Location & Description
Gunji at an altitude of 3500 meter is one of the 21 upper-Himalayan villages of Dharchula block of Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand. It is located near the borders of Tibet and Nepal and the confluence of the Kuthi Yankti and Kalapani River, on the east end of the Kuthi Valley. It overlooks Mount Api in Nepal.
As per the 2011 census, the village of Gunji has a population of 335 people living in 194 households. The village is only populated seasonally. With winters coming, people migrate to lower places (mostly to Dharchula) in the same district. Total geographical area of Gunji village is 188.9 Hectares. Population density of Gunji is 2 persons per Hectares
The people here are seasonal migrants. In November every year, families with their animals move down to their winter homes in Dharchula. In early May, as the snow retreats, the families walk back to Gunji taking over 4 days, the walk a steep climb of 60-70 kilometres, and then only begin their farming season.
When there is good rains they harvest buckwheat, rajma, peas and other crops in October, and then return to their winter homes with their animals.
However, not all families have the luxury of two homes in two different places. A little more than two dozen families are forced to stay in Gunji even in the freezing winter when the mercury dips to minus 20 degrees Celsius. In summer, the temperature in Gunji hovers around 10 degrees Celsius.
Gunji is one of the largest villages on the India-China border. It has an Indo-Tibetan Border Police camp, a Sashastra Seema Bal camp, a Customs Office, an Intelligence Bureau (IB) Office and temporary branches of the State Bank of India and post office that remain open for only six months of the year. The IB is there because of the proximity of the place to the international border, the potential for illegal trade and because pilgrims on the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra pass through Gunji.
Sashastra Seema Bal, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and GREF personnel remain here throughout the year.
It is now possible to reach Gunji by helicopter, which takes off from Dharchula.
While approaching Gunji from Dharchula and the rest of India, the route along the western bank of Sharda River (also called Mahakali or Kali River) at Gunji forks into two separate motorable routes, one goes north to Kailash-Mansarovar and another to the west to Adi Kailash.
In May 2020, India inaugurated a new 80 km long road from Dharchula via Gunji to Lipulekh Pass on India-China border [under geostrategic India-China Border Roads project Hirak] to the Kailas-Manas Sarovar. In July 2020, India also opened a newly constructed road in this area from Gunji to Limpiyadhura Pass (Limpiya Dhura Pass on India-China border) which will reduce the trek time to Adi Kailash to two hours.
Trekkers and other travellers may get food and accommodation here, but in order to reach Gunji one has to obtain an Inner line permit which is issued by SDM at Dharchula. Travellers need a valid ID, a health certificate and a character certificate at hand for this permit.
Compiled by Ms. Bani Baral, author of Kailash Manas Sarovar Yatra, looking back – Day 8 Journey from Budhi to Gunji
Map location is approximate