Destination: Chakrata, Uttarakhand, India

Summer break was knocking at the door, college was about to close and my head was spinning through travel guides to search for a perfect holiday destination. I was looking for a place away from the hustle bustle of Delhi and would invigorate my senses choked by city’s monstrous pollution. As I flipped through the pages of Traveller, my fingers stopped at the sight of a verdant view of green mountains and my heart knew that this was what I had been looking for.

So the next day, after discussing the plan with the other family members, we started packing for Chakrata, a quaint little hill station located in Uttarakhand at a height of 7000 feet. It lies about 100 km from Dehradun and can be approached by road journey in a span of three hours. We drove through the entire route, although taking turns to drive as the journey can be tiring. As we reached Dehradun, we could see the luxuriant hills dotting the Doon valley. As we wind past the FRI (Forest Reserve Institute) and IMA (Indian Military Academy) in the outskirts of Dehradun, the hills seemed closer and refreshing cool breeze welcomed us.

The road traverses through Vikasnagar and Kalsi where one crosses the Yamuna and leads one to Chakrata after passing small villages like Sahiya. The moment one reaches Chakrata, time seems to stand still. It spellbinds the onlooker by its unspoilt charm, magnificient mountains and flourishing forests. Everywhere the sight goes, one is greeted by red flaming rhododendrons, oaks, deodar & pines.

Chakrata is a small, little village that spreads across two hills: Chakrata and Kailana in Garhwal. The town is built all across a ridge with a tiny bazaar in the centre. Human beings are as unfamiliar to this faraway place in the Himalayas as is its name.

Chakrata is basically a military cantonment and was established by Colonel Hume of the British Forces in 1866.The Cantt. has restricted access as it caters to Indian Army’s special forces and hosts commando courses as well. We got our accommodation done in the Cantt. itself as my father is an army officer, but one can always put up at Snow View Hotel or Chakrata’s Forest Rest House which is open to the civilians.

As Chakrata is a military area, one has to get a permit made out at the forest barrier when one goes out of Chakrata. The best time to visit Chakrata is during spring and summer. Although, it isn’t very cold during this time of the season, it is advisable to pack some light woollens for rough weather.

The surrounding area of Chakrata is called Jaunsar-Bawar and is home to the Jaunsari tribe, who have some really strange customs like polygamy and polyandry. However, don’t get intimidated by such queer practices as the locals are a very loving and hospitable lot. There are some beautiful creations of nature around Chakrata which one can vist.

One being the Tiger Falls, which are India’s second highest water falls and can be reached either by a 5 km trek via a bridge called Guansa pull or by a 13 km drive by car. As we reached the spot, a group of village kids greeted us and offered to guide us through the path to the falls. The falls are created by two distributaries of Yamuna falling from a towering height of hundred feet. The jet of water just romps through the rocks and creates a foam effect at the basin. Infact, the falls were so named Tiger because of the roaring noise they make. There’s a dingy little tea shop near the falls and its vendor goes out of the way to serve you with simmering Pahadi Chai.

One can also visit places like Deoban, located at a height of 9000 feet and can be reached after a 16 km hairpin bending drive on a rugged road from Chakrata. But the drive is worth the effort as the place is spectacular. After a drive through the dense foliage of Oakwood, lies a startling clearing in the forest with a British built Forest Rest House where one can spend a night or two. Although we couldn’t settle for a stay as we didn’t have much time in our hands.

Also, one can drive to Kanasar, located 28 km away from Chakrata and hosts the best Cedar forest of Asia. The route to Kanasar reveals some stunning views of the Himalayas and one may also come across some rare wildlife moments. En route to Kanasar, we were amazed to see Himalayan vultures, mountain fox and rare species of temperate birds. But incase you are in no mood to travel, you can always sit in your guest room’s verandah with a hot cup of coffee and soak in the picturesque snow clad sites of the Bandar Poonch Massif and Chilmiri neck peaks.

So if you are one of those travellers who want to seek refuge from the city’s traffic for a short peaceful vacation, Chakrata is the place to be. It is tranquilizing, serene and reenergizes you to take on your daily routine with a bang!

Akshuna Bakshi