Binsar in Jhandi Dhar hills of Kumaon region of Uttarakhand is technically a wildlife sanctuary. In good old days, it served as the summer capital of Chand kings who ruled the region from 11-18th CE. We had earlier showed you some of the artworks from the days of Chand Kinds that can be seen at Jageshwar.
Binsar is not too far from Almora but the gain in height is substantial so you need to go slow. In any case, once you are out of Almora, the scenery around you is so beautiful that you would stop often to soak in nature all around you. Tall pine trees create a lattice-like wall through which the sunrays try to pierce through.
Admiring this scenery, we overshot the Wildlife sanctuary exit and almost reached the next town. The drive is so beautiful that you do not mind getting lost a bit. After an hour or so, we reached the gate where you have to buy your permit to enter the Binsar wildlife sanctuary. We were instructed not to litter in the sanctuary.
We were booked at the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam’s guest house there, which is located almost at the summit of the hill.
As soon as we entered the wildlife sanctuary – we saw a Black Francolin bird dancing on the ground amidst tall trees. It was jumping around that drew all attention from everything to it. We drove for a good 45 minutes on steep inclines to reach the guest house. For the most part, the road was good but it seems the authorities forgot to do the last couple of kilometers.
Binsar Zero Point Hike
After checking in the KMVN guest house we stepped out to walk to the Zero Point. All the reading I had done before traveling to Kumaon told me that this is a lovely hike. At the end of this, you reach a point where you get the best views of Nanda Devi Range of Himalayas.
It is a mild 3 km or so walk with some ups and downs. The path is well laid out. A tea stall outside the KNVM guest house is where you can find forest guides. It is not mandatory to take the guide. However, we wanted to know more about the jungle and birds, so we hired a guide. It was a mistake – our guide Ji had no knowledge or any interest in showing us around. He came like a fellow hiker and at the destination he just wanted us to go back in 5 minutes. We had to let him go and walk back on our own. We could not spot more birds because of him and he could not tell us the name of even one.
The walk is lovely. You walk on a wide path that has a deep valley on one side and wild trees on another. It was the season of Rhododendrons, the path was littered with red bunches of flowers. We also saw lots of flowers in white.
However do not go there alone, have a small group at least. There are Monkeys and being a wildlife sanctuary you should take precautions.
Binsar Valley View from Zero Point
At Zero point summit, there is a viewing tower that lets you see the Himalayan ranges without any obstruction of trees. Now, you have to be lucky to have a crisp and clear day to get the view. In the evening we did see all the ranges but not very clearly.
However, you will get a nice view of the valley. The dense forest on the steep mountain, cultivated land in the valley, beautiful landscape view are the highlights of the view from Zero Point.
At the base of the Zero Point, I could see the outline of a stepwell like structure. It was filled with earth, so there was no way to know if it was indeed a stepwell or maybe it was a house that someone built. It was strange to find a constructed structure in the middle of such a deep jungle.
We could hear a lot of birds on our hike to Zero Point, we could spot some of them jumping around on trees. Due to bad light and due to the density of the forest it was difficult to take pictures. I think in the whole walk we managed to get just one decent image of one of the colorful birds.
We found more birds in and around the lakes of Kumaon like Bhimtal.
Read More – Birds of Kumaon
We did this trip towards the end of March. This is the time when red Rhododendrons are in full bloom. Trees are full of bunches of red flowers hanging from the branches. At places they make a carpet of flowers on the road – you almost guilty of driving or walking over them. On some trees, it was difficult to guess if it had more leaves or more flowers! Is that not the perfect problem to have in life? At a lot of places, especially while hiking to Zero Point we were surrounded by red flowers all around.
It was like a dream sequence – leisurely walk to see the Himalayan peaks surrounded by bright red flowers.
Early morning Sunrise Splendour
It was the early morning that was the height of our trip. We woke up before the crack of the dawn and parked ourselves on the terrace overlooking the mighty Himalayas. Other guests slowly started pouring in & within minutes the terrace was full of people.
The sun rays slowly started shining on the peaks in front of us. The white snow suddenly had a golden glow. As the sun rays move from east to west, the peaks started revealing themselves. It was a sight to behold. Everyone on the terrace was in a kind of trance looking at golden peaks. Suddenly the golden hour of photography made sense to me.
The spectacle lasted about 40 minutes or so, then we held the teacups in our hands and pondered over what we just saw. It was just magical to see the Himalayan peaks responding so beautifully to sun rays.
Himalayan Peaks Visible from Binsar
Best of Binsar is the stunning landscape view of the Himalayas in the early mornings. The range of Himalayan Peaks visible from there covers over 200-300 KM,s. Following Himalayan peaks can be spotted from the viewpoints if the sky is clear and one has binoculars. There are posters identifying each of the following peaks displayed at the curio shop of KMVN guest house.
Nanda Devi Himalayan Peak
The Nanda Devi Himalayan Peak is the second highest mountain peak in India. Second only to the Kanchenjunga Peak at Sikkim Nepal border best viewed from Rinchenpong, Sikkim. Nanda Devi is the patron goddess of the region. The Nanda Devi mountain is east-west oriented and at an elevation of over 25,000 feet. It is also one of the steepest mountains at such an elevation. Read more on Nanda Devi at Wikipedia.
Other Himalayan Peaks viewable
- Nanda Gunti
- Trishul 1, 2, 3
- Nanda Devi
- Panvali Dwar
- Nanda Devi East or Sunanda Devi
- Nanda Khat
- Lapsa Dhura
- Ralam Pass
- Panchchuli group
- Karcha Kund
- Chaukhanba (Badrinath) – 4 peaks
- Pindari Glacier
Hotels & Resorts – KMVN Guest House Binsar
There are a lot of luxury and mid-range resorts and hotels at the base of Binsar hill. However, the best view of Himalayan ranges is from the KMVN guest house. It is perched on the hilltop right in front of snow-capped Nanda Devi Range of Himalayas.
It is run down property with basic rooms that are screaming for some maintenance. Since it is not connected with power, you get electricity only for a couple of hours in the evening. Hot water is provided in buckets in the morning. The dining hall is nice though with new furniture and tall windows that let you admire the nature around.
Food was also nice – though you really do not have a choice, for there is nothing else that you would get there.
In the early morning, they make up for all the shortcomings when they serve you piping hot tea as you admire the sunrise over the Himalayas. It just makes the morning picture perfect as there is something in your hands to warm you.
There are no other entertainment activities besides a bit exploring nature for the travelers & tourists. So you need not stay there beyond a day. However, if you are a researcher in the fields of flora, fauna, birds, Himalayas, wildlife of the region, you may have reasons to stay longer.
- Although most cars would drive up to Binsar, it is advisable to go in a 4 wheel drive.
- Do not engage the guide for a walk to Zero Point. We had a bad experience. The guide took 300 Rs and told us nothing instead kept rushing us as he wanted to finish the trek in an hour.
- If you plan to stay at KVMN guest house, do book in advance.
- If you are not comfortable walking to Zero Point, do not bother to walk. You will get the best view from the terrace.
- For those staying at other places, check with your resort for the best viewpoint near their property.
- Carry woolens for early morning, even if you are traveling in summers.
- Carry a binocular if you wish to get better views of the Himalayan Peaks.
- Best view of the Himalayan range is during the early morning around sunrise time. Later on, the clouds and humidity blur the views.
- Mobile signals are poor in the area, keep your near and dear informed as you leave Almora.
Recommend you read following travel blog on Places to visit in Kumaon, Uttarakhand.