Chakrata is stunning – a veritable treasure of abundant conifers, red rhododendrons and tall oak trees, interspersed with views of the snow-capped Himalayas and patches of dazzling blue skies. Therefore, visitors may wonder why hoteliers haven’t built swanky resorts here, where the ‘Mall Road’ is, and why, in general, the place is so ‘under-developed’. The reason this place is so quiet is that it is an access-restricted cantonment of the Indian Army, and the permanent garrison of the elite Special Frontier Force.

TIP Only Indian nationals are allowed to enter Chakrata

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Besides the views from nearly every vantage point here, there is literally nothing to do in this small one-horse town. You can take stroll along quiet paths, snooze under the gentle sun or take a picnic and spend the day on a grassy meadow. But for those who feel the urge to be up and about, there are several tourist sights around Chakrata which are well worth a visit.

Chakrata has a small central chowk, from where the road forks into two. The road heading straight is Tyuni Road, while the road to the right connects to the Mussoorie-Yamunotri Highway. On the Mussoorie Road, just a few minutes away, a road breaks to the right, taking you to the local market. Further down the Mussoorie Road is Chirmari Sunset Point, which offers spectacular views of the valley. The vast valley plunges down, its verdant slopes covered by trees, and in front, stretching into the distance, are the mighty Himalayas. And the sunsets from here are, of course, unforgettable.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

Hotel Snow View (Cell: 09410823207, 09411363231; Tariff: 2,250-4,000, with two meals), originally built in 1836, has spacious rooms. Blue Canvas (Dehradun Tel: 0135-2666950, Cell: 08394893089/189; Tariff: 3,500 per tent, inclusive of two meals and activities), offering comfortable tents with attached loos is a great choice

Outside town, 20 km away at Viraatkhai, the Himalayan Eco Lodges (Gurgaon Tel: 0124-4081500; Tariff: 2,000-2,500) has Swiss tents and lots of adventure activities.

Siddhartha Kapil
Horses grazing beside Budher Pond, Chakrata
Horses grazing beside Budher Pond, Chakrata

AROUND CHAKRATA

Tiger Falls

One of the most popular attractions near Chakrata, this waterfall splashes into a rocky pool from a height of over 300 m. You will have to park where the road ends and then it is an easy trek of about 1.5 km to the falls. Enterprising youngsters from the village nearby will offer to guide you for a small fee. It is possible to bathe here – or at least sit on a rock with your feet dangling in the cold, clear water, so bring along a towel and an extra T-shirt.

Deoban

Deoban, 8 km away, is a picturesque meadow, at a height of 9,400 ft, set amid a deodar forest. Stunning views of the Himalayas, clear blue skies and opportunities for bird-watching draws visitors here, but it is rarely crowded.

TIP A permit will have to be obtained at the forest barrier to visit Deoban

Budher Caves and Meadows

These gorgeous alpine meadows and the mysterious Budher Caves lie 22 km northwest of Chakrata. From the Budher Forest Rest House, a narrow unpaved path leads into a forest. Even if you’re not an avid trekker, this is an unmissable walk through deodar and pine forests. After 2.5 km, the path unexpectedly ends, and rolling green meadows spread out ahead. It seems as if you’re in the plains, but the elevation here is actually 2,800 m.

Cross the first meadow, and to the left, the carpet of green stretches endlessly, dotted with tiny flowers. There’s a crystal-clear pond full with shimmering water, and herds of cows, sheep, and even a group of feral horses.

In the distance, atop a hillock, there’s a wooden structure – a tiny temple to a local god. As in all temples, devotees make offerings. Only here, these are a little unusual: goats’ horns and coins are nailed to the door. Ahead of the temple, towards the right are the Budher Caves. It is extremely dangerous to venture inside without an expert guide. Blue Canvas (see p81) conducts exploration tours into these caves.

When to go March to June, October to early December. Winter temperatures can drop to 2˚C Location In the Garhwal region, close to the border with Himachal Pradesh Air Nearest airport: Dehradun Rail Nearest rail: Dehradun

THE INFORMATION

Tourist/ Wildlife Offices

GMVN

74/1, Rajpur Road

Dehradun. Tel: 0135-2740896, 2746817

W gmvnl.com

GMVN

Shail Vihar, Bypass Road

Rishikesh. Tel: 0135-2431793/ 83

GMVN

Rahi Motel

Haridwar. Tel: 01334-226430

Cell: 09568006661

GMVN

102, Indraprakash Building

21, Barakhamba Road

New Delhi. Tel: 011-23350481, 23326620

KMVN

Central Reservation Centre

C/o Parvat Tours, Tallital

Nainital. Tel: 05942-231436, 236936

Cell: 08650002520

W kmvn.gov.in

KMVN

Tourist Reception Centre

Kathgodam. Tel: 05946-266090

Cell: 08650002525

KMVN

Holiday Home

Mall Road

Almora. Tel: 05962-230250

Cell: 08650002532

KMVN

103, Indraprakash Building

21, Barakhamba Road

New Delhi. Tel: 011-23712246, 41519366

THE INFORMATION

Chamba

GMVN

Tourist Bungalow

Chamba

Tel: 01376-255245

STD code 01376

Gwaldam

GMVN

Tourist Rest House

Gwaldam. Tel: 01363-274244

Cell: 09568006660

STD code 01363

Munsiyari

KMVN

Tourist Rest House

Munsiyari

Tel: 05961-222339

Cell: 07534001701

STD code 05961

Askot

KMVN

Tourist Rest House

Pithoragarh. Cell: 08650002538

STD code 05964

Binsar WLS

Wildlife Warden

Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary

Range Office, Ayarpani

Cell: 09412928289

DFO

Civil Soyam Forest Division

Almora. Tel: 05962-230229

KMVN

Binsar. Cell: 08650002537

STD code 05962

THE INFORMATION

Ramgarh

KMVN

Tourist Reception Centre

Ramgarh. Tel: 05942-281155

STD code 05942

Nandhaur WLS

Divisonal Forest Office

Haldwani Forest Division

Tikonia Campus. Tel: 05946-220002

Nandhaur WLS SDO

Cell: 09411076337

STD code 05946