India on the Road
Driving to the Skiing Capital of India
Route: Delhi to Joshimath on NH 58 via Roorkee, Rishikesh, Rudraprayag, Nandaprayag and Chamoli. Joshimath to Auli on the PWD Road (16 Kms.)
Night Halt: Rudraprayag
Distance: 492 Kms
Driving Time: 12-14 hours
Notes: From the heat and dust of Lutyens’ Delhi to the rarefied atmosphere of India’s Skiing capital – Auli, covering a distance, which is all of 492 Kms. is a journey into the mystical India you never knew existed. As you pass by places of pilgrimages like Rishikesh, Rudraprayag and Nandaprayag that have offered solace to humanity for centuries together and been an integral part of the Hindu religious folklore, there is simply one word that can best describe the road journey to Auli – “STUPENDOUS”.
Very few have attempted to drive the entire route from Delhi to Auli due largely to inadequate publicity as also due to the remoteness of the terrain. It is a long drive, no doubt, but those who take the trouble of reaching Auli on their 4 Wheeled Drive from Delhi will come out with the experience of their lifetime. Generally, the condition of the road is good with the occasional “Road Under Repair” signboard, which is fair enough given the mountainous terrain and vagaries of nature in the form of landslides. The wayside amenities are up to the mark and there are hotels and petrol pumps at regular intervals on the way, which eases the strain of the journey to a great extent.
Delhi - Your Start Off Point
New Delhi, the capital of India and also the third largest city consists of two parts – Old Delhi and New Delhi. Old Delhi used to be the capital during the Mughal era and you will find many mosques, monuments and forts dating back to the Mughal era. The other Delhi is New Delhi, the imperial city created by as a capital of India by the British. It is a spacious open city with many stunning diplomatic enclaves, embassies and government buildings. New Delhi is also a major travel gateway and one of India’s busiest entry point for overseas airlines and a major hub of the north Indian travel network.
What to See:
Red Fort, Lahore Gated, Diwan-I-Am, Diwan-I-Khas, Moti Masjid, Jami Masjid, Raj Ghat, Feroz Shah Kotla, Connaught Place, Jantar Mantar, Laxmi Narayan Temple, Bahai Temple, India Gate, Rashtrapati Bhawan, Parliament House, National Museum, Nehru Museum, Rail Transport museum, Crafts Museum, Purana Quila, Humayun’s Tomb, Zoo, Hazarat Nizam-Ud-Din-Aulia, Lodi Tombs, Safdarjang Tomb, Hauz Khas, Tuglaqabad, Qutub Minar complex, Dilli Haat, Pragati Maidan.
Where to Stay:
Delhi offers a bewildering array of accommodation options ranging from deluxe hotels with international standing like the ITDC Ashok Hotel, Hotel Taj Mahal, Hotel Taj Palace, Hotel Oberoi, Hotel Maurya Sheraton, Hotel Inter Continental, Hotel Hyatt Regency etc… to the mid-budget hotels around Janpath and Connaught Place. Most bottom end hotels can be found at the Paharganj area in close proximity to the New Delhi Railway Station.
Where to Eat:
Delhi STD: 011
Baluchi (26492348), Chore Bizzare (26492348), Darbar (26492348), Dum Pukht (26112233), Punjabi By Nature (51516666), Karim Hotel (23264981), Amarjyoti Restaurant (24673340), Amber Restaurant (23312092), Aska Restaurant (25111487), Dhaba (25155839), Haveli (23026162), Milkfood Café 100 (23320663), The Village Bistro (26853857), Mithas (26251069).
Taipan (24363030), August Moon (26110202), Pan Asian (26521122), Oriental Bloom (26265444), China Fare (24618602), Empress of China (26223344), Fa Yian (23323237).
La Piazza (26791234), West View (26112233), Diva (29215673), Flavors (24645644), The Big Chill (26481020), Ego (26319107), San Gimignano (23341234), Spago (51631813).
Baan Thai (24363030), Spice Route (23341234), Chilli Season (24618358), Thai Work (26644289), Grill & Lounge (51681333).
Fast Food Chains:
McDonalds, Nirulas, Wimpy, Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza.
Angles in My Kitchen (9811697970), Breadsmith (26483402), Cascades (26771234), The Gourmer Shop (24363030), Open Oven (29213030), Sidewalk (26791234), Sugar & Spice (26145425), Wenger & Co. (23324373).
What to Buy:
Delhi is a shoppers paradise with the main shopping districts located at Connaught Place, Pallika Bazzar, Baba Kharag Singh Marg, Chandni Chowk, Karol Bagh, Ansal Plaza, South Extension, Sarojini Nagar and the Hauz Khas markets selling everything ranging from Tibetan craft items, curios, ethnic jewelry and dress materials, Rajasthani paintings, handloom and handicraft items of all the states of India. The sheer variety on offer is astonishing.
On your way to Auli, you will come across the town of Roorkee located at a distance of 172 Kms. from Delhi. The town is ideally positioned along the banks of the Ganga Canal. The town is conspicuous by the presence of the Indian Army, courtesy the Bengal Sappers and Miners which was established way back in the year 1853. There are numerous restaurants that offer wholesome and hygenic Indian and Tandoori fare.
The pilgrim town of Rishikesh is a municipal town of Dehradun District and is 238 Kms from Delhi. It serves as a crossroad to the high Himalayas. In fact it is the start off point to the most venerated pilgrim circuit of “Char Dham” consisting of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. The town is ideally situated on the banks of the holy river Ganges and on either side of the river banks one will come across a plethora of temples old and not so old. Rishikesh is popularly referred to as Yoga capital of the world and there are many Yoga Ashrams located here. Rishikesh came into limelight in the mid 1960’s when the Beatles band visited the Maharashi Mahesh Yogi’s Ashram and received spiritual initiation from the great Yogi. World famous Ashrams like the Sivananda Ashram and Swarg Ashram too are located at Rishikesh.
As you proceed further ahead from Rishikesh, the charming town of Rudraprayag casts its magical spell on you. It is located at a distance of 151 Kms. from Rishikesh and perched at an elevation of 610 meters above sea level. This ancient town is located at the confluence of the Alkananda and Mandakini rivers. Most tourists on their way to Joshimath and Auli find it a convenient base for an overnight’s halt. There are a few hotels that offer only basic tourist amenities but you can rest assured of clean linens, comfortable bed, hygienic food and clean toilets.
Nandaprayag, Chamoli, Joshimath and Beyond …
While there is nothing much at Nandaprayag, Chamoli further ahead is conspicuous by its picture perfect surroundings. The entire town is spread over undulating mountaneous terrain replete with breathtaking valleys and wonderful Himalayan flora. At Chamoli you are actually in Lord Shiva’s domain and a plethora of temples dedicated to Lord Shiva dots the Chamoli landscape. Legend has it that it was in the verdant and serene surroundings of Chamoli that the great Indian epic – ‘Mahabharata’ was composed by sage Ved Vyas. Joshimath, your penultimate destination is a mere 16 Kms. away from the Skiing capital of India - Auli and is ideally perched at an altitude of 1875 meters. From the elevated platform of Joshimath the surreal sight of towering Himalayan peaks like Nanda Devi and Neelkanth offers a bewitching kaleidoscopic vignette of the mighty Himalayas. The diehard Hindus believe that Lord Vishnu takes up his residence at Joshimath in the harsh winter months. Since this Himalayan town is situated on undulating mountainous gradients overlooking the swift flowing Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers, the scenic beauty of Joshimath is absolutely awesome in terms of the natural panorama.
Auli – The Last Frontier
Auli for all its publicity isn’t all that big. The 5-8 Kms stretch is nicely tucked away at an awesome height of 10,500 feet above sea level thereby offering breathtaking views of the surrounding Himalayan panorama. Here the air is rarefied and the powdery snow based landscape is ideal for the exciting winter sport of Skiing. You basically need to get familiar with the terrain and needless to say in a couple of days time, even an amateur skier will be able to zip-zap-zoom across Auli’s spectacular skiing slopes, which has been so much eulogized by the travel media. The Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam offers beginner’s courses ranging from 7-days to 14-days during the skiing season from January to March. The courses are inclusive of boarding, lodging, equipment hire and other miscellaneous expenses. For those who wish to recreate the ambience of a St.Mortiz or Aspen can actually have their cake and eat it too at Auli. And if you are traveling with kids, leave them alone, for the opportunity to build castles out of snow doesn’t come that frequently!
Where to Stay:
At Auli you don’t have much options when it comes to looking for accommodation. There is the Cliff Top Club (Tel: 01389-223217-20) that offers breathtaking views of the snow clad Himalayan peaks and good hygienic food. And the other option is the GMVN Skiing & Tourist Resort (Tel: 223208/305), which is ideally positioned at an awesome height of 9,500 feet above sea level.