An important point, on the Kumaon circuit and unrivalled for the panoramic views of the Himalayas, Ranikhet, as hill station, is idyllic in its charm. Weaving an instant spell on the visitor, tourists, over the centuries have, enthused ecstatically over its valley, meadows, cliffs, hills, snow-capped mountains, serpentine rivers and crystal clear rivulets, who here and there, display the rainbow.
An unusual name, a quaint legend and the sheer beauty of its environs, make this Kumaon hill station, a wonderful holiday resort. The flowering plants amaze and confuse, when, different branches of the same plant yield flowers of different colors and varying fragrance.
Against the backdrop of snow-capped Himalayan peaks, it has the added attraction of ancient temples, pretty picnic spots, quiet strolls and exciting treks. There is also a nine-hole golf course at Upat, on the outskirts of Ranikhet.
The ancient Aryans had designated the region of the Central Himalayas as the Celestial Land - the Dev Bhumi. Here amidst the rustling and encircled by dazzling white peaks, glistening in the sun, once camped a beauteous Queen of legend and lore, giving the town its name-Rani (Queen)-Khet (Field).
Falling in love, with the beauty of the place, she decided to stay and built a palace, near what is now the Ranikhet Club. Later it was discovered and built entirely by the British in 1869.
On a visit here, late Prime Minister Nehru commented, " I wish more of our people living in plains below, would visit the Himalayas... They can have their fill of flower and noble trees in primeval forests. They can breathe the free untainted air, which invigorates and they can return strengthened in body, mind and spirits".
Ranikhet has little shopping opportunities apart from woollens. Get to the Shawl and Tweed Factory, adjacent to the Nar Singh Stadium parade ground for all the woollens you think you will need, and some more. You can buy woollen and cotton shawls, lengths of tweed, woollen scarves and gents' shawls (called pankhis) from here. Once you're done with the business of getting warm, stroll down to the malls in Ranikhet. Of the four, Sadar bazaar and Mall road bazaar are the busiest. Pick up some wooden handicrafts and at a pinch, some fresh fruit. The shops are open from 8 am to 8 pm; closed on Mondays.
Virtually every hotel in Ranikhet has a restaurant. So you'll never be hard-up for places to eat at. Those apart there are a couple of decent eateries across the town. Try the dhabas, which serve hot and tasty stuffed parathas. Great for breakfast, lunch or dinner, specially if you're sitting around a fire.
At 6000 feet above sea level this is one of the best nine-hole golf courses in the country and a big draw for enthusiasts. Upat is on the road to Almora, six kilometres outside Ranikhet, a charming introduction to this hill station. The road runs through the course and while you can walk on the greens, you cannot park on the road. Play golf listening to the whisper of the wind tiptoeing past the pine forests that run along the boundaries of the course. It is open to civilians on a temporary basis, so check out with the slightly surly staff at the red-roofed club house on the greens. You can call 21536 and speak to Rajpal Singh for an appointment.
This secluded temple dedicated to Durga has some 20,000 bells strung all over the compound, echoes of which can be heard from some distance. The idol of durga is on a swing (jhoola), hence the name. The temple is said to have been built during the 17th century.
You can easily give this a miss -- a non-descript cave temple with idols of Rama and Hanuman.
The main source of the town's water supply comes from the artificial lake created by the Bhalu Dam. Built by the British in 1808, the lake is 70 metres in length, 30 feet in depth and 22 feet wide. There is a filtration plant at Nagpani, 1 kilometre from the dam. The dam is a 2.5 kilometre trek from Chaubatia and the track leads downhill through a forest. The lake is a popular fishing spot. Bhalu dam is approximately 13 kilometre from Ranikhet.
Ranikhet is 60 Km from Nainital.
The nearest airport is at Pantnagar at 119Km.
The nearest railhead is Kathgodam at 84 km and is well connected to Delhi, Kolkata, Agra, Lucknow and Bareilly. Transfer facilities, by bus and taxis, are available from Ranikhet.
Direct buses ply from Delhi via Nainital and nearby areas on a reasonably well-maintained highway. It is well connected via Nainital to Delhi, Lucknow, Bareilly, Haridwar and Mussoorie.
Summers are cool and pleasant and the winters are cold and chilly.
Nanda means prosperity and well being, Nanda Devi Mela is held as a symbol of prosperity, both material and spiritual, of the hill regions. A fair of great religious and cultural significance, it is held at Nanda Devi Temple in September to commemorate the memory of goddesses, Nanda and Sunanda. It is said to have started in Kumaon, during the reign of Raja Kalyan Chand in the 16th century. The Nanda Devi Mela is held at Almora, Nainital, Nauti, Dandidhara, Munsyari and Ranikhet, of which the Almora and Roopkund fairs are the most famous.
With one of the best 9 golf links in the country, Upat is a boon to the enthusiast, with views of the Great Himalayas. A British cavalry officer originally laid out the course, on a cross-country racetrack, but it now forms the perimeter of the nine-hole course. The army runs the golf course, but anyone with a set of clubs is welcome to a game for a nominal charge. Further along the same road, is Majkhali, recommended for its views of the snow. Just 1 Km from Upat, is Kalika with its famous temple to the Goddess Kali. It also has good forest nursery. A beautiful snowcapped mountain peak is available on the other side of the golf link at Upat.
Located at a height of 1940 meters above sea level, and placed around the beautiful lake, Naini Tal, is the charming hill resort of Nainital. Surrounded by seven hills, this attractive hill station was once the summer capital of Uttar Pradesh and is expected to become the future capital of the new state of Uttaranchal. The most sought after hill resort in India, its quaint cottages, colorful markets, the lush landscape and the beautiful lake at the very heart of it, makes Nainital a delightful spot. With many interesting walks, thorough the forests, to points with superb views of the Himalayas.
A haven for the fishing enthusiasts, this fine lake, with nine corners, is 4 Km to the northeast of Bhim Tal.
22 Km from Nainital and named after one of the Pandava brothers, the Bhimtal. is the largest lake in the district. Situated at a level of 1371.6 mtrs it is longer than Naini Lake, as it is 1701 mtrs by 454 mtrs. Known for its robust majesty, Bhim Tal has an exquisite gem in the middle of the lake - an islet situated within the range of temple bells, which have been chiming, for the last 300 years. In this 17th century edifice, beneath the shadow of the towering mountain, it rushes precipitously down to the emerald green of the lake.
BHOWALI - 11 Km east of Nainital, Bhowali is an ideal spot , for a days outing, a weekend, or even the whole summer, for those in search of fragrant pines. . Enclosed by a pine forest, the crisp, salubrious air makes it an ideal spot .
CHAUBATIA - As the name implies, these are four, fruit gardens, with a Government Fruit Research Centre, complete with a fruit sales depot and cafeteria.
HANUMAN GARHI AND OBSERVATORY - An ecstatic spot reputed for its glorious sun-set, the Hanuman Temple, has turned lately into a pilgrim centre, as well. Near the temple, are the U.P. Government Astronomical Observatory and the Satellite Tracking Centre well worth a visit.
HERA KHAN TEMPLE - Hera Khan Temple and Ashram, near Chilianaula village, is 4 kms from Sadar Bazaar. The Hindu saint, Hera Khan, died in 1984 and the modern marble-faced temple with a garden was constructed according to his wishes.
TARAKHET - The beloved spot of Gandhi, this is the place, Mahatma Gandhi fell in love with, and stayed for a length of time during the days of the Independence struggle. Here, he came for peace of mind, which he always found.
SAT TAL - 21 Km from Nainital, Sat Tal or Seven Lakes is a picturesque spot where nature reigns supreme in all her beauty. Here are seven small ,but exquisite lakes; including Panna, Nal-Damayanti, Sita, Government and the Sukha Tal Lakes.