Walk away from Hari ki Pauri and all those famous temples, for ixigo has turned a much famous place like Haridwar into an offbeat one. Explore the hidden wonders of this city with the 10 best kept secrets out here for you.
Here’s a local’s guide to Haridwar!
Explore like the good old days – Tonga Rides
tuk tuk tuk tuk… the sound of horse hooves is still commonplace in old Haridwar. Take a tour of old Haridwar in this equally old fashioned way as tonga riders happily show you around the many temples, ghats, sweet shops, orchards and more. You can book tongas for an entire day for INR 500 or more.
Visit World’s Largest Food Park
While most of the tourists stick to the usual temple trail in Haridwar, you can explore a very different side of the city at world’s largest food park. Opened at the behest of yoga expert Ramdev, the farms are spread across acres and acres. Walk along rows of fresh organic produce and medicinal plants at this park, located within the premises of Patanjali Yogpeeth. At just 20 km from the main city, it makes for a must visit attraction.
The Damru Arti at Daksha Mahadev Temple
Get off the tourist circuit by skipping Ganga Arti. There’s one more place that is a local’s favourite for watching arti, the Daksha Mahadev Temple in the Kankhal suburb of Haridwar. 30 minutes from Hari Ki Pauri, this ancient temple stands by the side of Ganga. Unlike Hari ki Pauri, you won’t find more than 50 people for the arti here, and the arti is more like a spectacle. Gigantic damrus and tambourines come into play, as flames leap some 2 feet high for the ritual. Don’t miss this one, if you’re really looking for the relatively lesser known religious side of Haridwar.
The Architecture Fables!
Apart from the temples, there’s a very different side of this little city. Hit the roads at around 5 am and you’ll see it in all its splendour. Though nobody I met had any idea who made the towering havelis and other such buildings, these are a treat to watch. While a guard said that some of the structures were built by kings of yesteryears, a sadhu who was literally high told me that the buildings simply appeared out of blue, some hundred years back, much to the amazement of the people! Explore, you might have another theory by day’s end.
Watch the Greens Turn Red at Lychee Farms
While you’re up for a morning stroll in this sleepy city, drive off towards MK Gandhi Road in Kankhal. Some 5 minutes after you’ve crossed the HRA College, look to your right and you’ll have a spectacle to behold. Lychee farms, spread over some acres, will make for a fascinating sight. You might have to rub your eyes in disbelief, for lush red, plump lychees almost bring the trees down, setting loose a riot of colours with red and green merging into each other. Talk to the security guards and they’ll be too happy to take you on a tour inside the farms. Visit these from May to July for that’s the peak season for lychee farming.
Visit the 13th Century Sufi Shrine
Did you know that Haridwar is home to a 13th century dargah, Piran Kaliyar, built by Ibrahim Lodhi? A much revered place for the followers of Sufism, it’s the resting place of Sufi saint Alauddin Ali Ahmed Sabir Kalyari. The complex is simple yet fascinating in its architecture. Going by the folklore of the region, every wish made here comes true! An annual fair, Urs, attracts more of foreigners and delegates from Islamic countries to the shrine. It’s time you explore it too.
Explore the Wilderness Via Jungle Safaris
Being right in the foothills of the Shivaliks or the lower Himalayas, Haridwar is surrounded by dense forests. Go for a jungle safari at the Rajaji National Park, home to a huge number of Asiatic elephants, tigers and more. It’s much different from the Haridwar that you might have imagined; a Haridwar that does not bustle with tourists and overtly religious crowds.
Food for fish!
One of my favourite ways to spend an evening in Haridwar is to drive off towards Neel Dhara, the free flowing Ganga that’s not obstructed by dams and supplies water to Hari ki Pauri. It’s very different from Hari ki Pauri or the other ghats, for the depth is unfathomable and water swirls around in a very mystic way. You can spend hours by the bridge here, throwing scraps of flour to feed startlingly colourful fish. It’s an experience I cannot put into words, for watching the fish gallop towards food at a fascinating pace is unlike anything. This part of the Ganga once had bottlenose dolphins as well.
Enjoy the 30 Shades of Laddus!
So, you’ve heard of the famous Haridwar jalebies. But something that you might not have heard of are the laddus of Haridwar. The sheer variety of these will overwhelm you, as the laddu shops boast of more than 30 varieties! I usually end up buying a mix of the whole lot, for these are all home made, consumed and made everyday, in tonnes. While there are more famous shops around, my votes goes to Khanna Sweet House, the unofficial supplier of laddus to all the major temples.
Pray for World Peace at Shanti Kunj
Less than 30 minutes from the city centre stands Shanti Kunj, another must visit place in Haridwar. Equally famed for its eatery, it’s much known for the Auyrvedic and herbal plants grown inside the complex. It’s supposedly one of the very few places which organises havans and prayers for world peace on a daily basis! You can stay in one of the rooms here to indulge in this once in a lifetime experience.
One of the best stays in the city is Hotel Alaknanda, run by Uttarakhand Government. While the rooms are plush and comfortable, it scores high with its location. It’s not even a 5 minute walk away from the Ganga and is well connected to all the major attractions of the city.
Raddison Blu is another choice for the ones seeking luxury. On the flip side, it’s more than 30 km from the city centre, tucked away in the industrial zone of Haridwar.
So now, while I’m off to some other city and make another offbeat itinerary, you can head off to explore the other side of Haridwar.
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