Good things come to he who waits. Keep repeating this if you find yourself headed to Ramgarh. One of the most notorious drives i have ever been on and the end result was a spectacular 3 day vacation amid one of the greenest places in India and some of the most helpful and friendly people i have ever come across. I will be posting some pictures later as well so watch this space. Currently all the pic’s have been taken from the net.
1. Fly to Pant Nagar which is the closest airport and from here hire a cab or go in a bus.The distance from here is 80 kms. I am not too sure about the cab fares but i am guessing it would be around 1k-1500 INR. Flights would be in the range of 1000 + Taxes per person one way. Jagson airlines is the most frequent (and i think only) airline to this sector . They have daily flights. Availability can be checked at jagsonairline.com.
2. Train to Kathgodam which is 50 Kms before Ramgarh. Again hire a cab or a bus.
3. Drive – This is what i always do since it allows me tremendous flexibility. While the distance is only 318 Kms ( Less than Shimla) ,if anyone tells you that it will take 6-7 hours , please dont believe them. The road is pretty bad till you enter the state of Uttaranchal and the drive can take as much as 10-11 Hours. The route to follow is :-
Delhi to Ghaziabad to Hapur – Fastest leg of the trip, can be done in under 2 hours.
Hapur to Moradabad to Rampur – slowest leg, almost 120 kms on bad roads. Can take 6 hrs
Rampur to Rudrapur to Haldwani to Kathgodam – Peppy once Rudrapur is crossed. Kathgodam is where the climb starts from, very crowded town, if you get stuck in traffic here it can take upto 40 minutes to get out. Approx time 2 hours
Kathgodam-Bhimtal-Ramgarh – The prettiest stretch of the drive. Slow winding roads, excellent tarmac, lots of greenery and one goes through some of the most popular tourist spots such as Bhimtal, Sattal. Approx time 1.30 Hrs
The last2 Kms can be pretty rough esp if one is going post the rainy season since the approach road to the resort is essentially gravel.
To summarize , best to get leave Delhi by 5 AM or so. One can depending on stops etc , can expect to reach between 3-4 PM.
Places to Stay
There are a multitude of options available now with development having picked up in the area. But to be sure you get the best of everything i would suggest a property called the Ramgarh Bungalows run by the Neemrana group of Hotels.
There are 2 old Bungalows available with multiple rooms. Both are quoted to have been built up in the mid 1800’s and of course re-fitted with modern amenities.
This is the one we opted for and just as well. Situated at a 5 minutes walk from the other one, at a higher level, it offers better views and more seclusion. There are only 2 rooms available hence it can never really get crowded. Food is brought over from the Old Bungalow and can take upto 45 minutes so order early. The food is simple and homely. You have access to basic non veg such as chicken or mutton gravy dishes. If you plan on having non-veg be sure to inform the staff 1 meal before atleast so that they can organize the same.Snacks are available as well, again it can take upto 45 minutes for them to be brought to you.
The rooms are simply amazing. A huge bedroom with a fireplace and a sitting area alongside the bay windows , shaded by ivy and offering a good view. A stack of old magazines and books are available in each room to ensure you never run out of reading material. Heaters are available with the staff and if you happen to be one with a very low threshold on cold then the staff is more than willing to put multiple heaters in the room as well.
Going towards the bath one finds an additional room which houses the antique cupboards, dressers , a small dining table and an additional bed. The bathroom is almost triangular shaped equipped with nice marble-ish flooring and a shower with hot /cold water.
The grounds are limited to a L shaped garden but is almost always empty. A small patio outside the rooms with chairs in the event that it is raining. The main dining area is located at the end of the garden and houses 2 tables. Nice and chirpy with framed portraits and pictures of views from around the place. You can either site inside or outside.
The staff is very freindly as you would expect in the hills in India. Very courteous and willing to go an extra mile all the time. There are normally 2 of them present and they bring over the snacks and food from the Old Bungalow , as well as anything else which may be required. Willing to tell stories and talk about anything, they can prove to be good and entertaining companions as well. If you can, do tip them personally and directly at the endof your visit.
The Old Bungalow
Located 5 minutes away this is a much bigger complex and brings with it some of the associated problems as well. Offers a lot of rooms hence is slightly crowded, has a lot of modern construction , a huge dining hall and a play area of sorts for kids as well. When we went last there were 4 families with kids staying leading to quite a bit of noise. The dining hall has to be one of the best structures in this complex and should definitely have one meal here.
This area also houses the accommodation for some of the staff, the managers office , drivers accommodation. The view’s are pretty good but overall loses to the Writer Bungalow. The managers office also stocks some local made juices, jams and pickles which can be bought.
1. No bar available. Carry your own.
2. While there are books etc available , carry some of your own.
3. Check not once, not twice but thrice to see you have your camera!! 🙂
Things to Do and See
Not much to do but lots to see. Ramgarh’s location is pretty central and if one has transport then some of the more tourist driven destinations can be reached under an hour. Some of the places one can consider going off to are – Nainital , Sattal, Bhimtal , Mukteshwar.
Nainital is one of the most popular hill stations in India. The prime attraction for the first 3 is the fact that there are mountain lakes there. I personally do not get any big thrills from this but it seems i am in the minority and people flock to these locales for boating, some amount of shopping and eating etc.
The place i would suggest is Mukteshwar !! Located at 8000 feet, its a small town offering lovely walks and one of the grandest view in India. A 360 degree panoramic view of some of the highest peaks in the Himalayas anywhere. If its a cloudy day its difficult to spot them but on a clear day…WOW! If you have the energy wake up at 5 am and get here. The drive to Mukteshwar while very very scenic has slightly bad patches and travel time could be between 1-1.30 hrs, but if you have your own car this is not a consideration.
The drive passes through small villages and reaches very high points along the range. There are enough places to eat along the way , or to stop and have a cup of tea. Mukteshwar itself has a lot of hotels again but is surprisingly not so crowded. Just find a place which has a nice garden etc and relax as long as you want. One spot not to be missed are the Chauthijali rock formations. Get to the rest house and start walking along a well defined trail. Approx 30 minutes later one emerges on a clearing which has rocks jutting out over sheer drops into the valley. As much as a 1000 feet or so.
We only visited Mukteshwar and decided to make a full day of it by eating lunch there and then stopping at every interesting shop along the way to see if we could pick up anything interesting – shawls, herbs, local handicraft etc.
We decided to stop at Sattal on our way back. While driving back to Kathgodam etc, Sattal is just a 10 – 15 minute diversion so can easily be seen. While very scenic, some of its beauty was lost in the throngs of people and cars.
The Economics !
Ramgarh is around 1500 – 5000 INR a night depending on the cottage you choose. Taxes and food not included. Food will be about 200 per person per meal on an average. Most of the hotels would fall within this range.
The total trip , everything included cost us around 9k. This included 2000 for fuel i.e an average of 3000 per couple per day for everything.