Chopta it is if you want to be “far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife”
and enjoy the magnificent views of the Himalaya from the alpine meadows.
Chopta lies between Kedarnath and Badrinath, at an edge of Kedarnath Wildlife
Sanctuary, to the north central part of Uttaranchal. Uttaranchal is now Uttarakhand
which was formed out the state of Uttar Pradesh in India on 9 November 2000,
and is also known as Dev Bhumi.
The motor-able route: Delhi - Merrut Bypass - Mujaffarnagar Bypass - Haridwar
- Rishikesh bypass - Devprayag - Srinagar - Rudraprayag and left fork towards
Kedarnath - Drive along river Mandakini (and not crossing the river at Kund)
- Ookhimath (has a GMVN rest house) - Dugalbetta - Chopta.
The checklist of birds has been compiled for the area of study as below, along
with the height from sea level:
Chopta ~2700-3000m (30°29'N latitude and 79°10'E longitude)
The distance from Makkumath to Dugalbetta is 8 Kms, next to Chopta is another
12 Kms, and a trek from Chopta to Tunganath is 3 Kms and after 1 more Km is
Chandrashila. As can be seen from above, there is a rapid change of altitude
in a short distance.
This region belongs to the Temperate zone where, in winters, most of this
area is covered in snow and in the higher reaches the temperature can plummet
to -15C. During Monsoons the area receives almost 2000 mm of rain so landslides
etc. can be a deterrent. The local tea shops etc. are open from 30th April
to 20th Oct. at Chopta.
The habitat can broadly be termed as Quercus forest ~2600m, Rhododendron forest
~3000m, grasslands ~3400m. I have found that the Rhododendron can be an altitude
marker. At Makkumath, Rhododendron arboreum (Red flowers) is found. At Chopta,
R. barbetum (Pink flowers). At treeline near Devdarshini, R. Campanulatum
(white flowers). At Tunganath, the shrubs of R. anthopogon. At Chandrashila,
R. lepidotum etc. The flowering period is April/May only.
whole region shows immense biodiversity. Many varieties of Lichens grow here
on wood, soil and rock substrates. The Cobra Plant, Arisaema utile, always manages
to catch your attention. The plants and herbs found here are used for traditional
healthcare medicines, beverages (the flowers of Rhododendron arboreum, locals
call it "Burans", gives the Rhododendron juice), dyes and insecticides etc.
The fibers of these plants are also used for handicrafts, ropes, mats, baskets
and sports items etc.
The broad mix of trees here mainly consist of Oak (Quercus semecarpifolia),
Rhododendron, Yew (Taxus baccata), Himalayan Fir (Abies pindrow), Deodar (Cedrus
Many wild animals are found here. Himalayan Black Bear, Leopard, Wild Boar,
Jackal, Fox, Jungle Cat, Marbled Cat, Himalayan Langur, Yellow-throated Marten, Pika, Himalayan Tahr,
Ghoral, Barking Deer and others offer evidence of their presence. A Musk Deer
reserve is also present 7 Kms further towards Mandal.
800 mts before Tunganath, Chandrashila peak center rt
From Chandrashila one gets the magnificent panoramic views of Kedar Peak,
Kedar Dome, Mount Shivling, Chaukhamba, Nandadevi, Nanda Ghunti, Hathi Parvat,
Ghodi Parvat, Dronagiri, Mandani, Trisul, Panchachuli etc.
A few Terrabits:
Near this area in 1796, Major General Thomas Hardwicke (click here for an image
named in his honour), was the first to collect plants and shrubs.
The Himalayan Sheep Dog remains silent, almost always, but growls when it
senses a leopard in the area.
A Snow Leopard was reported from Chopta in 1979.
Mispronunciation often means Rhodo-dodo-dendron.
Mahishanand Maithani, nearly 90 yrs of age, daily treks the steep climb up
and down from Chopta to Tungnath.
Bhuk Hartal (literally "Hunger Strike") bus service is the lifeline here.
'Kadik Bam' is the most photographed person at Tunganath and appears in many
posters advertising Uttarakhand.
At the first colour of dawn and the effort of the birds, I started on the kilometer long trek to Chandrashila. Having spent many years in the Himalaya, I was no stranger to the lofty peaks, but must confess that I was awestruck by the magnificent scene on the first view from Chandrashila. It easily surpassed my expectation. Just a few ranges of low forest-covered mountains stood between me and the marbled white mass of the peaks, covering the entire panorama. As I scanned the skyline, the haze of the east gave way to the clear northern peaks of Chaukhamba and others. They all look so near and the skyward peaks climb against a blue sky. The low hung pieces of cloud were floating still hereabouts. Moments before the rising sun became visible, the peaks turned golden-yellow and soon sun-ray shafts pierced the sky, partly creating a halo around Nanda Devi and neighboring peaks. This is how early morning expresses "Himadri", the permanent snowy peaks.
As the day progresses, the low recesses become warm and the stagnancy gets broken.
The keenly outlined mist, dense and heavy at times, white mostly, springs up
from the void of the intervening forest range, only to unite amongst themselves
at the summits, grow further and ascend higher up. The onlooker soon starts
losing sight of the exceptional scenery noticeable moments ago. Nature’s magic
wand waved everyday, a curtain to every bliss.
The beauty of this place cannot be described at all. There are only feelings and some clues to solving the mystery. But first, let the stiffness go, if you have come this far, it has probably already gone. At Chandrashila, as you touch the sky, you are at the center of the magical orb. Be there in the early morn, see the sun in Taurus rise and feel the cadence. At first the vast physical emptiness looks monstrous but soon enough you know that the stillness is an illusion. The charm overflows and all reach the "pure mind of a sage".
Back to the checklist(Beta):
, Collocalia brevirostris
, Accipiter trivirgatus
, Accipiter virgatus
, Gypaetus barbatus
, Gyps himalayensis
- Banyakund to Tunganath
, Milvus migrans
, Sarcogyps calvus
Mountain Hawk Eagle
, Spizaetus nipalensis
, Falco tinnunculus
, Aquila chrysaetos
Speckled Wood Pigeon
, Columba hodgsonii
, Columba leuconota
, Streptopelia chinensis
Oriental Turtle Dove
, Streptopelia orientalis
, Arborophila torqueola
, Lerwa lerwa
, Lophophorus impejanus
, Lophura leucomelanos
, Pucrasia macrolopha
, Aegithalos concinnus
, Certhia nipalensis
, Troglodytes troglodytes
, Prinia atrogularis
, Prinia criniger
a - Makkumath
, Corvus corax
, Corvus macrorhynchos
, Dicrurus leucophaeus
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo
, Dicrurus remifer
, Garrulus glandarius
, Garrulus lanceolatus
, Pericrocotus ethologus
, Pericrocotus flammeus
Yellow-billed Blue Magpie
, Urocissa flavirostris
, Carduelis spinoides
, Carpodacus erythrinus
, Carpodacus nipalensis
, Emberiza cia
, Mycerobas icterioides
, Pyrrhula erythrocephala
Asian House Martin
, Delichon dasypus
White-capped Water Redstart
, Chaimarrornis leucocephalus
, Enicurus scouleri
, Eumyias thalassinus
, Ficedula strophiata
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush
, Monticola rufiventris
, Muscicapa ruficauda
Blue Whistling Thrush
, Myophonus caeruleus
- Makkumath to Tunganath
, Niltava sundara
, Phoenicurus coeruleocephala
, Phoenicurus frontalis
Plumbeous Water Redstart
, Rhyacornis fuliginosa
, Saxicola ferreus
Golden Bush Robin
, Tarsiger chrysaeus
, Tarsiger cyanurus
, Turdus albocinctus
, Turdus boulboul
, Turdus viscivorus
, Zoothera dixoni
, Zoothera mollissima
, Zoothera monticola
Mrs Gould's Sunbird
, Aethopyga gouldiae
, Aethopyga nipalensis
, Dicaeum ignipectum
, Parus dichrous
, Parus major
, Parus melanolophus
, Parus monticolus
, Motacilla cinerea
, Motacilla flava
, Prunella collaris
, Prunella strophiata
, Hypsipetes leucocephalus
, Sitta cashmirensis
, Sitta castanea
, Tichodroma muraria
Grey-sided Bush Warbler
, Cettia brunnifrons
Warbler, Bradypterus thoracicus
, Garrulax erythrocephalus
, Garrulax lineatus
, Garrulax striatus
, Garrulax variegatus
, Heterophasia capistrata
- Banyakund to Chopta
, Minla strigula
, Phylloscopus chloronotus
- Banyakund to
, Phylloscopus maculipennis
, Phylloscopus humei
, Pteruthius flaviscapis
, Seicercus whistleri
, Seicercus xanthoschistos
- Makkumath to
, Yuhina gularis
, Megalaima virens
, Celeus brachyurus
, Dendrocopos himalayensis
, Dendrocopos hyperythrus
, Psittacula himalayana
, Upupa epops
Info for the tourist:
From Rudraprayag although Chopta can be reached driving along the river Mandakini
via Ookhimath, one can also take the route to Chamoli along the bank of Alaknanda,
take a left turn towards Gopeshwar then to Chopta via Mandal forest.
Staying options; Mandakini (green river) Side:
Ookhimath (GMVN): Also called Ukhimath.
Accommodation at Dugalbitta PWD rest house is difficult to get, the Himalayan
views here are fantastic though. A paying guesthouse also exists at Dugalbitta.
Alaknanda (brown river) Side:
Chopta does not have a GMVN guesthouse but basic camps run by the locals may
serve the purpose. It is always chilly at Chopta and above so moderately heavy
woolens are recommended. After acclimatization, the 3Km trek to Tunganath from
Chopta is relatively easy on the wide mule track. After every Km, one can halt
at the teashops to catch one's breath. Very basic staying options are available
at Tunganath for an early morning trek to Chandrashila the next day and back
The Gharwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) (peak season ~Rs. 1050/- per day), guesthouses
can be booked online here