The Garhwal region belongs to Uttarakhand (Uttaranchal) state of northern India. This region is surrounded by western plains of Uttar Pradesh state in the south and Kumaon in the east. The region houses seven districts namely Chamoli, Dehradun, Pauri, Tehri, Haridwar, Rudraprayag and Uttar Kashi. Tibet lies to the north of Garhwal.
Emperor Ashoka ruled the area and the best evidence consists of the edicts on quartz rocks near Kalsi called Chitrashila or Chhatrashila. There is a belief that there were 52 petty chieftainships in this region some 500 years ago. Each chief had his own fortress (Garh). Because of this, the region obtained the name Garhwal. In 8th century it was Adi Shankaracharya, a Hindu saint, who established a number of holy shrines around this region.
Garhwal is a haven for varied fauna and flora. Also this snow-capped mountain region is a supreme retreat for the devout. This tourist destination is an important spot in the tour itinerary of all kinds of people including environmentalists, pilgrims, tourists, mountaineers, trekkers and naturalists.
Dr. T. Longstaff, world renowned mountaineer, naturalist and trekker has described Garhwal as “The most beautiful land in the mountains of the Asian sub-continent”. Tourists can visit the various wildlife sanctuaries here to behold the gratifying beauty of Garhwal well conserved.
Govind Wildlife Sanctuary:
In 1955, Govind Wildlife Sanctuary was established in the Uttar Kashi district of Garhwal. It is set amidst beautiful and captivating environs covering an area of 953 sq km. Tourists can have a panoramic view of mighty peaks like Swarg Rohini, Black Peak and Bandarpunch. It houses a variety of animals like black bears, tahr, serow, monal, snow leopard, brown bears, and musk deer. The major crowd pullers of the sanctuary are its snow-wrapped peaks and glaciers.
Valley of Flowers:
This valley was first unveiled to the world by a mountaineer cum botantist named Frank S. Smith in 1937. All kinds of flora are found in this area along with clear silver streams. Tourists can breathe in the fresh air filled with the fragrance of flowers in this valley. Photographers can snap flowers with dew drops on them. Local people consider this valley as the land where fairies and nymphs play.
Nanda Devi National Park:
Near Nanda Devi peak of the mighty Himalayas, the Nanda Devi National park was established in 1980. However, since 1950 the increased number of the trekkers and mountaineers spoilt the raw beauty of this area. Black bear, snow leopard, tahr etc., are included among the fauna.
This sanctuary was established in 1972 in the Chamoli district. It sprawls over an area of 967 sq. km of Garhwal Himalayas. Tourists can have a spectacular view of snow-capped peaks, valleys, lush green meadows and various flora. It houses a varied species of mammals and birds.
Rajaji National Park:
On the edge of Dehradun valley in Garhwal, lies the Rajaji National Park established in 1966. It spreads over an area of 820 sq km. This park is encircled by mountains and is a pleasant hideaway for tourists. This place is worth visiting.
Tourists who are spiritual can have the Garhwal trek tour combined with a visit to holy shrines like Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. These treks are classified as Summer Treks (April to October) and Winter Treks (November to March). Garhwal treks include spiritual trips like Panch Badri and Panch Kedar treks. The most famous of these treks are Kauri Trek and Nanda Devi Trek.
Adventure lovers must try skiing at Auli, 16 km from Joshimath. This skiing resort is run by Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam.
Because of its complex network of mountain rivers amidst rocky gorges, forests etc, the Garhwal mountains are ideal for white water rafting.
Nearest railhead is at Rishikesh (170 km). Tourists can reach Govindghat from Rishikesh through well laid roads, from where they can reach Garhwal by the luxury coaches provided by Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam. Tourists can also opt for the nine-hour trek from Govindghat to Ghangaria. From Ghangaria tourists can make a five km trek through glacial drifts and ascending paths to reach Garhwal.