Sacred source of the Ganges, the western part of Uttarakhand is where Hindu devotees come on mountain yatras (pilgrimages) to Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri. Westerners tend to head straight for Rishikesh, said to be the "birthplace" of yoga, and made famous by the Beatles, who visited what was then a peaceful village back in the 1960s. As a result, scores of garish concrete ashrams and temples line the banks of the Ganges here, drawing thousands of visitors seeking their own yogis and tantric enlightenment, as well as hippies and backpackers keen to contemplate life, the universe, and everything through an edifying cloud of hash smoke. Up in the hills, with staggering views of the vast Doon Valley and western Garhwal's Himalayan peaks, Mussoorie is the quintessential Raj-era hill station, but it gets crowded and detestable in summer (and on weekends), packed with honeymooning and vacationing domestic tourists who send the decibel level skyrocketing. In winter, however, much of its near-haunted charm returns.
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