Bhimtal’s biggest attraction is that it has no attractions — that is, not the sort the shor-sharaba, khana-pina, shopping-wopping crowd is looking for. Thank the Lord for it. Just half an hour or so away from frenetic Nainital, a weekend spent at Bhimtal is like being on another world. There is absolute silence at night, a new view of the sky presents itself, and for us, the only sound of urban life was the jazz music from our hotel owner Bunty Bakshi’s superb collection.
We were at Fishermen’s Lodge, a fairly new place run by the Bakshis that is more like an extremely well done-up home than a hotel. In colder months, you get a crystal-clear view of the lake and the surrounding mountains from the rooms and the large wooden deck; in monsoon, the mist curls round your feet if you sit on the small verandah on the ground floor. And there is the food, one of the highlights of the stay. The fish theme runs through the hotel: there are over 100 vibrantly coloured fish paintings on the walls and the hotel supplies fishing equipment to the keen angler.
For the energetic, half a day of activity involves a steep trek up a nearby hill that may lead to an encounter with the resident leopard. My adventurous friend and the leopard passed within five minutes of each other — we joked that she was not eaten because she went climbing before breakfast. One nocturnal trip not to be missed is a ride with the Bakshis up to another hill from where the stars are a mesmerising sight, especially when paired with some wine.
One of the best ways to work off the big meals is to walk around Sattal (Seven Lakes), also a short drive away, and, if time permits, take a boat round the lake. This may seem too cheesy at first, but once you have moved away from the boating pier, the enormous, placid lake soothes the nervous tics most of us live with daily. Some spots near the lakes are good for bicycling. Just borrow a bike from the hotel.
And if you must have a touch of glam in your holiday, Bhimtal is also the proud site of the bungalow where Hrithik Roshan’s Koi Mil Gaya was filmed. Now what’s not to like?