PC: Nipun Sohanlal
Picture a serene valley that has been stacked neatly amidst upturned Vs of mountains. The nature there is blessed with whimsical rains and sunshine, and clouds linger around so close that even the steam from the morning tea seems to mix seamlessly with them. Banlekhi indeed seems to be made for a picture-perfect getaway far, far away from the noises of the society.
Carved out on the laps of the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, the village of Banlekhi still is a peaceful, untouched hamlet, just 10 km away from the maddening rush of the city.
The Highways Are Calling
Delhi definitely is one such city that makes you go crazy to a point where you tend to lose all connections with nature. And for the city's summer-sapped travellers, the picturesque lands of Uttarakhand have always been the ultimate resort. That's also the reason why, over the years, Kumaon Himalayas have become overtrodden with tourists from Delhi crowding up the clichéd places such as Nainital, Almora, Bhimtal and Binsar. Even Mukteshwar-a place that offers the clearest view of the Nanda Devi-hasn't been able to keep itself aloof from the descending Delhi crowd.
Contrastingly, the village of Banlekhi is all you need for a tranquil vacation. It acts as a detox for your mind and soul, liberating you from the mundane routine of daily life.
How To Reach Banlekhi
Via the NH9, Banlekhi is located around 340 km from Delhi. To reach there you would need to take Rampur Road, then Haldwani and after that drive towards Dhanachuli Kutani Road. On reaching Padampuri, steer to your left until you're in front of the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam Tourist Rest House. From there Banlekhi is another 9-10 km drive.
Tip for adrenaline seekers: If you have time in hand, halt at Bhimtal which is 24 km prior to Banlekhi. You can add an adventure-filled afternoon of paragliding to your trip.
Solo travellers and lovers of train journeys, you can also approach the rail route to Banlekhi. Board a train to Kathgodam; from Kathgodam, a taxi to Banlekhi shouldn't cost you more than INR 1200.
Where The Road Ends
Ones road-tripping, the route to Banlekhi from Bhimtal takes a totally unanticipated yet promising turn. Ancient oak and pine trees disperse the afternoon sunlight while the cool breeze from your car's rolled-down windows constantly caresses your face and gently messes with your hair.
You won't really find many vehicles gracing the meandering road apart from yours. At a certain point the montane road literally comes to an end. Yes, it's pretty much of an end-of-the-world feeling, only if you perceive it that way.
The last part of your journey has to be accessed by a short hike-something that any nature lover would willingly forego on a holiday. Finally, the small village of Banlekhi will welcome you with its lush terraced fields dotted with humble huts and freely grazing cattles.
Once there, you'll realise how Banlekhi is synonymous to nature, abundant nature to be precise. Every morning, you'll wake up to the sound of birds and the view of sun-kissed mountain tips. If you're lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the most dramatic aura that could descend on this picturesque village-a crystal clear rainbow emerging from behind the hills and arching over the entire valley. It's too beautiful to be real.
Where To Stay In Banlekhi
Banlekhi, still being much of an unexplored destination, has very limited options in terms of lodging or fooding. However, there are numerous resorts that bring your stay as close to nature as possible-untouched, unexplored nature. They pretty much tick all the boxes for a perfect vacation, be it in terms of hospitality or a great breakfast.
There are a couple of home-run accommodations too that have got their own native, vintage charm.
So what's the wait for? For your next short break, head over to Banlekhi to cool off in the Kumaon hills and satisfy the solitude-seeker within you at the same time.