New Delhi-Delhi is a city where time travel is feasible. Step aboard your time machine (the sleek and efficient metro) and you can go from Old Delhi, where labourers haul sacks of spices and jewellers weigh gold on dusty scales, to modern New Delhi, with its colonial-era parliament buildings and penchant for high tea. Then on to the future: Gurgaon, a satellite city of skyscraping offices and glitzy malls.
Mussoorie-Perched on a ridge 2km high, the 'Queen of Hill Stations' vies with Nainital as Uttarakhand’s favourite holiday destination. When the mist clears, views of the green Doon Valley and the distant white-capped Himalayan peaks are superb, and in the hot months the cooler temperatures and fresh mountain air make a welcome break from the plains below.
Haridwar-Propitiously located at the point where the Ganges emerges from the Himalaya, Haridwar (also called Hardwar) is Uttarakhand’s holiest Hindu city, and pilgrims arrive here in droves to bathe in the fast-flowing Ganges. The sheer number of people gathering around Har-ki-Pairi Ghat give Haridwar a chaotic but reverent feel. Within the religious hierarchy of India, Haridwar is much more significant than Rishikesh, an hour further north, and every evening the river comes alive with flickering flames as floating offerings are released onto the Ganges. It's especially busy during the yatra (pilgrimage) season from May to October, in particular during July, when hundreds of thousands of Shiva devotees, known as Kanwarias, descend upon the city.
Nainital- Crowded around a deep, green volcanic lake, Nainital is Kumaon’s largest town and favourite hill resort. It occupies a steep forested valley around the namesake lake Naini and was founded by homesick Brits reminded of the Cumbrian Lake District.Plenty of hotels are set on the hillside around the lake. There’s a busy bazaar, and a spider’s web of walking tracks covers the forested slopes to viewpoints overlooking distant Himalayan peaks. For travellers it’s an easy place to kick back and relax, eat well, and ride horses or paddle on the lake.
Corbett park- World-renowned Corbett Tiger Reserve was established in 1936 as India’s first national park, and covers 1318 sq km of wild forests. It’s named for legendary British hunter Jim Corbett (1875–1955), who brought this region international fame with his book The Man-Eaters of Kumaon. Greatly revered by local people for killing tigers that preyed on people, Corbett eventually shot more wildlife with his camera than with his gun and became a prominent voice for conservation.
Rishikesh-Ever since the Beatles rocked up at the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late '60s, Rishikesh has been a magnet for spiritual seekers. Today it styles itself as the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’, with masses of ashrams and all kinds of yoga and meditation classes. Most of this action is north of the main town, where the exquisite setting on the fast-flowing Ganges, surrounded by forested hills, is conducive to meditation and mind expansion. In the evening, an almost supernatural breeze blows down the valley, setting temple bells ringing as sadhus ('holy' men), pilgrims and tourists prepare for the nightly ganga aarti (river worship ceremony). You can learn to play the sitar or tabla; try Hasya yoga (laughter therapy), practise meditation or take a punt on crystal healing.But Rishikesh is not all spirituality and contorted limbs; it's now a popular white-water rafting centre, backpacker hang-out and Himalayan-trekking gateway.
Kausani-Perched high on a forest-covered ridge, this tiny village has lovely panoramic views of distant snowcapped peaks, fresh air and a relaxed atmosphere. Mahatma Gandhi found Kausani an inspirational place to write his Bhagavad Gita treatise Anasakti Yogain 1929, and there is still an ashram devoted to him here. Baijnath village, 19km north, has an intriguing complex of 12th-century sikhara-style temples in a lovely location shaded by trees, with other shrines in the nearby old village.
Binsar-Beyond Kasar Devi, picturesque Binsar, 26km from Almora, was once the hilltop summer capital of the Chand rajas. Now it's a sanctuary protecting 45 sq km. You may spot a leopard or some barking deer, but many people come here for the 200-plus species of birds. On clear days, the Himalayan panorama is breathtaking – from the tower at 'Zero Point,' Binsar's summit (2420m), you can see Kedarnath, Trishul, Nanda Devi, Panchachuli and more. Hiking trails wend throughout the lush forest; their main nexus is the KMVN Rest House. There is one good map of Binsar put out by the Forest Department, with trails and topo lines, but this is very hard to find; it's not offered at the entry gate.
Almora-Set along a steep-sided ridge, Almora is the regional capital of Kumaon, first established as a summer capital by the Chand rajas of Kumaon in 1560. These days you'll find colonial-era buildings, reliable trekking outfits and a couple of community-based weaving enterprises. Don’t be put off by the utilitarian main street when you’re first deposited at the bus stand – head one block south to the pedestrian-only cobbled Lalal Bazaar, lined with intricately carved and painted traditional wooden shop facades. It’s a fascinating place to stroll, people-watch and shop. On clear days, you can see Himalayan snow peaks from various spots around town.
Auli-Rising above Joshimath, 14km by road – and only 4km by the gondola-style cable car – Auli is India’s premier ski resort. But you don’t have to visit in winter to enjoy the awesome views of Nanda Devi (India’s second-highest peak) from the top of the cable-car station.As a ski resort, Auli is hardly spectacular, with gentle 5km-long slopes, one 500m rope tow that runs beside the main slope, and an 800m chairlift that connects the upper and lower slopes. The snow is consistently good, though, and the setting is superb. The season runs from January to March, and equipment hire and instruction can be arranged here or in Joshimath.The state-of-the-art cable car, India’s longest, links Joshimath to the upper slopes above Auli.