By Sarita Santoshini
We travelled to Sikkim, Darjeeling & Meghalaya last year, and while we were awe struck by the unspoilt natural landscapes, we were also overwhelmed by the cultural experience and hospitality that the homestay hosts had to offer. We want you to go out there and experience what we did. So, to make your planning easier, we handpicked 15 Homestays, Cottages and Farm Houses which will make for a perfect getaway or vacation from Kolkata (or from Mumbai if you’re planning a long holiday).
#1. Beautiful Homestay with traditional Sikkimese decor in Gangtok
Located a short walk away from the bustling MG Road in Gangtok, this homestay makes for a great base in the capital city of Sikkim. The entire property has been very thoughtfully designed by the hosts using traditional Sikkimese furniture and artefacts, and painted ceilings that showcase Sikkimese art. There are four colour therapy rooms in the main house which have been designed to provide therapeutic healing and positive energy to the guests. Another block of the property houses six rooms, each of which has a balcony and seating area to enjoy the view. Exploring the property is a breathtaking experience as guests stumble upon flower creepers hanging from small windows in the in-house restaurant in one corner and walk through old photographs and books lining a dim-lit corridor of the living room at another.
#2. Homestay with a farm and swimming pool near Gangtok
Located in a small village called Chota Singtam, which lies half an hour away from Gangtok, is this lovely stand-alone Bungalow where the warm hosts have been welcoming travellers for a few years now. Here, you can enjoy a scenic view of lush greenery and hills from every corner of the house. There are two simple yet comfortable rooms in a private cottage and one room in the main-house. There is a spacious veranda where you can lounge when you’re not floating in the tiled pool set in the manicured lawn. The highlight of the stay, however, is the food. The host also enjoys cooking delicious meals using organic vegetables and diary products from their own farm. Their momos, baked bread and cocktails are a must try. (Also read: For the love of food and conversations)
#3. Heritage Farm house in Mangalbarey, Sikkim
The Heritage Farmhouse is located in the scenic village of Mangalbarey that lies at an altitude of 4100 feet at a short distance from Rinchenpong in West Sikkim. Fourteen generations of the hosts’ family have lived here and the current generation recently built cottages in the 20 acre farm to welcome travellers and introduce them to their culture and heritage. There are three Suites, each with a spacious living room and a bedroom that opens out onto a private garden, two Heritage Rooms, and five Double Unit Cottages. Other than the facilities of a traditional spa, an infinity pool, kids pool and jacuzzi, there is also a traditional deck, overlooking the lush valley and the mighty Khangchendzonga, where you can unwind. If you manage to drag yourself away from the property, there’s still plenty to do – village walks, a trek to Lheuntse Monastery, birding trips, and picnic by the riverside.
#4. Cottage by the forest in Ravangla, Sikkim
This beautiful family-run property lies in the outskirts of Ravangla in South Sikkim, with a forest at its backdrop and makes for a great stay option if you’re looking for some quiet and solitude. In addition to the luxury that the stay provides, there is a local touch to the property in terms of its food and hospitality. There are seven spacious and chic rooms, each with its own entrance and a glass wall facing the forest, which are a part of three stand alone cottages – two rooms in two of the cottages and three rooms in the other. While there, take guided walks in the forest that surrounds the property or go for a longer trek to Dolong Gompa and visit a small fishing lake en route.
#5. Traditional Farm house in Kewzing, Sikkim
If you’re a birding enthusiast, this traditional farm house in Kewzing, located a short distance from Ravangla in South Sikkim, is just the place for you. The host, who happens to be one of India’s most renowned ornithologists, has been leading birding tours around Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bhutan and Nagaland since 2001. During your stay, you can take guided birding tours to Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary, Borong and on trails that lie close to Doling Monastery in Ravangla and Mambru Monastery that is perched on top of a hill. The homestay itself is located next to a monastery. You can choose to stay in the log houses, suites, villas or the family rooms, and eat delicious organic meals with a view of the Kanchenjunga during your stay.
#6. Homestay in the scenic village of Darap, Sikkim
This homestay retreat is located in the small, scenic village of Darap which lies at a short distance from the tourist town of Pelling in West Sikkim. The Limboo community, the largest community of the village, has led to its identity of being a culturally rich location and it makes for a great addition to your Sikkim itinerary. While here, you can soak in the slow village life and explore the rich flora and fauna around or take day trips to Kanchenjunga Water falls, Khecheopalri Lake, Rimbi Water Falls, Pemayantse Monastary and Rabdentse Ruin among other sites. There are seven rooms in the homestay, each made intricately with brick and wood. Though very simple and basic, the rooms have a very cosy and rustic feel to them, with little details adding to their charm. There is a small lake and a gushing stream in the premise as well.
#7. Rustic Homestays in Lingee Payong, Sikkim
These homestays are located in the remote twin-village of Lingee Payong that lie scenically at the base of Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary, 3 hour drive away from Gangtok. The locals here have come together to promote sustainable and responsible village tourism by forming a very dedicated committee. Safely tucked away from civilisation, living here is a very different experience. Every house is located at a considerable distance from the other, with forests, orchards and picturesque terraced farms surrounding it. While a lot of these homestays can only be accessed by trekking, there are some that can be accessed by car and opted for by families. The simplicity of the stay is made up for by the gorgeous views, declicious organic food and warm hospitality. While here, you could request your host to take you for short guided treks around the area and learn about the local culture while at it. (Also read: Going off the grid in Sikkim)
#8. Log Cabins in a Farm House in Mawphlang
If you want a complete break from your daily routine and be one with nature, this Farm House in Mawphlang, half an hour away from Meghalaya’s capital city Shillong, is the best place to go to. It’s completely off grid and the hosts generate their own electricity using solar and wind energy. A stream runs all around the property and there are farms everywhere as far as the eye can see. There are four insulated cabins, each of which has a loft with a queen size bed, as well as a common dining and kitchen area where you can enjoy home cooked local meals. While here, you can go for long walks to enjoy the countryside or hike to the Sacred Grove which is 20 minutes away. (Also read: A Walk to Remember)
#9. Luxury Cottage by the lake near Shillong, Meghalaya
Located by the beautiful Umiam Lake near Shillong, this eco-property is the perfect place if you’re looking for a slice of luxury in the midst of nature. The spacious cottages, which have balconies facing the lake, have been designed keeping the traditional Khasi architecture in mind while ensuring all modern needs of travellers are taken care of. There’s an in-house restaurant which serves delicious local and international cuisines and a spa where you can choose to indulge in traditional Khasi herbal treatments, massages and bath. While here, you can go trekking, boating, for long walks through pine woods by the lake, or for picnics with your family or loved ones – an ideal place to getaway from the chaos of city life.
#10. Homestay in the traditional weavers’ village of Umden, Meghalaya
These two beautiful cottages lie in the scenic hamlet of Umden in Meghalaya which can be easily accessed from both Guwahati and Shillong. Nestled in a valley, the village is famous for Eri silk production and weaving of traditional handlooms like ryndia, stoles in exquisite patterns. During your stay, you can learn about weaving, go for guided heritage walks conducted by trained local youth to learn about the history and culture of the Bhoi people. You could also go angling at the pond just behind your cottage and catch a fish for the evening meal or go mountain biking along the moderately challenging biking track around the village.
#11. Homestay in the honey producing village of Konghtong, Meghalaya
Nestled between the Sohra and Pynursla ridges in Meghalaya is the village of Kongthong which houses two cottages for travellers, built entirely of bamboo and wood and designed in a way that is traditional to the area. Kongthong has a distinction in honey production and although much of its inhabitants engage in agriculture, it is a marvel on its own to be able to witness agro-forestry in the steep hills along the village. The journey to the homestay takes one through living root bridges, suspension bridges that hang over clear water, bamboo groves that sing an eerie silence and little villages tucked away seemingly forgotten by time. It is a great place to explore a part of Meghalaya that very few know of.
#12. Homestay in the old-world fossil rich village of Mawlongbna, Meghalaya
The beautiful village of Mawlongbna in Meghalaya, tucked away from local tourists, houses two cottages for the adventurous travellers. Reaching the village involves a walk through the community forest, with little streams, brooks and a waterfall en route. During your stay, you can set off with the locals to discover fossils of sea-creatures (remnants of an era when the entire area was covered by the expanse of the seas), go fishing or kayaking in a water reserve nearby, and visit the local markets. The best part? Dining on local Khasi cuisine with a view of the plains of Bangladesh!
#13. Boutique property with a touch of history in Kurseong, Darjeeling
This tastefully done boutique property, located in the hill town of Kurseong which lies an hour’s drive away from Darjeeling, is a recreated and restored British home. You can see artefacts of local, historical and cultural relevance here – anecdotes from British times, replicas of trains, paintings, modern art as well as several framed photographs of residents birds of the region. There are thirty one rooms in the large property, all of which have been artistically designed and decorated. There is an in-house restaurant that dishes up local and international cuisine on request and a large open terrace right outside it that provides stunning view of the mountains and the valley below. While here, opt for their curated heritage walk that includes a visit to a British era cemetery and nun-run monastery among other places
#14. Homestay in a hill top village near Kurseong, Darjeeling
This small little homestay is located in a charming little village called Chimney which lies at an altitude of 6800 feet in the outskirts of Kurseong, accessible after a 2 hour drive from Darjeeling. The best part about the location is the bird’s eye view of Teesta river, Siliguri and neighbouring regions from its roads. At night, on a clear night, the sight of whole valley lit up is one to behold. On the other side is a beautiful misty juniper forest, and there are a few waterfalls and viewpoints that lie a short hike away. There is one guest room in the ground floor and a beautiful attic room with an attached terrace. The delicious Nepalese cuisine is another reason for you to choose to stay here. (Also read: Memories of a Dreamy Village)
#15. Farm stay in the outskirts of Darjeeling
This homestay in Darjeeling is located in the midst of farms, orange orchards and tea plantations in the small village of Mineral Spring. It lies at a short distance from Darjeeling and offers travellers a taste of local culture and a sense of tranquility. The spacious property has two tents and two huts, both of which have been tastefully designed and come with private verandas where you can lounge and relax. A short distance from the rooms is a swimming pool and an open restaurant where you can order for local meals. There’s ample space for walks and lots of scenic corners where you can read or sip tea.
Which of these retreats would you like to getaway to for your next vacation? Share with us in your comments.
About the author: Born and raised in Assam, Sarita Santoshini has been travelling around India and penning down her experiences over the past year. She currently works as the Content Editor for SaffronStays. You can read more of her travelogues on her blog- http://crumbsfromyourtale.wordpress.com.