Munsiari, located not far away from Indo Tibet border in the northern part of Pithoragarh District, was a restricted area until 1992. One had to acquire Inner Line Permit to visit this region and hence not many people had the opportunity to experience its unspoiled beauty. Now that all kinds of restrictions have been lifted the place has become one of the most popular tourist destinations of the state. Many people come here just to gaze at the mountain ranges, which literally surround the town; others are here to seek adventure. Nonetheless, all of them admit that few places on this earth have such a pristine beauty.
Mountain Ranges near Munsiar
Birthi Falls on way to Munsiari
Birthi Fall is a 126 meter high water fall located 35 km before Munsiari. A short walk along a cemented pathway from the main road takes you closer to the fall. The scenery around it is so very colorful that many are tempted to have a picnic there. You may also find mountain goats grazing nearby. If you intend to spend the day there, there is a KMVN Hotel located nearby.
Kalimuni Top on way to MunsiariKalimuni Top is another place to visit on your way to Munsiari. It is located 15 kilometers from the town at an altitude of 9500 feet. The view of Panchchuli Mountains from this place is truly awe inspiring. There is also a Kali temple here.
Thamari Tal near Munsiari
Thamari Tal, a mountain lake surrounded by Paper trees, is another place to visit. However, to reach it you need to trek for three kilometers and that is why many skip it on the way to Munsiari and come some other day. The starting point of the trek is around ten kilometers before Munsiari and is marked by an imposing gate. The trek takes you through a very picturesque trail. If you are lucky you may spot musk deer near this lake.
Forest and Bugiyals in MunsiyariThe area around the town is covered with Alpine forests of rhododendron, oak and deodar. These are intercepted by high altitude meadows known as Bugiyals. Munsiari Bugiyal, located to the east of the town, is one of them. It offers an amazing view of the Panchchuli peaks as well as the Johar Valley. The route to Milan Glacier can also be seen from here.
These forests and bugiyals are inhabited by different species of birds such as wagtails, monals, ravens, Himalayan griffons, falcons, serpent eagles etc. If you are interested in Himalayan birds, this is an added advantage for you.
Tribal Heritage Museum in Munsiayri
Those who are interested in tribal culture will also find Munsiyari an interesting place to visit. The land was once home to the nomadic ancient Shauka tribes, who traveled from Tibet to the Gangetic plains with their flock of pack animals trading in various materials such as rock salt, wool, borax, turquoise, silk, spices etc. Although they have now given up their nomadic life and have established themselves in different fields they have been able to retain their age old culture. The Tribal Heritage Museum, located at Nansen, enables us to have firsthand knowledge about the ancient traditions and customs of this tribe.
The museum houses an excellent compilation of various articles collected by Dr. Sher Singh Pangtey. He was a school teacher and an authority on Shauka culture. He had travelled extensively and all the artifacts in this museum are his private collection. He is fondly called Masterji by the locals and his museum is referred as Masterji’s Museum. It is located in his home in Nansen.
Masterji’s private collections encompass all most all aspects of tribal life. Coins and route maps, clothing and jewelry, utensils and other personal affects used by the Shaukas have been painstakingly collected by Mr. Pangtey and put on display in this museum. On top of that, one can also see the original documents that allowed the Shaukas to do business in Tibet. If you are interested in fairs and festivals of Uttarakhand you may buy CDs and photographs from here.
Darkot near Munsiyari
If are further interested in tribal life, Darkot is another place to visit. It is located on Munsiari Madkot Road at a distance of around 5 km from the town. Here you will see hundred years’ old Shauka houses with intricately carved doors and windows. You will also see weavers weaving traditional shawls with Angora and Pashmina wool. Handmade sheep wool blankets and carpets are also very popular here and therefore, if you are in mood for some shopping you may look for them.
Maheshwari Kund near Munsiari
Maheshwari Kund is another mountain lake located close to Munsiyari and can be reached by a short trek. The lake is closely related to a local folklore. It is said that long ago the Kund was the abode of a Yaksha. He fell in love with the daughter of the Serpanch. This angered the girl’s father and he had it dried up. The angry Yaksha cursed the tribe resulting in a severe draught. The villagers then went up to the Yaksha and apologized to him. Even to this day, this ritual of apologizing to the Yaksha is carried on by locals.
Nanda Devi Temple near MunsiaryNanda Devi is the patron deity of the area. Her temple is located at a distance of 3 km from the town and plays an important part in local culture. The structure follows hill architecture and effuses with peace and tranquility.
Balati Potato Farm near MunsiyariIf you are done with the past, a visit to the Balti Potato Farm (altitude 9000 ft) will enable you to peep into the life of modern day Shaukas. However, for that you will have to walk down from the road. It is located in a valley, surrounded by lush green forests. Once in the farm, you can move around, admiring the scenery around, talking to the farm workers, watching them at work. The place also offers one of the good views of the Panchchuli.
Betuli Dhar near Munsiari
Betulidhar is a high altitude alpine meadow and is famous for its rhododendron forest. If you go there during the flowering season you will find the place ablaze with colors. However, in winter it presents an entirely different picture. It then becomes entirely covered with snow. Since its slopes are ideal for skiing many people come here for that.
Khalyia Top near Munsiayari
Khaliya Top is another high altitude meadow with gentle slope. It is located at the end of 7 km easy trek. The place is ideal for Skiing in winter. Moreover, it offers a spectacular view of mountain ranges. From here one can see many towering peak such as Panchchuli, Hardeol, Rajrambha, Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot etc. Many people also go there in summer time to enjoy such view.
Trekking from MunsiariThe town has many trekking trails starting from it. In fact, many of above mentioned places require you go on foot. However, such trails are short and easy. Therefore, anybody with average physical condition can undertake them. However, some trekking trails are long and take more than a week to complete. Milan Glacier trek, Ralam Glacier Trek, Nanda Devi East Base Camp trek etc are some of them. Although they may require little more stamina and expertise, they offer a very satisfying experience.
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