Mountain Retreat: Himalaica, Uttarakhand

Birds, books, and brisk mountain air in a quiet corner of Uttarakhand.  
The Daves have filled their garden with beautiful plant species collected during their travels around the world. Photo courtesy Himalaica

Himalaica is one of the last houses in the last village on the road from Delhi to Ramgarh, in Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region. We turn a bend in the road and suddenly there it is, giving the illusion of being in a secluded spot away from the rest of Shyamkhet village.

A short driveway leads to a lawn and the doublestoreyed house. The stone and wood structure with green sloping roofs looks welcoming, bathed in the warm glow of evening lamps. A wooded hillside rises up behind the house and as soon as we wake up in the morning, we head out to explore, hiking a short trail that leads up to the ridge. Being near the end of the village, Himalaica is adjacent to the forest and has quick access to some easy hikes.

The homestay reflects the interests of its owners, Uttam and Shalini Dave, who come up from Delhi to stay here as often as they can. Both are fond of birds, so they’ve planted trees and shrubs that birds like, and set up feeders and saucers of water in the garden. Throughout the morning, as we sip endless cups of ginger tea, a fleet of birds of different sizes and hues visit the spot. Over the years, Uttam has collected poems and sayings that have stayed with him, and these are now put in little frames and strewn around the house for visitors to chance upon serendipitously. In the garden I discover animal-shaped planters, mountain succulents with tiny flowers, and bushes full of sweet smelling blooms. But it is the inviting lawn that is the centrepiece of our stay. It tempts us to spring out our littleused exercise mats, and we spend the morning doing yoga, joyfully inhaling deep lungfuls of crisp mountain air, while the Daves’ three dogs look on. Afternoon finds us in the same spot, sprawled on the grass with our books. We’re thoughtfully supplied with a plateful of papad to nibble on.

In the evening, when the light begins to fade and the weather becomes cooler, we shift to the small glass atrium at the front of the house, where the Daves grow orchids and lilies, and have placed comfortable sofas for reading. The couple are excellent hosts and the hours before dinner are spent in their living room, sipping drinks and exchanging stories. We’ve brought along our own books, but put them aside in favour of some from the couple’s collection, which includes books on the region’s birds, flora, and history. The next day, Uttam accompanies us on a short trail, pointing out interesting birds and identifying their calls. We also take his recommendation and drive to Ramgarh to see the town’s pretty fruit orchards.

I come away with the feeling that Himalaica is a great getaway for a family that wants to soak in the quiet of the mountains, while enjoying the warmth and comforts of home.

Appeared in the June 2016 issue as “At Home In Kumaon”.

The Guide

Himalaica has three bedrooms in the main house and two in the guest cottage. The decor is warm and convivial, making the visitor feel at home. The kitchen serves up wholesome home-cooked meals including continental, Kumaoni, and Punjabi fare (; 98119 08996; ₹4,500 per head, full board).

Getting There
Himalaica is in Shyamkhet village, in Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region, 2.6 km from Bhowali. Bhowali is a convenient 305 km/ 7 hr drive northeast of Delhi. There is a daily Shatabdi to Kathgodam station, 30 km/1 hr south of Bhowali. The closest airport is at Pantnagar, 63 km/2 hr south.


    Neha Dara is Deputy Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She is happiest trotting off the beaten path, trekking in the Himalayas, scuba diving in Andaman & Nicobar, or exploring local markets in small towns. She tweets as @nehadara.

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