Delhi to Bhimtal by road, all routes explained

In September 2000, I visited Getaway Jungle Camp, in Sattal and never looked back. I know it can’t sound more cliched than that. But let me add that in last 16 years, I would have made in excess of 100 trips to this part of Kumaon, all on road. Probably more.

Till about 2010, it was mostly to the Sattal and all the lakes around and some to upper Kumaon like Binsar, Munsiyari, Ranikhet and more. Post 2010, it is mostly to Naukuchiatal, after we built a small house there. Now, I go there a few times every year and based on my travel experiences, here’s a road-review dossier covering all the routes, their pluses and minuses, pit-stops for food and bio-break, key milestones and of course the tar-review.

Overview :

Recommended Route – As on June 2017, my recommendation is to take Route 2 viz. Delhi- Moradabad – Rampur – Swar – Bazpur – Kaladhungi – Kathgodam – Bhimtal.

It would take you 6 hours and 30 minutes including a 30 minute break.
Delhi to Moradabad ( 2 hours ) + Route 1 – 3 (3 hours to 4 hours) + Kaladhungi to Bhimtal (40 mins)

Delhi – Moradabad

Distance – 150 KMs
Time – 2 hours to 2.5 hours
Tar – Excellent.
Food – Everything you can always ask for, right after Gajraula viz. Moga, McDonalds, KFC, Bikanerwala. My favorite is Moga, rightly priced, clean washrooms, enough space for parking.

Moga Punjabi Tadka

Moga Punjabi Tadka

Avoid early morning drives during full-moon days since Garh Mukhteshwar sees a lot of pilgrims. Karthik Purnima is biggest. There would be three Toll points, most of them decently managed. Pilakhua is a great place for a 30 minute shopping break for towels, bed-sheets, pillow-covers. Just shy of Garh Muketshwar, you can buy all the moodhas (functional ones as well as decorative/toy ones) you always wanted. Bargain hard.

Nothing much, enjoy the drive, ignore the traffic violators (esp the sugar-cane laden), take a food-bio break at numerous eateries and you are good.

Different routes after Moradabad

Route 1 – Moradabad – Rampur – Bilaspur – Rudrapur – Haldwani – Kathgodam – Bhimtal

Route 2 – Moradabad – Rampur – Swar – Bazpur – Kaladhungi – Kathgodam – Bhimtal

Route 3 – Moradabad – Tanda – Bazpur – Kaladhungi – Kathgodam – Bhimtal

There are a couple of outer routes, first via Kaladhungi – Nainital – Bhimtal, and the second via Moradabad – Kashipur – Kaladhungi. Both of these are not really the ones for Bhimtal, so you should take those if you have a specific reason like visiting Kashipur, else lets focus or our list of three.

So, lets cut the chase and talk about each of these routes.

Route 1 – Moradabad – Rampur – Bilaspur – Rudrapur – Haldwani – Kathgodam

Distance : 110 KMs
Time : 3.30 hours
Quality of Tar : Moradabad to Rampur is excellent. Rampur to Rudrapur oscillates between ‘Good’ to ‘Pathetic’. Rudrapur – Kathgodam is good, if not excellent.
Food : Nothing great between Moradabad to Rampur. If you really have to stop then look for ‘Apni Haveli’, right after the Moradabad bypass. Nothing till Rudrapur. At Rurdrapur, ‘Punjab Majestic’ (on the other side). Nanak’s at Haldwani. Udupiwalla at Kathgodam.

This is the most common, most habited route of all. For off-hours, take this. You will find a small village every few kilometres. It is also the shortest and saves time, when Rampur-Bilaspur-Rudrapur section is not as bad, as what it normally is, on most of the days.

Route 2 – Moradabad – Right-Before-Rampur (take left towards Swar) – Bazpur – Kaladhungi – Kathgodam

Distance : 125 KMs
Time : 3 hours – 3.30 hours
Quality of Tar : Rampur – Swar is good to mixed and it can be slow in parts because of small towns. Beyond that its excellent.
Food : Rampur has some food joints, mostly non-veg near Idgah gate. Best place to break would be Bazpur.

The sublime part of this stretch is the approach towards Kaladhungi, enjoy a drive on this thin strip flanked by jungle on both sides. Also Swar-Bazpur was severely broken for a long time, now it is all done. But you never know since the road sees a lot of heavy stone-crusher trucks.

Route 3 – Moradabad – Tanda – Bazpur – Kaladhungi – Kathgodam

Distance : 105 Kms
Time : 3 hours
Quality of Tar : Moradbad – Bazpur oscillates between ‘Good’ to ‘Pathetic’. Beyond that its excellent.
Food : See Route 2.

Only first 10 Kms of Moradabad-Bazpur is bad. This route is worth it only when Route 2 is bad.

Kathogodam to Bhimtal

Distance : 20 Kms
Time : 40 minutes
Quality of Tar : Excellent.
Food : Udupiwaala at Kathogodam. Machan at Bhimtal. There are a lot of other places as well at Bhimtal.

This section is worrisome only during August because of landslides, which is common. But don’t you worry, for most of July-Aug, there is a permanent JCB standing there to clear the debris.

So that was about all the three routes. Please remember that there is a direct connection between Kaladhungi and Kathgodam, so no need to go to Haldwani which can get crowded.

Once you reach Kathgodam and as you get past the railway station (on the other side) and Udupiwaala, remember to take the exit on your right towards Bhim Tal. Enjoy the short mountain drive, take the fresh air in and be a responsible ghumakkar.



And before I finish, a few words on road-safety, especially for this stretch.

  • There is only one carriageway at the Garh-Ganga bridge without any soft divider. The approaching traffic, from both ends, are coming from two carriage-ways so be extra careful while entering and exiting. Do not overtake, its a short ride.

    Beyond that, be watchful of the traffic coming from the wrong direction. Safety is paramount.

    There is no shoulder on Moradabad Bypass and its a long one (> 20 Kms), so do not stop on the side. Even with the blinkers ON, its a hazard. Some sections of bypass is still a single road, so go slow.

    Once you are off NH24, go slow when your cross smaller towns, especially if you are on Route 2 (Swar route).

    And finally for the last 40 minutes, respect mountains and go steady. And if you feel like then stop for a Bhutta on the road-side.

  • So that was my attempt to share what I know of these roads. I promised to keep this one updated, when I or a friend/family visit this side. Hope this is useful.


    • Smita Dhall says:

      Very nice. Very helpful. We also travelled a few times using the Kathgodam-Kaladhungi-Rampur-Kashipur-Moradabad route. The other way round, on the way back. This was at a desperate time when all the above three had their respective pain points. Some could also be to do with monotony. Anyway, it was 35 km longer than the shortest (Tanda-Bazpur) but took around the same time… may be 20 minutes extra. The only bad thing about this route is that there are no point to stop for a food break between Kashipur and Moradabad.

      Am sure your readers will benefit a lot from this post.

    • A very helpful post Nandan. Road reviews become very essential for travelers – frequent or otherwise.. I feel they are more helpful than describing some destinations because these roads take you there!
      I havent traveled to any of these places, but when you promise to keep this post updated, I know it will come in handy when I plan for a visit to these places!


    • Vibha says:

      Wonderfully compiled information, Nandan. I am going to bookmark this. We often plan family trips to Kumaon and these details help. Specific inputs like avoiding early morning drives on Karthik Purnima are very useful, and only a frequent traveller like yourself could provide this.

      I have driven on mountains in the past, but those were comparatively gentle hills of Western Ghats. Have never taken my car to Kumaon yet. Hope to accomplish this in 2017.

    • Aditya says:

      Great job! Very nicely compiled. It would certainly help readers to plan their journey better & breaks. As you travel frequently on these stretches, I would also request you to keep updating on comments based on changes in road quality (which usually changes after every rainy season :-)). That will help a lot.

    • Ram Dhall says:

      Thanks for sharing this extremely useful compilation of routes to Bhimtal, which is a sort of gateway to Mukteshwar, Binsar, Bhowali, Ranikhet, Almora and a greater hinterland of Kumaon Region. Please do keep on updating it from time to time.

    • jatinder Sethi says:

      Need to taker out a Print-out for reference while actually on road to Moradabad By=pass.Every time we have traveled on this rout—and we have done as many times as You and Dhall perhaps–and i must confess that every time I have contacted Nandan JHa to reconfirm the rout. Yet last time while going to Naukuchiatal,we missed the direction and landed up on Old Rampur road;but eventually reached the destination on Nandan Q.But while coming back,late evening we got stuck,by mistake, inthe thick of heavy Truck traffic in Rampur City.Blindly following a big Merc,loaded with tourist,,we finally came out of the city to main road.
      great dervice Nandan,and thanks for tips to our trip to Ramgarh. The only thing that might get us to cancel this trip ,this week end is your “Very Very Cold at this time”. really grateful for your help on maps and routs.

      • Nandan Jha says:

        Thank you Sir.

        Now, there is a new Bypass road between Rampur and Bareilly. So as you get closer to Rampur, you leave the main highway much before and turn left (the main highway continues towards Bareily). As you turn left, kind of a slope down, take first left. There is a big gate being done there. Ask for ‘Swar’ and hopefully you would not miss it this time :-)

        Wishing you a great time ahead, Sethi Sir.

        • jatinder Sethianks a million says:

          Thanks a million Nandan,Thanks also for your good wishes. We wish ghumakkar and you achieve much greater heights

    • Dr Rakesh Gandhi Advocate says:

      Dear Nandan beautifully scripted n well analysis road review through different modes from Morada bad n onward,certainly it will help to all.I got opportunity to visit Bhimtal in second week of November 2016,one of my friend arranged car from Rampur To Bhimtal. V went through Rampur -Bilaspur-Rudrapur road.At that time from Rampur bypass to Rudrapur entrance…….oh ho road was in worst situation n deep path holds n broken pieces of road welcome us from all corners n v covered thirty kilometer in approximately in ninety minutes. Thanks a lot

      • Nandan Jha says:

        Thank you Dr. Gandhi for the note. I do hope to keep this updated, with help from travelers like you. So for now, the current recommended route (via Swar) stays. Thanks again for your generous words.

    • Ankit Shukla says:

      Hi Nandan,

      We are planning to go to Bhimtal on 10th June. Can you please suggest if route 2 is still the best route.

    • Russ says:

      Excellent analysis. I will be traveling from Delhi to Mukteshwar in end of March 2018. Would you suggest Route 2 or Route 3, as it looks like we can save about 30 minutes via Route 3. How is the Moradabad-Tanda- Bazpur road currently?

      • Nandan Jha says:

        I last drove during Jan 26’2018 weekend. On the return, I picked up Route 3, mostly to see how it is but it didn’t work because of a huge jam. I guessed that it was because of the tractors loaded with Sugarcane and headed for the Sugar mills.

        I did discover a newly tarred wide road. If you can, then get past Moradabad and keep traveling towards Rampur on NH 24. At Dalpatpur, look for a left cut towards Tanda (I think what I see as a Kashipur Road on Google, is what it is). It is very wide, almost none traffic so you can quickly join the Tanda road w/o going through the initial pain of Moradabad.

        If this is too confusing, then just follow Route 2. Thats what we took on the way up. All the best.

        And brace for a jam at Pilakhua, mostly on your return journey, assuming you are returning in the afternoon, I did discover and tried the workarounds, need to update the log.

    • Gourav Verma says:

      Great post Nandan…..Nicely described all 3 routes I’ve been to Nainital through 2 of them but never heard of the 3rd route Via Tanda>>Bazpur. I’ll definitely explore this route on very next trip. Thanks for all detailed information.

    • says:

      Hi Nandan, thanks for such detailed information. I will use route 2 as you recommended for my first visit to Bhimtal this weekend (2nd to 5th March). Once i am back i will share my experience and current status of road. I am a bit skeptical as I will be driving on the day of Holi festival – anything to be concerned about??

      • Nandan Jha says:

        Get past Hapur as early as you can. Post that, it is smaller towns/villages and once you are in UK, it should be OK. There can be a more than usual checking at some check-post so avoid carrying things which can put you in any kind of trouble or be more careful.

        Having said all of above, the overall drive time would be significant faster since the petty traffic is very very low (no office, no hawkers, very little pubic transport like rickshaws, autos).

        All the best.

    • Subrata Lahiri says:

      We are going to Bhimtal from Delhi on the 28th April and returning on the 30th. Any latest tips for the best and safest route to follow would be much appreciated. Thanks.

    • Anuj says:

      These reviews are a great help Mr. Jha. Thanks..God Bless all..

    • Vivek Sinha says:

      Great tip. Scheduled to travel this route next week to Naukuchiatal and beyond to Kausani. Moving next Monday.7-8 AM from East Delhi. I am assuming route 2 still stands as the best one to take for the middle portion?

    • shraddha awasthi says:

      please help which one is the best way around july and is it ok to traffic if its rainy

    • Vivek Sinha says:

      Just to update others who might stumble on to this string.
      Because of the Meerut expressway work right after crossing Delhi-Ghaziabad border, it is recommended to take the Raj Nagar Extension diverted road which is a great almost trafficless drive for about 10 minutes. Post that one gets on to the usual NH. Road condition is average to bad due to construction work all through. I faced a route diversion just ahead of Pilkhua which took me through average condition single lane vilage roads but fortunately no major traffic (till we were to hit back the main road at a rail junction). Post that again without any major traffic we reached Moradabad bypass.
      I took the Google preferred route which was Route 3 as discussed above (but without going through Moradabad but taking Moradabad bypass). The road wasn’t too bad (but because of regular (not heavy) small town traffic some general hold-ups. The traffic thins post Bazpur. Although the Kaladhungi road is not as great as it was in my previous roadtrips on this route some 5-10 yrs back, it is still decent. I was given a route change option as I neared Haldwani (near Mehragaon) which I opted for to avoid traffic. This road went through some small areas with average to poor road condition — single lane– but due to low traffic I managed to get back to the main road in say 10-15 minutes. Overall, it took me around 8 hrs to reach Naukuchiatal (this was a Monday and I stay in East Delhi), but I later heard some other people who travelled from Gurgaon were stuck in bad traffic near Kathgodam reached in 12 hrs!! Since the rains haven’t been heavy yet in north (others pls correct) I am assuming the Kaladhungi road is still worth opting for.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *