Almora

The small town of Almora is perched on a five-kilometre long horseshoe-shaped ridge, 1,650 metres above sea level. The town looks out over a fertile terraced valley and four ranges of hills - Banari Devi, Kasan Devi, Shayahi Devi and Katarmal. Beyond them you can see Trishul and Nanda Devi in the Great Himalayas.

Unlike most hill stations, Almora wasn't an empty hillside 'discovered' by the British. It was already an established town with a long history. The Kashaya Hill on which Almora is built is mentioned in the Hindu scripture, the Skanda Purana. It is believed that the great god Vishnu dwelt here. The area has been inhabited since the earliest historical times, but it was in 1560 that Raja Kalyan Chand of Kumaon decided to make it his capital. Gorkha invaders put an end to the Chand dynasty in 1790 and occupied Almora fort, but after the Gorkhas were themselves defeated by the British in 1815, Almora gained a new lease of life as a minor hill station.

Sightseeing

The Mall: The main thoroughfare in Almora is the Mall, which has the bus stand, small restaurants and hotels. Almora's chequered past is reflected in the buildings along the local styles of architecture. You can see the indigenous hill cottages with bunglow trimmings and British bunglows half Indianised with great slabs of stone for roofs.

The post office and the clock tower: The post office, built in 1905, is still very British but the main clock tower opposite the tourist office, erected in 1886 by an Indian but constructed by a British engineer, shows a strange confusion of styles.

Temple of Nanda Devi: Old Almora still survives in the temple of Nanda Devi the patron goddess of the Chand rajas, which stands in the antechamber of a Shiva temple, and also in the bazaars above and adjoining the Mall.

Khazanchi Mohalla: The best examples of the old styles of architecture is the Khazanchi Mohalla, the area which once belonged to the state treasures.

Collectorate: The highest point of the Almora bazaars, above the Mall, is the Collectorate. This is in fact the old Almora fort, from where you can get a wonderful view of Almora and the surrounding mountains.

Tamta Mohalla: One of the traditional crafts of Almora is copperware and some of the best coppersmiths still work from their traditional area in the old city, Tamta Mohalla.

Brighton End Corner: Named after England's popular seaside resort, the Brighton End Corner is two kilometres from the bus station on the Mall and is the most popular point for sunset and sunrise views of the Himalayas.

Simtola: Simtola, three kilometres from Almora, on the opposite side of the horseshoe ridge, is a pine-covered picnic spot. Close by are Hiradungi, once a diamond mining centre and the scenic Greynite Hill.

Kalimath: Excellent views of Almora and the Himalayan peaks can be had from Kalimath four and a half kilometres from Almora.

Kasar Devi temple: Six kilometres from Almora, Kasar Devi stands on what is still known as the Crank's ridge, formerly a haunt of artists and writers. D H Lawrence spent two summers here, and it has also attracted Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and Timothy Leary, the father of the hippy movement.

Upreti Khola: Two kilometres from the Kasar Devi temple, in Upreti Khola district, is a second-century-BC rock inscription dedicated to the goddess.

Chital: Another hilltop temple stands six kilometres from Almora at Chital. The god here is Lord Golla, a deified general of the Chand dynasty and his shrine is decorated with a canopy of bells offered in thanksgiving by devotees.

Access

By rail: The nearest railhead is Kathgodam, 90 kilometres from Almora via Khairua and 133 kilometres via Ranikhet.

By road: Almora is 335 kilometres from Delhi and 196 kilometres from Bareilly on a direct bus route.

Accomodation

Holiday Home: Located at the quiet end of the Mall, it has fine views. Rooms are spartan, and blankets and towels are provides at a nominal charge. There is a colour TV in the lounge, plane cooking, and a very friendly atmosphere.

Uttar Pradesh