Nestled in the lap of Garhwal Himalayas close to Ukhimath, Chopta is perhaps one of the most scenic and romantic hill stations of Uttarakhand. Encompassed by lush green bugyals or meadows and immaculate snow-capped mountain peaks, Chopta enjoys a salubrious climate throughout the year. The weather is clear in summer, refreshing with rain in monsoon and exhilarating with snow-clad landscape in winter. In short, Chopta is an all-year holiday destination.
People often call Chopta as mini Switzerland, but I prefer saying Switzerland as an extended version of Chopta when it comes to landscape.
Chopta, Uttarakhand during early winterAmitabha Gupta
If you are a bird watcher, be informed that Chopta is a paradise for bird lovers. Over 200 species of birds are found here, the most prized being Himalayan monal, Himalayan Griffon, Sacrlet finch, Mountain Hawk eagle and Hill Patrdige.
Chopta is located very strategically close to the Panch Kedar — the five most sacred Shiva temples of Uttarakhand. You find Kedarnath and Madmaheshwar shrines on its left, Rudranath and Kalpeshwar on its right and Tunganath temple just above it.
The Panch Kedars have a Mahabharata connection. After the battle of Kurukshetra, Lord Krishna advised the Pandavas to take blessings from Lord Shiva, so that they are pardoned from fratricide (sin of killing their cousins) and killing of Brahmins. Lord Shiva stayed in the disguise of a bull at Guptkashi. When Pandavas tried to get hold of it, the bull’s body broke up into five parts and fell at five different places. These five places are Panch Kedars, where the Pandavas prayed and gained forgiveness from the Lord.
Lush green valley of Chopta during monsoonAmitabha Gupta
Base Camp for trekkers
The temple of Tungnath remains closed in winter during snowfallAnjun Kundu
Chopta is mainly visited by trekkers and pilgrims who are interested in the Tungnath-Chandrashila Trek (3,690 m). A few of them even do the Deoriatal Trek (2,438 m), whose starting point is the Sari village.
The path to Tungnath temple is pretty straightforward but steep. Anyone with basic fitness can trek up to the temple easily except during winters due to heavy snowfall in the area. The path to Chandrashila is relatively difficult. When the trekkers reach there, heavenly scenery of snow clad mountains with a 360 degree view awaits them.
Except Tungnath, all other temples of Panch Kedar have priests from south India. This was a system set by Hindu saint Shankarachrya. In Tungnath, Maithani Brahmins from nearby Makkumath Village (29 km) are appointed as priests.
During the winter season, the temple remains closed. The symbolic image of the deity is carried by the temple priests to the Markandeshwar Temple in Makkumath village.
During monsoon, there are waterfalls in almost every nook and corner of ChoptaAmitabha Gupta
Those who undertake this trekking pilgrimage to the shrine do so in summer months (end April or early May to October) as the temple remains snow bound and unapproachable from November to March. During this period even Chopta, the nearest road head, remains deserted. But many visit the area during the winter to avoid the pilgrims and to enjoy the snow filled landscape.
Bunker house as seen from the valley, Bunker house 2.0 as seen from the roadAmitabha Gupta
One major problem with Chopta has been its accommodation facilities, which is why it never became the desired hill station that it should have been, but remained a base camp for trekkers. The lodges are basic, tented accommodations are pricey and the PWD Bungalow at Duggalbitta cannot accommodate much. Sari village, which is 21 km away, provides better accommodation. The food available in all these places is very basic.
In the last two years an excellent accommodation option named “Bunker house” has come up, which is located between Sari village and Duggalbitta. They have an excellent café with a classy and intelligently designed décor which caters to various kinds of tea and coffee along with delicacies like various types of pizzas, burgers, rolls, wraps, south Indian food etc. The top floor houses the café while the floor below it provides bunker accommodation with attached restrooms. On both floors, there are long corridors overlooking the valley. You can enjoy your breakfast sitting in the corridors even while clouds and sun play in the valley. The property has been such a success that the owners opened another property nearby named Bunker House 2.0, where besides a food court, luxurious deluxe rooms and family rooms are available at an affordable price. The common area also has a similar kind of view. WiFi is available in public areas and is free of charge. The accommodation provides 24×7 solar powered electricity.
It is enjoyable to sit on the corridors of Bunker House overlooking the valleyAmitabha Gupta
Other than the cosy comfortable sitting arrangements in the café with excellent quality food at an affordable price, siblings Sparsh and Sukriti Taneja often get into lively chats with their guests. They are officially the founder of The Bunker House Cafe & Stay. The interiors have been designed meticulously by Sukriti.
Other family members often join in and the warmth of their hospitality is an extra bonus staying here. The Bunker house is practically the only standard accommodation facility with an adjoining café in the Chopta Valley, which is actually refreshing for those who are not into trekking but would love to visit the place just like any hill station.
Night view of the cafe in Bunker house. The cafe has an interesting decor and serves quality food rarely available in the valleyAmitabha Gupta
Enjoy your lazy romantic rain walk in monsoon with your partner as you pass by numerous waterfalls. Maybe you can share a poem or two sitting beside one of them. In the evening you may spot a herd of deer. In winters, enjoy the heavenly scene after snowfall, as you bask in the tepid warmth of winter sun.
A word of caution needs to be said for those who would like to visit Chopta in winter, especially during snowfall. It snows quite heavily in the valley causing temporary roadblocks, so you need to approach Chopta from the side of Ukhimath. Bunker house is open throughout the year, so you can hop in anytime. It is however advisable to book in advance.
Booking Numbers: 090459 51195 / 080770 41534/ 098375 83667
Snow peaked mountains as seen from ChandrashilaAmitabha Gupta
The start point to reach Chopta is Haridwar. If one opts to reach Chopta via Rudraprayag and Ukhimath, the distance is around 230 km. If you start at 6 am in the morning by car, you should be there by 4 pm in the evening. In case you opt for public transport, you have to reach Rudraprayag first, then find a transport to reach Ukhimath and then to Chopta.