Dharchula is a town and a nagar panchayat in Pithoragarh district in the northern state of Uttarakhand, India. Dharchula is an ancient trading town for the trans-Himalayan trade routes. It is surrounded by high mountains and is situated in a valley, on the banks of the Kali River at 4,000 m (13,000 ft) elevation.
Dharchula lies about 83 km (52 mi) north of Pithoragarh, along the route of the Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimage tour. The name of the town may originate from the Hindi words for mountain peak (dhar) and stove (chulha) because the valley in which it lies resembles a stove.
Nepal has a town with a similar name, Darchula, across the river Mahakali, which acts as the natural border between India and Nepal over a long stretch. People of the two towns have similar traditions, culture, and lifestyle, and can move across the border without a passport or visa. The area has a mixture of Kumaouni and Tibetean language, traditions and culture.
The town is situated in a beautiful valley at 915 m elevation and is 83 km from its district headquarters, Pithoragarh. The way from Pithoragarh to Dharchula is alongside the Kali River and is a 3 to 3.5 hour journey. The chief modes of transportation available are private jeeps and state government buses. However, reaching Pithoragarh itself from the plains is a tiring journey. One can reach Pithoragarh from either Haldwani or from Tanakpur (both towns situated on the foothills of Himalayas in the Uttarakhand district).
Haldwani is a city near Bareilly (in UP). From Haldwani, one can take either private jeeps or state government buses. The journey to Pithoragarh is of around 8 hours. Generally the private jeeps and buses run from Haldwani only till around 11 a.m. as it's quite dangerous to drive at night in the hilly tracks. The road is quite good and there are many good Dhabas (small restaurants) midway. However, the landslides in the rainy season (July and September) make the travel a bit dangerous and inconvenient.
Tanakpur can be reached from Lucknow or Bareilly by an overnight train journey, the modes of transportation from Tanakpur to Pithoragarh being same as from Haldwani to Pithoragarh. However, the distance from Tanakpur to Pithoragarh is shorter and takes approximately 6 hours. Although the roads towards this side of the hills have more curves and can create nausea, the journey to the town provides the travelers the magnificent sightseeing opportunity of the grand Himalayan peaks.
Dharchula has a KMVN (Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam) rest house. Dharchula is the base camp for the Kailash Manasarover Yatra and Aadi Kailash Yatra. Situated on the bank of the river Kali, Dharchula has the unique distinction of having a marine drive along the Kalli river.
Summers are warm and shiny, whereas the winters are cold. The higher altitude regions of Dharchula (basically upper valleys) receives snow during the winter season (December to February end). The area also receives heavy rainfall during the rainy season (July and September) which disrupts the normal course of life of the people and often causes landslides in the mountain areas. The entire town looks beautiful during winters with snow-capped hills all around and you are in the middle of the valley. As the sun rises the snow starts melting and there are streams flowing down towards the river. These streams are all around and have a fixed path every year. Though exact record of when did it snow in the past is not known but in the year 2006 it snowed in the town and the entire town was under the cover of snow. It is said that it had snowed around 50 years back but there are no such pictures though. There is a warm water spring called "doom pani" which are clearly demarked for men and women. The woman folk go and wash their clothes there. There is also a very hot water spring at a place called Tapovan. During Shiv Ratri, people go to Tapovan and take a bath by mixing the hot water with the cold water from the river. It is a sulphur spring and known to be good for the skin.