The tiny hamlet of Askot is a hidden beauty not many know of. With a stunning backdrop of the Kumaun Himalayas, the place will lure anyone who appreciates nature, beauty and tranquility. Huddled in the mountain ranges of Uttarakhand, close to the Nepal border, the quaint Himalayan hamlet of Askot is not just a picturesque beauty but also home to a rich wilderness.
Askot, also Askote, is a serene hill station which gets its name from the Hindi words 'assi kot' which mean eighty forts, which are believed to have been constructed in the region during history. The regions were ruled by several kings and rulers in the past including the Pals, Gorkhas, Rajwars and Chands. Many Nepali kings and British rulers also reigned here. Remnants of some of the forts can still be seen in the region.
Located approximately 60 km from Pithoragarh, near the town of Askot lies the Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary, which is a part of the Askot Wildlife Sanctuary that spans across almost 600 sq km. The sanctuary is also one of the high-altitude, protected areas in the country. The lofty peaks of Panchachulli, Chhiplakot, Naukana, Adi Kailash and several other mountain passes are all located inside the sanctuary making the landscape breathtakingly beautiful.
Covering an area of approximately 230 sq km, the Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary was established in the year 1986, to protect the endangered musk deer and its natural environment. Being extinct from the European continent, the musk deer are now mainly found in the alpine forests of Himalayas and the Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary is home to these exotic creatures.
Flora And Fauna Of Askot Wildlife Sanctuary
The sanctuary is a biodiverse hotspot and numerous varieties of flora and fauna are found here. While one can primarily see thick forests of teak and eucalyptus, a hundred other varieties of shrubs and herbs also grow here. Which explains why the place makes it to the list of favourites of many nature and wildlife enthusiasts.
Apart from the endangered musk deer, animals, like leopard, Himalayan jungle cat, Bengal tiger, Himalayan brown bear, etc., are found in the sanctuary. With its resident population of numerous species of high-altitude birds including Himalayan monal, Himalayan snowcocks, species of snakes, turtles, monkeys and more, the wilderness is a feast for the wildlife photographers.
Best Time To Visit The Askot Wildlife Sanctuary
Being an alpine terrain, regions of the sanctuary are covered in snow during the winters. With harsh winters and heavy rainfalls, the weather of Askot Wildlife Sanctuary is classified as subarctic. And while the sanctuary is open all around the year, the best time to visit, on the basis of weather and animal spotting, is from April to September.
The Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary can be visited between 8 am to 5 pm, on all days of the week throughout the year.
Where To Stay?
Being a protected area, tourists are not allowed to stay inside the sanctuary. Budget to mid-range accommodation options, however, are available in the tiny town of Askot and the few nearby places like Mirthi and Tejam.
How To Reach Askot Wildlife Sanctuary
The tiny hill station of Askot does not have a railway station or an airport, it is, therefore, best reached by road. The nearest major town is Pithoragarh, from where you can board a bus or hire a taxi for Askot.
The nearest airports are Pithoragarh Airport (60 km) and Pantnagar Airport (approximately 350 km). Both these airports have limited flight services. The closest railhead is at Tanakpur which is approximately 200 km away. Board a bus or hire a cab from the airport or railway station to reach Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary.
PC: Dibyendu Ash