Experience the inimitable romance between the pristine pine forests, the towering Himalayas, and an enchanting beauty on a road trip to Kausani.
Moss-filled paths flanked by oak and sal trees, mammoth Kumaon mountains kissing the grey sky laden with rain-bearing clouds, smooth hairpin bends exposing a fresh view at each turn, and the green canopy along the road dappled by a faded, setting sun — I was in a road-tripper’s dream! We were minutes away from reaching Kausani, and I took a moment to breathe in deep the crisp mountain air and realise how incredibly beautiful this impromptu trip had turned out to be.
Delhi – Nainital
Just two days back, my husband and I were on our usual weekend routine — speeding along the Eastern Peripheral Expressway, on our way to New Delhi from his hometown Karnal to spend a few days at my parents’. With our car filled up to capacity, it only made sense to drive straight home. But the long weekend ahead made us take a sudden, unplanned exit towards Moradabad along NH9 that takes you to the Uttarakhand’s Kumaoni peaks.
By the time we reached Nainital, six hours had passed and the holiday hill town, tailed by midnight mist, had called it a night and slipped into a deep slumber. We spent the next day doing the obvious — boating in Naini Lake, Nainital’s proud centrepiece; making a pit stop at Gurney House (Jim Corbett’s cottage); paying a visit to Nanda Devi Temple; shopping at the popular Tibetan Market (do check out The Pahadi Store for Kumaoni pickles and souvenirs); and taking a bike ride to Himalayan Darshan for sweeping views of mist-caked mountains and Naini Lake below.
Running along the lake, Mall Road is ideal for casual evening strolls. We watched candy-coloured boats tethered to the bank bobbing in the lake, and blue-green ripples across the water mirroring everything from the surrounding hills to street-side shop windows and buzzy restaurants. Lakeside Cafe, with a cosy outdoor sit-out, twinkling fairy-lights, and an elaborate menu, is a fresh add-on and deserves a mention. With still a lot of time in hand, we rented out a bike and went on to cover the famous stretch of Bhimtal, Sattal, and Nakuchiatal, which are similar but not limited to the experiences offered by Nainital. Think less crowds, pristine lakes, and adventures like birding, paragliding, zorbing, horse-riding, and more.
Nainital – Ranikhet
Nainital is full of timeless charms but you run out of things to do and places to explore in a day’s time. After we have had enough of horn-blaring cars and constant clamour of the touristy crowds, on the second morning, we decided to drive to Kausani, which is another six hours’ drive from Nainital via Ranikhet. The drive was surprisingly smooth and laden with thick forests of towering pine and chir trees and rolling misty meadows.
Birdsong, babbling creeks cutting through rocky hills, and flocks of monkeys kept us company through the route. Lovely wildflowers were in full bloom — pink rhododendrons were a constant, while tree with soft lilac blooms made surprise appearances every now and then. Neeli Gulmohar (or Jacaranda), as they are called, added a unique lavender charm to the route and we eagerly waited for their glimpses along the drive.
Ranikhet – Someshwar
By the time we reached Someshwar, a little village that falls right before Kausani, the landscape had changed dramatically. The sharp hair-pin bends were now gone. A smooth, silken road ran between lower mountain slopes and the fertile plains packed with verdant terraced fields of rice and barley. River Kosi meandered quietly endowing the untrodden valley. Little children frolicked in flower-filled grasslands, while women and men worked in the checkered fields of green and yellow.
We passed by a Kumoani day wedding with men dressed in kurta and pahadi topi and women clad in traditional pichhora, dancing to the rhythmic beats of Kumaoni dhol. We saw cranes and magpies on treetops and a pair of foxes chasing after one another right below! To top it all, soft drizzles on our windscreen paired with sunlight streaming through the green canopy made the unobstructed views of the valley all the more alluring. I realised, in that moment, that if there were ever a place in the hills that I could see myself settling in, it’d be this.
Someshwar – Kausani
It didn’t take us long to reach Kausani after that. The skies have had cleaned up after themselves by now and the ‘Switzerland of India’, lying on a ridge dotted with chir and blue pine forests, was now covered in a mist. We picked The Heritage Resort to base ourselves, and immediately headed out. Driving downhill for about a kilometre cutting through the thick pine forests, we reached a tea estate that was open to public visits. Kausani brims with lush tea plantations and the quality of tea leaves here is said to be top-notch. It was late in the afternoon and the last tea pluckers were heading home.
We strolled down the narrow, hard-packed paths that come crisscross to the waist-high, glossy green bushes. We closely examined the soft, velvety tea leaves, plucked wild berries from the towering trees, and watched the lofty Himalayan peaks slowly turn pink at sunset. Kausani is most famed for its panoramic views of Trishul, Nanda Devi, and Panchachuli. After refueling ourselves with hot cups of strong masala tea, we retraced our steps and began to drive back. En route, we made a quick pitstop at a local shawl factory to see the process of making an authentic Kausani shawl made with vibrant skeins of wool using age-old techniques on wooden looms.
If at all you could get over the solemn silence of the resolute mountains and the breathtaking panoramas, spend your days in Kausani visiting the nearby Baijnath Temple, trekking to see the Rudradhari Falls and Caves, and remembering Mahatma Gandhi (who originally called Kausani as the ‘Switzerland of India’) at the Anashakti Ashram. Reserve your nights, like we did, for barbeques and bonfires at the resort, and probably a visit to the Stargate Observatory to watch the celestial objects in all their glory on a clear night. For us, watching the mighty Himalayas tower over the valleys and sneak up on the several layers of little pine ridges was a view good enough to leave us spell-bound and make us feel that we had indeed arrived a second home.