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Kanatal: Hidden jewel of the hills

Kanatal: Hidden jewel of the hills
Amidst nature, nothing is perfect yet everything seems so perfect. Be it a glorious sunrise, a solitary walk, chirpy birdtalk, engaging with the locals or getting lost in the middle of nowhere: Perfect moments can definitely happen when you least expect it in the state of Uttarakhand. 

Soaring Himalayan peaks and steamy lowland jungles. Revered temples and renowned ashrams. Peaceful hill stations and busy cities. Uttarakhand is an enticingly diverse state, with some of India’s best trekking, yoga schools, holiday towns and wildlife-watching all tucked into one little corner of the country.

Hindus think of Uttarakhand as Dev Bhoomi – the Land of Gods – and the dramatic terrain is covered with holy mountains, lakes and rivers. Twisting roads and high-altitude hiking trails lead to spectacular pilgrimage sites where tales from the Hindu epics are set. And something of these ancient stories seems to have been absorbed by the land, which exudes a subtle sense of actually being sacred – even to ultra-orthodox agnostics.

Many travellers flock here for this vibe, finding it a powerful place to pursue a spiritual practice. Others come here for the adventure sports and unspoiled nature.

One such secret gem in Uttarakhand, not yet on the crowded tourist trail, is Kanatal. As I sat with a dear friend  to hear his tales of hidden Kanatal, his story made me hold my breath, it was his dreamy stay at The Solitude, at Rauslikhal Village in Kanatal. Located in Kanatal in the Uttarakhand Region, this detached holiday home is 32 km from Dehradun.

As he described the beauty of cycling through its secluded biking trails, I decided to pay a visit to this little heaven. His stay included lazy walks in the hills, jeep rides into unexplored jungles, elaborate picnics amid lush expanses of green, plucking fresh fruits from apple orchards and stuffing his pockets with freshly fallen pine cones. Kanatal isn’t a destination that comes with a promise of frills and thrills. It urges you to slow down and relish nature’s sights and sounds in the serene lap of the Himalayas. A series of narrow, zigzag roads surrounded by fragrant pine, deodar and rhododendron trees lead you to this little hill station tucked inside the belly of Uttarakhand’s rolling hills. Known for its mesmerizing beauty, scenic views, verdant forests, invigorating breeze and tranquil weather, Kanatal is a perfect getaway for people who want a quick break from work. Situated 78 km ahead of Dehradun and 38 km ahead of the Queen of Hills- Mussoorie & 12 km from Chamba, Kanatal is a hamlet built around numerous hills, a locale which personifies the romantic aura of Tehri District, Uttarakhand, located on the Chamba-Mussoorie highway.

A few years ago, there used to be a lake by the name of Kanatal; now it has vanished. Kanatal gained its name from the now dried lake. The town is far from pollution and the hustle and bustle of city life. The temperature during summers varies from 10 to 20 degree Celsius. Winter turns this beauty into a mesmerizing white wonderland, as Kanatal is blessed with heavy snowfall from December till February, blocking roads in winter. Due to high altitude the place faces high winds and temperatures lie in between 5-10 degrees. It presents a mesmerizing sight of snow carpeted grounds. The trees look so beautiful in their white furry clothes. The rains are heavy in the monsoons. The temperature here hovers between 10-20 degrees Celsius in summers. For the wandering traveller, Kanatal will be a great gift of silence. A stroll amidst towering Deodar trees will not only provide a sense of utter happiness but also calm the ever busy mind.

In Kanatal, the most elevated point is Surkunda Devi Temple and it is considered very sacred, dedicated to Sati Ji. Kanatal is where Shankar Ji brought her dead body on his trishul from Haridwar. The charred body of Goddess Sati fell here when Lord Shiva took her remains with him after she give her life in a yajna started by her father.

Located at a height of 9995 feet, you get a  360-degree view from the top of the temple. The surrounding mountains and rivers provide breathtaking views. This temple is 8 km on the road from Mussoorie to Kaddukhal. One has to trek 2 km on foot to the little temple. Ponies are available for the climb. 

Kanatal has some hotels with a view of the snow-covered hills. There are also a few camp grounds like Camp Carnival, Little Jaguar, The Kanatal Orchids - Camps & Resort.

If you are looking for a destination that is not infested with tourists and is calm and unexplored this is a good bet. This is mainly because the town of Kanatal lies near Mussoorie, which is a popular tourist hotspot. Tourists mainly flock to Mussoorie, and the town of Kanatal is mostly left untouched. Kanatal serves mainly as a weekend getaway for the local populace.

Kodia Jungle is a dense forest area located at a distance of around one km away from Kanatal. You can spot a few wild animals by taking a ride through the jungle in a jeep, and you can also see many natural springs that are quite prevalent in the region. Kodia Jungle is one km away on the road towards Chamba. It is a very nice picnic spot with lush meadows. A level walk of 7 to 8 km will show dense forests opening into a vast expanse of undulating hills and valleys. Tiny, gurgling natural springs will refresh you along the way. The track is drivable and popular for treks. Scented orchards, fruit trees, wild flowers, pine forests, tiny temples, and smiling locals and views of the splendid Himalayan range are the beautiful memories you will carry away of the place. You can try yoga and meditation here to drive away your blues. Play a game or two of snowball with your buddies, go rappelling or do a little pilgrimage with your family to the ancient, sacred temples around. Or simply curl up with a book and cozy up in your bed all day watching the grand mountain vistas by staying indoors. Soak in the cultural experience by visiting village families and trying local food. Pamper your frayed nerves at a spa and take in deep breaths of the Frangipani-scented like breeze that wafts across the hills. Kanatal reminds me of the saying, “On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it.” Set amidst majestic forests of pine, deodar trees, magnificent rhododendrons, fruit-laden apple trees, terrace farms intricately carved along hillsides, chirping birdsong all around and the fresh, invigorating Garhwal mountain air, Kanatal is laden with nature’s bounty. 

Kanatal celebrates the holy event of Dussehra for 10 days in the month of October. The tale of the war between Lord Ram and Ravana is depicted in various colourful fairs. The Gange Dussehra festival is celebrated every year between May and June and attracts a lot of people. Tehri Dam at New Tehri is built at the confluence of River Bhagirathi and Bhilangna. At New Tehri, visit the Pant Research Institute where fruits and plants are grown. There is another smaller dam 14 km downstream at Koteshwar.
Swati Jain

Swati Jain

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