India - Himalayas Saryu & Pindar

Need more information?
Click here to send us your enquiry

The Saryu and Pindar Valleys

A night train north-east from Delhi and a day's drive deep into the Kumaon hills takes you to Saryu where charming, traditional communities spread along the valley towards nearby Tibet. Beyond the villages and terraced fields there are valleys, waterfalls and snow-covered peaks. Stay in guest-houses created from beautiful terraced 'berklays' with white-washed walls and stone roofs. Add a night or two in the splendid tented camp on the ridge of a high 'bhugiyal' meadow.

Neighbouring the Saryu Valley is the astounding Pindar Valley, whose river draws its water from the great Pindari Glacier. There is such a sense of space here, close up to Tibet, with mountains on a grand scale and great walking in an alpine-like landscape.

The area lies in the middle Himalaya region, in the Bageshwar district of Uttarakhand. The Saryu and Pindar valleys are some 5 hours' drive (or about 70 km) beyond Almora and Binsar. The Saryu Valley ranges in elevations from 1,500m by the river to 3,150m at Supi Chilta.

The Village Communities

 

The villages of Saryu are spread out along the gentle middle slopes of the upper valley, high above the Saryu river. A steep mountain ridge, with forest and alpine pastures, rises to the north, beyond which lie the snow-capped peaks of the main Himalayan massif. In Pindar, the charming hill-side villages of Karmi and Dhurr are surrounded by terraced fields, waterfalls, rhododendron forest and lush open pastures, Pindar is closer still to the high Himalaya, with unrivalled views of the snow-capped peaks.

The villages in the remote Saryu and Pindar Valleys are larger and more self-contained than those in Binsar. Nevertheless, village life is dynamic and people are highly educated and very aware of the outside world, many having worked elsewhere. Farming is the mainstay of the communities, supplemented by traditional skills (ringal bamboo weaving, honey production, woollen carpets etc).

Farming to Eternal Rhythms

The rhythm of mountain life has been the same for centuries. Long-strawed wheat is the main winter crop, with active harvesting by hand during May, as well as Pahari potatoes, famed for their exquisite taste. Finger millet, kidney beans and amaranthus are rainy season crops. Fruit trees of pear, peaches, sweet lemons and apples abound, as well as walnuts. Higher up the slopes there are forests of oak, lyonia and rhododendron trees; as you walk higher you notice the rhododendron flowers turn from red to pink. Buffaloes and cows are kept for milk, oxen for ploughing; goats and sheep graze in the high hills. You meet women carrying huge head loads of grass and oak leaves for fodder for the animals and firewood for cooking and heating the homes.

Grand Old Houses

The village buildings are almost entirely of traditional design. There are many impressive terraced 'berklays', with white-washed walls, stone roofs and intricately carved doorways. These lovely, long, terraced buildings have provided joint family accommodation for generations. On two floors, they feature ornately carved doorways and stone roofs. 

 

In Saryu, the community of Supi has renovated a traditional Berklay house into an attractive five-bedroom guest house, complete with simple en-suite bathrooms and individual upstairs sitting rooms. Further up the valley in the beautiful villages of Khal Jhuni and Jhuni, similar guesthouses have been completed (Jhuni’s with help from the regional government agency UPASaC), each with three twin en-suite guest bedrooms. 

In the Pindar Valley, the community of Karmi offers accommodation in two converted houses at the top of the village, overlooking the village and valley below. Dhurr has three village guesthouses, one converted and two newly constructed by the community enterprise with local government aid. The houses in Karmi and Dhurr have separate, outside toilets and showers. 

Tents with a View

During the summers, shepherds take the goats and sheep up to the grazing areas in the high hills (bhugiyals), returning in October.

One such bhugiyal – Jaikuni Bhugiyal - provides a stunning balcony view on to the range of the Indian Himalayas. Here the communities have established a tented camp on the ridge for the autumn and spring seasons, removing it in time for the grass to be ready for summer grazing. It is comfortable, with accommodation tents along the lines of safari tents but more substantial for the mountain conditions.

Twin-bedded tented rooms, a dining tent and washing and toilet facilities are provided, with plenty of solar-charged lanterns. The washing and toilet arrangements are clean but very simple - this is a small concession to make for such a privileged position. The food is excellent but please remember that water is short at the camp, so please use it sparingly. A stay here is a real highlight of our trips to the Himalaya.

Travelling to Saryu and Pindar

Your Village Ways holiday includes return transfer from Delhi: taxi transfer to Old Delhi station; train to Kathgodam and onward road transfer to Khali Estate and the villages. We do offer an option for road travel from Delhi at a supplementary cost. We can arrange to meet you at Delhi Airport, to fit in with your flight arrival and departure times, or if you are already in India we can arrange for you to be met in Delhi, at the place of your choosing, to start on your journey to the mountains. We arrange road transfers from Khali to the Saryu and Pindar valleys, using taxis that are suitable for the road conditions and with local drivers who know the route well. You will travel through forested hill slopes and increasingly dramatic mountain scenery to the remote Saryu Valley.

We ask our guests to make their own arrangements for international travel to India. We offer some general advice and useful links regarding travel, visas, insurance, health requirements.

Information on travel in India

 

Climate and Seasons

The weather varies markedly by season, so you need to choose the time that suits your preferences.

The Saryu Valley ranges in elevations from 1,500 by the river to 3,150 m at Supi Chilta. Such mountainous areas have unpredictable weather, rain showers may develop with little warning, with snowfalls at higher levels. Temperatures at the higher altitudes can fall quite suddenly, so carry a sweater with you, even during the summer months. At 3,000 metres the temperature drops considerably as the sun goes down, and it can be very cold. At the campsite the team usually lights a fire for warmth while you sip your hot soup. However, even with the thick duvets, warm night clothing is required - but we do provide hot water bottles.

July to September

The SW Monsoon rains clothe the hills and Himalayan peaks in cloud. The air is humid but delightfully fresh. The rain storms are often localised and tend to be in the evenings, allowing time to walk during the days. Temperatures are around 20C during the day but fall back to 10C or even 5C at night. The rains clear the dust, allowing crisp views over the hills peaks, with glimpses of brilliant green finger millet crops in the fields. Bring an umbrella to guard against the rain, a waterproof rucksack and beware of the odd leech in damp places.

October to November

This the best time for views of the Himalayan snow-capped peaks. The landscape is still green after the rains. The days are warm and sunny but the air temperatures start to drop as the winter progresses, with maxima of 15-18C and minima of less than 5 degrees, with frost at higher elevations, such as Jakuni Bhugiyal. There is very little rain from mid-October onwards. This is a good time for witnessing the harvest of the ‘kharif’ crops (finger millet, Amaranthus, etc) and the planting of the winter season crops of wheat and vegetables, with clear skies and extensive views. Bring layers of warm clothes for the evenings.

December to February

During the real winter, daytime maximum temperatures are cool but comfortable at 5 – 12C but mean night temperatures sink to 0 to -5C. The days are usually sunny, with good mountain views. Extensive snow cover occurs above 2,500 m. Snow can lie for short periods down to the Supi - Jhuni areas. Bring plenty of warm clothes, woolly hat, gloves, scarf and a padded jacket.

Some rain can be also expected, so bring a small umbrella and a light wind/waterproof jacket, just in case.

March to May

From March onwards the temperatures rise steadily from 15C to a peak of around 25C in May. But the nights remain comfortable (0-10C). If you live on the plains of northern India, you will find the weather a welcome relief. This is the dry, hot season when villagers harvest the dry season crops prepare the land for the monsoon crops. The air can become hazy, and views of the Himalayan peaks are limited to the early mornings and evenings. A couple of sweaters and a small umbrella are recommended, and warmer clothes if venturing to Jakuni Bhugiyal (3,000 m) and Supi Chilta (3,150 m).