Jharkhand: National Park Experiences to Live

Tigers, Temples and Waterfalls - What even seasoned travelers don't know and what the guidebooks don't tell you is that Jharkhand, India has many experiences worth exploring.

Jharkhand: National Park Experiences to Live

If you look through Lonely Planet about Jharkhand the guidebook simply says - going their leads you nowhere and there isn’t much to see or explore either. Google only lists about 10–15 places with stereotype details as published by the Government. What even experienced travelers don't know and what the guidebooks don't tell you is that Jharkhand has many experiences worth living. As travel restrictions open up, you may even get to experience these places all to yourself.

Forest with Palash Trees (flame-of-the-forest tree).

Betla National Park - The national park is approximately 140 kilometers from the state capital Ranchi and the best way to reach there is by hiring a private car from Ranchi. The other alternative is by taking one of the local buses from Ranchi but you need to take an early morning bus as it will drop you at a junction 14 km before the park and then you need to hitchhike or wait for a bus/vehicle to drop you at the park which is pretty rare.

Hill Top Temple giving a bird's eye view of the National Park.

I have some beautiful memories of the park as I would head there with my dad very frequently since childhood. The forest is pretty dense, green and is good for sighting wild animals like chital, spotted deers, Bison, elephants, foxes, and tigers. Tigers are rare but I did spot one once in the national work while the beast was on a kill.

However, the most beautiful and unique experience in Betla happens early in the morning. You need to wake up early for the sunrise and walk towards the entry gate of the forest wherein you can see thousands of deer, a hand's touch away from you, walking around, grazing the grass, and basking under the morning sun. The view is magical and it is something that you won't experience in any other national park in India. The forest Safari is fun and animals you would see are deer, jackal, bison, elephants, and more.

Entrance of the Palamu Fort in Betla National Park.

Beside the forest and animals, the park hosts a beautiful old Palamu Fort which is like a ruin, but you can still walk in and explore. The fort walls are the Indian version of the Great Wall of China and you can walk on them for as far as you can see.

Boundary wall of the Palamu Fort - Ranchi's own version of Great Wall of China.

Netarahat: The name says it all — Nature’s Heart. This tiny hill station is among my favorite places in Jharkhand. That nip in the air is instant love. The place is surrounded by pine forest and waterfalls and is great for some nice treks, sunsets, and sunrise viewpoints overlooking the valley and more. There is also a beautiful boarding school called “The Netarahat School” which has a history of its own. The school has given India maximum numbers of civil service officers over the period and the school architecture is beautiful. It is worth going for a walk and exploring it yourself.

The food is very simple and fresh and that is what makes it special. However, the best part is getting to see a million fireflies every night as they dance on trees in sync, like a ballet. It is indeed magical and something so unique to this place.

Besides that, I love the trek to the Lower Ghagri waterfall. You can rent a bicycle from the bazaar or go in your own car, however after a point, you have to park your vehicle and start walking in the unexplored forest to reach the waterfall. You will eventually reach the top of the waterfall overlooking the valley with a tiny natural pool to swim in.

Lodh Falls: On your ride from Betla to Netarahat, if you take a bit of a detour from Mahuadan, you will reach Lodh Falls which is the highest waterfall in Jharkhand. The waterfall is surrounded by lush green forest and is literally untouched by humans with no mobile connection and no proper road which makes it even more special. The sound of the falls is audible even from 10 km away. The waterfall is simply gorgeous and it forms a natural pool at the end of the waterfall perfect to dip in.

Dasam Falls in its full glory during Monsoon.

Butterfly Land - This place has been my secret. When you are driving from Betla to Netarahat, you will come across a stretch of the forest for a good 10 kilometers which is a home to millions of butterflies. The yellow butterflies will instantly come and sit over you if you stand in this stretch. The experience of being surrounded by so many butterflies is sheer magic. Pro Tip: This phenomenon can be experienced only in Monsoons — June to August.

Lower Ghagra Waterfall in Netarhat.

Parasnath: I actually rode to Parasnath on a bicycle and the route is one of the most scenic and beautiful routes of Jharkhand. Parasnath is a Jain Pilgrimage and is the highest mountain in Jharkhand. The weather gets really cold in winters and it stays pleasant throughout summer. I would go there for the vibes, nature, and trek to the temples on top of the hill.

McCluskeyganj - McCluskey Ganj is a famous Anglo Indian settlement 60 kilometers away from the city. You won’t find any Anglo Indians living there anymore but they left behind some beautiful bungalows, bakery, and homestay for us to experience. The place has a sense of calmness and is apt to make your creative mind alive.

Dalma Forest - This is yet another national park of Jharkhand, spread across the Dalma Hill Range, 100 km away from the state capital Ranchi and in close proximity of Jamshedpur. The forest here is extremely dense, lush green, and with some really old and beautiful trees. There is a Government guesthouse on top of the Hill overlooks the entire forest and Tatanagar City and is apt for stargazing in the night. During the winter days, clouds would surround the guesthouse from all sides leaving a very magical "Cloud Nine" feeling. There is a three to four kilometer long trek to the top of the hill wherein you have a Shiva Temple and a viewpoint. The temple has nice vibes and you can smoke joints with the temple priest which makes it even more special. The place is so green, happy, and pristine.

Ranchi: Things to do & experiences to live

People always ask me about things to do in and around Ranchi while they travel here, as Google doesn’t have much to offer for this little unknown city of India. Here you will find list some of the places I have enjoyed exploring, experiences that moved me, and foods that made me happy.

Things to do in and around the city:

  • Ranchi has a really good Cycling culture with the availability of city bike-sharing and active Cycling clubs. It takes 15 minutes to get out of the city on a bicycle and you will instantly find yourself between nature and some fresh breathing spaces. It is a sheer joy to explore the city and the countryside on a bicycle. You can download the app - Chartered Bike from the App Store and rent one from bike share stands in the city or contact someone at Ranchi Cycling Club and they will be more than happy to help you with one.
  • Tagore Hill is a hilltop in the middle of the city where famous poet Rabindra Nath Tagore once use to live and has written some of his work here. It is a nice peaceful place with a beautiful overview of the city but what makes it spectacular is the sunset. Climb the Tagore Hill for Sunset; you won’t regret it even a bit.
  • Dhuwa Dam is a huge water body in the southern end of Ranchi and the mere presence of water and nature attracts positive energy to this place. Walking along the Dam and just sitting there for hours is blissful. Pro Tip: If it is not a cloudy day, go there post 10 PM to see the sky full of stars and if you're lucky, some shooting stars as well. I remember watching 34 shooting stars in one night at the Dam.
  • Waterfalls – The city is famous for its waterfalls and you will find one or two at every exit point of the city. Most of these waterfalls are in the radius of 20-40 km from the city center, easily doable in a day and can be accessed by car, bikes, and bicycle. Among all the waterfalls, my personal favorites are Dasam fall and Hundru Fall.
Front view of the Dasam Fall.
  • Hundru Waterfall - The ride from Ormanjhi to Hundru Fall is beautiful, the roads are covered with trees throughout and have some really good eateries (Dhabha). There are two ways to reach Hundru Falls — One from the top and another from the bottom. I have always preferred the one from the bottom of the falls as the trail is much more beautiful and we don’t have to climb the 500+ stairs. There is also a newly constructed bridge over the river just before the waterfall which is apt for sunsets and sunrises. Pro Tip: Do make sure you take the bamboo boat and go right under the waterfall. The experience is magical.
Hundru Fall - The bamboo boat takes you right underneath the fall.
  • Dasam Fall - If you head to Dasham - Go from the Khuti Road via Taurian World School. The road takes you through the green valley of Ranchi, crossing beautiful lakes and bridges, and ending at the mighty Dasam Fall. Make sure you leave Dasam by sunset as the route becomes very dark post-sunset. I prefer going to the top of the waterfall rather than using the route that goes to the bottom of the waterfalls for its view and an option to go on a little unknown trail which leads you to a blue water lagoon apt for camping and having a good time in a secluded area.
The mighty Dasam falls.
  • The Snake Charmer (Ride to the Patratu Valley)  —  The Patratu Valley leads you to the big reservoir known as Patratu Dam which is famous for its beauty and boat rides. The drive in the valley is an experience with lots of hairpin loops, lush green forest, and a beautiful view of the valley and dam far away. At the beginning of the second set of loops, there are local villagers selling coconut water which is refreshing and a perfect photography point.  Pro Tip: The boat ride in the Dam is really fun, especially during the sunset and sunrise.
Riding through Patratu Valley.
  • Yogada Satsang Society of India - If you are into meditation and yoga, you need to head straight to Yogada Satsang Society of India. It is one of the oldest Ashram of Paramahansa Yogananda who is said to be the father of Yoga. The place has amazing vibes which are felt the very moment you step in and it is a perfect place to find peace in our everyday life.
Natural Infinity Pool near Hundru Fall overlooking the valley.
  • Horap Forest: Who would believe that there is a beautiful dense forest merely 5–8 km away from the city center? Horap used to be house to some wild animals back in days but now it is a breathing place for city dwellers. The roads are beautiful with tree covers on both sides and the view of the valley from the top of the Horap hill is magical. Best for sunrises, you will see a long stretch of green cover, a train crossing through the hills every hour, and sun rising in the backdrop. The place has literally no traffic and hence makes it on the top list for Cycling. The forest also has plenty of trails for off-road cycling if that is something that inspires you more. Pro Tip: Once you cross the Hanuman Mandir Chowk keep Hanuman Mandir on your right, take a right turn and follow the course of the road for some 200 meters and then take a U-turn. A few meters ahead you will see a magical Banyan tree that just wants to live and keep growing.
  • The Orange Forest - If you are in Ranchi around Spring, you will notice that the entire city turns orange with the flowers of Palash. There are a couple of places like one in the photo above where the entire forest turns orange and it looks magical. This one is on your way from Ormanjhi to Boriya.
Sunset at Dhurwa Dam.

Food to try and places to eat in Ranchi

  • The local's favorite is Litti Chokha made out of Sattu (Chickpeas flour) and is utterly delicious. It is street food and the best one is available in Doranda, just behind the Jharkhand High Court. Famous by the name Doranda Litti, one just needs to ask anyone and they will show you the direction to this place.
  • Some recommended restaurants for food: The Ruin House (European, Lebanese & Indian), Baba Munchies, Kuppuswamy (South Indian), and Urban Brava (Bar & Multi Cuisine). New Kathi Kabab in the main road perhaps makes the best kebab rolls in the world and there chicken clear soup is to die for.
  • Ranchi has some really interesting food trucks near Reliance Mega Mart in Kanke Road and in Morabadi Ground. These food trucks sell everything from Biryani to south Indians to Wood Over Pizza and some great health food.
  • For breakfast - Check out Veraswamy in Kutchery Road and Churuwala in Upper Bazar. They make really good South Indian and Marwari food respectively.
  • For drinks - Urban Brava and Ranchi Club. Ranchi club is a members-only club but a great place to head out for food and drink if you know anyone who is a member of the club.
  • If you are really adventurous, head out to the Haat in the villages around. There is one every Thursday in Namkum Bazaar. Every Haat has an Open Bar which sells locally made rice wine, rice crepes, and pork balls. They are just delicious and an experience to enjoy with locals.
  • Pizza Amore Mio is an Italian Bakery almost 15 km from Ranchi on Ranchi Jamshedpur Highway, just before Bundu. The bakery has a wood fire oven and they make some of the most authentic pizza in the city. If you love cheese, they almost make a variety of cheese and sell it from there Bakery. Few Italian desserts and cookies are just icing on the top. Some Italian friends who once visited would rate the place close to authenticate Italian food.
  • Ajam Emba - A small restaurant is a paradise when it comes to local tribal food. It has some of the best local tribal delicacies worth cherishing forever. The must-try are rice tea, rice chilka, and Duska Channa. The restaurant is situated on Kanke Road every close to the famous Hot Lips restaurant.

Feature image - Sunset from the top of Dassam Fall, Ranchi