Sunderdhunga Trek: Valley Of Beautiful Stones

Tripoto

Once upon a time, a mountain man was washing his blanket in a nearby river where he came across a beautiful, precious stone. Ever since then, the valley was named Sunderdhunga, literally translating to 'valley of beautiful stones'. There is no corroboration for this tale but trekkers who have witnessed beautiful boulders spread across the Sunderdhunga River swear by the etymology.

Sunderdhunga Trek remains untouched by the human species, unlike its popular neighbours - Pindari and Kafni Glacier Treks and that's part of the reason behind its unparalleled beauty. The eight-day long journey would take you away from civilization and through dense forests of rhododendron and oak, gushing waterfalls, terraced fields and lush green expanses.

Where is it

Sunderdhunga Valley is located in Uttarakhand and the trek starts from Loharkhet, which is a three-hour drive from Almora.

Buses ply from Delhi to Almora on a daily basis. From Almora, take a cab to Loharkhet and start your trek from there. Before starting your long journey, you could opt to stay in Almora. Stay at Sukoon Homestay or Kesar Himalaya Holiday Home.

Difficulty level

The trek is moderately difficult and a prior trekking experience would be beneficial. The trail requires you to go through thick forests, over a waterfalls, rivers and boulders. Trek to the highest altitude at 4,320 metres is a steep and tiring climb but the rewarding views are worth the grind.

DIY or not

It is highly recommended to do this trek with a professional trekking guide even if you're an experienced trekker, as the trail after Jatoli becomes steep and the altitude becomes high.

Book a local guide in Loharkhet itself or book your trek with companies such as Himalayan High, Adventure Nation or Hello Travel.

Cost

The trek cost ranges from ₹7,000-17,000, depending on the company you choose to trek with.

When to do it

April to June and September to November is an ideal time to trek, as the weather is pleasant. Avoid the months of July and August as the region gets heavy rainfall during those months.

The route

The seven-day trek starts from and ends at Loharkhet, which is accessible from Kathgodam or Almora by a shared Jeep or cab.

This is route for the Sunderdhunga Trek:

Loharkhet – Dhakuri – Jatoli – Kathalia – Maiktoli Top/Sukhram Caves – Kathalia – Jatoli – Dhakuri – Loharkhet

Itinerary:

Day 1

Kathgodam/Almora – Loharkhet

As you whisk away from Almora, the bustling environs of a hill town morph into a quaint mountain village. Loharkhet houses KMVN rest houses where you could check-in for the night before you start your trek.

Day 2

Loharkhet – Dhakuri (10km)

The trail from Loharkhet to Dhakuri is steep and would take you through dense forests. Upon reaching Dhakuri, a picturesque plain land, you would be greeted by the views of snow-capped Nanda-Kot, Chhanguch, and Maiktoli peaks. You could either pitch your own tent or check-in to one of the guesthouses.

Day 3

Dhakuri – Khati – Jatoli (15km)

As you progress through thick forests of Rhododendrons, you would reach Khati, the last village en route Pindari Glacier. The trail from Khati is a bumpy one and would lead you to the beautiful village of Jatoli where you could camp or stay in at a guesthouse.

Day 4

Jatoli – Dhungia Dhaun – Kathalia (13km)

After passing through thick alpine forests, you would reach Dhungia Dhaun, a small plain, beyond which the journey becomes hard. The arduous climb ends in the lush green meadows of Kathalia.

Day 5

Kathalia – Maiktoli Top/Sukhram Cave – Kathalia (7km)

The route ahead of Kathalia diverges into Maiktoli Top and Sukhram Cave, both of which are 7km away from Kathalia. While Maiktoli Top is a steep climb, the views are rewarding. Likewise, the trek to Sukhram Cave would give you stunning views of the Sunderdhunga Valley. You could choose to trek to either one of them.

Day 6

Kathalia – Jatoli (13km)

Bid the panoramic views goodbye as you descend back to the ever-beautiful, unmarred village of Jatoli.

Day 7

Jatoli – Khati – Dhakuri (15km)

The same trek through rivers and forests that was hard in the beginning would feel much easier as you reach your last campsite in Dhakuri.

Day 8

Dhakuri – Loharkhet (10km) – Kathgodam/Almora

The last leg of your journey would leave you with a curious case of wanderlust, making it hard to bid adieu to the arduous but enriching journey.

What to pack

Apart from essential trekking gears to put in your backpack, carry dry fruits to snack on, an extra paper-bag to collect all your waste, rain cover, cutlery and mandatory government documents.

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