By Sarita Santoshini
2014 has been a remarkable journey for us. We launched our website and travelled to different parts of the country to bring some beautiful properties to you. As the year draws to an end, we want to leave you with plenty more reasons to travel in 2015 through our curated platform – great adventures, friendly locals, delicious food, beautiful landscapes, and warm experiences irrespective of where you decide to go. Out of the 800, we’ve painstakingly chosen these 12 beautiful stay options across India that we think you should add to your bucket list – one destination for every month of 2015!
1. Surround yourself by luxury, nature and tens of spotted deer – Udaipur, Rajasthan
Amidst verdant and scenic hills of the Aravali mountain range in Udaipur is Shikarbadi. Once the chosen big game hunting area of the royalty of Mewar, Shikarbadi today is home to this beautiful, luxury property that allows you to experience an untouched side of the White City. The six themed suites of the homestay have been set around a manicured garden on a floor above the host’s rooms. Here, you can listen to the songs of the birds and often spot deer, porcupines and foxes trotting outside the fences of the house. Rest assured you can experience true Rajasthani hospitality here through the friendly service and delicious local food, recipes of some of which have come straight from the royal kitchen.
2. Getaway from Mumbai to a hilltop farm overlooking the valley – Chiplun, Coastal Maharashtra
If you’re looking for an offbeat getaway from Mumbai, this farm house in Chiplun, built on an 18 acre land, on a hilltop overlooking the valley, is just the place for you. The rooms are very simple, but you’ll have peacocks and friendly dogs here for company, an inviting open pool that you can plunge into, and home-cooked Maharashtrian fares, prepared on the traditional wood-fired stoves under a mango tree, to relish. During your stay, you can spend your day floating on a boat in the Vashisth estuary and your nights either watching a star studded sky from the terrace or driving through the jungle in a jeep. Not a dull moment here! (Also read: A Surprise Anniversary Getaway )
3. Escape to a royal Villa overlooking the Dal Lake – Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir
Overlooking the Dal Lake and facing the Zabarwan range, this beautiful Villa is home to the descendants of the last ruling Maharaja of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nestled amongst apple, cherry and plum orchards, it is a part of their larger private estate, one where they organise fortnightly farmers market and the annual Darah Shikoh Festival. With a 36 feet high central atrium, tastefully done rooms and a lounge that comes with a view, it makes for a perfect retreat when in Srinagar. During their stay, guests can enjoy strolls in the walking trail around the estate and the nearby pond that attracts a large number of migratory birds. If you are lucky you may even come across a Himalayan Black Bear!
4. Stay with one of India’s best birding guides – Kewzing, Sikkim
If you’re a birding enthusiast, this is just the place for you. Mr. Bon, your host, and 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 or the family rooms, and eat delicious organic meals with a view of the Kanchenjunga during your stay.
5. Stay in a charming cottage surrounded by apple orchards – Manali, Himachal
Located in Bipasha Valley near Manali, this charming cottage lies nestled by apple trees and offers a scenic escape from the chaos of city life. The bedroom comes with a number of windows and a small personal balcony overlooking the hill station of Manali. There is a small garden outside where you can spend time enjoying the view, writing or sipping a cup of hot tea. The friendly hosts also whip up a delicious meal using fresh organic produce from their garden. During your stay, you can go for short treks around the cottage, on a trail leading to the Some River and another to a beautiful waterfall.
6. Explore an exotic village while staying in the midst of a community forest – 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! (Also read: The Bridges that Grow )
7. Experience a lesser-known Ladakh by the cliff bank of River Indus – Uleytokpo, Ladakh
Set at the cliff bank of river Indus, 70 Kilometers into Sham valley is the village of Uleytokpo. Here, set amidst apple and apricot orchards is a beautiful eco property that allows you to experience luxury, serenity as well as a lesser-known side of Ladakh. The rooms are large and spacious with a large number of windows where you can wake up to a view of the vast mountains. During your stay, you can pick from one of the many books in the cosy library, indulge yourself with a refloxolgy session in the in-house spa, or venture out for river rafting and hiking.
8. Spend the night star gazing from an attic room – Chimney, Darjeeling
Located in a charming little village called Chimney that lies at an altitude of 6800 feet, this homestay is your window into a side of Darjeeling that not many know or talk about. The best part about the location is the bird’s eye view of Teesta River, Siliguri and neighbouring regions from its roads. On the other side is a beautiful misty juniper forest, and there are a few waterfalls and viewpoints that lie a short hike away. Stay in this cosy attic room, taste some delicious Nepalese food, and spend your night star gazing or watching lights flicker in the valley below. (Also read: Memories of a Dreamy Village )
9. Experience the lavish plantation life in a Colonial Bungalow – Coorg, Karnataka
Surrounded by sweeping vistas of the ever picturesque Kodagu Hills, this Heritage Bungalow is fit for royalty. With large, spacious rooms, fireplaces, Victorian furniture and manicured lawn, the Bungalow takes you back to a bygone era with its old world charm. During your stay, you can eat scrumptious meals of Coorg delicacies like Pandhi (pork) or Koli (Chicken) Curry, Akki Roti (Rice Roti), Kadumbuttu (Rice Dumplings), Wild Mushroom and Mango Curry. While there, other than strolling through the coffee plantations, you can take a trip to Abbey Falls, Nagarhole National Park and the Namdroling Tibetan Monastery.
10. Stay in a rustic cottage in the heart of a forest – Corbett, Uttarakhand
These cottages make for a very special wilderness destination where you can be in, and one with the forest. Situated on the banks of the Ramganga River in Corbett National Park, and accessible on foot, it’s for true forest lovers and those that seek the wild in its original, pristine form, away from the crowds, the vehicles and heightened human activity. The cottages here are beautiful and have been constructed with locally sourced clay, savannah thatch and wood inspired by traditional Vangujjar tribal style. While here, soak up the wilderness from your verandas, enjoy some delicious meals, explore the forest on foot, enjoy birdwatching, butterfly spotting, or look for signs of the big ones.
11. Watch the sun set over lush fields from a hill top Bungalow – Kottayam, Kerala
Set in the hills of the beautiful town of Kottayam, this bungalow lets you soak up the rich natural surroundings of Kerala away from the tourists trails. The charming rooms open up to a view of lush green fields and backwaters, which can be enjoyed with multiple cups of tea from the veranda. Other than enjoying delicious Malayali meals, you can enjoy cycling by the hilly countryside, take long leisurely walks through the fields and go for backwater rides through sleepy villages.
12. Stay in a Wooden Chalet on the banks of a river – Ribandar, Goa
Situated on the banks of Goa’s largest River, Mandovi, is this beautiful wooden chalet that looks straight out of a Hollywood movie. Built in 1730, the property comes with three bedrooms, one of which opens up to a paved patio by the edge of the river, living rooms, dining hall, kitchen, sun decks and even a convenience store. The house is designed perfectly to allow the view of the river, the Salem Ali Bird Sanctuary and adjacent islands from every location in the house. During your stay, you can enjoy fishing or rent a bike to explore the town of Ribandar.
Which one of these homestays would you add to your 2015 Bucket list? Tell us in the comments section.
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.