While getting down from Mussoorie, just around the so-called Mussoorie Lake area the traffic jam was really scary. It was abnormal and the jam of vehicles going towards the ‘Queen of Hills’ stretched for more than two kilometre on that winding hilly road. I knew that scenes would have been almost similar or worse in the Kempty falls area in the other side of the city. Although, contributing to this chaos was the fact that summer holidays were about to end in the north and weekends are the favourite times for the north Indians to hit the hills, specially the nearby ones. But still, I was more than relieved on our decision to avoid Mussoorie for this brief sojourn. More so, that we witnessed this traffic chaos when we were coming downhill and luckily escaped that when we were going to Dhanaulti a couple of days back.
I have always felt that Dhanaulti is far better place to relax than Mussoorie, however popular among masses later one would be. Mussoorie lost its favourite charm may be few decades ago. It is overcrowded, highly commercialised and at times suffocating. So first-timers will certainly have a lure to the big name but regular ones will certainly like to avoid it and move towards greener pastures, still away from the gaze of the maddening crowd. Dhanaulti is a place like this and will perhaps remain so atleast for the another decade.
On altitude front, Dhanaulti (2286 metres)is higher by good 281 metres than Mussoorie (2005 metres). Hence, better weather amidst less crowd. Not too far as well, just 24 kms ahead of Mussoorie (an hours drive) on the Chamba road. Quiet and serene amidst alpine forests of Deodar, Rhododendron and Oak. This tiny himalayan resort is placed on a ridge with valley on both the sides. Hence it has limited space to expand, which goes in its favour.
Dhanaulti has two Eco-parks, “Amber” and “Dhara”. They have been developed recently by the Forest Department of Uttarakhand with the help of local youth. Dhara is just before the town towards Mussoorie while Amber is just after the town on the Chamba side. They are the prime place for the tourists in Dhanaulti to engage themselves. The adventure sports facility is available for visitors in the form of walking over the flying fox and burma bridges and riding horses. There is also a facility for visitors to plant a sapling of tree species in the memory of their beloved, which is called as memory sapling plantation. There are few other adventure sport spots nearby run by private operators and resorts.
No big hotels but a few descent ones in the mid-range and in the budget range. Dhanaulti Heights is owned by Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited and has the best location, space and the rooms in whole of Dhanaulti. Mussoorie Forest Department is running Eco-huts for the tourists come to enjoy serene landscapes of Dhanaulti. These are built by green technology and are Eco-friendly. Personally, I feel that these eco-huts are the best ones and they are cheaper than the GMVN rooms.
As I said, eco parks are the favourite pastimes in Dhanaulti. They have mini adventure zones. ‘Amber’ also has a dedicated place for Yoga and meditation. You can walk upto the top of the hill in the park for some fabulous views of the step farming and then valley on the other side. Its really beautiful up there. Worth spending few quiet hours. There is also a maggi and tea shop for the tourists.
Area has many walking trails and apple orchards. One can go for many mini treks. Their are pony rides available. But Surkanda Devi temple (five kilometres from Dhanaulti towards Chamba) is best place for a short trip nearby. There is a small uphill trek of around two kilometres for the temple. Temple is located at an altitude of 9995 feet. Surkanda is the most revered deity of the region.
It takes around an hour to reach the temple. The trek starts from Kaddukhal village on the main Chamba road. Its an easy to moderate trek. Still there are ponies available for the climb (Rs 400 per person, one way). Even for those who are least interested in temples, this is trek worth doing for its sheer beauty. Being highest point in the region, you can have a 360 degree view of the area. But that’s nothing, in clear weather you can have one of the best views of Garhwal Himalayas from here. I have been here in February once and it was spellbinding.
You can see the images from that trip by clicking here.
And actually even Dhanaulti has a very commanding panoramic views of snow-clad Himalayan ranges. Their are many mountain-view spots specifically for that.
In Dhanaulti, weather changes very quickly, as I said it is on a ridge. Windy at times because of this and often you are in the clouds. The misty landscape makes excellent background for the evening strolls. That’s when you are most relaxed.
Dhanaulti is a nice place to be. Interestingly, with many winter adventure activities developing here, its turning out to be a round the year tourist destination.