With the tourist season round the corner, and Covid-19 restrictions relaxing almost everywhere, it is about time to pack your bags and plan a long, much-needed holiday in the mountains. Homestays are the best way to soak yourself in the ‘pahari’ culture. Here are 10 homestays that offer a premium yet localized experience for those who want a flavour of the local 'pahari' life:
1. Gone Fishing Cottages, Tirthan
Lovely family homes located by the Kalwari stream and within the zone of the Great Himalayan National Park, these cottages offer breathtaking mountain views and are surrounded by step farms and Deodar forests.
Hosted by Upendra and Dimple Kamra who themselves are explorers, visitors here can choose from activities such as fishing, angling, hiking to the national park, and going for guided orchard walks, etc.
2. Darang Tea Estate, Kangra
This is a historical property. It is 150 years old and was one of the first plantations started by an Indian. The property has a direct view of the Dauladhar mountains and has a mountain stream gushing around it.
Visitors here are hosted by Navin and Neeru Bhandari, who are patrons of the arts and also avid travellers. They offer home-cooked meals and can organize expeditions to Dharamsala, if you like. You can hike around the tea estate, visit historical spots around Kangra or laze around in the library.
3. Sanjiv’s Aira Holme Retreat, Shimla
Passed down for generations since the 1800s, this cosy cottage is run by Billy and Panita. It overlooks the Chail Forest and is surrounded by a garden. Billy is an avid reader and has a library with a wonderful collection of books. So if you’re a reader, you are in for a treat. You can golf at the property or go sight-seeing in Shimla.
4. The Apple Farm Stay, Kothkai
Built in the 1920s, this property amidst an apple orchard is situated 7,000 ft above the sea level in the hills of Kothkai. The furnishings are typical pahari style as the property owners want guests to experience the local life. They organize farm tours, barbecues, bonfires and treks for those who are interested. The local foods on offer include Siddu, Babru, Gucchi and Dried Mutton, all of which are made on order only. One can visit a trout farm nearby or trek to the Pabbar Valley as well.
5. Meena bagh, Ratnari
A farmstay amidst an apple orchard, the property also has a permaculture farm. There are also farm animals, including cats, dogs, sheep, ducks and chicken - so this would be suitable for those who are animal and nature friendly and those who're travelling with young children in toe. The property grows their own produce and provides organic meals. Some activities one can do include bird-watching, hiking to the Hatu peak or taking a walk around the adjoining forests. A night here can set you back Rs40,000 or more for the entire bungalow, excluding meals.
6. Taara House, Manali
Situated 6,600 ft above sea level, this is a wooden cottage that has been done up tastefully and is a treat for those who love architecture and/or design. The property has a fine art collection. Meals are provided on request, and the hosts need to be informed in advance about the same. One can hike to the Pine Reserve nearby or visit the Hidimba Temple which is in the vicinity.
7. Naggarville, Naggar
Situated in a rustic village, this is arguably one of the cosiest stays in Himachal. Based on the principles of Himachali architecture, the house is done up in wood and stone and has a pretty garden on-site. There is a kitchen garden as well, and the host provides some scrumptious, organic meals and herbal tea. The property has wonderful mountain views and the host can organize barbecues and bonfires on request. One can hike around the trails nearby and visit the Nicholas Roerich Art Gallery in the vicinity.
8. Whispering Pine Cottage, Jibhi
Hosted by Daleep, this cottage is located in the Tandi village in Jibhi. Surrounded by wheat and maize fields, apple and pear orchards, the property is secluded and perfect for those who want some solitude. The pet dog, Nabkov is loved by almost everyone who stays here and is a part of the family. You can walk around the fields and forests or trek up the surrounding mountains while here.
9. The Chalet, Kasauli
An eco-friendly stay in Kasauli, this property is powered by solar electricity and recycles grey water to protect the environment. The food is sourced locally and they even grow their own vegetables. There is a lovely machan on the property for you to get the mountain view and enjoy your morning tea or coffee.
10. The Mirage, Andretta
Situated at the foothills of the Dauladhar range, this stay is a yoga retreat as well. The main house was built in 1948 and has a vintage feel, while the white house and the garden cottages were built later. The property is mainly an artists’ village and retreat and has an art gallery as well. The property is nestled in the dense forests of Andretta and has a lot of Indian artifacts and crafts.
Homestay rules amidst the pandemic
Most hosts/families have received both the jabs and sanitize the house thoroughly. Call ahead to check if you have queries around this.
Make sure you book a homestay after vaccination. Call ahead to check about rules around masking, tests and vaccination for children.
Quite a few stays will request for a negative RT-PCR report - ensure you do the test before reaching.
Wear a mask at all times on the premises.Carry a sanitizer with you at all times.