Best weekend getaways near Delhi

Quite apart from the busier Himachali resorts, Chail has an air of exclusivity
Image courtesy: ©Utsav Verma/Lonely Planet Short Escapes from Delhi

The Himalayan ranges north of Delhi have long been the city’s safety valve – allowing you to abandon the heat and dust for clean air, sparkling streams and scented pine forests. Whatever your mood (and budget), the hills around Delhi will have an answer.

While Shimla, Mussoorie, Nainital and even Lansdowne are popular choices when considering a short escape from Delhi, here are some other places that deserve a visit.

CHAIL, HIMACHAL PRADESH

Another cute and quiet hill town, quite apart from the busier Himachali resorts, Chail (371km) has an air of exclusivity. Thick deodar forests, panoramic views, the highest cricket ground in the world, and a sprawling palace hotel, are the off erings of this alpine haven. Long rambling walks, picnics on the hillside and easily available solitude all add to its charm.

Best time to visit: January-June; October-December

Getting there:
Car (8–9hr; NH1, NH22): From Delhi take the NH1 up to Ambala, then get onto the NH22 and drive up to Kandaghat. From here, a small road meanders 30km east to Chail.

Train (4hr 05min + 3hr drive; Kalka): The Kalka Shatabdi (12011, 12005) leaves twice daily at 7.40am and 5.15pm and reaches at 11.45am and 9.20pm respectively. Chail is 85km from Kalka; taxis ply at fixed rates (INR1850) from the railway station.

 

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PANGOT, UTTARAKHAND

 

With only nature as the attraction, Pangot offers a peaceful holiday
Image courtesy: ©Shweta Andrews/Lonely Planet

At its busiest, you would find about 150 people but more than 350 species of birds here. Barely 17km from Nainital, Pangot (334km) is a village surrounded by thick forests, quiet hamlets, streams and walking trails. The rare and beautiful bird species that inhabit these woods attract enthusiasts from around the world. With only nature as the attraction, Pangot offers a much more peaceful holiday than its famous cousin, Nainital.

Best time to visit: March-June; September-November

Getting there:
Car (8hr 30min; NH24, NH87): Via Hapur Bypass, Gajraula, Moradabad Bypass, Rampur, Rudrapur, Kathgodam, Jeolikot, Nainital and Kilbury.

Bus (9hr journey): Buses leave Anand Vihar ISBT (6am, 9pm, 10pm) for Nainital; taxi to Pangot from here costs INR500–700. Hina Travels (tel 05942–235860) runs AC buses (INR800) to Nainital from Kashmiri Gate.

Train:
(5hr 35min + 1hr 30min drive)
The Anand Vihar– Kathgodam Shatabdi (12040) leaves daily (except Thur) at 6.15am and reaches at 11.50am.

(6hr 25min + 1hr 30min drive) The Ranikhet Express (15013) leaves daily from Old Delhi at 10.40pm and reaches at 5.05am. Pangot is 52km from Kathgodam; taxi INR1000.

SATTAL, UTTARAKHAND

Over the years, Sattal’s seven lakes have become synonymous with camping, walks, birdwatching and more
Image courtesy: ©Shweta Andrews/Lonely Planet

The joy of lakes enfolded by hills, of birding hotspots, of forests and leopard tales, of some unparalleled quietude… multiplied by seven. Over the years, Sattal’s (306km) seven lakes have become synonymous with camping, walks, birdwatching, adventure, and just getting away from it all. And they do live up to their promise.

Best time to visit: March-June; September-November

Getting there:
Car (7hr; NH24, NH87)
: Via Hapur Bypass, Gajraula, Moradabad Bypass, Rampur, Rudrapur, Kathgodam, Bhimtal, and Mehragaon.

Train (Kathgodam):
(5hr 35min + 50min drive)
The Anand Vihar-Kathgodam Shatabdi (12040) leaves daily (except Thur) at 6.15am and reaches at 11.50am.

(6hr 25min + 50min drive) The Ranikhet Express (15013) leaves daily from Old Delhi at 10.40pm and reaches at 5.05am. Sattal is 30km from Kathgodam; a taxi from the station costs INR700.

RANIKHET, UTTARAKHAND

Ranikhet has tall pine trees, spectacular views, charming colonial bungalows and an old orchard

This tranquil hill station (370km) stretches languidly along a thickly forested ridge in the Kumaon Hills, uninterrupted by wanton construction and commercialisation. It has tall pine trees, spectacular views, charming colonial bungalows, an old orchard – all the right ingredients to rejuvenate a city-worn visitor.

Best time to visit: March-June; September-November

Getting there:
Car (9hr 30min; NH24, NH87)
: Via Hapur Bypass, Gajraula, Moradabad Bypass, Rampur, Rudrapur, Kathgodam, Bhimtal, Bhowali and Khairna.

Train (Kathgodam):
(5hr 35min + 2hr 30min drive)
The Anand Vihar–Kathgodam Shatabdi (12040) leaves daily (except Thur) at 6.15am and reaches at 11.50am.

(6hr 25min + 2hr 30min drive) The Ranikhet Express (15013) leaves daily from Old Delhi at 10.40pm and reaches at 5.05am. Ranikhet is 88km from Kathgodam; a one-way taxi costs INR2500 in season.

CHAKRATA, UTTARAKHAND

Chaktrata offers plenty of breathtaking views of the Garhwal Himalayas

Tottering at an elevation of 7250ft, Chakrata (311km) is a little cantonment town on the way to Yamunotri. A strong scent of pine cones hangs in the air. This small sleepy town has no busy bazaars or noisy restaurants to distract from the breathtaking views of the Garhwal Himalayas. Its spectacular cloud cover, even in summer, will charm the most jaded traveller.

Best time to visit: February-June; September-December

Getting there:
Car( 8–10hr; NH1)
: Take the Ring Road to Kashmiri Gate, and get onto NH1 after the interchange at Makbara Chowk. Drive to Shahbad (turn here from NH1). About 15km shy of Ambala, turn right towards Yamunanagar and follow the road straight to Chakrata via Paonta Sahib, Herbertpur and Kalsi. The road between Herbertpur and Kalsi is pretty rough especially right after the monsoon.

Train (5hr 50min + 4hr drive; Dehradun): The Dehradun Shatabdi (12017) runs every day. Trains depart from New Delhi railway station at 6.50am and reach Dehradun at 12.40pm. Fares start at INR1015 per person, one way. From Dehradun, hire a taxi to Chakrata (INR1500– 2000 one way, incl overnight stay for driver).

There’s plenty more to inspire the traveller in our travel guide, ‘Short Escapes from Delhi‘. Head to our online shop and grab a copy today.