Kumaon in Uttarakhand is one of the few easily accessible lower Himalayas that is still fresh, green and beautiful. I hope it stays that way.
Delhi – Kathgodam Shatabdi gets you to Kathgodam by 11.30 AM and in less than 60 mins you are in the beautiful hills with dense forests. Driving is a long way 8 – 9 hrs. I love this region and am always on the lookout for offbeat home-stays.
It was by chance that I read about Himalaica in a National Geography article and instantly fell in love with the place. I normally plan my trip 6 months in advance – but this time everything fell in place in less than 10 days. Rooms, Shatabdi tickets on exactly the dates we wanted, free nights at Delhi Hyatt and air tickets that were not very cheap. Everything went like clockwork precision – Weather was excellent, Flights were on time, the Hyatt Regency & Andaz extended great hospitality and dinner with the Marwah’s – the nicest people you can meet in NCR made the whole trip perfect.
Himalaica is the home of Uttam & Shalini Dave. They built this home with a lot of love over 3 long years. Its a green oasis on 1 1/2 acres of hillside at Bhowali (1 hr from Kathgodam and 30 min from Nainital). A lot of thought has gone into the design, the plants, the curios, the beautiful dogs and everything that makes this a special and warm place. I can never imagine owning a place like this and staying her for 4 days was like a dream come true.
The main building has 4 rooms and the adjoining cottage 2. It would be ideal to come as an extended group and book the full place. The highlight of Himalaica is the conservatory – a glass house that overlooks the garden. The photo shows you a part of it. There are 3 sections here- one with two comfy chairs and the other with a small breakfast table. The conservatory is packed with rare plants and curios. Shalini clearly loves owls – we must have seen at least 50 different statues and figures of owls in the conservatory.
The Ground floor houses the kitchen, dining room, a sitting room with a cozy fireplace and a TV room stocked with a great collection of DVD’s. There are 4 rooms are in the 1st floor – a study, a 2 bedroom unit and a single bedroom. Leading from the kitchen in the rear is the cottage with two rooms. The cottage rooms are smaller but offer more privacy. The front of the building has a nice garden and when you sit there with a book you can hear a wide variety of birds and bees and the gurgling sound of a hidden stream that runs adjacent to Himalaica.
The staff are warm and friendly and The chef serves you tasty homely food. A wide variety from North Indian, Kumaoni to even french fries & pasta. Both veg & non veg. We loved the food especially the Kumaoni dinner that he made for us – Ram Karela, Bhatke Dubke, Lauki with Dahi, Kumaoni Raita, Cabbage Sabji from the Cabbages we plucked in the fields in the morning.
They also have 3 adorable dogs – Cyber, Raja & Llama. I overcame my fear of dogs a few years back thanks to Caesar & Sparky, but these dogs were so adorable that my wife and daughter who are normally scared of dogs fell in love with them instantly and were very comfortable.
With a fairytale house like this you may not want to step out – but if you do here are a few options to explore
- A short 3 hr trek to Jhandidhar from where on a clear day you can see the snow capped mountains of Uttarakhand. The peak also has a small Shiva temple and a Sadhu in a hut with his Dhuni
- A drive to Padampuri – 20 Km from Himalica , where on the banks of the Khalsa river is the ashram of Somvar Baba – 3 Hr trip. The Khalsa is one of the few himalayan rivers that flows North.
- A trip to Nainital for boating & lunch / dinner – 3 Hrs
- A day trip to Jageshwar and stop by at Kainchi Dham (Neem Karoli Baba) and a few other Ashrams / Temples
- A British cemetery that is considered spooky by many
Weather at Himalaica
At 6500 feet – it was cold in Oct. We were lucky as the rains had stopped on the day we reached so everything was lush green. In early Oct the morning and evenings were 11 – 12 Degrees. In Dec – Jan they can get to Zero or below. Rarely snows here. Oct, Nov, Dec and April would be the best time to visit.
Getting to Himalaica
Its a 1 hr drive from Kathgodam , its better to get down at Haldwani as Shatabdi takes almost 30 min to travel this 5 Km distance. Madhusudan is my regular driver – a friendly young man full of positive energy who is both a driver and guide. You can contact him at +91 9756930090. His rates are very reasonable.
How to contact Himalaica
- +91 9811908996
Suggestions to the Host
Room rates are reasonable for such a splendid property. Should explore including breakfast in the room rate and make Lunch / Dinner more affordable. Currently a family of 3 over Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner will spend 9K on food @ Rs 1000/- meal. Thats expensive. A more reasonable rate would be Rs 500 for Veg and Rs 750 for Non Veg.
Thats Llama & Cyber. They are great buddies. Raja is slightly older and is a loner.