A mini vacation at the pristine hamlet of Mukteshwar is a cool summer plan! Nestled in the upper Kumaon hills in Uttarakhand, this place is a perfect getaway from the scorching summer heat in Delhi. And yes, it isn't that far from the capital city. Read more to know more about my travel experience in Mukteshwar.
A heart-warming weekend in a home-stay in Lansdowne, a cantonment hill town in the state of Uttarakhand in India two summers ago, left me with merry memories to cherish forever. Last year, my family planned for a road-trip to another considerably unexplored and less commercialized hill-station in a fairly similar manner.
Nestled in the upper Kumaon hills in Uttarakhand at an altitude of 7513 ft, Mukteshwar is a charming paradise in the Nainital district of the state. Perfect for a quick weekend retreat in summer, Mukteshwar is also a sought after winter destination because of the panoramic view of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks it offers in the season. The place in itself is like the tender skin of a newborn child-untouched and breathtakingly beautiful. Less commercialized and hence greener as compared to its sibling Nainital, I wish that it stays the same forever. Once you head over to the place, I am sure you will too.
We explored quite a bit online, wanting to book our stay at a place which is amidst abundant greens, is serene and satiating to the nature lover inside us, craving to be away from the concrete clutter and cacophony.
What we didn’t want was a plush HOTEL-that boasts of free wifi, a night embossed with candlelight setting and yes, yet another gigantic luxurious structure that reminds us of nothing but the city.
Madhuvan Cottages is located in Sargakhet, Mukteshwar. Apple, pear and plum laden trees surround the property along with fruit orchards of blushing apricots and peaches. Cocooned amidst glittering greenery and floral gems including dahlia and roses of different hues (to name a few), this place was an ideal getaway from the Capital’s sweltering heat. The joy of being in a place within a span of 8 hours, away from Delhi, where one can savour a desirable weather in June, knows no bounds. The cucumber-ry cool winds there give you mild but happy shivers, making you stop cribbing about the fact that a cardigan or a stole would have helped a bit. Well, yes. Mukteshwar, being above Nainital, tends to get a little chilly in the evening even during the spiteful summer month of June. However, that doesn’t mean that one can’t do without warm clothes. We did. Mornings and noon times are pleasant as ever; here, the amber glow from the almighty’s abode is warmly appreciated than bitterly cursed.
The owner of the place, Mr Dilawar Singh Bisht and his son Deepak are excellent hosts. They make your stay very comfortable and the staff appointed is immensely hard working. Three young lads shed every sweat to cook the best meals, taking care of the regular chores as well and the best part being that they are pursuing their education alongside which is commendable. Total rooms are four, three on the ground floor and one bigger bedroom with the two beds on the first floor. The view of the mighty Himalayas from all the four rooms is lovely. There is also an organic garden where medicinal herbs like rosemary, basil, oregano and thyme are grown. A hangout sorts is on the first floor where you can sit in the open and indulge in the pleasure of sipping herbal thyme tea-which reminds me of the speciality there. Madhuvan Cottages are known for their herbal tea and herbal pakoras). Well, the owner started off a humble restaurant business of selling lip smacking piping tea and sizzling pakoras in a small area of their land which now is made into another hangout , an enclosed one. Next to it is a hammock hanging under an apple tree which is apt for lazing around, or for a long awaited date with your book. Enjoy soaking up the yummy sun. Add a dash of refreshing mountain breeze to it. You won’t regret the recipe.
The idea of turning the place into a resort and the tasteful decor speaks for sheer creativity. What I loved was the architecture of the petite reception area, a red brick structure where the window(the frame of which is nearly 200 years old) is adorned beautifully. Being a resort which is more like a home-stay, you get vibes replete with warmth and hospitality which I personally feel can’t be achieved in a four or five-star treatment . Don’t come here if you expect a lavish hotel-like aura and can’t bear the sight of an insect or two. We went around June, so we did experience cool mild rains. Due to the resulting damp weather and being in completely natural surroundings, the place was prone to have a few creepy-crawlies but none of them are as ‘creepy’ to take your attention off the beauty of this scenic place.
The very beauty of this place lies in the fact that they have maintained the local hilly essence which wafts through the area pervading every corner and spreading magic -be it for the structural design and landscaping or the food served there. Home-cooked veg and non-veg meals are served at Madhuvan Cottage, breakfast and dinner being included in a reasonable room package. Few of the curries are made in traditional Kumaoni style, which are relishing to the core. One must try their delectable Shahi Toast which is served as a dinner dessert.
P.S They even prepare herbal ayurvedic oil which you can buy at a nominal price. The oil is for soothing and treating sore muscles, chest congestion and hair loss. They also sell home-made herbal thyme tea-leaves set.
A twenty minute drive from our resort took us to the well known Mukteshwar Temple. From there, a small, barely five-minute walk takes you to Chauli ki Jaali, a recommended tourist spot and a rocky cliff which is 250 m away from behind the cliff of the temple. The route is simple, though one must be careful while treading since the path is pretty narrow. Hire a guide, if you wish to have a smoother journey and gain knowledge, tidbits pertaining to the historical anecdotes of the place.You can have a magnificent view of the Kumaon Valley and the Himalayan Range along with the base of the mountains by leaning over the slanting rocks at the edge of this cliff; though this must be done with utmost care and precaution. One should preferably wear footwear like sport shoes that have a better grip on rocky terrain. The place, also ideal for beholding the saffron sunset, will be loved by those who enjoy sightseeing and for adventure lovers seeking an adrenaline pumping experience like never before. Rock-climbing and flying-fox(zip-line) activities are sure to give you an amazing time. Flying fox at 7500 ft; swinging from one cliff to another on a rope tied to you via a harness and overlooking the deep valley below was indeed a thrilling experience for me. According to the locals, a wish made here is sure to come true.
While coming back from there, we stopped over at a place called GRD Concept for lunch and it will be unfair if I don’t mention how good their service was, the food was the best I had tasted in ages in any outlet that claims to serve home-cooked food. Kumaoni flavour imbued with perfection. The dal and aloo curry was my favourite. I missed having fresh rhododendron flower juice which is sold in the streets of the hamlet. However, I did get a bottle of Buransh(rhododendron) squash for home.
The next day we planned to visit Bhalu-garh waterfall as this outing would let me fulfil both my yearnings of trekking and being amidst rejuvenating shimmering waters, gushing down along the mountain rocks. A twenty minute drive took us to the area from where we had to begin our short but intense trek for thirty minutes to the waterfall. We trekked along the muddy mountain trails, that fluctuated from wide to narrow, came across rocky terrains now and then and finally when you can see the fall from a distance, you have to cross a certain stretch where one needs to be careful-rocks in between the shallow waters flowing from the main fall region. Algae and moisture tend to make the rocks all over slippery so it is imperative to safely guard your steps. The sound made by the water falling from a height serenade you with a pure and pristine melody. Sitting on one of the rocks and soaking your feet in nature’s noble aqua beats any pedicure treatment! A dip or two can make you shiver slightly but it is definitely worth those mild chills. Going further towards the fall isn’t advisable unless and until you know swimming. Sparkling sunbeam filtered from the leafy awning hovering above embellished the greyish surface of a rocky wall-like structure. Splendid was the word!
By road it will take you 8 hours to reach Mukteshwar (344km from Delhi). National Highway 24 is to be taken for the journey from Delhi to Rampur from where you’ll have to take National Highway 87 till Kathgodam. From here, the panoramic mountain stretches begin, the shorter and better route being via Bhimtal(62 km)
Kathgodam is also the nearest railhead from where you can easily hire a taxi till Mukteshwar.
Buses ply from Anand Vihar ISBT in Delhi to Mukteshwar.