Thong Tay Hoi, VN
Fri, 5/24/2024
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11:11 AM

14 charming Kumaon homestays for the winter
Are the great outdoors beckoning you? These homes are the perfect place to spend the weekend picking apples, practising yoga, setting out on hikes, curling up with a book in the lawns or simply mastering the art of doing nothing. Take your pick: 14 Kumaon homestays for the winter 🌼Sage Cottage, Jangalia Gaon, Nainital
When Kalpana Mishra decided to get a home in the hills, it was this property that won her heart in an instant. Since then, the host has maintained this hill house with all the love and care—the floor-to-ceiling windows look out to a garden full of fresh blooms; there’s a cook available to make your meals, but she also has a fully-equipped kitchen for those who enjoy cooking on their vacations; rainwater harvesting and composting systems help keep the space sustainable. A garden full of herbs such as sage and rosemary lends it its name. The 2,515sqft cottage can accommodate up to five people in its three bedrooms. Guests can gorge on Indian and Chinese cuisine here, and try local Kumaoni dishes as well. And when Kalpana is around, one can expect to try some of her baked goods while sipping some wine and chatting with the host. Doubles from Rs5,000 including breakfast; a minimum two-night stay is required. 🌼Vaikunth Home, Almora
This homestay high up in the mountains is owned by a couple with an evergreen love for mountains and their son, Arjun Vajpai, who is the youngest Indian to summit Mt Everest in 2010. While he is mostly away, his parents stay at this two-storey house in Almora. The couple lives on the first floor, and opens the ground floor to guests who seek solitude in the lap of nature. Guests can book both bedrooms on the floor, and get access to the common open spaces of the house, with a kitchen and dining area. Outside, the landscape is accentuated by the vivid colours of fresh fruits and veggies growing in the family farm. With no WiFi on the property, it becomes the perfect getaway for a digital detox full of resplendent views and fresh air. The owners cook the meals and take care of the upkeep of the house themselves. And when Arjun is around, he takes charge of entertaining guests with his mountaineering tales. Doubles from Rs9,500, inclusive of all meals; 🌼Valley View Villa, Ranikhet
Countless dogs roam in this six-bedroom homestay in Ranikhet. The home belongs to Sabrina Singh and her late husband Brigadier Jasbir Singh who have lived in the hills for three decades now. They opened the space to guests in 2008. All rooms on the property come with attached bathrooms, televisions, high-speed WiFi, and running hot and cold water at all times. And the amenities are complemented by natural luxury—trees surround the house and attract birds day and night. There’s also a two-bedroom suite ideal for families. The terrace looks out to the Great Himalayas in the distance. Temperatures remain cool year-round at the high altitude, eliminating the need for aircons and making it ideal to enjoy the outdoors during your stay. Doubles from Rs3,500; 🌼Mary Budden Estate, Binsar
Originally the property of Ms Mary Budden, this five-acre estate lay dilapidated for almost a century before being purchased by Serena Chopra. The Delhi-based photographer and writer restored and turned it into her home, which is now complete with a cottage and a lodge standing in the midst of virgin Binsar forests. There are a total of six rooms—three in the cottage and three in the lodge. Open sit-outs and stone patios line both abodes. At 8,000ft, the estate sits at eye-level with the Himalayan range, affording unobstructed views of the mountains. For meals, you can enjoy fresh seasonal produce cooked in Himalayan style. Doubles from Rs25,000 including all meals; 🌼One Partridge Hill, Nainital
A 300km drive from Delhi, One Partridge Hill sits on the highlands of Satoli village in Uttarakhand's Kumaon region. The owners have built this property with love and attention to detail, and it shows. The home is named after partridge birds; it's the first thing they spotted when they zeroed in on the site filled with birdsong. The cottages that open up to views of the Nanda Devi and Trishul range are outfitted with handmade furniture, parquet floors and local artwork. It's a cosy base to soak in Uttarakhand's beauty, go on jungle treks and sit back and gaze at the stars. Doubles from Rs12,000, inclusive of breakfast, exclusive of taxes; 🌼Sukoon Homestay, Almora
Kumaon's winding roads lead you to the little town of Jalna, where this mountain retreat sits. The home of Pradeep Dasila, it is made of two stone cottages spread across three acres of land surrounded by pine, oak and rhododendron trees dotted with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Start your day with breakfast straight from the farms, spend the rest of it exploring the nearby villages, and come back to a bonfire, some music and delicious Kumaoni food. Retire in a Kumaoni house with slate roofs and thick stone walls that will keep you snug in the cold. Doubles from Rs4,500, inclusive of breakfast; 🌼Chestnut House, Jilling Terraces, Nainital
There's no direct road that leads to Chestnut House. It could take anywhere between 40 minutes to 2 hours of walking, and many short gasps to reach the home (porters are available to carry your luggage and a team member will guide you through the trail). But once you do, the arduous trek seems worth it. From this 80-year-old house surrounded by 80 acres of land, thick oak, rhododendron and conifer trees stretch as far as your eyes can see. The home was built in 1933 by a Sanskrit scholar for his Polish wife who longed for the weather she was familiar with. Now, guests from all over seeking some old-world charm are welcomed. The rooms are named after flowers and come with distinct features, some with bookshelves and others with desks. But each of them has an anteroom to loll in during the day or for the little one to snuggle at night. Water is sourced from a local spring and fruits and vegetables from local farmers. Enjoy your meals outdoors under a kaphal tree or the big dining area, which is perfect to spend quality time with the family. Doubles from Rs11,000, inclusive of all meals, evening tea and taxes; 🌼Himalaica, Nainital
Himalaica is a labour of love of a young Swiss NRI couple from a local Nainital family, built over eight years. Set up by local artisans, the home marries traditional country-style architecture with modern comforts. There are two types of accommodation—a glass conservatory with a living room, TV and reading room, fireplace, dining room and four bedrooms. The other is a cottage with two bedrooms, a dining lounge and a verandah. A must-do here is the trek to Gagar View Point. Walk along the Ramgarh road to watch the sunrise over the snow-capped Himalayas, while you sip on chai from Sanju's teashop. The estate is pet-friendly, with open grounds for four-legged members of your family. Entire cottage from Rs14,500, inclusive of breakfast; 🌼Holm Farm Heritage, Ranikhet
Built pre-Independence, this heritage home comes with all the colonial trappings. It was bought by Kumaoni freedom fighter Madan Mohan Upadhyaya from Lady Abbot in 1947. The homestay, which retains its wooden charm, is now run by his son, Himanshu, along with his wife Uma. Walk around the home to stumble upon quirky memorabilia--a grand piano, Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi's wedding invitation, Jawaharlal Nehru's photos with the family. Plus, Himanshu will regale you with stories of his grandfather and Nehru's visit to Holm Farm. Doubles from Rs4,800; 🌼The Retreat, Bhimtal
A 150-year-old bungalow, The Retreat in the forest estate of Bhimtal was started by Fredrick Smetacek Sr in 1953 as a guesthouse for diplomats from Delhi. Fredrick escaped from the Gestapo in Germany after a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler, the story goes. Before the Second World War, he fled to India and built this home. His wife, Shaheda, ran the homestay for decades before her daughter-in-law Padmini (Paddy) and six children took over. Besides regaling people with stories, Paddy and her grown-up children whip up quiches, tarts, fish in lemon-butter and herbs, guide guests on treks and birdwatching tours, and start bonfires in the evenings. But before you meet the owner and her kids, be prepared to be greeted by the three resident dogs. Doubles from Rs5,500; 🌼Fredy's Bungalow, Bhimtal
City-weary souls looking to renew their spirits, this place is for you. A six-hour drive from Delhi and a two-kilometre drive along the bumpy road of Bhimtal Lake leads you to this country house. It belonged to Frederick Jr, the son of a German expat who arrived in India in 1939. The home features four rooms, a library and den, perfect to spend quality time with family and friends. Surrounded by flora and fauna, chances are you'll wake up to the melody of the whistling thrush and retire to the hoot of the spotted owl. Just 10 minutes away from Bhimtal Lake, this place also offers great hiking and bird watching opportunities. But should you want to watch the flutters without stepping out, the gardens of the bungalow are home to an array of butterflies. Doubles from Rs8,900 inclusive of breakfast and morning tea/coffee; 🌼Sitla Estate, Mukteshwar
About 350km from Delhi, Sitla is a breezy drive from the city, but far enough from the bustle. The house belongs to adventure buff and environmentalist Vikram Maira who quit his career in television and returned home to the hills and orchards of his childhood. When he realised how much he enjoyed sharing his space with friends, he opened up the home to guests. The 150-year-old home has a library, kitchen, dining hall and colonial-style rooms in the old building and contemporary-style, independent cottages. Meals comprise crispy salads, fresh-from-the-oven bread, fruit crumbles, and jams prepared with produce from their own gardens. Cosy up with a book under an apricot tree in the orchards or just spend the day gazing at the mountains, Sitla is the kind of place that will just let you be. Doubles from Rs10,500, including breakfast and taxes; 🌼Manzar, Satoli
After working as a banker for 20 years, Achla Sawhney left the chaos of Delhi for the calm of the mountains. The result is this lovely two-bedroom bungalow built in 2012 in the little village of Satoli. Three years later Sawhney listed it on Airbnb. She saw it as a platform to meet interesting people and feed them, and she's been welcoming people into her home ever since. Go bird-watching or on long walks, curl up with a book in the lawns or just sit back and master the art of doing nothing. Whatever your city-weary soul needs. Doubles from Rs2,800 per night with a two-night stay minimum. 🌼Peora Dak Bungalow, Shyamkhet
This bungalow dates back to the Raj-era when it served as an inspection bungalow situated along the silk route. Over a decade ago, Shubha and Pradeep Gupta moved in and opened it up to guests to experience a slice of history. The home features three rooms, a small kitchenette, and a verandah with sweeping views of the mountains; it's the perfect spot to enjoy your cuppa. Water is sourced from a nearby spring and Shubha is happy to whip up some food on prior request. Doubles from Rs3,000; Cre: cntraveller


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