Mount Everest may be the Himalayas’ most famous export, but this quietly majestic mountain range is home to far more than death-defying climbs. The foothills in Uttarakhand, one of India’s northernmost states, hold several of the country’s most tranquil and spiritual spots. Pilgrimage town Rishikish, the birthplace of yoga, is a must-visit for meditation and a spot of quiet contemplation. For a truly magical experience, watch the Ganga Aarti ceremony in nearby Haridwar, during which tiny flickering lamps are floated down the river from the sacred bathing steps. In the mountains themselves, fresh breezes, invigorating hikes, and valley views from heaven are daily treats, and the wildlife safaris are unmissable for bird-watchers: more than 500 species gather in the nearby forests throughout the year.
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When to go
To avoid the summer heat, and for peak climbing conditions, visit between September and June – but bring jumpers for the winter months. July marks the start of the monsoon season, but if you don’t mind a few storms, the forests are at their most leafy.
PlanesThe closest airport, Jolly Grant in Dehradun, is around half an hour’s drive from Rishikesh. There are no direct flights from London to Dehradun, but Air India offers regular flights to Delhi, from which it’s another 45-minute flight to Jolly Grant (www.airindia.in).
TrainsHaridwar Railway Station is served by Indian Railways and there are trains to both Dehradun and Rishikesh, for those exploring more than one of the surrounding towns.
AutomobilesDriving in India is notoriously difficult, but if you think you’re up to the challenge, the drive to Rishikesh takes just under seven hours. Avis India has a range of cars available at their Delhi Airport outpost (www.avis.co.in). If you fly to Dehradun, rent a classic Ambassador – the first car ever to be manufactured in India – from local firm Dehradun Car Rentals.