Kanatal isn’t a destination that comes with a promise of frills and thrills; it urges you to slow down and relish nature’s sights and sounds in the serene abode of the Himalayas. A series of narrow, zigzag roads surrounded by fragrant pine, deodar and rhododendron trees lead you to this little hill station tucked inside the belly of Uttarakhand’s rolling hills. Originally a lake that later dried up, the name Kanatal comes from the words kana that means sukha (dry) and tal that means lake. Your itinerary here is likely to include lazy walks in the hills, jeep rides into unexplored jungles, elaborate picnics amid lush expanses of green, plucking fresh fruit from apple orchards and stuffing your pockets with freshly fallen pine cones.
WHAT TO SEE Surkhanda Devi Temple Located 8km from Kanatal at a height of almost 10,000 feet, this temple attracts hundreds of pilgrims every year. Legend has it that Lord Shiva carried his wife Sati’s charred remains on his trishul (pitch fork) to this ground after she immolated herself in the yajna (a fire-borne ritual practised during Vedic times) in order to prove her loyalty to her husband, who had for long been shunned by her father. A 2km walk uphill leads to the temple. Ponies and porters are available for hire for those who do not wish to walk. It is also known to be a good vantage point for panoramic views of the Himalayan range and nearby places like Rishikesh and Dehradun.
Kodia forest An ideal picnic spot, the Kodia forest – located just a few kilometres away from Chamba – begins with a narrow dirt track and unfolds into a plateau that then leads to dense forests, undulating hills, spectacular views of the valley below and natural springs.
Dhanaulti The prime attraction of this compact hill station situated 24km from Mussoorie is its eco-park. Comprising a deodar forest, herbal garden, viewing points, trekking trails, bird watching and recreational swings, the park has been developed by the Forest Department of Uttarakhand, in collaboration with local youth. They even provide guides to explore the many walking trails in the park.
WHEN TO GO Kanatal is a hill station that experiences pleasant weather all year round, but most tourists flock here between the onset of spring in April and the end of monsoon in September to enjoy the scenic outdoors. If you want to experience snowfall, visit Kanatal any time from December till March. Make sure you check with your hotel about road conditions before you begin your journey.
WHERE TO SHOP The nearby town of Chamba has a small market where you can shop for artefacts and local handicrafts, such as clothing made from nettle weed fabric and articles like baskets made from local varieties of bamboo.
WHERE TO STAY The Terraces Located on the Chamba-Mussoorie Highway at 8,500 feet, The Terraces is a peaceful retreat nestled in the midst of the Shivalik range of the Himalayas. It offers views of the snow-clad mountains, warm hospitality, a multi-cuisine restaurant, an al fresco cafe and bar, a well-equipped gym and a spa. The 21 spacious rooms – surrounded by apple orchards – are replete with a host of luxurious amenities that include a private balcony, a fireplace and WiFi. The Terraces, Chamba-Mussoorie Highway, District Tehri Garhwal, Kanatal, Uttarakhand (+91 1376 283170; www.theterraces.biz)
Kanatal Resort & Spa A four-star property designed with elements of art deco, the Kanatal Resort & Spa resides along the main road that leads into Kanatal. The accommodation comprises 37 air-conditioned rooms equipped with basic amenities such as a coffee machine, a refrigerator and internet access, together with sofa beds, a washer/dryer and cookware for guests who want to cook their own meals. The resort also has a 24-hour business centre and WiFi throughout the property. For those who choose to relax, an expansive spa facility with a range of treatments, an indoor pool and a health club await. 11 KM Stone, Chamba-Mussoorie Road, District-Tehri, Kanatal, Uttarakhand (+ 91 1376 283168; www.kanatalresorts.com)
HOW TO GET THERE By Air: The nearest airport is Jolly Grant in Dehradun. By Rail: The nearest railhead is at Dehradun. You can also travel from Haridwar station. By Road: Kanatal is a seven-hour drive from Delhi via Haridwar and the Doon Valley. It is about 300km from Delhi, 70km from Dehradun, 75km from Rishikesh and 100km from Haridwar. From Delhi, follow the route to Mussoorie from Roorkee, then take the forested road to Chamba, passing Dhanaulti and finally reaching Kanatal.
- Don’t forget to grab a warm cup of chai (tea) at one of the many tea stalls spread around town.
- When in the mountains, one must try the authentic rajma chawal at one of the few dhabas that are located en route to Kanatal, whilst driving from Dehradun. Its homemade feel and flavour cannot be missed.
- Spend one night simply lying back on the grass and gazing up at the stars in the clear skies. For best results, share the moment with a loved one.
- If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, head to the nearby Rani Chauri Forest or Batwaldar Forest, and you may spot deer, foxes, and meerkats.
- Before leaving Kanatal, pick up a bottle of rhododendron juice as a souvenir. Made locally using fresh rhododendron flowers, it is something that you won’t easily find elsewhere. You can also buy fresh apple jam.
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