I was weary with work, frustrated with the hustle of city life and craving some quiet time last week. And the soaring temperatures in Delhi were adding to my woes. All I wanted was to get away to somewhere, nowhere and just do nothing at all. Recharge my drained batteries. And what better way to do this than to retreat to the hills with my partner in crime, my sister 😛
Himalayan Village, Sonapani in Uttarakhand has been on my mind for some time, having heard wonderful reviews from many but somehow, it never materialized until now! So we packed our bags, took the train from Delhi to Kathgodam, and a two and a half hour (very snaky)cab ride later, we were at our destination.
I don’t really know how to define this place, it is not a hotel or a resort but more like a homestay. The owners Ashish and Deepa stay on the property, along with their two children Aru and Vanya, and a big mountain dog called Jhumroo(who I found mostly half asleep next to the dining area). Ashish and Deepa moved to Sonapani from Delhi, with barely a month old baby(Vanya) and built this place from scratch and with much love and passion. You can very well feel the keen interest the couple takes in interacting with all the guests, responding patiently to questions or having an animated chat any time of the day or night.
The place is built on top of a ridge, with a grand view of the Himalayas, and is surrounded by a thick oak pine and rhododendron jungle and a lusty orchard of a wide variety of fruits including apple, plum and peach. There are twelve cottages on the property, connected by grass patches and cobbled stones, situated near enough to each other to wave a quick hello to your neighbor but far apart to allow for some privacy. Ours was a standard cottage of reasonable size for two people, very basic but clean and comfortable with a grand view of the forest. All cottages are made of earth blocks and a tinned roof and house a double bed, two chairs and a small table, a cupboard, a dresser and a bathroom. There is no TV, phone or Wi-Fi in the room.
All meals are inclusive of the package and there is no room service or restaurant here but a community style dining area, both open and enclosed, where everyone sits and chats, in between mouthfuls of homey and wholesome food. Breakfast is eggs, dalia, upma or paranthas along with freshly baked bread and a variety of jams and chutneys. Lunch is vegetarian, with three or four dishes along with salad, rice, rotis and dessert. Early evening, steaming cups of coffee or masala chai along with cake or cookies is served, all baked in house. Later you can have some soup and snacks which is followed by dinner which is similar to lunch, except that a non-vegetarian curry is added on. I quite enjoyed the food, like I said, it is simple and wholesome, the only tip is to be at the dining area on time to catch it fresh and steaming.
Definitely the rustic charm and closeness to nature – there is nothing except mountains and lush forests for miles around, and all you can hear is the rustle of leaves as wind blows through, chirping of birds, buzzing of bees and numerous insects. My favorite thing to do here was sit in the sun on a comfy chair on my cottage’s porch and read for endless hours. And my heart literally failed one morning when a langoor jumped in front of me, out of nowhere. I think my expression scared the animal significantly and it looked alarmed and ran into the forest! You can also take long walks around the beautiful forest trails and work up the appetite!
I do think that this place attracts a certain set of people, who appreciate nature and quiet and are not too fussy about services. Importantly, people who don’t mind spending time doing nothing and are open to mingling around with complete strangers.
Himalayan Village also hosts annual music and film festivals, details of which you can find on their Facebook page. There wasn’t anything going on during the time we visited, but it did sound like a wonderful experience for next time.
Why this may not be “your kind of experience”
You are looking for a hotel, room service, luxury and the works? This place is basic but comfortable and far removed from all things which represent city life. If you are the type of person who likes a packed itinerary and always something to do, you will likely get bored. This place is not in that category and neither does it want to be, it has its own quiet charm and slow pace which is appealing in a very unique way.
Distance from Delhi: 345 kms
How to reach – We took the Anand Vihar Kathgodam Shatabdi Express (train 12040) which leaves at 6:15 am from Delhi and reaches Kathgodam at 11:40 am. From there, it is a two and a half hour cab ride to the Himalayan Village. Return is the same way as the onward journey.
Website – http://www.himalayanvillage.com/