sWAMI Vivekaananda Ashram in Shyamlatal is a scenic spot in Champawat, Uttarakhand

Most Scenic Spots In Champawat, Uttarakhand

The land of rivers and forests, this verdant district is famous as the hunting ground of Champwat Tiger. But I found my slice of heaven in the offbeat spots that make up this Kumaon region

Dotted with temples, Champawat district has beckoned solitude seekers and spiritual masters such as Swami Vivekananda. It falls under the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. For the uninitiated, the northern state can be broadly divided into Garhwal and Kumaon regions.

I have travelled across the Garhwal region many times, comprising Chamoli, Dehradun, (Mussoorie, Landour), Pauri Garhwal, Haridwar, Rudraprayag, Tehri Garhwal and Uttarkashi. But it’s in the offbeat Kumaon that I found paradise. This comprises Almora, Bageshwar, Champawat, Nainital, Pithoragarh and Udham Singh Nagar.

Road to Tanakpur

From Delhi, taking National Highway 24, we reach Tanakpur in about seven hours. It is a good highway with plenty of dhabas; our breakfast is at Shiva Dhaba run by Mama Yadav—decent food and clean toilets.

We don’t know Tanakpur and it comes as an emerald surprise. Lined with sal and sagoon trees, the green fragrance envelops us as we open the windows to let in the fresh air. Tanakpur is a municipal board in Champawat district of Uttarakhand with a population of around 1,50,000.

Tanakpur is famous for being the gateway to the Purnagiri Temple, an adishakti peeth, and gateway to the ‘Kumaon Himalayas’. It is also the route for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. It is also the business hub of Kumaon region, located on the banks of Sharda river, forming the Indo-Nepal border. It is the last flat plain before one enters the mountainous terrain of Kumaon and the unique topography makes it an ideal green retreat.

Sharda Ghat, Tanakpur

Sharda River forms the Indo-Nepal border, Tanakpur, Uttarakhand
Sharda River forms the Indo-Nepal border, Tanakpur, Uttarakhand

Rivers have been venerated across civilisations, and Sharda River is no different. The clear waters and blue skies against the mountainous backdrop make this a picture perfect spot. A small temple is dedicated to Sharda, the goddess of learning, on the ghat. Ghats are small concrete structures with steps leading to the river bank. Pilgrims normally perform many rituals here.

The river is also known as Kali and Mahakali, ‘Kali Ganga’ among the locals. While I walk around trying to find my perfect place to bask in the sun, I watch the water birds skittle to and fro. Brave youths inflate big tubes and sail over the waves. The softly flowing river weaves a magical spell.

Indo-Nepal Border, Tanakpur

Walk over the Tanakpur Barrage to go to Nepal from Tanakpur, Uttarakhand
Walk over the Tanakpur Barrage to go to Nepal from Tanakpur, Uttarakhand

The barrage road under NHPC on the outskirts is enthralling. This small bridge connects India with Nepal. During the day, you can rent a motorcycle or scooty and ride across the barrage. Around sunset, you are allowed to take a walk on the bridge. Indians don’t need a visa or passport, they can just show their Aadhar card.

Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary

Nandhaur river inside Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary, Tanakpur, Uttarakhand
Nandhaur river inside Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary, Tanakpur, Uttarakhand

The thickly forested sanctuary between Haldwani and Champawat is spread over 270 sq km. This is the third tiger reserve in Uttarakhand after Corbett and Rajaji National Parks and it was declared a sanctuary in 2012. The safari track going through the dense Sal trees and over the perennial Nandhaur river bed is an adventure seeker’s delight. It needs some good off-roading skills to steer through the core of the forest. Alive with bird calls and many species of trees and herbal plants, the forest is home to the tiger, Asian elephant, leopard, small Indian civet, jackal, wild boar, flying foxes and sloth bears and more animals. There are over 200 species of birds such as the rare great pied hornbill, grey and red jungle fowls, partridges, brahminy ducks, darters, rosy pelicans, pin tails, storks, the great Indian horned owl, mallards and herons. Butterflies cross your path often here, as do monkeys. There is a temple within the forest and also a lodge run by the forest department.

At dusk, we did see a herd of elephants enjoying their mud bath before heading off to sleep. A scared Sambhar deer also crossed our path on the way out. Fireflies float around in the dark and the green trees look like tall monsters during the night here. Best to take the morning safari.

More Attractions in Tanakpur

The road to Purnagiri Temple is a wildlife corridor and we did almost run over a jackal here. Leopards and elephants cross the area often, the villagers say.

The beautiful forest road also has the Boom temple, which is under a trust and the founder is Guru Maa. No one talks about her. You are not allowed inside the main sanctum unless wearing a dhoti and only designated priests can perform puja here. It does house a charitable skin clinic.

You can go for rafting, hiking, angling, paragliding.

Road to Champawat

Champawat town is the district’s administrative headquarters. It is a 60 km drive from Tanakpur, takes about two and a half hours. The mountainous road takes us through Shyamlatal, where a beautiful lake is located. This is approximately 25 km from Tanakpur.

The city is named after the Champawati stream that flowed through it. It was the capital of the Chand dynasty (700 CE–1790 CE). Legend says that the Kurmavtar, tortoise incarnation of Lord Vishnu, took place in Champawat.

As per Vayu Purana, Champavati was the capital of the nine kings of Puri Naga Dynasty. Champawati, the sister of the kings, prayed to Lord Shiva here and a temple is dedicated to her within the Baleshwar Mahadev Temple.

Swami Vivekananda Ashram, Shyamlatal

This natural lake is spreadover 1.5 sq km in the mountains of Uttarakhand

Shyam means dark and Tal means lake. The lake gets its name from the blackish mud. This natural lake, located in a beautiful hamlet, is surrounded by hills. Sunsets here are a surreal experience.

A narrow drive leads to the idyllic Swami Vivekananda Ashram. Swami Virajanandaji Maharaj, one of the four disciples of Swami Vivekananda, chose this spot for his intense sadhana. The ascetic joined the Baranagar Monastery in1891 and got mantra diskha in 1893. In 1897, he was ordained into sanyasa by Swami Vivekananda. He compiled many books here.

Swami Vivekananda Ashram in Shyamlatal, Uttarakhand is over 100 years old
Swami Vivekananda Ashram in Shyamlatal, Uttarakhand, is over 100 years old

The ashram constitutes an important part of the village’s daily life. The children are given self development lessons here after school. A dispensary also runs on the premises. You can book a room to stay and volunteer in the daily activities or take a spiritual retreat. It primarily relies on donations for meeting the expenses.

Tea Garden, Champawat

The tea garden in Champawat, Uttarakhand, is run by the Uttarakhand Tea Board
The tea garden in Champawat, Uttarakhand, is run by the Uttarakhand Tea Board

Once again, driving up the curvy roads, we reach the tea gardens run by the government. Spread over 21 acres, these lush gardens stimulate the five senses. The breeze, the silence and the beautiful birds make this a cool tranquil spot. As far as the eye can see, there are green trees swaying in the breeze. The soothing chatter of whistling thrushes, mynas, sparrows and magpies is music for the soul.

Ancient Naula, Champawat

This ancient naula is a revered fresh water source in Champawat, Uttarakhand
This ancient naula is a revered fresh water source in Champawat, Uttarakhand

This is a natural fresh water spring at the entrance of the Baleshwar Temple. A sacred source, this water is used for the worship at the famous Shiva temple.

Baleshwar Temple, Champawat

The Baleshwar Temple in Champawat was built by the Chand Dynasty and is among the oldest Hindu temples in Uttarakhand
The Baleshwar Temple in Champawat was built by the Chand Dynasty and is among the oldest Hindu temples in Uttarakhand

The stone sculptures at this temple leave one awestruck. Beautiful ancient symbols of love, deities, elephants and more nature related motifs, the temple was built by the Chand dynasty. The construction began in 1390 AD by Garud Gyan Chand and the subsequent rulers went on adding and repairing.

The main sanctum is dedicated to Lord Shiva, also known as Baleshwar. There are two more temples in the compound, one dedicated to Ratneshwar and other to Champawati Durga. Surrounded by homes and trees laden with lemons and oranges, this temple carries us back to an era lost in time.

Kotwali Chabutra, Champawat

It is believed thatthe Chand rulers used Kotwali Chabutra platform to deliver justice, Champawat, Uttarakhand
It is believed that the Chand rulers used this platform to deliver justice, Champawat, Uttarakhand

Said to be the area of justice, this platform too was made by the Chand Dynasty. The walls of the platform have stone carvings similar to the Baleshwar temple. It is believed that there was a chatri on top, with three remaining pillars being the evidence.

More Attractions in Champawat

Other ancient temples are Kranteshwar, Tadkeshwar, Rishneshwar, Dikteshwar, Mallareshwar and Maneshwar.

You can find a lot of fast food in the local market at Champawat. A small dhaba also offers local Kumaoni fare such as gehad ki dal, kadi and tandoori roti.

  • Trees laden with lemons, Champawat, Uttarakhand
  • Large colocasia in the Himalayas
  • Bal mithai is a traditional Indian sweet from Uttarakhand
  • This packet of corn snacks is for just Rs 5

There are also many shops selling native pulses and grains that you can take home such as rajmas, soya beans, hemp seeds. You can also take home big lemons, oranges, colocasia and the famous Indian sweet bal mithai. Forget the chips and enjoy some groundnuts as you walk around. Do check out the spices too. All the vendors are friendly and people are simple and honest.

A typical home in the mountains of Uttarakhand
A typical home in the mountains of Uttarakhand

Wooden homes are common and children enjoy their games of marbles in the open.

Best time to visit

September to March, if you like walking around. The days are pleasant and the nights cool. Stay up late and do some star gazing also.

Where to stay

Prateek Homestay is located on the forest road to Purnagiri temple and has spectacular mornings
Prateek Homestay is located on the forest road to Purnagiri temple and has spectacular sunrises and sunsets, with ample scope of star gazing

We stayed at Prateek Homestay in Tanakpur. There are government rest housess and hotels too.

How to reach Tanakpur

You can drive from Delhi. Or take the train to Tanakpur. From there, you can hire a cab and go to Champawat and other hill stations.

Ideal holiday time

One Week

24 thoughts on “Most Scenic Spots In Champawat, Uttarakhand

  1. It’s good to know there are clean toilets on the road to Tanakpur. I did a lot of road trip, so it’s something I look forward to after driving for hours. It looks like the tea garden is a beautiful addition after a long trip. Good for the eyes, mind, and your lungs. And I’m sure the stone sculptures in Baleshwar Temple look more beautiful in person.

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  2. What a beautiful place to visit! Honestly, my favorite — besides the temples — would probably be the wildlife refuge. It would be amazing to see a flying fox in person, and I can’t belive how many bird species they have. I’d say that binoculars are definitely a must when visiting. Champawat sounds like a great place to visit!

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  3. Yet to get to this part of India, and what I read here has triggered my travel pangs. The Baleshwar Temple in Champawat has some good sculptures as is evident from the pictures. Champawat has such a good mix of wildlife, nature, and history, an ideal holiday destination.

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    1. Delhi to Tanakpur is appox 355km and from there Champawat is another 60km. A drive to champawat would mean a full day. Ideal would be to take the train to Tanakpur and hire a taxi for Champawat

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  4. I haven’t been to the Champawat district yet, but I would love to visit it, especially as I am a huge fan of India and have visited this country three times so far. I would love to take a safari as I love wildlife. It’s great to know that the area’s nature is spectacular, and this is the third tiger reserve in Uttarakhand. I dream about seeing tigers in their natural habitat. So I add Tanakpur to my bucket list for my next visit. Also, I love architecture, so it’s great to visit all those impressive temples in the area.

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  5. I am sure the green and lovely fragrance was a wonderful way to be welcomed to Champawat. This tiger reserve would definitely be on our travel plans. I was amazed by the variety in the wildlife that can be seen. I can’t imagine how magical it would be to see elephants taking their mud bath. We would certainly plan on a stop at the tea gardens for a break and to enjoy the atmosphere. The temples in the area might be a draw but not the only attraction.

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  6. Although I too have visited most of Garhwal region there are only few destinations in Kumaon that we have touched. Champawat happens to be one of them. Being in love with the hills it was nice doing a virtual trip with you. Indian temples of old are always a masterpiece in themselves and getting to visit so many of them would be a pleasure. Probably would land up spending quite some time in Tadkeshwar, Dikteshwar, Mallareshwar, Rishneshwar, Kranteshwar and Maneshwar temples. The homestay option would be nice to look at.

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  7. Happy to know that there is so much to see and visit in Champawat. We’d love to visit the Baleshwar Temple and see those stone sculptures up close. The details are fascinating. We’ll take your word to visit from September and March. Thank you for sharing this.

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  8. I am in awe of the beauty of this Champawat, Uttarakhand! My favorite scene here may be the Sharda River, so expansive and peaceful with the view of the mountains. I would also love to visit the Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary. It would be amazing to see a tiger, but I’d just be happy to be in the beauty of this natural place, too.

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  9. I have been to Uttarakhand many times… But never visited this place as it is offbeat. Offbeat areas are indeed more scenic. The sculptures at the Baleshwar Temple in Chamsoundt are impressive, as evidenced by the photographs.

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  10. What a beauty man 😍no wonder why my friends often go on Uttarakhand trips. Thanks for letting me know about this place. I will go next time for sure. Peaceful ❤️

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