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|
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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 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.
|It was a full moon night and the setting was perfect for a great holiday|
|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 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 trails are inspiring|
|This is a great place for birding. There is a birding trail set up by the forest department with hoardings to help new birders.|
|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 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
Phone No: 0135-2632335, TeleFax 0135-2631765*http://forest.uk.gov.in/files/ECO%20TOURISM/ECO_Destinations.pdf
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:
(UPDATED 4 JUNE 2015)
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
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.
7) Eco-tourism map of Uttarakhand
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