Too Late for Christmas Presents? Gift A Perfect Vacation At 10 Extraordinary Homestays
These homestays around India are not only eco-friendly but also offer fun adventure activities, along with skill lessons. And they make for perfect gifts for your loved ones.
If you haven’t got time to buy presents to keep under the Christmas tree this year, we’ve got you covered. While conventional presents come wrapped in gift paper and boxes, we thought why not break away from the norm, and gift your loved ones something that they could cherish a little longer? Like a travel experience!
Here’s a list of homestays across India, a stay at which you can gift to your friends and family this year. Aside from the fact that all of them are simply beautiful, there is also a unique skill or adventure activity to pursue whilst there.
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1. Hike in the Himalayas at the Doi Homestay
In the quaint mountain village of Nathuakhan of Uttarakhand is the Doi Homestay, run by a couple Sambit Dattachaudhuri and Disha Kapkoti. Guests can spend time amid nature, against the backdrop of oak-pine forests and flourishing fruit orchards filled with herbs, pulses, tomatoes, radishes, strawberries, chamomiles, etc.
A rush of adrenaline awaits anyone who loves trekking and hiking as the place is in close proximity to the snow-clad peaks of the Himalayas — Trishul, Nanda Ghunti, Chaukhamba, and Neelkanth. Guests can also hike down to the villages of Delkuna and Baret.
Where: Post Office, 87, Gram Sabha, Nathuakhan, Uttarakhand 263158
Contact: +91 98710 83849
Packages: Long-stay packages start from Rs 33,000 to Rs 39,000 for 30 days for single occupancy, and Rs 39,000 to Rs 51,000 for double occupancy. For shorter stays, the price starts from Rs 2,100 per person per day and Rs 3,000 for two people per day.
2. Have a girl’s trip at ‘La Villa Bethany’
In the sleepy town of Landour, which once served as a British cantonment, a couple — Sunita and Amarjeet — stumbled upon a dilapidated 100-year-old bungalow, which they decided to convert into a homestay.
Today, La Villa Bethany, along with giving people a beautiful trip experience, also creates employment for the locals. If you wish to gift your girl gang a trip this Christmas, this is the ideal place to do so.
As Sunita explains, “Many single women travellers working in the corporate sector or groups wanting to celebrate an occasion choose our homestay as they feel safe staying with me, my daughter, and my mother-in-law,” she says. “No outsiders are allowed in our restaurants which creates a safe environment for women.”
Where: Landour, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand 248179
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Contact: +91 94129 98718
Packages: Depends upon the meal plan, airport drops etc requested.
3. An experiential farm visit at MharoKhet
Rajnush and Vedika Agarwal turned their 30-year-old ancestral land into an experiential farm, which gives guests a chance to see how a real farm operates while also dining on fresh produce.
During the farm tour, guests are treated to an explanation of drip irrigation, how exotic vegetables are grown and how biopesticides are made. Following the walk, lunch is served — the star dishes include a spread of Indore street-style bhutte ka kees (grated corn snack), soy braised cabbage, gourd and lentil loaf with chaat flavours, okra (lady finger) crunch, and shengdanyachi (roasted peanuts) stuffed jalapeno on wheat crisps.
Where: Manai, Rajasthan 342306
Packages: The complete experience costs Rs 4,500, while guests can opt for only the tour (Rs 2,000) or only the dining (Rs 3,500).
4. Learn pottery at Velanga Orchard
Set up by Nikita Dawar and Karthik Ramaraj, the Velanga Orchard has something for everyone. Apart from the adventure activities that they offer, the couple also offers pottery courses to those who wish to learn the art — conducted by Nikita at her on-site studio, Slow Pottery.
Nikita adds that adventure is infused with relaxation here, as “Guests can explore the surroundings, relax, visit the pottery studio, and bask in nature with clean air and clear skies. If guests are thirsty, there is always a glass of freshly juiced toddy available.”
Where: Bodabandla, Andhra Pradesh 517429
Packages: For an individual, the package is Rs 15,000 for five days and five nights including meals.
5. Bird watching at Jungle Hut
In spite of having no background in the hospitality sector, Vikram and Anushri Mathia quit their jobs and decided to tend to the Jungle Hut — a sustainable homestay that Vikram’s parents had been running since 1986.
A paradise for nature enthusiasts, the homestay is located in the buffer zone of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve — entailing that there is much wildlife to be appreciated here. This includes the Bengal tiger, leopard, Asian elephants, Indian gaur, sloth bear, hyena and wild boar.
Another famous activity among travellers is bird watching owing to the flock of white-throated kingfishers, Indian scimitar babblers and varieties of woodpeckers.
Where: Bokkapuram, Masinagudi, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu 643223
Contact: +91 97876 33433
Packages: Rs 6,160 for a night for the classic room.
6. Kayaking at Mohraan Farms
The Adhikari family has created a mini nature haven in the form of Mohraan Farms. Here, guests can experience what it’s like to escape the city noise and dive into nature, thanks to the food forest that they have tended to over the years.
As Sachin says, the food forest is the main draw of the place. “This diverse, multilayered jungle devoid of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, etc ensures the soil is not disturbed frequently; this helps to build a natural web of life. Guests not only have a chance to observe and awe at the trees but also partake in the harvesting, planting, sowing, transplanting, pruning, etc,” he says.
Along with this, the homestay also has an opportunity for guests to partake in adventure activities. The stream passing through the farm is shallow enough for kayaking, and guests are provided with life jackets.
Where: Mohraan Farms Village, Sakurli, Tal, Shahapur, Maharashtra 421601
Contact: +91 99305 46235
Packages: Packages for a stay of one day and one night, with all meals included for a couple, are Rs 5,000 for a tent, Rs 8,000 for a glory cottage, and Rs 12,000 for a stream-view cottage.
7. Archery at Aura Kalari
Located in a village setup, Aura Kalari allows long walks around the hamlets nearby — a chance to unwind and taste the local cuisine.
The main highlight at this homestay is archery — one of the oldest sports that has found a place in Vedic literature and western ones alike. This sport requires precision and finesse, both qualities that are taught to guests by experts at the homestay. It doesn’t matter if you are a novice or a veteran, there is a session tailored for everyone.
Where: Aura Kalari, Chikkagubbi Village, Karnataka 562149
Contact: +91 99647 13429
Packages: Rs 5,000/night per couple
8. A river ride through the Sunderbans at Bongheri Homestay
In South 24 Parganas West Bengal, Neelanjan Chakravarty’s Bongheri Homestay is complete with everything you’re looking for in your trip to the Sunderbans.
In close proximity to this UNESCO World Heritage site, the stay offers guests a chance to view some globally endangered species such as the Royal Bengal tiger, Irawadi dolphins, and estuarine crocodiles, while fishing enthusiasts can sit by Matla River.
Neelanjan adds that the highlight of the trip is the boat safari through the Sunderbans. “Guests do not need to pay anything additional for these activities. While on the expedition, they can discover the mysteries of the mangrove forests, spot tigers, reptiles and other rare fauna,” he says.
Where: Bongheri, Kaikhali Ashram, PS. Kultali, South 24 Parganas, 743338
Contact: +91 94330 39110
Packages: Rs 3,700 for a night, inclusive of food and lodging.
9. Learn to cook an authentic Kerala meal at Vanilla County
The homestay, now managed by Mathew Vallikappen and his wife Silu Joseph, is inspired by Dutch and British style architecture owing to Mathew’s grandfather’s close friendship with British gentlemen when the home was being built in 1947.
Whilst marvelling at the teak decor in the heritage homestay, guests can relish and learn to cook the authentic Kerala dishes prepared by the local women.
“If you’d like to learn about beekeeping, procuring honey from the combs, diving into a natural rock pool abundant in spring water and minerals, or even learning how to prepare a three-course Kerala meal from scratch for Rs 2,500, all of these activities are available here,” says Silu.
Where: Mavady Estate, Teekoy, Vagamon, Kerala 686580
Contact: +91 62826 73682
Packages: Rs 6,000/night for a couple.
10. Explore the Kanha Wildlife Park at Surwahi Ecoestate
A labour of love of seven years by Ankit Rastogi and his team yielded Surwahi Social Ecoestate Kanha. Its proximity to the Kanha National Park means guests can take safaris to glimpse its flora and fauna while partaking in the eco-tourism experience created by the Surwahi team.
This includes living in sustainable construction, seeing a zero-discharge toilet first-hand, exploring the local homes, watching local artists sculpt on stabilised mud, and even taking part in a local dining experience.
Where: 6FV8+RPW, Village Surwahi, P.O Majhgaon, Tehsil Paraswada, Khairlanji Ryt., Madhya Pradesh 481111
Contact: +91 97448 44777
Packages: The package per night depends upon the season.
(Edited by Pranita Bhat)
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