From the moment I first stepped into the warm reception area of The Himalayan Village at Doonkhara (just before Kasol) in Parvati Valley, I was hooked. The resort, resembling a fort had bewitched me ever since my eyes had set sight on it, almost a year ago. I had just dropped in to say hi and a lovely concoction of natural herbal tea was served, while the affable owner Aman Sood regaled us with tales from Parvati Valley.
We were tired, having just come from a small trek to Rasol. The smiling staff instantly made us feel welcome and ushered us into our royal cottage. The sight of manicured green lawns made me swoon with delight. It was drizzling and that only added to the pleasantness.
There are six cottages, named after various districts of Himachal Pradesh and two huge tree house style rooms called Machans. The entire property is designed in a traditional style and is nestled in the periphery of a devdhar forest, and the roaring Parvati river flowing on the other side of the road completes the fairytale. The sound is just right, not noisy and gushing, but a tranquil hum in the background. How refreshing to arrive at a place like this amid the concrete jungle that the Himalayas is fast turning into!
Mr. Kamlesh at the reception was gracious to recommend to us the dishes for an authentic Himachali lunch while we admired the views. Each cottage has private lawns and colonial chairs to really make the guests feel like kings. Aesthetics of the mountains have been kept in mind and Kathkunia style of architecture has been adopted (dry stacking of stone and wood without cement). The nature lover in me was pleased when the clouds gathered on a nearby cliff and I could laze in the sit out while it poured outside. The interiors of every cottage are pleasing to the eye and have been mud plastered using natural colours. The attention to detail is phenomenal; be it intricately carved teak furniture and a royal looking couch, devdhar wood roof, handmade silk curtains, warm lights and bathing accessories, and the elaborate mirror in the dressing area.
Lunch had arrived while we were still jumping around our spacious cottage savouring the views from every window. The aroma of ‘Siddu’ and ‘Dham’ tantalised my taste buds and I almost slipped into heaven on my first bite of siddu dunked into a bowl of home made ghee. ‘Dham’ is the name given to the traditional Himachali thali. Those plates were polished off in no time and my mouth is watering sitting in Jaipur, as I think about the delicacies at The Himalayan Village!
I was on a food high as the evening came and the ethereal sky was bestowed with glorious colours, the rain having duly stopped. We went for a stroll through the walkway while the lights were being switched on and stumbled upon a temple; yes there’s a beautiful Shiva Temple in the resort and the mellifluous sounds of a ceremony might gently waft in your ears at 10 in the morning.
There are two cozy dining areas, impeccably designed with diwans and situated amid lush greens and a plethora of flowers; chief among them roses of various colours. A nice little collection of books await the traveller too. I make it a point to thank the chef for making us taste local Himachali cuisine. Dinner is delectably cooked north Indian food and the breads have been made to perfection. (P.S: I’m a fussy eater.)
We sleep soundly in nature’s lap with our bellies full. A gentle breeze blows bringing fireflies along. Over hushed voices, they drift out twinkling just as they had come in. This place is tranquil and peaceful and completely bathed in the sound of silence.
I wake up sleepy eyed in the morning and click something on my phone. It turns out to be a masterpiece later! Clear blue skies, sunlight peering through the dense devdhar forests, the aroma of nature and petrichor after the rain. Could I really ask for more? Turns out I could!! The foodie in me was having a jolly good time with all the goodies on offer. Breakfast included organic honey made on-site, in addition to peach and apple jam. The fresh peach and apricot juice (straight from the trees) was heavenly with chhole bhature & gobi paranthas (my favourite).
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We were shifted to the scenically perched Kullu Machan for an even more royal experience. It was a bigger cottage and aromatic too having been made entirely of devdhar wood. We behaved like excited kids, opening all the windows and clicking pictures of the birds eye view of the resort.
There’s a balcony to sit and laze while the world goes by. We were enchanted and danced with the staff when they put on a rare performance of Himachali folk dance for us in the evening. It is a subtle form of dance with slow movements and Himachali songs are so pleasing to the ears. Pure delight to remember those songs with much fondness. The night from our balcony held breathtaking views of the stars above and the entire resort twinkled in perfectly placed lantern lights.
This place deserves to be among the various lists of top resorts in India for letting travellers have a real taste of Himachal Pradesh and keeping the traditional aspects in mind including the use of mud, stone and wood in the construction. Next time instead of heading to Manali; think about coming here and forgetting your worldly troubles in the lap of nature and amazing hospitality. Their staff are worth emulating, always with a smile on their faces dressed in impeccable white and a Himachali cap.
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You feel happy when minute details are taken care of. Study table, eight inch mattresses, sofas that sink in, curtains that let in just the right amount of light. The best part is that the owner, Aman is involved in the day-to-day activities of the resort and makes it a point to meet the guests personally once or twice a day. He and his wife took seven long years to painstakingly create this work of art. Its a rare pleasure to listen to him while he imparts his know how with bits of culture thrown in about the resort. I am insanely happy to experience this calm away from the madness of Kasol.
I was really living a dream. I could get used to this life. Fresh air in the mountains and food that leaves you feeling energised in my favourite state in India. Himachal Pradesh really feels like home. I hope someday I can settle down here for good. The days passed by in a whiff but instead of saying goodbye I say ‘au revoir’; the french expression that means “Goodbye, till we meet again.” I know I am going to come here someday when its covered in snow. My heart does a little dance visualising that.
Home is where the heart is. Mine has always been in the mountains.
To Reach : Approximately 600 Kilometres from Delhi. Take the Manali route (NH-21) till Bhuntar and then a right to Manikaran. The Himalayan Village lies on the right side of the road roughly 7 kilometres before Kasol.
Spa : Complete with massages and aromatherapy, kerotheraphy and acupressure along with steam bath, sauna heat bath and jacuzzi.
Activities : Angling, nature walks, jungle incursions, orchard picnics, nearby treks, mountain cycling, rock climbing, rappelling, rafting and jeep safaris are among the many activities that can be organised. Barbecue and bonfire can be organised on request. There’s a well stocked traditional bar with a vintage collection.
Eco-tourism, responsible tourism, and a pet friendly property. Agri tourism with a tour of the fruit orchards nearby can be organised too.
Disclaimer : I was at The Himalayan Village, Doonkhara on an invitation. All the views shared here are my own and completely unbiased.
Also check : The Shimla of Old : Life at Chapslee