abounding with fruit orchards.  The place is famous primarily for plums and apricots, and you find them everywhere in the forest – unguarded, unclaimed. One gentleman, an IT professional by profession, hailing from the area has started organic farming here since the last 6 years or so. At the farm, one can experience Rose farming and extraction of Rosewater and Rose oil, taste and buy some naturally grown pulses, spices, fruits n flowers.

Rose Petals for Rose Oil Extraction at Sitlakhet, Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria

I continued the evening and the next morning in similar treks around the area. And over the next two days, I indulged myself in the activities with the locals, walking then resting, and again walking and exploring.

Nature at its best

Mountain Lizard, Sitlakhet, Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria

At Sitlakhet I found wilderness in its prime. The place offers camping activities for adventure enthusiasts and a spectacular view of the mighty snow-covered Himalayas. With a tranquil setting and thick forests around, the camps offer complete relaxation of body and soul. All in all, it is an ideal short holiday getaway to escape the everyday grind and rediscover yourself and nature as an individual couple or simply have a great time as a family.

Mating Frogs at Sitlakhet, Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria

Visiting a campsite in the hills and not enjoying adventure activities. That’s not possible here. One can and should indulge in activities like rock climbing, rappelling, Zipline, trekking, etc. There are plenty of options available even if you prefer to be just by yourself and enjoy nature – like bird watching, wildlife, enjoying wild Himalayan flowers, etc.

Rock Climbing at Sitlakhet, Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria

I am sure, for anybody visiting Sitlakhetfor a short holiday it will definitely be very difficult to go back and he would surely want to extend his stay or would long to come back to the camp at the earliest. At least I would love to get back to the camp….

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