Dhanaulti - A quaint, enchanting hill station in the Himalayan foothills

The bamboo cottages at Dhanaulti, amidst dense pine forests of Mussoorie forest division, Uttarakhand state, Himalayas
The bamboo cottages at Dhanaulti, amidst dense pine forests of Mussoorie forest division, Uttarakhand state, Himalayas
 ------------------------ ------------------------ ------------------------
May, 2010: Delhi has been terribly hot of late, as it usually does in summer. This mid-May there were a couple of days where the temperature crossed 48 degrees centigrade. I could find no better reasons to drive my wife and her siblings who were visiting us from Bangalore, up the Himalayas.

I had many options. Among the thoughts was to take a week off from work and drive up to Khardung La pass from Kulu-Manali and then into Ladakh. But work load and the fear of snow blocking the passes into Ladakh made me change my mind and hence the thought of driving up some where more near.

I had a long pending invitation from my friend Santhosh Gubbi, an IFS officer at Forest Research Institute, Dehra Dun to visit him. I also had a long time desire to Mussoorie, which lies above Dehra Dun. When asked, my colleague Samir Sinha, an upright and experienced IFS officer of Uttarakhand cadre advised me to visit Dhanaulti as it was more serene than places like Mussoorie which get very crowded in summer.

Screenshot from google maps 3D view locating Dhanaulti amidst the Himalaya foothills. Click here to see more.

A view from a cottage at Dhanaulti of the forest covered foot hills of Himalayas
 A view from the cottage of the forest covered foot hills of Himalayas
I took Mr. Sinha's advice and started off early in the morning to Meerut from our residence in Dwarka. Crossing the hurdles of a few traffic blocks in the cities enroute particularly Meerut, we reached Dehradun late in the afternoon. We didn't spend much time there as we drove up to Mussoorie stopping there for a while to see the Mall Road. Looking at the crowd in Mussoorie we didn't regret the fact that our destination was Dhanaulti. Driving down the winding roads along a few ridges of the Himalayan foothills it was late in the evening when we reached Dhanaulti. The forest staff was waiting for us to hand over the keys to two well-maintained forest department bamboo huts, where we would halt for a couple of nights.

The temperature was just perfect during our stay, neither too cold nor too warm. On the first night the moon was full as we saw clouds gather overhead. It was a bit humid as we retired into our cabins. Past mid-night we were woken up to thunders and lightening with hailstones lashing the roof incessantly - there was a hail storm outside. The roof was well sealed so was the rest of the cabin as we tucked ourselves inside the well maintained blankets provided.

Full moon night at the Dhanaulti forest cottages
It was a full moon night and the setting was perfect for a great holiday
Lightnings lighting the night sky at Dhanaulti forest cottage
The lightnings frequently lit the dark night skies and the accompanying hail storm created a ruckus
Early next morning we were greeted by melodious calls of birds as we were served hot coffee and tea, that we had with biscuits that we had carried from Delhi. While the rain of hail stones left more than a few small dents in the bonnet as well as the top of my  compact car, it also brought the temperatures down. These small 'ice cubes' lay strewn in the shade of the pine trees in front of our bamboo cottage even late into the morning. 

A view of the bamboo huts at Dhanaulti in a morning in summer
A view of the bamboo huts early morning
Relaxing amidst nature in the morning
Dhanaulti is a small hamlet whose economy relies heavily on tourists. The ambience of the place is very good. It is less crowded as there are few tourists, probably due to the lack of good connectivity by public transport. The pace of life is extremely relaxed with nature being the main attraction. There is a well maintained eco-park where the DFO, Mussoorie has done a good job putting up hoardings depicting various birds and setting up a bird trail, apart from wooden trail signs that carry quotes from various sources on conserving environment.

The proverbs on the sign posts along the different forest trails at Dhanaulti are inspiring
The proverbs on the sign posts along the different trails are inspiring

Dhanaulti is a great place for birding. There is a birding trail set up by the forest department with hoardings to help new birders.
This is a great place for birding. There is a birding trail set up by the forest department with hoardings to help new birders.

Dhanaulti eco-park has many saplings with tree-guards naming the planters. Here, a Mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus) perches on one such tree guard.
The eco-park has many saplings with tree-guards naming the planters. Here, a Mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus) perches on one such tree guard.

A view from one of the many view points in the Dhanaulti eco-park
A view from one of the many view points in the eco-park


Here are some FAQs based on the questions I have received in response to this blog post:

>How was your experience of staying there? It's a government's accommodation hence we were unsure of  selecting the same place for stay. 
- We found the place neat and well maintained. It's worth a stay.

>Can you please  guide us for selecting an accommodation? Was bamboo hut's location good as per your judgement? 
- The bamboo huts' location is excellent. It is amidst a natural forest and just a couple of minutes walk from the road, which sees less traffic. As per the website of the Uttarakhand Forest Department* there are 4 bamboo huts as well as 2 suites in the Forest Rest House. To book them please contact:

Divisional Forest Officer - Mussoorie,
Office of DFO Mussoorie
Mussoorie Town
District Dehradun
Phone No: 0135-2632335, TeleFax 0135-2631765

We also saw a few hotels while driving up to Dhanaulti village, where other tourists were staying. They looked decent from outside but honestly I wouldn't know how they are inside. 

>What about food and warm cloths provision? 
- We were provided clean blankets that were warm enough to let us have a comfortable sleep. Food is made to order from one of the restaurants above the bamboo huts. On request, the care takers supplied the same to our room as well. 

>Can you suggest anything else? What about about the activities in Dhanulti? I have read that theres an eco-park and a temple to visit...
We found this place far less crowded than some of the known hill stations like Nainital or Mussoorie. It meant us enjoying our stay without worrying much about privacy. One of the positives was the absence of touts. Occasionally, we would be invited to buy tea or take a horse ride, but they were non-pushy, humble 'pahari' folks wanting to serve you and earn their bread in the process. There are some hiking and horse riding trails. The eco-park is worth a visit and is across the road from the bamboo huts. We didn't get to see the temple.

Which is the best route to drive to this place from Delhi?
There are many routes to drive to this place. We used the Dwarka (Delhi) - Ghaziabad - Meerut - Muzzafarnagar - Deoband - Gagalheri (via Saharanpur Road) - Dehradun - Mussoorie - Landour - Dhanaulti. The condition of the road was pretty descent. Though the road traffic sucks thanks to the densely populated areas that one finds along way.

You may want to refer to the many maps freely available online to find one that suits you. Also you may cross check with people who have visited this place recently to figure out the road condition.
Screenshot from google maps of Dhanaulti and its surroundings. Click here for more details.
Below are some important links from the Uttarakhand Forest Department to help you plan your travel in the wilderness areas of Uttarakhand state:


2) Complete list of all forest rest houses in Uttarakhand with the following details:
    a) Name of the FRH/Log cabin
    b) No.of bed Room
    c) Out House
    d) Electricity
    e) Geyser
    f)  LPG
    g) Cooking Facility
    h) "Contact for reservation"

4) Forest Rest Houses' rates with list of facilities and tarrifs

5) 'Wildlife Ecotourism in Uttarakhand': Visitor information for wildlife sanctuaries and national parks of Uttarakhand with information on permissions. 

6) Experience village life - Community-based Rural Tourism (CBT) in Uttarakhand

7) Eco-tourism map of Uttarakhand
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  1. the pic of lighting and a thrush on the board is lovely...

  2. Hi,
    Ur blog gives amazing details of dhanaulti.
    Would you be able to share the contact number of Bamboo cottages as I am planning to go this weekend .

  3. Hi Dolly, please contact the office of DFO, Mussoorie.

  4. jannat ka nazara hai dhanaulti ne pukara hai ek baar aa kar to dekho yahi sukoon sara hai...mirza raju

  5. This was great! After having stayed in various FRHs throughout the hills, some of which are dilapidated and dying whereas others are ship shape -- it's a little reassuring reading your post! I shall be there this coming long weekend, thanks for your review.

    1. My pleasure, I'm glad you found the write-up useful.

  6. One last thing, how's the condition of the road after Mussoorie till Dhanaulti? Also, from Delhi did you take the usual Delhi-Moradabad-Muzzafarnagar-Saharanpur route?

    I've been advised that going via Delhi-Sonipat-then right via an alternate country route is more advisable. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Arjun,
      The condition of the Mussoorie- Dhanualti road was very good by the standards of hill roads. After Mussoorie, you mostly travel along the crests of a couple of sharp ridges, except for a handful of stretches of sharp elevations/ hair pin bends.
      From Dwarka in south-west Delhi, we drove to Ghaziabad onwards to Meerut and then to Rourkee before taking the highway to Dehradun and to usual road to Mussoorie. Road condition was good in parts. But the issue with our drive was the heavy/ truck traffic that caused long pile ups after Meerut.

  7. I have been looking for calling the DFO contact to get some more details for reservation but the number seems to be changed, could you please provide the new contact to me? Also is there Geyser facility available if I plan to visit in December?

    Any Suggestions?

    1. Please see if you can find the right no:s using this link from the Uttarakhand Forest Department website http://www.uttarakhandforest.org/english/phoneno.htm I suggest you please email or call the office of the PCCF, Uttarakhand, if you are having any issues.

    2. If my memory serves me right the geysers were in good working condition when we visited.

  8. Hey....ameen...!!! your description is quite inspiring..as m planning to visit dhanaulti
    next week with my family...so, i want to enquire that will it be appropriate to prefer these bamboo cottages in these chilly winters amidst such ample of snowfall??? Are the rooms warm enough???

    please reply as soon as possible.

    1. Hi Sheena,
      We visited the place in summer. We were provided with clean, warm blankets, which kept us warm. Plus, there was regular electricity supply to run the new geysers. Honestly I wouldn't know how warm the place will be during Christmas which is pretty much peak winter. I suggest you carry some really warm wear with you if you intend to visit now.
      Have a safe trip.

    2. ok thanx a lot for the suggestion....
      Actually today i called the forest officer the number was provided on the website you have mentioned above they said that the rooms are not for everyone they are only for the officers...
      Is that so?

    3. From what I understand there are rooms in a Forest Bungalow located at Dhanaulti and there are these bamboo cottages. While the Forest Bungalow is for forest officers, the cottages can be rented by others. Please also keep in mind that Christmas and New Year is the time when there is peak demand for bungalows of Government agencies like PWD, Forest Department, Irrigation departments etc. I suggest you write to the concerned office. If you are refused reservation, please politely request the staff to reply to you in writing the reason for the same. That might work. All the best.

    4. thank you very much for your help...!!!
      i will try it...!!!

  9. hey Ameen we r planning a cycle ride frm doon to dhanaulti. How tough wud be the climb frm Muss to Dhanaulti? Ur article is extremely informative, grt wrk.

  10. Hi Nandini, I thank you for your kind words which encourage me to write more. Cycling from Doon to Dhanaulti sounds interesting but I feel the traffic between Doon and Mussoorie is a pain for cyclists with vehicles being driven at break neck speeds. Why don't you explore the route between Mussoorie and Dhanaulti? Or even beyond, to touch the Rishikesh-Uttarkashi stretch of NH94 near Tehri? Just my thoughts.

  11. Hi any idea if they permit pets

    1. Hello, I regret I have no info about it.


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