Almora is perched on a 5 km long horseshoe-shaped ridge, 1,650 metres above sea level. The town looks out over a fertile terraced valley and four ranges of hills – Banari Devi, Kasan Devi, Shyahi Devi and Katarmal. From the town one can see the magnificent Himalyan ranges to the North with the peaks of Trishul, Nanda Devi and Nanda Kot rising tall in majestic splendour.
Many hill stations, like Nainital for example, were established by the British. But Almora is a magnificent town with a long history. The Kashaya Hill on which the town is built finds a mention in the scripture of the Skanda Purana. In 1560 Raja Kalyan Chand of Kumaon made it the capital of his kingdom. At that time it was called Rajapur and ancient inscriptions on many places still have Rajapur carved on them The rule of Chand dynasty came to an end after the gorkhas from Nepal occupied the area in 1790. The British defeated the Gorkhas in 1815, and established a small Army establishment and a Cantonment.
Swami Vivekanada had this to say about Almora. “These mountains are associated with the best memories of our race: Here, therefore, must be one of centres, not merely of activity, but more of calmness of meditation, and of peace and I hope some one day to realize it.” In fact he expressed a desire to have a meditation centre established here and the Ramakrishna Mission at Bright End Corner is a not an active ashram but is a quiet retreat for monks.
The charm of Almora does not lie in the overcrowded Mall. It lies in other places that include:
The Almora Bazaar : The cobbled stone streets of the bazaar are a delight to walk through. Houses and shops align the narrow streets that bustle with activity in the evenings. The traditional architecture is very much in evidence here as one spots carved doors and windows. Some of the best examples of the old styles of architecture van be found in Khazanchi Mohalla, an area which once belonged to the state treasurers. As you walk on the cobbles stoned path the markets change from Lala Bazar at one end to Thana Bazar on the other. In between are Karkhana Bazar, Khajanchi Mohalla, Jauhari Mohalla, Malli Bazar and Tamta Mohalla. Tamta Mohalla just short of the Cantonment. One of the traditional crafts of Almora is copperware and some of the best coppersmiths still work from their traditional area Tamta Mohalla. As you walk through this area the air reverberates with the sound of wooden hammers on metal and one can spot the Tamta community at work carving exquisite brass utensils and decorative items.
Nanda Devi Temple : This temple is dedicated to the patron goddess of the local population and the Chand rajas, and is located in the antechamber of a Shiva temple in the Bazaar above the Mall.
Chitai Temple : The famous hilltop temple of Chitai is 6 kms from Almora. Lord Golla, to whom the temple is dedicated is a deified general of the Chand dynasty. The shrine and the trees in the compound are decorated with bells offered by devotees who tie a bell either while making a wish or in thanksgiving.