29.4230° N, 79.4275° E
If you want your next vacation to be all about birdwatching, a zillion chirps, and picturesque nature trails, Pangot in Uttarakhand is where you should head. Chances are you’ve holidayed in Nainital a hundred times over but if it lies yet unticked on your bucket list, we have a grand plan for you. Perch a few kilometres ahead at Pangot, a sleepy hamlet nestled in the Shivalik range. Thank us, later. The quickest way to get there is to hop on the New Delhi Kathgodam Shatabdi Express (unless you are driving) which terminates at Kathgodam. From here, hire a cab that will take you to Pangot through a drive along the scenic Naina Peak via Snow View Point and Kilbury – both birding spots. A bird watchers’ haven, while in Pangot, be on the lookout for Himalayan birds like bar-tailed treecreepers, slaty-backed forktails, rufous-bellied niltavas, green-backed and black-lored tits, and over 250 other bird species. Wake up to that serene sunrise and greet these winged fellas early morning.
If a digital detox is what you have in mind, Pangot will amp it a notch higher with attractions aplenty. Treks, nature trails, breathtaking views – the couch will be the last thing on your mind. Share tea and maggi with locals at the typical hill station shack. A tiny provision store and a post office are the only other establishments around, so stock up well on essentials like medicines, camera batteries, SD cards et al.
The Timla Pani trail with arresting views of Oak, Pine, and Rhododendron forests takes you past Kumaoni style houses bearing stone walls, mud floors, wood-framed windows, slate roofs and courtyards. Walk past terrace farms of the villagers while chirpy little friends keep company.
A riveting drive through a narrow road along the forest takes you to Kunjakharak from Pangot. An early start will treat you to stupendous views replete with spotting of cheer pheasant, koklaas pheasant and khaleej pheasant. The road to Kunjakharak ends at the Forest Rest House from where one can see Binsar, Ranikhet, Mukteshwar, and Nanda Devi on one end, and the plains of Bhabar and Terai, on the other. If you happen to visit during March to April your eyes will be in for a sensory treat as the ubiquitous crimson Rhododendron blooms far and wide.
Woodpecker Point though easy to miss, should be topping your spotting list. Guide, camera, binoculars is all you need, and returning from this nature’s delight will be harder than bidding adieu to a bottle of wine . If luck is on your side, you may spot more than a couple of species of woodpeckers in one sight. Yes, you got that right. While the rufous-bellied woodpecker might not give you ’em chills, when you say hello to brown-fronted woodpecker or even the Himalaya and grey-headed ones, you’ll be jumping inside (Rule 01 of bird watching – no noise, remember?).
Pangot is also the starting point of the Naina Peak Trek which is the highest point in Nainital. Also called China Peak and Cheena Peak by locals, it offers a bird’s eye view of the hill station. Arrive here through lush forests that enchant trekkers who take this trail.
So look up your calendar, mark them long weekends, plan your itinerary and chirp, chirrup, perch at this tweet paradise in Uttarakhand.
#DSSCTopTip: Add one day each at Sattal and Kilbury to your itinerary for varied birding experiences and make the most of your trip to Uttarakhand.
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