Yes Sir; Ukhimath is an ultimate retreat but probably you may not even know what or where is Ukhimath; neither did I but a coincidence brought me there and I fell in love with this place. In those days it was Yatra season and there was no hotel available in the Kedarnath route. I was on a slow visiting trip; slow visiting … that I visit a village and stay there a couple of days and have long walks each day and before checking out from that village walk about 10km further and book a hotel and then bring back my belonging to repeat this again. I got tired of finding a hotel and haggling for price because it was yatra season and people near the roads were even renting their roofs in the evening for 1000 rupee so pilgrims could spend a night in the open.
There I came to know about Ukhimath because local folks were going there on the shared jeeps. Main route to Kedarnath valley splits 10 km after Augustmuni; one road goes towards Guptkashi and then Kedarnath side. Other road goes towards Ukhimath temple and then to Chamoli and meets Badrinath road. This road is the most scenic road in the area. It is not much hidden anyway because most of the pilgrims from Kedarnath now are taking this route to Badrinath; however Ukhimath market village is still off the main road by 2km.
Below is the picture of Ukhimath temple village; Market is 2 km from here but a 1km walking trail leads to there in the middle of stepped farms and scattered village homes.
A similar temple is situated on the opposite mountains across the valley. Village folks have a long story of Krishna’s about the origin of both temples.
Ukhimath remains 2 km away from the main route that heads towards Chamoli followed by Badrinath so people seldom visit this place. Ukhimath is a holy place where Kedarnath and Madmaheshwer dieties return in the winter. There are total 5 Kedars in the mountains. Kedarnath is most famous due to the accessibility. Other 4 kedars are Madmeshwer, Tungnath, Rudranath and Kalpnath. Kedarnath and Madmaheshwer are worshiped in Ukhimath in the winter. Bazaar is 4km from the temple village but temple village is connected with a 1km walking trail to the Bazaar and hotels are reasonable prices and easily available.
The picture above shows Bharat Sevashram Sangha near Ukhimath. Rooms and food are available here also. Ukhimath market is 2km from here.
When I first stepped my foot into Ukhimath; I was just mesmerized to see the high peaks and low valleys from here. People are so friendly; and I met Mr. Rawat and he has a room for rent so I took it. Then Mr. Rawat showed up at my door with Mandua Kee Roti (very tasty) with homemade butter and a cup of tea. It was evening and Mr. Rawat asked me to come on the terrace because each day at Aarti time he went to his terrace and participated into it while standing 1000 feet above the temple at his own terrace and looking at it. So we came on the terrace and first Shiva Mahima Strotum sung by Anuradha Podwal begun in the temple below us. It was so serene surroundings; Towering mountains on our all sides and river Mandakini was visible bubbling from 1500 feet below. Town of Guptkashi was visible on the mountain across the Mandakini valley that was 15km by the road and Kedarnath peak was also visible. I never heard Shiva Mahima Strotum before. Sound of it filled the valleys. Temple loudspeakers were not really vulgarly loud so sound was weak and whole valley appeared to singing it. I enjoyed the Strotum followed by Aarti; although I am not a religious goof myself.
In my other days at the aarti time I came halfway from the temple and market on the trail and found a rock facing the valley and then each day I enjoyed listening my aarti from there. Air was full of pine and deodar perfume. So to me Gods provided me the perfume of incense sticks too.
Basic food is available at a couple of restaurant but they will make you anything that you request them to make. Another restaurant is on the trail to the temple and same there; food is basic but if you buy them vegetables etc. they will cook you that for a reasonable price. Road from Ukhimath Market goes to the village Monsoona where trail head for the Madhmahswer temple begins; that is 16km walk but very demanding and hard. Temple is situated in high altitude and above the tree line.
From Ukhimath one can visit Chopta. A very scenic place and there are hotels and trail leads to Tungnath from here. Tungnath trek is just 4 km but steep climb is involved and scenes changes very fast as one gains altitude. This trek is not in the scope of this post so will post it in another post.
Then we walked from Chopta to Mandal, Mandal is extremely scenic village …. well I am drifting away from my Ukhimath post so let’s stay here for a while.
I consider Ukhimaht a retreat. Once can spend here some days and relax and rebuild oneself. It is not an expansive place but rather reverse. Small market is full of hustle and bustle even at night and there are plenty of relaxed walks and tons of scenes to gaze upon. Many temples to worship and many places to meditate. I usually keep a small loincloth with me so to take a bath at a new waterfall each time.