Tapovan: ideal for scenic walks and insights into rural life

In Tapovan nature has come to town. Or the town has come to nature. Whichever way you look at it India’s yoga capital, 233kms north of New Delhi, is ideal for scenic walks which provide a penetrating flash of insight into rural life in Rishikesh India.

Gujjar House Tapovan
Gujjar House Tapovan

Gujjar- a nomadic village

Gujjar is a nomadic village in Tapovan where four families tend a small herd of cows and Patho Village whose 40 inhabitants cultivate a variety of crops can be reached by turning off the busy Badrinath Highway opposite the Raj Resort into Balaknath Mandir Road. The mandir (a small temple) offers great views if you feel like climbing up more than 200 steps.

Tapovan Area

Balaknath Mandir in the Tapovan area is a haven of yoga centers, ayurvedic (traditional Indian medicine) centers, and restaurants and cafes serving Indian, Chinese, and Israeli cuisine. The Revival The cafe has inspiring quotes: don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you sow, Kailas Art Cafe encourages visitors to have a go at painting. Ira’s Kitchen & Tea Room is one of many eateries serving a variety of dishes.

Further up the road is Motley a shop with clothes, bags, incense, perfumes, and jewelry – a motley collection of crafts and eatables – hence the name. Atal Kuksal once a hotelier wanted to provide something different and strike a work-life balance. The shop opens between 1 pm and 6 pm leaving him with time to spend with his family and with God. A deeply religious man he has a small altar on the premises and tells his customers about his guru Neem Karoli Baba.

Homestay Rishikesh
Homestay Rishikesh

Om Homestay

A small private road just before Motley leads to Om Homestay, a villa-like house where Om and Anju accommodate guests in spacious rooms with en suite facilities and provide delicious vegetarian meals. The couple and their two children Sidhart and Tushita moved to Rishikesh from Varanasi in search of a better life free from the restrictions of the caste system and built the house four-bedroom house to cater specifically to tourists. Om through his company Rishikesh Day Tour organizes sightseeing trips to temples and holy places and leads half and whole-day treks.

Patho Village Tapovan
Patho Village Tapovan

Patho Village

The treks to Gujjar and Patho Village are half-day excursions through the forest behind his house – home to monkeys and panthers. As they rise above Rishikesh the narrow tracks, which require a guide as the path is not always obvious, provide spectacular views of the Ganges and even Haridwar, a large town 22 kilometers away.

Forty people live in Patho Village which has been around for 400 years but during the day only the old and the very young are at home. The others have gone to the town to work. They either walk or go on a scooter. There is no road for vehicles. The children go to school on foot.
The crops, some sold at the market and others kept for the villager’s own use include maize, ginger, potatoes, onion, garlic, radishes, mustard, finger millet, wheat, rice, tomatoes, pumpkins, mango, lemons, red chill’s and turmeric. Cows, chickens, and goats also make an appearance.

Parvati (85) gives visitors an amazing smile as she sits on the steps of her modest house. The villagers love having their photo taken and are happy to serve tea for which a small donation is always gratefully received. While Patho is a well-to-do village with idyllic concrete homes in a scenic setting Gujjar is poor with only four families looking after a small herd of cows. The problem in Gujjan is a lack of water which makes growing crops impossible.

Gujjar Village

Bibi (36) the mother of six children sells milk in Rishikesh. A strong woman she has no trouble carrying 10kilo containers up and down the trek. The money from the sale of the milk is the family’s only source of income but Bibi and her husband Husan, who enjoys a cigarette with visitors, are content with their simple life in a wooden hut with a straw thatched roof. Water is boiled over a roaring fire, the cows are fed on a variety of leaves outside the door of the hut and the proud parents listen intently as their children tell them about their day at school.

Trek to Patho village

The trek to Patho Village is an 8km round trip with a well-defined track on the way down. A round trip is not possible with Gujjar and care has to be taken on the trek strewn with small loose stones. Men and women in colorful attire walk quickly past the tourists with welcoming smiles.

Both treks end on the asphalt Balaknath Mandir Road with its tent camps and adventure holiday accommodation. The asphalt comes to an end at a waterfall where the locals take a dip. “Expect the unexpected when in the Himalayas,” Om advises.



Namaste! I am Om. I am a licensed Tourist Guide ( Approved by Ministry of Tourism, Government of India), I’m originally from Varanasi. Now, I am living in Rishikesh. I set up this blog to share my tips and experiences for traveling to inspire and help you to travel more. Hari Om

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