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The Long Road to Munsiyari

After almost 16 hours of relentless driving, aching backs, passing by several villages and innumerable cups of chai later we had finally arrived in Munsiyari, a place we had been waiting for eons to go to. A deep sense of satisfaction and relief brimmed our hearts as we seated ourselves in our room overlooking the village of Munsiyari wrapped in a blanket of peace yet cheerful and vibrant. After almost 8 months of being home, a ceaseless yearning to return to the mountains itched us and this trip certainly put it to rest. As we unwinded in our room the view of this little hamlet set against the perfect backdrop of the snow-laden Panchachuli ranges overwhelmed us with its heartbreakingly mesmerising beauty.

Mesmerising view of the Panchachuli peaks from our hotel room

How To Reach

Travel during Covid-19 left us with limited options. We drove from our home to Munsiyari. From Greater Noida we took the Eastern Peripheral Expressway, crossing towns of Hapur, Moradabad, Rampur straight to Nainital. We took a small layover in Almora and then headed towards Berinag finally reaching Munsiyari. That makes a whooping 540 kms and 18 hours. Palpitating just thinking about it, seriously!

But you know what makes up for it? The drive winds through lively hillock settlements, tiny waterfalls and snow-crusted Panchachuli peaks that kept us company all along.

Where To Stay

There are not a lot of stay options in Munsiyari which is why probably the place still retains its culture and ethnicity. We stayed at Hotel Bala Paradise, to be honest only because it was the first decent hotel we spotted right after entering the village and had no intentions of exploring a good stay. We were hella tired. But the view our room offered ensured us of our good decision making. :D

Mesmerising view of the Panchachuli peaks from our hotel room

What To Do

Set at an elevation of 2,200m in the Pithoragarh district, and surrounded with beauty all around, Munsiyari is very picturesque. It’s a quaint village that also serves as a base for three famous glaciers – Ralam, Milam and Namik – so all ya adventure seekers can go trekking to these glaciers. Those who like ourselves just want to unwind can stroll around the village and soak up its beauty and vibe.

Munsiyari is also surrounded by many other small villages offering an equally fulfilling experience and a spectacular view. Some of the neighbouring villages that we visited were Sarmoli, Darkot and Madkot. A short trip outside the Munsiyari will expose you to the stunning scenery but rocky roads of villages like Nartoli, Tomik and many more. While we were around it was the wedding season in Munsiyari. Surprisingly we saw some villages that were completely ghosted because all the people living there had gone to attend a wedding. We crossed many wedding parties, saw locals gorging on feasts and having a gala time. Our hearts were filled with joy too.

Most of the villages are fairly small and have only a couple of homestays but boast mighty views of the mountain peaks, lush green step farms, warm hospitality and super friendly locals. On one such exploration to Sarmoli we met this utterly vibrant girl Guddi. She was quick to invite us to her tiny but alluring homestay for a cup of chai. When someone invites you for chai, you never say no. We happily followed her. We sat in her pretty little garden and instantly felt at home. 2 hours passed by and we still had so much to talk about. We weren’t in the mood for indulging in arduous travel or treks so we decided to spend our time traversing the whimsical villages on some days and adoring the glorious views of the snow-clad peaks straight across, the village below from our window. Most of our mornings and evenings were spent watching the sky play with beautiful shades of orange at sunrise and sunset.

Guddi happily posing for an impromptu selfie

Where To Eat

Don’t expect any fancy cafes or restaurants around here. There are small roadside dhabas popularly called as bhojanalaya there lined on the streets. What you can be assured of is oodles of home-cooked meals, incredibly delicious, local and seasonal food cooked with so much love. We tried the local rajma, lai (a kind of winter green), gahat dal, madua (ragi) roti with a side of bhaang (hemp) chutney. Stomachs full, hearts happy! What we also interesting observed was that all of these places were flooded with locals savouring these delicacies with a markedly evident love affair with mutton momos and chowmein. The people there eat a lot of fish, chicken, mutton and jaggery to stay warm in the biting winters.

You could also pluck fresh juicy oranges from trees with permission ofcourse

On our last day in Munsiyari, we peacefully sat in our room gazing at the pitch-dark sky dotted with shining stars, a bright full moon and we couldn’t help but gasp at the beauty that we were surrounded with. This little escapade to the minimalist living in Munsiyari was a much needed getaway we had been craving for long.

Have you been here before? We’d love to hear your experience in the comments below.

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