The Dalton’s Village homestay in Himachal Pradesh’s Tirthan Valley is a 60-year-old Himachali house that has been renovated.

Ryan Dalton, the brains behind this endeavour, moved into the homestay in February 2019.

Made out of mud, rock and wood, the homestay is an attempt to offer guests an authentic Himachali experience.

“It mimics the Himachali culture, how the Himachalis live and the tiny hardships they go through to live sustainably,” Ryan says.

Explaining with an example, he says, “The rural Himachalis don’t have the benefit of just opening a tap and getting hot water, it’s not that easy. Instead, they use a ‘hamam’ (a contraption with a space to light a fire underneath, which then heats the water).”

The locals using this essentially have to wait for a bright, sunny day when the wood is dry and can be burnt, so the hamam can be lit up.

The whole family then takes turns filling up their buckets and carrying them into the showers.

At The Dalton’s Village, none of their bathrooms have geysers, saving on electricity and water. They light up their hamam in the morning or evening, informing guests accordingly. The homestay is also naturally ventilated and has no air conditioning except for heaters during the winter.

Ryan further shares, “I tell people that if you want an activity, I’ll give you a pot and pan and raw material. Why don’t you try cooking outdoors?”

Guests are also welcome to sketch outdoors with the variety of paints and crayons available. They are also taken on walks. “There are some hidden natural pools which only the locals know about. And there’s a natural waterfall where people can take a swim,” shares Ryan.

The Dalton’s Village’s food also imbibes the Himachali essence. They serve three local types of chutneys too.

One is a spicy, mint-based chutney sourced from mint they grow themselves. The second is a tangy, curd-based chutney. And third is a sweet, fruit-based chutney, which is seasonal, depending on the fruit that’s growing at the time — ranging from plum to apricot and pear to apple.

In keeping with local culture, instead of using processed oil, most of the daily cooking is done in ghee, because that’s what’s readily available for Himachalis.

The most popular local dishes they serve are sidhu — a type of steamed bread with filling inside, and lingri, a locally grown vegetable. They’re also famous for their slow-cooked pahadi mutton and their rajma (kidney beans), which they grow on their own land.

“We have a stream that flows through our property and we take guests for a small walk there. The lingri grows in the stream from where it is plucked and cooked,” Ryan says.

Even the life cycle of a fruit, here, is entirely sustainable — the bananas grown in their fields are enjoyed by guests, the peel becomes cattle feed, and the animals’ excreta is used as manure for the fields.

In conclusion, Ryan says, “Sustainability is something we’ve pushed ourselves away from in cities but it’s the norm for Himachalis.”