This beautiful and enjoyable hill getaway would not have grown beyond the hamlet that it was in the late 1800s were rinderpest not such a common cattle disease at the time. Congestion in Pune was the other disease that contributed to Mukteshwar’s rise. The British thought the city of the Peshwas had become too crowded for advanced research and that the Imperial Bacteriological Laboratory, then housed in the city’s College of Science, ought to be moved out. Mukteshwar’s unpolluted environs, pleasant weather and immense natural beauty probably influenced the decision in no small measure. And so it was that the British bought over 3,000 acres of land under the Shiva temple that lends the place its name, and got down to the serious business of controlling animal diseases.

That was in the August of 1893 over 120 years ago. Today, cold as any area 7,500ft above sea level, green as any place showered with 1,450mm of annual rainfall, quiet as any road with more bends than people, and bearing the stamp of approval of no less a man than Jim Corbett, Mukteshwar is guaranteed to delight.

Things to See & Do
Even after a century, Mukteshwar is about the old Imperial Bacteriological Laboratory, renamed Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) soon after independence. It is also about the fabulous view of the Himalayan peaks. The town lies along the road up from Ramgarh – it begins with the institute’s Reserve Forest, and ends with the road to the PWD Inspection Bungalow. Midway on this stretch lies the town’s only roundel, called Chowfulli, with the IVRI gate on the right and the Methodist Church on the left, a short trek below the road. The IVRI hospital and the town market also lie along the road further ahead. Then come the trails leading leftwards to the Mukteshwar Temple and the promontory called Chauthi Jaali, and finally the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN) guesthouse, with the PWD Inspection Bungalow below it.

Prashant Panjiar
A picturesque path lined with tree and flowers, a common sight in Mukteshwar
A picturesque path lined with tree and flowers, a common sight in Mukteshwar

Mukteshwar is a great place to wander about. Unless you choose to stray, the lone road is never far from the paths amid the pines and oaks or the fruit orchards. So leave the car at Chowfulli and walk.

Mukteshwar Temple
The Mukteshwar Temple, set on the highest point in town, is architecturally insignificant. It’s not as charming as the stone houses in the village; all that greets you is a bricks-and-cement shell, painted white and hung with bells and tridents. So, unless you are deeply religious, the only benefit of climbing up the steps to this Shiva temple is a rigourous workout.

The bridle path to Chauthi Jaali, a rocky outcrop, half a kilometre away, starts at the base of the temple. It is a very quiet, mostly level walk. Apart from the main outcrop, the Jaali comprises a series of rocky protuberances, and it requires some nerve to climb up and peek over. If you manage to do so, you’d get a breathtaking view of the valley – especially at sunset.

Walks
The thick coniferous forests and the lush fruit orchards around Mukteshwar are ideal for long walks. A lovely hilly foot-path near Chauthi Jaali goes down to the village of Sitla. Or you can just as easily walk down the main road that has hardly any traffic and goes through gorgeous woods and viewpoints.

Tribhuban Tiwari
View of the Ramgarh Valley from the Mukteshwar Temple
View of the Ramgarh Valley from the Mukteshwar Temple

Inspection Bungalow
Keep walking up the road till you reach the end. The KMVN guesthouse now lies on the slope above and the PWD Inspec-tion Bungalow on the terrace below. This quaint, well-kept bungalow is an old building where Jim Corbett stayed while hunting a man-eating tigress in 1929.

The best part is the stunning view from its lawn; from here you can see several peaks of Garhwal, Kumaon and the Nepal Himalaya, the main ones being Nanda Ghunti (20,700ft), Trishul (22,360ft), Trishul East (23,320ft), Nanda Devi (25,645ft), Nanda Devi East (24,391ft), Nanda Kot (22,510ft) and Panchachuli (22,650ft).

Shopping
In the small market at Mukteshwar you’ll find locally produced jams, jellies, juices and squashes. The fruits used are apples, peaches, plums and apricots, all of which you’ll find in the orchards of Mukteshwar and Ramgarh at various times of the year. There’re also a few natural beauty products, like apricot face scrub, that you’ll find here ‘in season’. Do try the famed bal mithai, a local Kumaoni sweet, and the deep-red rhododendron squash from the roadside shops. A Kilmora outlet in Sargakhet is a good place for local handicrafts and pretty woollens.

Where to Stay & Eat
Mukteshwar has the KMVN Tourist Rest House (Tel: 286263, Cell: 08650002528; Tariff: ₹2,800–4,100) at the end of the road, overlooking the PWD Inspection Bungalow and offering a clear view of the full range of snow-covered peaks. But it loses points on hygiene. Just outside town is Somerset Lodge (Tel: 286165, Cell: 09837787501, 09411289043; Tariff: ₹2,500 per person, with meals), an old farmstead with spacious rooms and suites. They also have a very nice tenting site, Camp Purple (Delhi Tel: 011- 29531036; Tariff: ₹2,000 per person, with meals), located in an orchard. A good option for the outdoorsy, Camp Purple offers adventure sports, rappelling, rock-climbing, trekking and archery. Nearby is Oak Chalet (Cell: 09411289043, 09837787501; Tariff: ₹1,800–2,500 per person, with meals) with four rooms, three tents and lots of adventure activities. There’s also Red Roof Resort (Tel: 286299, Cell: 09412007857; Tariff: ₹2,850–3,500), one of the newer hotels with a family cottage and double rooms. You could also stay at the excellent Mountain Trail (Delhi Tel: 011-22720675- 77, 47603625; Tariff: ₹3,800–6,000, with two meals), located in large gardens in Sargakhet. Mystic Mukteshwar (Cell: 09917491166, 09811330333, 094103 38747; Tariff: on request) is a homestay in Sargakhet, offering six rooms, a kitchen, library and games. Krishna Orchard Resort (Delhi Tel: 011- 29811778/ 0075, Cell: 09810145533; Tariff: ₹4,000–7,500) has 27 rooms and lots of games including billiards, badminton, volleyball and cricket. Mukteshwar Himalayan Resort (Cell: 09412085494, 09411376988; Tariff: ₹2,800–4,800, with two meals) in Leti Bunga offers lots of entertainment with adventure activities. Frozen Woods (Delhi Tel: 011-29531036; Tariff: ₹3,750– 5,500) is in Satkhol. For food, the restaurants attached to these properties are the best bet.

Fast Facts
When to go
Mukteshwar is beautiful round the year. The trees are heavy with fruit during summer, and covered with snow in the peak of winter.

Tourist offices
Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam,
Tourist Rest House, Mukteshwar, Tel: 05942-286263. Cell: 08650002528

KMVN, 103, Indraprakash Building, 21, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi, Tel: 011-23712246, 41519366, kmvn.gov.in

STD code 05942

Getting There
Air
Nearest airport: Pantnagar (111km/ 3.5hrs; Tel: 05944-233685). Taxi costs ₹2,000–2,800

Rail Nearest railhead: Kathgodam (73km/ 2hrs), connected to Delhi daily. Taxi costs ₹1,200–1,500 one way

Road From Delhi, the quickest route to Mukteshwar is via Bhimtal, Bhowali and Ramgarh. You can also follow the Bhowali Road till Khutani Bend, and take the full U-turn up the Padampuri Road Bus Uttarakhand Roadways operates services to Haldwani Bus Stand (08476005701) from ISBT Anand Vihar.