This Story first appeared on The Daily Pao
In some cases, especially in the more remote locations of the country, staying in someone’s home is a much better option than a shady hotel or even a cheap backpacker hostel. Here are six of our favourite homestays from across India:
Chada Home, Ziro Valley
At their home stay in Ziro, which we visited for its annual music festival, Punyo Chada and his wife treated us like family. Their cosy bungalow, made entirely of wood, has been built in a style typical of the region. The main building has the bedrooms and other living spaces, and another structure houses the kitchen, which is the centre of family activity. Mrs. Chada plies guests with traditional Arunachali fare with ingredients either sourced locally or picked from their garden where the Chadas grow a variety of fruits and vegetables including the infamous bhut jholokia chilli, white pumpkin, tomatoes, lettuce, beans and herbs. The chatty Mr. Chada, who runs an NGO in Ziro, gamely answers all your questions about the area as he ferries you around the valley in his jeep. It really felt like we were spending the holidays with our favourite aunt and uncle!
Ziro is about a four-hour car journey from Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh. One night’s stay: Rs2,400 for two including breakfast and dinner. Call 94360 47891 to book.
Serene Homestay, Nongriat
The living root bridges in Cherrapunji are a truly incredible sight. Each of them has been patiently created over a period of 15 to 20 years by local Khasi tribes who intertwine the roots of the Ficus Elastica tree with pieces of wood to make them grow in a particular direction over streams and rivers. You have to walk over 3,000 steps down to see the magnificent structures, alongside which is the basic but clean Serene Homestay where you can spend a couple of days before making the trek back up. Serene is the only place to stay in the gorge, and while you shouldn’t expect much apart from a bed, common bathroom and simple food, you can spend your time exploring the forest nearby, taking dips in clear pools of water and marvelling at the wondrous bridges right outside your balcony.
Nongriat is an over 3,000-step trek down from Tyrna village in Cherrapunji, which is about couple of hours by road from Shillong. One night’s stay: Rs300 for two (room only). Call 96152 52655 or 94367 39655 or email email@example.com to book.
The Palace Utelia, Utelia
Built at the turn of the twentieth-century by the Vaghela Rajput clan, The Palace Utelia is typical of the Indo-Saracenic architectural style and features five domes, pillared galleries, balconies and porticos. The rooms are treasure troves of antiques with magnificent carved doors, four-poster beds and tiled bathrooms the size of a small apartment. There is also some traditional Gujarati-style decor such as low seating, vibrant wall hangings and an ornate swing, which adds colour to the otherwise formal setting. Each of the rooms on the first floor has a balcony from where you can survey the tiny village of Utelia and the family’s fields that stretch as far as the eye can see. The palace was damaged severely during the Bhuj earthquake of 2001 and is being painstakingly restored piece by piece. One of its best features is the back portico, where you can take your meals or tea served by well-trained staff and surrounded by a verdant garden. If you’re a history buff, know that the amazing excavation site of Lothal, an important seaport from the Indus Valley Civilisation, is only about eight kms away by car.
Utelia Palace is about 80kms from Ahmedabad. One night’s stay: Rs6,000 for two (room only). Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book.
Berry Lane, Ammathi
Coorg is the Lonavla of Karnataka! The wide range of accommodation, from small hotels to luxury resorts, can be a bit overwhelming. After much searching online and consulting friends and travelers we met on our journeys, we found Berry Lane, which is situated in the middle of the coffee plantation. The food – Kodagu delicacies such as Kodava-style pork curry, fried banana, string hoppers and pumpkin gravy – is among the highlights of the homestay, which is filled with beautiful antiques collected from across the country by owner Raghu Uthappa. Aside from wandering the plantation and bird spotting in Uthappa’s massive bamboo groves (the forest is home to the green bee-eater, small minivet, flameback kingfisher and brown-headed barbet), you can visit the lush local golf course, to which he’s happy to take visitors. We also strongly suggest a trip to Bylakuppe. The Tibetan settlement, about two hours away by bus, has lovely monasteries with stunning Tibetan paintings and frescos.
Ammathi village is about 100kms from Mysore. One night’s stay: between Rs2,500 and Rs3,000 for two, including breakfast. While lunch and dinner cost extra, we recommend at least a couple of meals as the food is superb. Call 94487 21460 or 93436 31236 or email email@example.com to book.
Guest House, Kolukkumalai Tea Plantation
If you are brave, fit and willing enough to endure one of the more arduous roads in the country (people with back problems, the elderly and pregnant women are advised against it), you will be richly rewarded with rolling green hills and the highest tea plantation in the world. The plantation, about 7,900 feet above sea level, has a charming old factory that was built in the 1930s and continues to use traditional methods of drying, crushing, fermenting and packaging that do not require the use of modern machinery. Attached to it is an elegant guest house fitted with large beds, wood furniture and large bathrooms; it was originally part of the staff quarters. Weather permitting, you can eat your meals, organised by the attentive caretaker Abu, in the large veranda that runs the length of the rooms and overlooks the factory and endless tea gardens.
The plantation is about two hours from Munnar and is best reached by jeep. One night’s stay: about Rs5,000 for two including all meals, a tour of the plantation, factory and a guide for treks in the surrounding areas. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book.
Chettinadu Mansion, Kanadukathan
As the name suggests, this early twentieth-century home, built by the grandfather of current owner Mr. Chandramouli, is a mansion fit for royalty. The 42,000 square feet house was made with granite from Spain, marble from Italy, teak from Burma, cast iron from the UK and tiles from the famous local Athangudi factories. Of the 126 rooms, only about a dozen are let out to guests. Mr. Chandramouli enjoys regaling his customers with fascinating stories about his Chettiar ancestors. Chettinadu Mansion, we learned from him, is fairly typical of the Chettiar style. While the bedrooms are small, the common spaces are large in order to foster a sense of integrated living. Kanadukathan village is full of similar mansions, and while many are in a state of neglect, there have been recent attempts to revive the region’s forgotten history by opening them to visitors in the form of museums and homestays.
Kanadukathan is about 20kms from Karaikudi. One night’s stay: approximately Rs6,000 including breakfast for two. Call 98463 44305 or email email@example.com to book.