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.
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.
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.
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.