Ranikhet, the Queen’s Meadow as the translation from Hindi reads, is where Raja Sudhardev won over Queen Padmini and chose this place for her residence.
Ranikhet, nestling in the lap of the Himalayas is an army cantonment hill station in Almora district of Uttarakhand. The British fell in love with this place as did Raja Sudhardev at one time, and made it the headquarters for their regiment besides making it a retreat for escape from the oppressive heat of the plains.
You can get to Ranikhet from Delhi by bus, a distance of 279 kilometers or a five hour drive at the most through scenic countryside. The train ride from Delhi to Kathgodam by the Ranikhet Express is equally pleasant and you can traverse the remaining 68 kilometers by road. You can fly in to Pantnagar airport, 115 km away, and then take a taxi or bus to this hill station located at a height of about 1800 meters. It is pleasantly cool in summer while it can snow in winter. The best time to visit is during summer months or between September and October when the countryside is a lush green.
Places to See and Things to Do
- Ranikhet itself is a small size town you will love to explore. The chief attraction in this hill station maintained by the army is of course the Army Museum showcasing weapons, flags, LTTE boats and other military memorabilia including those from the Pakistan and China wars.
- The Jhula Devi temple is near Chaubatia, about 7 kilometers away. This is a temple, dedicated to Durga Mata and the outstanding feature is the large number of bells adorning the temple walls. Devotees have a unique way of rendering homage: they tie bells to the walls.
- Close to the Jhula Devi temple you will find Rama Mandir, dedicated to Lord Rama with its attraction being the rock paintings. The ancient Vedas are taught to modern pupils in peaceful environs.
- About 10 kilometers away you will find Chaubatia Gardens, famous for its fruit orchards and home to variety of Himalayan flora and fauna. Linger awhile and buy some honey or fruit juice. Sheetla Khet is another lovely fruit orchard you will come across as you travel from Almora to Ranikhet, a popular camping site and the location of Syahi Devi Mata.
- As in other hill stations in Uttarakhand, the main shopping area in Ranikhet is designated as the Mall and you can browse the shops to find some local stuff.
- From Ranikhet you can go on to Almora or to Manila. Katarmal, on the way, has one of the few temples dedicated to the Sun God in India. From Almora you can go on to the Binsar bird sanctuary, Jageshwar and Kasauni, another hill station. You will come across Chaukutia, about 50 km from Ranikhet where you will find an old Fort and a temple dedicated to Kali Mata.
Excursions seem to be a must for most tourists but you may want to simply laze about, stroll through the streets and have a relaxing time when you are in Ranikhet. There’s paragliding and golf if you are the active type.
Accommodation and food
You will find accommodation ranging from luxurious to the most affordable. For the most part you get basic amenities and can eat out in restaurants.