I have always passed through tiny villages sitting in bumpy buses headed to my destination, and I always wonder: what is life like in these hamlets where no one goes, what hidden gems does Mother Nature hide here that not many have explored? And this is a never-ending feeling. Regardless of where I am headed, there will always be villages on the way, and on the way to these villages, there will be more which leave me with not enough time to unearth all of Earth’s secrets but I am thankful for the ones I do get to unearth and see for myself.
Just about 20 kilometres from Nainital, there comes a petrol pump on the Nainital Highway on the left of which goes a steep road uphill alongside Naincy College. And if you ever happen to take this road (less travelled) (sorry, couldn’t help myself), you’ll be welcomed to a tiny settlement that is a cluster of a few small villages that form Jeolikote. Literally translating to “the place of the jewel”, I stand by its name one hundred per cent.
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How to reach Jeolikote
The easiest way to reach this village is by self-drive but there’s no place not in the reach of those who hold public transport so close to their hearts.
Take a bus from Delhi to Nainital and get off at the petrol pump. From here begin the uphill walk to wherever it is where you plan to stay (we’ll get to that in a bit).
Or you can take a train from Delhi till Kathgodam and then take a local bus headed to Nainital and get off at said petrol pump and start the said uphill walk. (Sorry there’s no way for non-walkers to enjoy the beauties of this village.)
Where to stay in Jeolikote
There aren’t a lot of stay options in this area since the homestay concept is relatively new to Uttarakhand and absolutely unknown to the villages of Jeolikote apart from two hostels. One is HOTs Hostel (where I stayed) that falls in the village Gajari and the other is Vista that falls in Ropra. There is no motorable road to either of these hostels and the nearest road head is at least a half hour’s walk away.
HOTs Hostel is a beautiful and massive property and I absolutely loved how everything is spaced out so much. On one corner of the property are the dorms, on another are the private rooms, and on another still is the cafe. In the middle, there are farms of various plantations and apple and banana trees are aplenty. The amount of bird songs that wake you from your sleep in the morning is unreal and there’s a water spring right beside the dorm where you can drink fresh mountain water from. If this isn’t heaven, I don’t know what is!
How to reach HOTs Jeolikote
You can either go straight from Naincy College and walk the steep but short uphill trail starting from a bridge connecting the hostel. Or you can take the first road on the left, and then a sharp right turn until you reach the signboard that says ‘Ropra’. Park your vehicle here, and start the easy but hard to navigate hike to the village. We initially took this trail and got lost several times until a kind villager took it upon him to deliver us till the hostel himself. Thanks, kind old man.
Pro tip: The Google Maps location to the hostel is not all correct. The actual location is still a few meters ahead of the location mentioned on Maps.
Things to do in Jeolikote
I’m sure the moment you reach your place of stay, regardless of which one it is, you’ll just want to spend the first two days lazing around the garden and watching birds hop from this branch to the other. But once your lazy period is over, there are tonnes of things to do in Jeolikote.
From the hostel, there goes a trail running beside a villager’s house that ultimately reaches a crystal blue lagoon tucked away amidst a thick forest cover. The hike is short but filled with leeches, humongous mosquitoes and countless spiders with webs as thick and strong as a nylon rope. If you’re ready to bear with all this and truly have a wilderness experience, you will be rewarded with a soothing swim under the sun that will take all your qualms away (until of course you have to hike back till the hostel braving the same creatures). Fun fact: I was struck with 11 leeches during this adventure and their bite marks still itch today.
Pro tip: to ward off leeches, smother your legs with khaini a type of chewing tobacco found widely in India. And of course, the good ol’ Odomos for your mosquitoes!
Warwick Estate or House of Warwick Sahib
The story of Warwick Sahib is as old as the British Empire. A major in the British Army, Warwick came to Jeolikote for work and fell in love with a local girl and later married her. He made a sprawling mansion for his beloved until one day she suddenly died. Warwick is said to have “gone mad” at her death and used to drape himself in her dupattas and ride around the village on a white horse. This mansion still stands tall today, but now belongs to a rich businessman from Delhi.
To reach the Estate, you can either continue on the trail that leads to the Hostel until you reach a village called Basgaon and then hike up further for a good hour until you hit the bungalow. It’s so massive, it’s hard to miss. In case you get lost, ask for directions at Basgaon or just call up the caretaker of the place, Mr Trilok fondly known as Guddu Ji in the village. Alternatively, you can drive up till Basgoan until the road ends and then start your hike to the estate.
Sunset Point or Zero Point
Leading up from the Warwick Estate, some half an hour away is an ancient temple dedicated to Bhumyia Devi. You can go further up till the end of the hill to get a stunning vantage point of the entire valley. Sunsets are supposed to be astounding from up here but I wouldn’t know since I hiked in mid-noon and reached the point at 2 pm!
The first thing I noticed upon starting the hike towards the hostel was the unmissable presence of a variety of birds and their various calls just rioting my sensory system! The red-billed blue magpie was as common as house crows there and the blue whistling thrush would wake me up every morning by its sweet song. We also spotted the lesser yellow-naped woodpecker drumming through a tree’s bark and having a feast on the crawlies that lived inside. Other birds I spotted (in abundance) included the red-cheeked bulbul, white-crested laughing thrush, grey treepie, striated laughing thrush and white-throated laughing thrush.
Although there aren’t a lot of fancy cafes/ restaurants or even dhabas in Jeolikote itself, the stretch of Nainital Highway between Kathgodam and Jeolikote are lined with several cafes with a nice cosy vibe, selling good food. Here are some of my top picks for places to eat in (and around) Jeolikote.
This cosy little cafe is the lesser expensive version of most fancy cafes of Delhi. Overlooking a beautiful valley, this is a nice place to sit under the sun and order good food and have a good time. Their toffee milkshake and garlic cheeseburger were especially soooo good!
Next Chapter Cafe
This is not as fancy as Mudhouse, but equally good in terms of food quality. What’s even better is that the price here is much cheaper compared to Mudhouse. I tried their veg momos and crispy chilli potatoes and loved both.
Jyoti Restaurant, Jeolikote
Saving the best for the last, if you’re into eating local street food, this small little hole in the wall is the perfect place to be. Located in the main market of Jeolikote, their spicy chowmein overloaded with vinegar, their samosa chaat and momos are exactly the comfort food I need in my life. And that’s probably why I’ll never be a food blogger!
Frequently Answered Questions
The only ATM in Jeolikote is SBI, located in the main market.
Public transport is easy to catch either from the main market or from the petrol pump.
Airtel and Jio work well enough in the main town along with good internet. But in the villages surrounding Jeolikote, where the hostels are, the internet is slow and intermittent.
No cards or mobile wallets are accepted in Jeolikote. Make sure you load up with cash beforehand.
The best time to visit Jeolikote is spring and autumn (February to April and October to December).
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A twenty-something solo adventurer, Avantika finds comfort in learning about various cultures, its people and listening to age-old folk tales. When not on the road, she can be found cuddled up with her dog in her room, with a book in her hand.