Published on 17 August, 2012 in The Times of India
The newspapers had mercilessly announced the soaring heat in calculated centigrade for the third time that week. And why not, the weather must adhere to the convention of the hottest months of summer in Delhi. That’s when words like ‘vacation’ and ‘hills’ knocked my sorrow state and I finally decided to take an impromptu holiday to Dhanaulti, leaving the capital city behind to swelter under the scorching summer sun.
Hill stations like Simla, Manali, Mussoorie and Nainital have been the favourite destinations of Indian families during the leisurely two-month break their children get from schools.
I was very sure that my hideout should be no where near such flocks and Dhanaulti fitted the bill perfectly. Tucked away from swarms of tourists in the most sought after destinations, Dhanaulti proved to be a pleasant and idyllic retreat.
Quiet, calm and serene
There are times when you want to do nothing. No meetings, no deadlines and no to-do lists to follow. Mornings in Dhanaulti are apt for those who want to remain pleasantly idle. The quietness of the hills, the stillness in the air and the fresh breeze that caresses your face and hair, is sometimes unbelievably haunting.
We reached Crystal Palace at 9 am in the morning, just in time for breakfast. After devouring multiple platters of cheese omelettes, Maggi noodles, buttered toasts, and pots of hot tea, we climbed up the stairs to move to the terrace. If I had to sum up the view that greeted us from above the rooftop in one word, it has to be breathtaking! The winding paths peeking from inside the hills, spectacular landscapes, lush green forests of Oak, Deodar and Rhododendron, all of it was more than enough to make us believe that we had managed to escape the madness. A couple of hours were spent gazing only into the expanse of the picture perfect hills.
Treks, worships and more
Don’t go looking for a Mall road in Dhanaulti. It’s a small town devoid of any fanciful shopping arcades or joy rides on horses and yaks. Spotless roads beckoned us after a sumptuous lunch and we set out to explore the nearby ECO Park. A patch of protected forest of mighty Deodar trees, developed and maintained by the Forest Department of Uttarakhand, has been done up with beautiful wild flower hedges and swings for children. The park is a favourite picnic spot for the localities of Mussoorie and Dehradun and an entry fee of Rs 15 per person is what you have to pay to enter it. Dotted along the periphery are many eateries selling roasted corn cobs, spicy peanuts, and tea. Cotton candy like clouds in the pristine blue sky playing peeking from between with the towering trees was a picturesque sight to remember.
Dusk fell and we decided to laze around in the hotel reading books, listening to music, basically doing nothing.
A visit to the Surkanda Devi temple was planned for the next day. About 8 km from Dhanaulti, the temple is associated with the myth of Sati and Shiva’s tandava nritya (dance of cosmic destruction). It is believed that when Shiva passed through this place carrying Sati’s dead body, he accidentally dropped her head at this spot. That is how the temple of Surkanda Devi came into being and is known be visited by many devotees throughout the year.
Disconnect from the world, quite literally
Dhanaulti gives you the option to remain disconnected from the chaotic world of social networking sites, constant nagging, and demanding obligations, quite literally at that. For some reason, mobile and internet connectivity is terribly weak up there. Also, there are hardly any tourists around. The only people we could spot were the Garhwali folks roaming about with their herd of cows. They’re not used to having tourists amidst them so don’t mind the tentative glances they throw at you.
How to get there
By air: The closest airport is Jolly Grant, Dehradun at a distance of 80kms.
By rail: The nearest railway station is also Dehradun. The taxi stand is right next to the railway station and prepaid cabs to Dhanaulti are easily available at Rs 1500 (one way). The uphill drive is a picturesque one and usually takes less than 2 hours.
By road: One can alternatively drive up to Dhanaulti. The distance is approx. 350 km from New Delhi and takes about 8 hours with traffic.
Best time to visit
Dhanaulti is pleasant and agreeable in the summer months, (May, June, July and August) and a light sweat shirt is more than enough to keep you warm. In winters, however, the mercury plummets and occasionally there is a snowfall that caps the tree tops and mountain peaks beautifully.