Ranikhet gives nature precedence over man. So don’t be surprised when you come face to face with a sign that cautions, ‘Leopards have the right of way’. They do. So do monkeys that swing through its trees, the deer and bears that hide in the thick groves or the birds that soar in the sky. This thickly forested paradise was discovered by the British who, in the late 1860s, came looking to house their army and administration in a hilly ‘station’ that could provide both strategic and economic advantages. The natural beauty of the Ranikhet ridge was an easy winner. The tranquil green meadows surrounded by pine and oak forests, with a panoramic view of the Kumaon Himalaya, provided ideal environs for Tudor style bungalows, churches, a country club, a golf course and a full-fledged army regiment.
Things to See & Do
Ranikhet is best experienced by walking along its lanes or hiking through its forest. Take the Mall Road for a leisurely walk from Nar Singh Ground (NSG) via Ranikhet Club to Megh doot Hotel (2.5km), or start at Megh doot Hotel and head towards Chaubatia (5km). The winding route from behind the Army Holiday Home to the AMU Guest House is a peaceful path. The trek up from the Mall towards this same guesthouse is also nice, along which are many old British bungalows. Another option is the path 1km south of the West View Hotel. Shorter treks include stretches between Ranikhet Club and Chevron Rosemount (2km), Meghdoot and West View Hotel (3km). On the other end of the town from NSG, head towards the Army Golf Course (6km) and towards the Kalika Temple and further on to Majkhali, known for its gorgeous sunset views. Forest hikes can be accessed between Chaubatia Orchards walking north towards Holm Farm (2km), and between Chaubatia walking south tow ards Bhalu Dam (a round trip of 5km).
Temples and Churches
Ranikhet has several temples, but the two most venerated are the Jhula Devi Temple and the Kalika Devi Temple, the shrine of the principle deity of the Kumaon Regiment that is headquartered here. The town also has a dozen odd Anglican churches, most of which have been converted into army seminar halls or, as in the case of the Methodist Church above NSG, into a weaving centre for army wives and widows. A few, such as St Michael’s Church (Sunday service)
One of the first Raj-era hill gardens, Chaubatia Orchards is a pleasant place. It is at its flowering best between April and May, a good time to walk along the path through the orchard. From here you can take a leisurely 3-km hike to Bhalu Dam. The sunset viewpoint here has a cafÃ©. You can also buy seasonal fruits from the orchard.
Ranikhet’s green meadows around Upat and Kalika Devi Temple were turned into a nine-hole golf course sometime during the 1920s. A game of golf here costs `400—450; caddie and golf club charges are extra. The rights of admission and play, are, however, at the discretion of the army. Foreigners will need to apply for permission well in advance.
Situated 4km from the main market, along the road going northeast from Shaitan Singh Ground, past the Military Dairy, is the temple of the mystic Haidakhan Wale Baba. He built many temples at Haidakhan before he died in 1984. The baba believed that the path to God lay in love, truth and simplicity.
Where to Stay
Chevron Rosemount (Tel: 05966- 221391; Tariff: â‚¹4,200—10,000, with two meals) has beautiful suites and rooms. Chevron also runs Ranikhet Club (Tel: 220611; Tariff: â‚¹3,000—4,000), which follows a strict formal wear regimen. Holm Farm Heritage (Cell: 09411113263/ 64; Tariff: â‚¹3,700—8,400, with two meals) is a charming heritage homestead, with a gabled roof, hand painted wallpaper, brass fittings and the memory of hosting the Mountbattens and Pandit Nehru. West View Hotel (Tel: 220261, 221075; Tariff: â‚¹7,500—28,000 for 3D/ 2N, with two meals), built as a club for British soldiers, is housed in a stone building built in 1918. There’s also the KMVN Kalika Tourist Lodge (Tel: 220893, Cell: 08650002533; Tariff: â‚¹1,700—2,800), a budget option on the the Mall. Woods Villa (Tel: 240374/ 81; Tariff: â‚¹7000—8,750, with two meals) in Majkhali arranges rock climbing and rappelling. Another lovely option is Windsor Lodge (Delhi Tel: 011-46035500; Tariff: â‚¹12,000—28,000 for 3D/ 2N, with two meals) at Kalika Estate in Dadgallia Village. A heritage property, the lodge offers colonial style rooms and organizes treks too. Aman’s Annabella Hotels (Tel: 220239-40; â‚¹3,550—4,550) is a good choice at Chiliannaula, on the road to Dwarahat.
Where to Eat
Ranikhet’s main bazaar has restaurants that dish out fast food meals. Moon Hotel & Restaurant has north Indian fare. If you are looking for a more elaborate meal, head for Chevron Rosemount or West View Hotel. Visitors can also eat at Ranikhet Club which houses a well-stocked bar. Note that the club follows a strict formal wear regimen. The Continental breakfast at Hotel Meghdoot is filling. You also must try sugar covered bal mithai, available at Ranikhet’s many halwais.