Activities Ranikhet

Away from the hustle & bustle of routine life - Ranikhet- Tranquil & Enchanting

Ranikhet’s tranquil environs come as a surprise to visitors expecting the hustle usually associated with other prominent Raj-era hill stations. No pony rides. No screechy, speeding cars. And, thankfully as yet, no McDonald’s. Just a network of tar roads that snake through the mountains, dotted with 130 Tudor cottages, army barracks, a dozen church buildings, army parade grounds, a golf course, a clubhouse, heritage hotels, an orchard garden and a cramped local market.

So be adventurous, try out the road and forest treks mapped by the administration (look for green-yellow info boards detailing various routes), spot birds, drive down to nearby nature spots and heritage towns, indulge in a game of golf, tennis or billiards or best of all, sit back and gaze on the vista of soaring pine trees blessed by the might of the snow-capped Kamet, Nanda Devi, Trishul and Chaukhamba peaks beyond.

Detail Map - Click to Zoom
A paradise for walkers
Ranikhet is best experienced walking along its lanes or hiking through its forest. Carry binoculars: you may just spot the Great Himalayan whistling thrush, scarlet minivet, Himalayan tree pie, red-billed long tailed blue magpie, flying squirrel, a troupe of monkeys, barking deer, or even a leopard. The road walks can also be done by car, but frankly, it’s only half the fun.

If you take the Mall Road, you can take a leisurely walk from Nar Singh Ground (NSG) via Ranikhet Club or if you head towards Chaubatia (5 km). The roadsides here are thoughtfully provided with wooden benches where you can rest your feet as you explore the twin cantonment towns of Ranikhet-Chaubatia.

The winding route from behind the Army Holiday Home to the AMU Guest House is a peaceful, secluded path. The trek up from the Mall towards this same guest house is another pleasant walk, along which you can see many old British bungalows. Another option is the path 1 km south of the Mount Pleasant. You can walk up to the Jhula Devi Temple and continue to the orchards of Chaubatia, then trudge another 4 km along the top of a ridge to the artificial lake, Bhalu Dam.

Shorter treks would include stretches between Ranikhet Club and Officers Mess and Mount Pleasant to Jhula Devi Temple (2˝km).

On the other end of the town from NSG, you can move in the direction of the Army Golf Course (6 km) and towards the Kalika Temple and further on to Majkhali, known for the best Himalayan sunset views in the area.
Forest hikes in Ranikhet can be accessed between Chaubatia Orchards walking north towards Holm Farm (2 km), and between Chaubatia walking south towards Bhalu Dam (round-trip 5 km).

Gods own abode
Ranikhet has a number of temples strewn across the cantonment but the two most venerated by the community are the Jhula Devi Temple, whose power of fulfilling wishes can be gauged from the number of bells that have been offered here in thanksgiving, and the Kalika Devi Temple, the shrine of the principle deity of the Kumaon Regiment that is headquartered here. Besides the temples, Ranikhet has a dozen-odd Anglican churches most of which have been converted into army seminar halls or, as in the case of the Methodist Church above NSG, into a weaving centre for army wives and widows. A few of them such as St Michael’s Church (Sunday service from 11 am-noon) in Chaubatia and St Martin’s Church near Rai Estate are still fully functional.

KRC Museum
A little path snakes up towards the Kumaon Regimental Centre grounds from Ranikhet's main road. The KRC Museum displays memorabilia from the wars that the regiment has fought. India's first Param Vir Chakra was awarded to Major Somnath Sharma of this very regiment. The Mankameshwar Temple maintained by the KRC is en route. The KRC widows' organisation runs a weaving factory near the Nar Singh Stadium parade ground, just before the KRC Museum, which is housed in an old church with a high, vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows. It's worth a visit just to see the women working at their looms in such beautiful surroundings.

Chaubatia orchards and Bhalu Dam
The cool climate of the Himalayas and the soil of Kumaon make a `fruitful' combination and the government orchards at Chaubatia, 10 km to the south of Ranikhet, reap the benefits. You can picnic in the garden here and buy seasonal fruits from the orchards. Bhalu Dam, 3.2 km away, supplies Ranikhet with its water and is popular for fishing. Be sure, however, to take permission from the District Forest Officer before casting your rod. Permission can also be obtained from the Fisheries Officer at Bhimtal, which you will pass through en route to Ranikhet.
The golf course
Originally laid as a cross-country track for army training, Ranikhet’s green meadows around Upat and Kalika Devi Temple were turned into a 9-hole golf course sometime around the 1920s. A game of golf here costs Rs 150, caddie and golf club charges are extra. The rights of admission and play, are however, at the discretion of the army.

Situated not more than 4 km from the main market, along the road going north-east from Shaitan Singh Ground, past the Military Dairy and on the way to GD Birla School, is the temple of the mystic, Haidakhan Wale Baba. The baba built many temples at Haidakhan before he died in 1984. A follower of Sanatan Dharam, the baba believed that the path to god lay in love, truth and simplicity. A trust in his name here runs a charity clinic, besides providing quarters to its Indian and foreign followers.


Sitlakhet (29 km)
Ranikhet and its secluded satellite forest khets (wooded meadows) like Sitlakhet are a beautiful reminder of what Kumaon’s temperate mixed-foliage forest must have been like before it was chopped down to make way for new settlements. To reach its beautiful Forest Rest House (Tel: 05962-244005; Tariff: Rs 250-700, dorm Rs 100), take Ranikhet’s old road to Almora (via Majkhali) and turn right at Kathpuria Village. The Sitlakhet FRH is a 9 km narrow winding climb from here. If you are staying overnight, make it a point to do the hike to the Siyahi Devi Temple, 3 km away, which will reward you with some spectacular views of the Himalaya and the Katyuri Valley spread below.

Legends of Dwarahat
In the 6th century, Dwarahat was the epicentre of power of the Katyuri and the Chand dynasties. Its eight 10th-12th century temple complexes, reputedly sanctioned by Adi Shankaracharya, lie scattered around the village like well-preserved corpses upon which village women now dry their carpets. Here, like in all temples of this period, the stones are joined not with mortar but with iron links. Someone has jazzed up the Badrinath Temple idol with horrible blue bathroom tiles; and the Gurjardev Temple is a pile of finely carved stone. The dark, fragrant interiors of the Mrityunjaya Temple are loveliest. A few of these, now under the protection of the ASI, can be accessed from the main chowk of the town.

The hills are filled with stories and spirits. “This is the site of Krishna’s Dwa­rka,” said Devin Singh, who took us around Dwarahat. “They say that the Ram­ganga and Saryu rivers were to meet at a confluence here, but the jealous Kosi lied to both, claiming to each that the other would jilt it. When the truth was discovered, the Ramganga and the Saryu cursed the Kosi, saying that all rivers meet each other, but you will wander alone. And that’s why the Kosi peters out in the middle of nowhere, joined by no other stream.”

Dwarahat is 33 km north of Ranikhet along the Karnaprayag Highway.

Dunagiri (47 km)
A scenic 14-km drive from Dwarahat will take you to Dunagiri, from where a climb up 364 steps will take you to the 12th century Durga Temple. A further 2-hr hike (5 km) from here will take you up to a flat meadow, Pandu Kholi, a good place for a day picnic. Both spots offer amazing views of the Himalaya.

You can pick up some excellent quality woollen fabric (ideal for jackets, kurtas and shirts) and Kumaoni shawls at very reasonable rates. These can be had in the bazaar, but check out the KRC Widows' Association factory. Ranikhet is famous for tweed shawls which you can purchase at KMVN's Janjati Vikas Nigam. Try the Kumaoni specialty bal-mithai from Mayur Sweets.