Ranikhet is the queen of Kumaon Hills and is located in the Almora district of Uttaranchal, in the heart of the Himalayas, that awaits us with a unique cultural richness that is expressed in its architecture, its crafts and gastronomy, and the life of its inhabitants, in the striking setting of the Himalayan mountains that exert the fascination of its natural beauty.
It stretches from the northern end of the Ganga plains to Tibet, one of nature's most amazing and wonderful creations, with its majestic snow-capped mountains, lakes, and profuse plant and animal life. Here lived ancient dynasties and the most beloved deity in the region is Nanda Devi.
We leave New Delhi for a day of road which is a fairly accurate concentrate of our trip to Ranikhet by car. The roads are relatively good, especially between Meerut and Muzaffarnagar. Twenty kilometers before Dehra Dun, the Ganges plain ends and the road rises in the first hills of the Shivalik, the Himalayan foothills.
We arrive at Mussoorie shortly before 18 hours. The city is reminiscent of the other high altitude resorts of colonial India like Shimla, Darjeeling and others. It was cool in the evening. Next day, we leave Mussoorie to find the course of the Yamuna. It was a very beautiful, narrow and winding mountain road. On the way, we cross the small tourist resort of Dhanolti and also see the Kempty falls. We continue north and pass Nainbagh. In theory, this road allows us to continue eastwards, across a mountain range and descend into the Bhagirathi valley.
Continuing east, we descend in the early afternoon to Chamba to the south which leads us to Rishikesh. The Ganges at Rishikesh is more torrential than at Kanpur or at Benares because it is just outside the Himalayan foothills. The road goes up the valley of the Ganges. We have a quick lunch near the small town of Srinagar. Then we reach Rudraprayag at the bottom of the valley.
We then go up the valley of the river Mandakini and arrive in the village of Guptakashi, where we easily find a simple cottage for the night. We leave Guptakashi at the first light of dawn to reach the village of Sonprayag. Kedarnath, close to the source of the Yamuna, is one of the four temples of Char Dham. We branch off on the road which passes through Ukhimath and Chopta and joins directly to Chamoli.
In Chamoli, we reach the the small town of Joshimath. The journey between Joshimath and Govind Gath was the most spectacular with the road at the bottom of a deep gorge of the river Alaknanda. The road becomes more impressive with several passages carried in the river. In between we have refreshments in dhabas, which offer simple meals and refreshments.
We were then taken to the Badrinath temple, another pillar of Char Dham. We take the road till Mana, known as the last Indian village, a situation which is worth many visitors. It is also a summer village as when the snow arrives, the population settles well downstream, near Chamoli. At the exit of the village, the river literally emerges from a chasm by scolding, it is the rock of Bhima, which attracts many curious.
We arrive at the village of Adibadri. We also cross many villages surrounded by terraced cultivation. Another good surprise was the village of Dwarahat. We then reach Ranikhet. The road then becomes wider. It remained hilly, through hills where pine and eucalyptus dominated.
Ranikhet is idyllic in its charms, and brings together many vacationers each year, offering its tourists a panoramic view of the powerful Himalayan summit. According to the ancient history of 1056 onwards Katyuries and Chand Raja ruled Almora and Ranikhet until 1790.
There are two stories as to the derivation of the name ranikhet. Legend has it that Rani Padmini, the Queen of Raja Sudhardev, loved this place very much and made her home here. The other is that it was the site of many battles and it was ranakshetra, the battlefield.
The area around Ranikhet and Dronagiri, was the scene of many of the stories of the Mahabharata especially on the Pandava brothers, and there is a spiritual magic in this area. It was here that these great warriors spent an exile of thirteen years, hidden from worldly eyes.
In addition to the history and the holy vibrations of this area, fascinating temples in the Dwarahat and Kasar Devi, it feels that even the mountains themselves are alive and conscious. There is a palpable blessing that soothes and relaxes the mind to just look at them. Day after day, being here, worries went away, a deep peace and happiness seeped into our bones, and our meditations were lifted.
Ranikhet reflects the best of the heavenly Himalayas with its lush green forests, majestic mountain peaks, exotic plants and attractive wildlife. To see the nature and elements in total harmony of the Himalaya the correct place is Ranikhet. According to a popular belief, this point that had gained the heart of Rani Padmini, chose this quaint place to be her abode and service, so it has come to be known as Ranikhet, literally, the Queen's Field.
The cantonment comprises the proper Ranikhet, Kumpoor, Chaubattia and the foot field also known as Dulikhet. Between 1830-1856, several European settlers acquired land in the hope of turning it into tea plantations. In 1868, the site was selected to park British troops and the following year the cantonment was established after the acquisition of the land of the villagers of Sarna, Kotli and Tana. There is also a peripheral part called UPAT, some 3 miles on the Almora road where the famous golf course was developed.
We take the road after spending a night and go down to the plain. We have a last look at the beautiful pine forests and the spectacle of the hills.
Ranikhet Travel Tips
The city of Almora is built on the crest of a mountain, described in the famous Hindu epic Manas Khand as the ancient Rajapur, a name that appears on ancient copper plates, between the Talifat mountain ranges to the east and Silifat to the west. Kausani is the perfect place to admire the Himalayan landscapes.
There is plenty to see and do in Almora, such as visiting temples, cultural and religious centers, fairs and festivals. In addition, here is Corbett National Park, the tiger sanctuary and the first national park created on the slopes of the Himalayas along the Ramganga River and bears the name of legendary writer and photographer Jim Corbett.
An extensive network of roads and railways connects to all parts of India. Ranikhet is an eight-hour drive from Delhi via Moradabad and Haldwani. A daily overnight train called Ranikhet Express connects Delhi to Kathgodam. In addition to the innumerable bus services, both air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned, are available at Scindia House and Anand Vihar bus terminal in Delhi.
Air: The nearest airport is Pantnagar.
Train: - The nearest train heads are Kathgodam (80 km) and Ramnagar (96 km).
Road: - Ranikhet is well connected by roads to the important centers of the region. Some of the main distances are Almora (49 km), Delhi (386 km), Nainital (59 km), Kathgodam (80 km).
The climate is generally mild in intensity. Ranikhet has an average altitude of 6000 ft.