Nainital district|Uttrakhand Tourism|Hartola Mukteshwar|Kumaon Himalaya|Trails & Cottages
Sometimes we often land up in places that are rarely heard about and their presence minutely felt. But if you do happen to visit them , they give you an experience which lasts longer than you expect.Hartola is one such place in the Nainital district of state Uttrakhand in India . Hartola is a hidden paradise not much heard of and often missed by many travelers. It is not a regular tourist destination with high-end cafes, restaurants or other modern amenities.But an untouched, calm, close to nature and abundantly beautiful place that would leave you spellbound. Though I may not be perfect at my attempt but would surely try to show you the place through my ‘Hartola Uttrakhand: A hidden paradise –Detailed Tour Guide ‘piece. Please feel free to comment, correct as you may like.
Hartola history & stories
Hartola is a small hamlet(a small settlement with a size of a small town or a small village) in the Nainital district of Uttrakhand.It is a quiet and calm village spread around within a radius of 6-7 km. The name Hatola is a combination of parts ‘har’ meaning lord shiva and ‘tola’ meaning a dwelling place.And hence summing up to a place where lord shiva resides, which is also justified by a beautifully placed Shiva temple in the village which is a must-see.As the story goes from the British times the place was found by a shepherd accidentally while grazing his sheep in the green meadows.And later it was a Royal Nepal family that maintained the place after which it came to the Indian class of the Purohit family which presently have their eminence at the place.
How to Reach Hartola?
Though I took the road ride by car with my wife from Lucknow, the place is very well connected by train, busses and taxis are frequently available. The road to Hartola from Nathuakhan is a well-paved road passing through the Deodar pine trees which would definitely provide you a pleasant journey experience.It takes roughly around three hours from Kathgodam that lies in the foothills of Haldwani to reach to the Kumaun Himalayan region where Hartola is situated. Your hill ride drive starts from Kathgodam itself and slowly you climb the circling roads.As you move up the crowd gets thinner and the roads keep getting cleaner and the view keeps getting better.
Delhi to Hartola distance:380 Km(approx. 10hr drive)
Nainital to Hartola distance:51 Km(approx. 2hr drive)
Lucknow to Hartola distance:426Km(approx. 11hr drive)
How to reach Hartola by train?
The closest railway station to Hartola is Kathgodam in the Haldwani district. From there it is around 67 Km
and usually takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes to reach Hartola.The station is well connected to all major towns.From Kathgodam you can easily book a taxi or take a bus.
How to reach Hartola by air?
The closest air connectivity to Hartola is from Pantnagar which is around 105 Km from Hartola and 95 Km from Nathuakhan.For quite some time in the past, the Panthnagar airport wasn’t in operations as kingfisher Airlines closed.But now it is operational and have daily flights from IGI Delhi.
Cheapest way to reach Hartola from Delhi:
A train journey would be the most economical costing around Rs1100 to Rs1400 to Kathgodam (Around 8 hours)from where a bus or a taxi could be taken.
Fastest way to reach Hartola from Delhi:
You could reach the quickest by cab in around 5 hours from Delhi.
Hartola Uttrakhand temperature & weather.
Hartola lies at an altitude of 8345ft providing a 180 degree view of the Nanda Devi ,Trishul, Nandaghunti and Nandakot Kumaon Himalayan ranges.The climate at Hartola stays moderate throughout the year.The highest average temperature in Hartola is 31degrees in May while the lowest being 18 degrees in January.Best time to visit Hartola would be February to July and in Winters from August to November.
For snow lovers, Hartola offers a perfect escape during the months of December,January to early February.That is the time when the whole place envelops in a white blanket of snow offering you a picturesque experience closest to nature. The temperatures though drop as low as -3 to -4 degrees which makes it quite chilly and windy at the same time. Though I visited in December was unlucky to witness full-fledged snow but did surely enjoyed the chill and the serenity the place provided.
Hartola Uttrakhand Flora and Fauna
Hartola is a perfect nature’s basket with a dense cover of Himalayan oak, Deodaar trees and green medows. Also being at an altitude of 8345ft it provides an optimum condition for organic cultivation of Apple,Plum, Peach, Apricot and now also Walnut trees.Hartola takes a crucial place in the fruit belt of kumaon Himalayan regions by supporting the local economy with these organic produce.The place is laden with hundreds of variety of plants and flowers which makes the view highly pleasant to one’s eyes.
We could experience a flow of sweet smell of flowers, wood and vegetation that surrounds the whole place.The chirpings of birds blends quite well with the amazing stillness and calm that the place provides.Also the gentle breeze provides a refreshing experience as it goes past touching your face and hairs.
While one way of enjoying the beauty of the place would be silently gazing the picturesque view sitting in your garden and relaxing, another good way is exploring the place by taking small hikes around the place.Hartola offers many small hikes and treks that you could take in the woods around the place and witness the flora and fauna closest to you.You could find small trails up the hills which you could take to get a birds-eye view of the surrounding.Often exploring on your foot the trail passes by small establishments, houses each having their own beauty in its own.The place has some untouched beauty and one thing that I personally practice is not to litter the place with your eatable or leftover as it not only tarnishes the beauty of the place but is also a symbol of poor conduct.
Often your treks are accompanied by locally residing Himalayan dogs which make the hike altogether exciting.Just like the people these dogs are equally welcoming and receptive to visitors helping their way out along the trails.They are part of the ecosystem there and help the natives protect their local produce to be eaten by birds.
Hartola has few temples as well amongst which the Shiva temple which is placed at the hilltop is an amazing place to visit .The route to the temple is equally worthwhile.It starts from the street onto the farms , there’s a small temple first in the beginning that you see first besides which the route continues.
It’s a little trek of about 20-25 minutes,not very challenging passing through woods surrounded by local shrubs and trees with beautiful colors that will often make you stop and stare at them.
All the effortis worth the fruit as you reach to the temple at top .The temple is as the tail goes is the one that gave the name to the place is pretty old which you can only relate while looking at the simple architecture and primitive materials used in making.
One would see number of bells hanging on the temples and temple is known to be famous for its spiritual recognition.Apart from visitors outside the town many nearby locals from places like Almora,Bhowali etc pay visit for this reason.
What one of the locals told us was people tie these bells as their wishes come true which they would have asked from the almighty presence over there.And more the no. of bells more is the spiritual power of the god and goddess of a particular place.Though the inside of the temples were locked due to the ongoing Covid19 pandemic but one thing we surely felt was a positive energy and the calmness that would make someone sit there for quite sometime.There was a small blackboard with all the important days and activities as per the Hindu calendar and a bold notice for the temporary abandoning of prayers and meets due to the Covid19 pandemic. There’s a small compound created with the temple, house of the priest, some seating area and trees providing cool shade covering the whole compound.
Apart from the simple yet beautifully built temple what’s eye-catching is the lovely view that the spot provides.Bieng on the top of the hill you have a clear view of the Nanda Devi ,Trishul, Nandaghunti and Nandakot kumaun himalyan ranges standing from end to end like a wall.The huge snow peaks are clearly visible beyond the green forest hills.I can tell personally if you have even a slightest of a mountain lover in you,the scene would capture your attention for quite some time.One more amazing thing about the sight of these ranges is that they appear in different colors at different parts of the day and even in different seasons.The bright noon makes them look perfect white with a blue background while the evening or early morning gives them a golden orange look which is altogether more stunning.
There’s a small unused house just beyond the temple which they say is there from the emergence of the place and offers a lovely view of the ranges standing next to it.Also would like to mention a little about the traditional houses in the mountains that are there.Don’t go by the primitive building materials that they are built of, they are super robust with their built quality and stability.The stones have been precisely joined by a paste of mud along with wooden structures to support,they have tiny windows.All materials are locally resourced and the fact that they are standing from ages justifies their built and robustness.Another fun fact about these houses the material used is such which lie in complete harmony with the season i.e warm during the winters and cool during the summers.So next time if you pass by any such structure on your mountain trip do stop by to pay some attention to these ancient marvels of architecture.
Where to stay in Hartola/Homestays and cottages in Hartola Uttrakhand
Even though Hartola still does not come in the mainstream tourist destinations in Uttrakhand list but that does not devoid the place from accommodation arrangements for the visitors. Hartola has a good number of cottages and homestays beautifully built with all modern amenities to cater to visitors coming to Hartola.In fact Hartola properties and real estate are climbing up the demand as more and more homestay businesses are witnessing the beauty of the place and its popularity deem to rise in times to come.
One can do pre-booking on many online homestay portals like AirBnB, Make my trip, Yatra, Goibibo ,Rose cottage in Hartola. All these feature this place and you could book as per the availability .
Read why to choose a Homestay over a hotel ,5 reasons that will make you re-think
How much does it cost for a stay in Hartola Uttrakhand?
The average pricing for a per-night stay in these homestays and cottages would somewhere fall around Rs1500 to Rs2500 excluding the taxes .This might increase as per the luxury stadards of the cottage or homestay .Also the prices tend to increase during the main summer season as these homestays flood with bookings.We particularly faced some higher charges due to the loss incurred by these business during the ongoing Covid19 pandamic.One suggestion would be if you have time and looking for a budget stay you could speak to few locals around and can find local homestay options which fall much cheaper than these online ones.(approx Rs800-Rs1200 per night). The prices mentioned above are exclusive of the fooding.
Do homestays in Hartola provide food?
Yes, all homestays and cottages have a kitchen of their own and provide meals based on their menu.A kitchen and local chef mostly is available at the service of guests coming to the place.At places you could also opt for help your self system where you get to use the kitchen and cook for yourself incase one plans to stay longer.You could try some of the regional dishes there and relish the amazing taste of organically grown local produce. Also you have the option of a small shop dhaba there which serves yummy snacky meals like Maggie and simple meals. If you have ever traveled to the mountains you would relate to the amazing experience of having a piping hot Maggie along the road side in a chilly location.If not experienced ,its highly recommended I can bet the same usual Maggie would taste so much different at those altitudes and views around you.
You could also ask the caretaker of the homestay or the cottage to arrange for a barbeque experience and enjoy a sit-out during the evening while savoring the beautiful sunset in front of you.
Is Hartola safe for solo travelers?(solo girls especially)
Absolutely Yes, If you are an adventure lover and like to visit places that are a little isolated and away from the regular crowds and filled with untouched natural beauty.Hartola is the place to be. Hartola is a small hamlet, and whole place would size around a 6 Km radius.The people over there are extremely welcoming and generous to interact .Infact the place is small enough that if you happen to stay for a longer time you would start recognizing people.Its totally okay to reach out to any local to seek any help that you may need.Though the place does not record any instances of wild animal venturing but it would be advisable to explore during the day as the locals sleep early and you might not get much assistance during the night. Also one tip would be to avoid late-night loud music parties as the locals treat this as a nuisance to the general harmony to the place and can complain.
Hartola Uttrakhand has a simple ecosystem, houses a small primary school as well for its kids which of course couldn’t stay unaffected by the pandemic and was closed when we visited.There are some small trails that go around the village which offer some magnificent view of the mountain ranges and is advisable to be explored.There is a small road with few shops on it which would meet all your basic essential need.The closest bigger market is in Nathuakhan which is 10 km from Hartola.And the closest bigger town is Bhowali which is around 40Km and an hour and a houlf drive from there.
If you are an early bird you could capture some amazing sights of the Himalayan ranges in its true colors.It’s a pleasant experience watching the locals engulfed in their routine activities early from the day.Having said this life in the mountains isn’t all that bed of roses ,with resources scarcely available there is a struggle in day to day activities which in a city one might not even visualize.Its good to support the local economy by buying handmade products like handicrafts, local jams,picles which would be available locally in the few shops available there.
Places to see in Hartola Uttrakhand
Hartola is a small,sleepy and quite settlement and to be honest Hartola doesn’t have much of the must-visit places to be so-called.Its more of a place to be by yourself and experience the serene solitude that the upper Himalayan ranges provide you. There are short treks and strolls that you can take amidst the beautiful apple orchard plantations with the birds chirping and enjoying the flora and fauna in the rawest form.The night sky shows hundreds of stars sparkling providing a mesmerizing view.
Also close by is Mukteshwar where you can visit Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary which is a part of Cobert National Park .Its a thrilling experience to see wild animals in their habitat from close by.Mukteshwar is about an hour drive from Hartola Uttrakhand and mind you it’s a wonderful Himalayan view drive which offers brilliant views of the peaks along some well paved curvy mountain roads.
All in all visit to Hartola if you have the germs of a wanderer, spirit to explore the unexplored and be in the solitude to find the real you amidst nature.
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