The priest unlocked the small door to the chamber housing the main deity. As we waited, he opened the door to give us our first glimpse of the idol of the Sun God. We were the only visitors at the 9th-century Sun Temple on a remote hilltop near Almora town. A bumpy car ride from Kosi village followed by a short hike had brought us to the Katarmal Surya Temple. Several such delightful discoveries awaited us at Almora.
From Nainital to Almora
After a great stay at Nainital, we headed to the “Indian” hill station of Almora (unlike many other hill stations, Almora was not discovered and developed by the British). En route, the Kosi river meandered through the valley. As we entered Almora, we caught sight of the Ramakrishna Kutir at the picturesque Bright End Corner. We looked forward to exploring the hill station over the next couple of days.
Here’s a list of the treasures we uncovered in Almora.
Chitai Golu Devta Temple: Bells and More (Bells)
Bells. And more bells. In all sizes. In large numbers. Tied together. Spread all over the premises.
The temple in Chitai is dedicated to Golu Devta, a much-revered Kumaoni deity. Golu Devta is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The walls and pillars of the temple bear numerous paper notes carrying messages and requests for help from devotees. And innumerable bells tied by worshipers, seeking the Lord’s intervention in their lives.
We were fascinated by the sight of the countless bells and the feelings of strong devotion all around.
Location: The Golu Devta temple in Chitai is located approximately 10-15 km from Almora town.
Simtola Eco Park: A Park Nestled Among Towering Pines
Nestled among towering conifers, the Simtola Eco Park is a fabulous destination for nature lovers. Although we hadn’t heard much about the park from the folks in Almora, we added it to our itinerary. It turned out to be a great decision. Junior insisted on exploring every nook and corner of this beautiful green lung. And on whizzing down every slide. And on trying out every swing.
Pack a picnic lunch and head to Simtola. Stroll in the sprawling green space, gaze at the magnificent views from various points, and visit the small temple in the premises. Kids can swing and slide to their heart’s content in the various play areas.
Location: Simtola Eco Park lies approximately 10-15 km from Almora town.
Deer Park/Zoo: A Nature Walk
The Deer Park in Almora is home to animals like the black bear, leopards, and deer. For us, the highlight of the park was the long and pleasant stroll along the trails in the wooded area.
Take a walk in the woods.
Location: The deer park is situated approximately 4-5 km from Almora town.
Katarmal Surya Temple: Old is Gold
The Katarmal Sun Temple was built in the 9th century by the Katyuri kings. This splendid temple is situated on a hilltop near Kosi village. We were first struck by the remoteness of the location and were then enchanted by the temple complex itself. In addition to the main temple, a series of smaller shrines form part of the complex.
We lingered around at the site to admire the panoramic views of the valley and surrounding hills.
A bit reluctantly, we retraced the trail back to our taxi. Well, fate intervened to help us stay around a bit longer. The car developed a snag and we had to wait for quite some time before a mechanic could arrive. I did fret around for a while (we were miles away from civilization!) but then, on B’s suggestion, decided to take it easy. We indulged in some bird-watching as we waited patiently for the car’s engine to come back to life.
Visit the temple, marvel at its history, and revel in the tranquility of the surroundings.
Location: The Katarmal Sun Temple is located approximately 15-20 km from Almora town.
Nanda Devi Temple: In the Heart of Almora town
At the end of the day, we walked to the Nanda Devi temple in the bazaar area. After seeking the goddess’s blessings, we found ourselves a seat in the peaceful temple complex. Local residents exchanged greetings and caught up on the latest updates in town. We sat nearby, reflecting on the day and voting for our favorite places in Almora.
Find your way through the bazaar and head to the Nanda Devi temple in the evening.
Location: The Nanda Devi temple is in the heart of Almora town.
Next time, we’d love to venture out on a few hiking trails around Almora. Got any suggestions?