Bhimtal is a little-known town in Nainital district in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. At an altitude of 1,370 metres above sea level and about 22 km from Nainital, the major attraction in Bhimtal is its lake, which has an island at its centre. This lake is the largest of its kind in the region and provides a drinking water supply and supports aquaculture, with a variety of fish species. In fact, this town also boasts several other lakes in the adjoining area that are gradually gaining popularity.
So it seemed an ideal escape from the scorching heat of Delhi. My plans of otherwise spending the weekend in Nainital, sadly a commercial hub, seemed of little interest after I learnt of Bhimtal. Boarding the late night Ranikhet Express, I arrived at Kathgodam early the next morning.
After a little confusion, I was finally able to spot my cab to a splendid resort. The journey to Bhimtal is barely an hour but driving uphill early in the morning with majestic views of the mountains in sight and a slight drizzle was all one needed for the mood to set in. My resort, Aamod at Bhimtal, proved an exceptional retreat for my weekend. It is a magnificent hill resort surrounded by untouched oak and pine forests on one side and a small lake on the other. Adding to its glory are lush green, picturesque surroundings, a relaxing atmosphere, peaceful Himalayan terrain coupled with all basic facilities. Even before one checks into one&’s room, one is almost confident of the charm of being close to nature, of being ably to freely unwind.
The rooms are simple, with a television set, basic amenities, 24×7 hot and cold water and majestic views of the surrounding mountains. I had an unexpected visitor soon after I checked into my room. Seeking refuge from the heavy early morning rainfall, a monkey was lounging in the balcony. As soon as I drew the curtains to catch a glimpse of the surrounding mountains, the monkey spotted a basket of complimentary fruits and made every attempt to snatch it, only to be chased away by hotel staff. Such is the charm of this place — finding oneself among trees, birds and animals in the lap of rugged nature. I was also pleased with the care my hosts had taken to ensure a judicious use of water. The letter welcoming me to the room had a special highlighted paragraph on the consumption of water and explained how difficult it really was to source this commodity in the hills and why visitors should use this precious resource carefully.
I waited for another hour after breakfast for the rain to stop and then took on a whole lot of activities under the guidance of the resort staff. The food was simple and the buffet did not have many options, but if you’re one of those who like to relish the local food during your travels, I’d suggest you try some eateries in the nearby town of Bhawali or Bhimtal market.
In Bhimtal, every morning seems to arrive with the soothing chirping of birds. I watched the first rays of the sun touching the earth from the exclusive sit-out of my room before proceeding to Nainital and returned late in the evening. The clear night sky is also tempting — for those used to seeing the smoke-clogged skies of cities, it is a treat to watch the stars twinkle in their full majesty. I checked out of this “Paradise unplugged” (the phrase prescribed in bold letters that welcomes you to the property) soon after breakfast the following day and proceeded to Kathgodam to catch the afternoon Shatabdi Express back to Delhi. If you happen to travel to Nainital or the Kumaon region, don’t miss out on the bliss that Aamod at Bhimtal offers.
What to do
Sightseeing activities provides an excellent opportunity to venture out of the resort. A list of “must do” things in Bhimtal include:
Boating and angling: Bhimtal Lake is the largest among nine in Kumaon district. Information can be obtained from the reception and if you’re lucky enough (probably a group of above five people), you may well be accompanied by some staff from the resort.
Trekking and hiking: Under the guidance of trained staff from the resort&’s activity team, one can trek and hike in the surrounding hills and forests.
Birdwatching: The sweet chirping of birds will add melody to your life. Birdwatchers will be delighted to find migratory birds in the autumn and winter months.
Temple visits: The historical Bhimkeshwar Temple is situated next to an old Victorian dam at the corner of Bhimtal Lake. Another is situated nearby called Godhakhal Temple.
Nal Damyanti Tal: About two kilometres from Bhimtal is Nal Damyanti Tal, a small natural lake. This is named after the famous mythological characters, King Nal, and his wife Damayanti.
Hidimba Parvat: About five kilometres from Bhimtal, this gets its name from the demon Hidimba of the Mahabharata. Vankhandi Maharaj, a monk and environmentalist, lives on the hill now and has created a sanctuary for wild animals around it. The area is known as Vankhandi Ashram.
Naukuchiatal (six kilometres): This is the deepest lake with nine corners, flocked by migratory birds in the winter. It is one of the most picturesque lakes in Kumaon, surrounded by oak forests. Other than boating and angling, Naukuchiatal also offers paragliding for enthusiasts.
Sattal (11 km): This is a group of seven interconnected freshwater lakes set amid dense pine and oak forests. The whole area is a popular stop for migratory birds and is a birdwatcher&’s paradise. One of the places to visit in the area is the Butterfly Museum, built by Frederic Smetacek at the nearby Jones Estate, which has over 2,500 butterfly and moth specimens and 1,100 species of insects that are found in this region.
The writer is on the staff of The Statesman, New Delhi