Walking in the Indian Himalayas

Uttarakhand, Kumaon, India, travel, Himalayas, trekking, Kosi Valley Retreat, walk to the Himalayas, mountains

The Himalayan peaks of Kumaon, Uttarakhand, India.

Here’s how to access and enjoy the spectacular Himalayan region of India

CAN YOU IMAGINE walking and trekking among the Himalayas, the mightiest mountain range on earth? Fascinating and daunting, wreathed in religious mythology and mountaineering lore, the Himalayas are without a doubt one of the most spiritually exciting, wildly adventurous, spectacularly beautiful and deeply serene places on earth.

While mountaineers and the spiritually inclined have long been drawn to the Himalayas, you do not have to be an athlete or an ascetic to enjoy being among these mighty massifs. I was invited by Walk to the Himalayas (WTH) to stay at their Kosi Valley Retreat in Simkholi, in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, and experience adventure among the Himalayas. I found it exciting, vigorous, relaxing and accessible.

Uttarakhand, Kumaon, India, travel, Himalayas, trekking, Kosi Valley Retreat, walk to the Himalayas, mountains

Nanda Devi, highest peak in Kumaon, is on the right

Shivraj, the resident guide at Kosi Valley Retreat, picked me up at Kathgodam train station and escorted me to Simkholi. It was a long drive along twisting and narrow mountain roads, with sometimes a sheer drop only inches away. Up and up we went, into the foothills of the Himalayas, known here as the Sivaliks. Finally, around one curve, I saw the famous white peaks in the distance and had my first glimpse of Nanda Devi, known to be beautiful from any angle, like the goddess she is. This mountain is Kumaon’s highest peak, at 7,756 metres, and also one of the most mystical.

When we arrived at Kosi Valley Retreat (KVR), it was love at first sight. The website describes it as being surrounded by, “towering ancient trees, enchanting chorus of forest birds, mystical flowing river and dense forest.” And it is.

Uttarakhand, Kumaon, India, travel, Himalayas, trekking, Kosi Valley Retreat, walk to the Himalayas, mountains

Me at Kosi Valley Retreat

KVR is a lodge made of stone and wood, with stylish rooms, set on serene grounds in a pleasant valley. It is clean and comfortable, without being stiflingly luxurious. The food is delicious and healthy, the staff extremely friendly and helpful and best of all, it’s immersed in the peace and beauty of nature.


Uttarakhand, Kumaon, India, travel, Himalayas, trekking, Kosi Valley Retreat, walk to the Himalayas, mountains, birdActivities at Kosi Valley Retreat

  • Trekking
  • Mountain biking
  • Bird watching
  • Village walk
  • Bajinath Temple trek
  • Climbing the Burma Bridge

KVR is owned and run by Siddhartha and Latika of Walk to the Himalayas (WTH), an outdoor adventure company that specializes in trekking and outdoor adventure in the Himalayas. And that’s what makes a stay at Kosi Valley so special and rewarding. Not only are three meals a day included, but a wide variety of activities that introduce visitors to the beauty of the Himalayas.

Uttarakhand, Kumaon, India, travel, Himalayas, trekking, Kosi Valley Retreat, walk to the Himalayas, mountains

The “Golden Valley”

The Golden Valley

On my first morning at Kosi Valley Retreat, I woke up to the sound of birds and sat in the morning sun on my balcony overlooking the Kosi River and the forest until it was time for a jungle walk. With Shivraj, we walked through the forest and spotted two magpies, an owl, several eagles, three people from the village leading oxen over extremely narrow rocky ledges, a waterfall and some scorpion plants.

Shivraj explained that scorpion plants cause an intense feeling, like an electrical shock, and village people use them to treat muscle and joint pain. I touched one very lightly with my finger and it tingled in a peculiar way for many hours.

Uttarakhand, Kumaon, India, travel, Himalayas, trekking, Kosi Valley Retreat, walk to the Himalayas, mountainsBack at the lodge, I ate a hearty and healthy breakfast of rhododendron juice (a local specialty), masala omelette, poha (spiced, flattened rice) and fruit. Every meal at Kosi Valley was fresh, filling and delicious, sourced largely from local ingredients. Chef Himmat Singh is from a nearby Kumaon village and knows how to cook local specialties, like a distinctive dal (lentils) dish that is loaded with flavour.

Every day, Shivraj and I set out for adventures, and came back for delicious meals. I explored the local temples, walked along the banks of the river, climbed a mountain to watch the sunset, cycled the rolling road and went for a walk through the nearby villages. We were invited for tea at one village home by the woman of the house, and met a sprightly 85-year-old lady named Parvati.

Uttarakhand, Kumaon, India, travel, Himalayas, trekking, Kosi Valley Retreat, walk to the Himalayas, mountains

Women from the village. Parvati, right, is 85 years old.

Hill people in India are known for being honest, hard-working and friendly. Generally, people travel with a higher degree of trust and safety in the hills than anywhere else. The people I met in Simkholi and the nearby villages seem to fit this profile. They work hard and smile easily. In fact, I heard that handsome cricketer M.S. Dhoni is from Kumaon, and sure enough, I saw a lot of people who look a bit like him.

I loved this peaceful valley, alive with prosperous villages, friendly people, bountiful crops, a clean river, rolling mountains, chattering birds and crisp, fresh air. I began to think of it as a “Golden Valley,” almost idyllic, and astonishingly clean. In the valley, it reminded me of Ireland, and in the mountains, of Switzerland.

Uttarakhand, Kumaon, India, travel, Himalayas, trekking, Kosi Valley Retreat, walk to the Himalayas, mountains

Getting ready to watch the sunset from a mountaintop perch in the Himalayas

The mystique of the Himalayas

While at Kosi Valley Retreat, I felt my being open up to the atmosphere of Kumaon. I breathed the exhilarating, earthy scent of fresh mountain air, redolent of pine needles, distant snow, glacial streams. I listened to the sounds of Himalayan birds and the Kosi River as it tumbled over rocks and boulders. I felt the peaceful vibrations and basked in the serenity of the natural environment. I walked among the hills, forests, fields and villages. It was a blissful week and I felt completely refreshed by the end of it.

There is crystal clarity to the air and a mystical quality to the atmosphere of the Himalayas that is uplifting and peaceful at the same time. No wonder so many sages, babas, yogis and sadhus have been drawn here. In fact, this region is known as the Dev Bhoomi, land of the gods. The region is also extremely bio-diverse, rich in flora and fauna, with many pristine forested areas filled with birds and mammals. You can experience the power of nature here, in all its glory.

Uttarakhand, Kumaon, India, travel, Himalayas, trekking, Kosi Valley Retreat, walk to the Himalayas, mountains

A hidden temple among the hills of Kumaon

Kosi Valley Retreat and the Walk to the Himalayas activities and itineraries are designed to capture the spirit of this special place. They make a region of the world — that might be daunting to some — accessible and available. If you have ever dreamed of seeing the mighty Himalayas and walking among the deodar trees, listening to the songs of the distinctive birds, and breathing the pine-scented air, contact the wonderful people at Walk to the Himalayas. They made it happen for me, and they can do the same for you. You may never be the same.

Thanks so much to Siddhartha, Latika, Shivraj, Himmat, Kundan, Deeraj, Indrani and everyone at Kosi Valley Retreat for hosting me and taking care of me.

Uttarakhand, Kumaon, India, travel, Himalayas, trekking, Kosi Valley Retreat, walk to the Himalayas, mountains

Shivraj, Himmat, Indrani, Deeraj, Kundun and my driver, staff of Kosi Valley Retreat


Some Walk to the Himalayas itineraries


Photos of Kumaon

Uttarakhand, Kumaon, India, travel, Himalayas, trekking, Kosi Valley Retreat, walk to the Himalayas, mountains

Driving oxen over the mountains of Kumaon

Uttarakhand, Kumaon, India, travel, Himalayas, trekking, Kosi Valley Retreat, walk to the Himalayas, mountains

Women carrying firewood from the forest of Kumaon

Uttarakhand, Kumaon, India, travel, Himalayas, trekking, Kosi Valley Retreat, walk to the Himalayas, mountains

The rice terraces of Kumaon

Uttarakhand, Kumaon, India, travel, Himalayas, trekking, Kosi Valley Retreat, walk to the Himalayas, mountains

The Kosi Valley Retreat as seen from above

Uttarakhand, Kumaon, India, travel, Himalayas, trekking, Kosi Valley Retreat, walk to the Himalayas, mountains

Shivraj demonstrating his technique on the Burma Bridge

Uttarakhand, Kumaon, India, travel, Himalayas, trekking, Kosi Valley Retreat, walk to the Himalayas, mountains

A room at the Kosi Valley Retreat

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23 Responses to Walking in the Indian Himalayas

  1. Elaine J. Masters April 23, 2015 at 12:49 am #

    So refreshing to read about your time in the Himalyas. I hope it’s not the closest I get to visiting.
    Elaine J. Masters recently posted..Los Angeles Downtown – Glamour in Broadway WestMy Profile

  2. Elen Turner April 23, 2015 at 7:48 am #

    Beautiful! It looks so much like Nepal, but different in subtle ways. Have you been to Nepal? If so, I’d love to read your thoughts about the differences between the two places. I lived in Nepal and have travelled a lot in India, but haven’t been to the Indian Himalayas very much, so am keen to learn some of the differences.
    Elen Turner recently posted..The 5 first things a Kiwi learns when they move to the USMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward July 14, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

      Hi Ellen, I’ve heard that too, but have never been to Nepal. However, I am planning to go this winter for the first time. I will have to write that blog post you suggested!
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Hotels in Delhi: My top choicesMy Profile

  3. Nirpendra Patel April 23, 2015 at 11:02 am #

    NICE BLOG , FELT AWESOME READING IT

  4. Renuka April 23, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

    I love reading anything about Uttarakhand, as it’s my birth place. I really want to experience Kosi Valley now! I love that bird photo! I wish it was bigger. I like your photography, too. It seems you don’t click many pictures, but whatever you capture is valuable.
    Renuka recently posted..My Top 5 Recommendations For Your ‘Summer’ EscapeMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward July 14, 2015 at 3:20 pm #

      Hi Renuka, I did not know that you were born in Uttarakhand! I think it’s my favourite state. Thanks for the kind words about the photos. I do click a lot of photos, but photo editing is so time consuming … plus photos also slow down the page load speed … Need a solution, including more time!
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Everything you need to know to visit CanadaMy Profile

  5. Moon April 24, 2015 at 2:23 pm #

    Wow…your description of teh Himalayas in the opening lines just swept me off my feet. Ever since I visited Kumaon I am in love with that place. I was glued to your post once I started reading. So nicely written and complemented with beatiful images. By the way, I didn’t know about scorpion plants. Sounds interesting. 🙂 Wish to drink rhododendron juice next time I visit the mountains.
    Moon recently posted..How to Beautify Yourself This SummerMy Profile

  6. Willie M. Meyerson April 27, 2015 at 5:02 am #

    This place is such e very beautiful place. It’s relaxing.

    This helps me decide which place to go. Thank you.

    • Mariellen Ward July 14, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

      This is a great vacation destination — relaxing, inspiring and invigorating all at the same time. Plus, it’s just great to be immersed in the natural world. Hope you get there!
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Hotels in Delhi: My top choicesMy Profile

  7. Adelaide May 2, 2015 at 5:07 am #

    Sounds like it would be such an incredible experience!

  8. Sam May 22, 2015 at 2:32 am #

    Himalaya is truly mystical. Just came across your blog and believe I was moved by your story it really felt as if I was there with you. very well written and amazing pictures very nice view. although I am staying India for past some years now but never got a chance to explore this part of the country. Thanks for giving me this opportunity through your blog. I will make sure that I visit this natural beauty.

    • Mariellen Ward July 14, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

      Thanks Sam, I appreciate your kind words. You really should make the effort to visit Kumaon. I am sure you will not regret it
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..A taste of India in CanadaMy Profile

  9. Yunus June 8, 2015 at 1:02 am #

    I wish to go there.. Although beautiful post.

  10. Anoop Bharadwaj June 15, 2015 at 7:15 am #

    Northern India with it’s coniferous landscapes, light winter sleets and most of all with the mighty Himalayas never fails to entertain travel freaks visually or emotionally at any cost. The resort is well located to drape oneself under the wings of its valley and nice pictures Mariellen!
    Anoop Bharadwaj recently posted..Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir – The Brave Never DieMy Profile

  11. Bindee June 16, 2015 at 3:37 am #

    Such an amazing post. Your experience in Uttrakhand was incredible. I am too looking forward to visit after reading your journey. Photos are really good as well.

    • Mariellen Ward July 14, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

      Thanks so much Bindee, great to have you along for the journey. And thanks for kind words about my photographs. I am not a natural, I have had to work really hard to take even half-decent shots!
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..For International Yoga Day: What is Yoga?My Profile

  12. Nikhil Anand June 29, 2015 at 12:24 am #

    A week back i returned from Kumaon visiting Almora, Kausani, Binasar, Jageshwar, Katarmal on my bike with my wife. I drove all the way from Delhi and back for 1045 Kms to have a glimpse of this 300 kms mountain range extending from Panchachhuli to chaukhamba. But i was not as lucky as you. The cloudy weather did not permit us to view the same. However it was a nice ride and a nice read on this page.

    Take care, keep travelling. 🙂

  13. Sonal Bisht February 23, 2016 at 2:29 am #

    Himalayas one of regional adventurous place in India. And we proud of inviting world to come here and please give time to take our Indian traditional respect with your trip.

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