By Nivi Shrivastava
If you are looking for an easy-breezy winter destination in the hills of Kumaon, Uttarakhand, head to an offbeat hill station Bhimtal for a serene experience. Less than an hour (22 km) from the famous town of Nainital, the lesser-known town of Bhimtal is part of the lake trail that takes you to some tranquil water reservoirs of the hill region. Surrounded by the lush Himalayan slopes and unique flora and fauna from the Kumaon belt, one can spend a quiet time here away from city pollution and heat.
History meets nature:
Named after Mahabharata’s legendary Lord Bhima, Bhimtal is a quaint town much older than Nainital. It is a sleepy hill town with historical significance and has connecting routes to the Kumaon Hills, Kathgodam, Nepal, and Tibet – which was once part of the ancient Silk Route between India and China for sheep traders. It is part of the Nainital District and is surrounded by famous water spots like Nal Damyanti Tal, Sattal, Naukuchiatal, and the Naini Lake. While every lake has a special quality of its own and some interesting story behind its origin, the Bhimtal lake is believed to have originated during the Mahabharat. As per the locals, when Bhima visited the place during the banishment (vanvas) period of Pandavas he hit the earth with his mallet (gada) which created a water body and an island in the middle of it. One can still take a boat to this island on Bhimtal lake and spend time at the aquarium and a nearby café.
Full of interesting folktales and treks around the city, some of the fun water activities one can do at these lakes are kayaking, zip-lining, swimming, boating, and feeding the ducks. For adventure lovers, a less explored trek in Sattal at the adjoining Jim Corbett forest area takes you to a natural waterfall amidst the jungle. On the way spot the rare birds and butterflies as you identify the vivid vegetation of the hills. After a long day of fun activities, stop at the landmark Fishermen’s Lodge, a colonial-style boutique resort that was once a fishing retreat perched on the lakeside.
Little joys of life:
Tourists can visit the Stargate Observatory, Victoria Dam, Hidimba Parvat trek, a historic Bhimeshwara Mahadev Temple (Shiva temple) by the banks of lake, the Nag temple at the hill of Karkotaka, and Butterfly Research Centre during their stay in Bhimtal – all of which can be easily covered in a day. Vibhas Prasad, Director at Leisure Hotels Group, tells DH Online, “Bhimtal is one of Uttarakhand’s most scenic lake cities that hasn’t been swamped by tourism, and is still considered quite unexplored than Nainital. Although Bhimtal does not have an endless list of places to explore it does have breathtaking views for peace and nature lovers. Enjoy the traditional Kumaoni cuisine, which can be found in any traditional café or restaurant. Spend time at the L’attitude Deck at Fishermen’s Lodge for alfresco dining experiences overlooking the green slopes and lake. Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee with Bun Makhan, Maggi, and Pakodas in a tranquil setting next to Bhimtal Lake.”
How to reach: Take a train to Kathgodam (23 km away from Bhimtal) or fly to Pant Nagar airport (58 km from Bhimtal) and arrive by noon, or simply drive from Delhi via NH9 to enjoy the scenic route of approximately 320 km and reach this small lake town in less than seven hours. A personal vehicle is always a good idea to explore nearby attractions, but keep in mind the narrow hill roads and weekend traffic which can be avoided if one starts early in the day.
(The author is an independent journalist, you can reach her at [email protected])