With temperatures rising mercilessly this summer, weekend getaways near Delhi are the best way to beat the heat. Bhimtal, a hill station near Delhi, is perfectly placed for a quick escape in the hills of Kumaon, without the crowds of its neighbor, Nainital.
I’ve crossed Bhimtal several times while making my way into the higher reaches of Kumaon. Most of these times, I’ve looked away from the Bhimtal Lake, which though surrounded by colorful trees, looks only as clean as you can expect an easily accessible lake in India to be. At the start of the town, ugly concrete construction lines the hill slopes. Vegetation looks sparse, and cars, fruit sellers and people aplenty. Most of these times, I’ve been glad to leave behind what seems like an unsightly town at first glance.
Stumbling upon a homestay in Bhimtal during my research, convinced me otherwise. This was described as a rambling estate in the midst of pine forests, far from the madding crowds I always imagined Bhimtal to have. I had to see it to believe it.
The paved roads at the start of Bhimtal quickly turned to winding paths, and the number of houses and people progressively decreased. A signboard to a resort would occasionally interrupt the thickening wilderness, but we quickly left those behind too. The higher we went, the prettier the glimpses of the Bhimtal lake below became, as though rewarding us for making it past the initial deterrent to enter the town. Then there we were, at a colonial house from the British era, on what was once a tea estate, greeting a family we would come to call home over the next couple of days. But that’s a post for another time.
Relieving our lungs of Delhi’s citified air, we hiked through the pine forest, watching langurs and monkeys jump from tree to tree, hearing deer scramble in the bushes, spotting birds in brilliant colors, and envying quaint mountain homes made of stone and wood dotting the hillside. Below the forest lay fields of wheat and potato, rice paddies, and landscapes cut into terraces for farming. A narrow stream winded through the farm, surrounded by stonewalls, on whose edges we tip-toed, stopping every now and then to converse with the farmers.
We made our way to the pretty little church of Bhimtal, and followed the wilderness till it led us to a hill overlooking one of Sattal’s seven lakes. We scrambled down paths strewn with fallen leaves in the forest, till the lake lay before us, pristine and welcoming. Into its depths we plunged, the icy-cold waters offering respite to our sunburnt skin and tired feet. Under a tree by the lake we sat, reading and resting in its cooling shade.
And just like that, Bhimtal transformed from an unsightly wayside town, to one of Kumaon’s most deceiving secrets.
What were / are your impressions of Bhimtal?
PRACTICAL INFORMATION ABOUT BHIMTAL
How to reach Bhimtal:
Delhi to Bhimtal: Take the Kathgodam shatabdi from Delhi’s Anand Vihar station; 5.5 hours.
Kathgodam to Bhimtal: A taxi to Bhimtal from Kathgodam takes 1-1.5 hours, and costs roughly INR 700.
Nainital to Bhimtal: Nainital is 20 km from Bhimtal, and the drive takes roughly 1 hour.
Where to stay in Bhimtal:
If you really want to get away from the summer crowds, ditch the hotels and resorts of Bhimtal, and stay at The Retreat homestay. A detailed review of The Retreat will be coming soon.
The weather in Bhimtal:
Lying in the lower elevation of the Himalayas, the summer weather in Bhimtal ranges from warm to hot during the day (the sun is strong but shaded areas remain cool), while nights remain cool. It doesn’t snow in winter, but early mornings and nights are very cold, while days remain relatively warm.