Homestays grew upon me slowly and for quite some time if I was traveling I would look for a hotel first. However, with the pleasing experience I had with Homestays now my first instinct is to check for a hometsay rather than a hotel. If you travel a bit, you might have noticed it too that after a while most of the hotels tend to feel the same, while every homestay remains different. So, I present five fabulous homestays for you that I have personally experienced.
Shringi Vatika, Ghiyaghi, Himachal Pradesh
If you ever are traveling from Jalori Pass to Mandi, you will chance upon Shringi Vatika on the way at Ghiyaghi, Mr. and Mrs. Manohar Lal run this homestay. They rent out a few rooms and in summers you can pitch a tent on the grounds too. The place has a stream running in the middle of the ground that powers a water mill. But the best part of the stay is the restaurant and the food they prepare, especially the Himachali delicacies of sidu, nettle soup and sweet rajma.
Being a vegetarian I can’t really vouch for the non-veg dishes but my nephew said he had the best chicken ever at their place. My first visit there was quite memorable for other reasons as well; I dropped my cell phone in the taxi arranged by them. Fortunately, the taxi driver gave it back at the vatika and it provided me the perfect excuse to go back again to collect my phone.
Spiti is a surreal place in Himachal Pradesh and trust me reaching there is not easy. It takes 12 hours to reach Kaza from Manali. Kaza is the administrative headquarters of Spiti region.
Homestays are very popular in this area and so we decided to do a homestay trek. Starting from Lhalung and we went all the way to Dhankar.
All the homestays on the route were special but the one at Dhankar was extra special.
Our host Asha could speak Hindi and finally we had a woman to woman chat! The home was next to the ruins of the Dhankar Fort! So for us visiting the fort meant getting out of the house and stepping in to the fort! The only instruction given to us was to close the doors of the fort when we got out.
I did a last minute trip to Kutch. I was supposed to go to a foreign land but that trip got cancelled quite late in the day. So for 4 hours I sat and surfed for low air fares and got the lowest one for Ahmedabad. Bhuj is just 8 hours away from there by train.
As it was last minute, all the hotel prices were really high. I then stumbled upon the Devpur Homestay. I called the owner Mr. Krutarthsinh Jadeja and almost bullied him into giving me a room. The gentleman that he is, he agreed. In my wildest dreams I had not imagined a home like Devpur. It is like a small fort rather than a home!
I got home cooked food; I interacted with both Mr. and Mrs. Jadeja and I lived in safety and comfort. Mr. Jadeja planned my rest of the Kutch trip as well. When I left Devpur, the taxi driver told me and it was then I learnt that the Jadejas belong to the royal family of Kutch! To any other person the house should have been a dead giveaway but not to me!
Kareri is a small village near Dharamshala. I stayed there at Kamlesh’s home. Yes, that is how you find it, there is no other name of the place. I went there in January when it was bitterly cold but the people in the hills know how to get a fire going.
My favorite place was the kitchen as there would always be a fire there. In winter the local shop shuts down, so for 6 whole days I had no place to go to shop for anything! For all those days I also did not eat anything out of a packet, all my food was freshly cooked! It was fun to be the part of the family and enjoy the views.
There is a lake by the same name, Kareri, but in January there was too much snow for a trek to the lake. That gives me a reason to go back!
Jagatsukh is about 6 km away from Manali towards Naggar. There are plenty of homestays in the region but I have a special place there which is open only to friends of Ramakant Sharma. It is a huge house with the view of Dhauladhars.
There are many fruit trees within the house and birds are regular visitors. Food is home cooked and my daughter loved wondering around the village with other kids. The village is a safe place for children to roam about; the whole village knows each-other.
The Beas River is a perfect place to take walks in the evening. In winters the kitchen would always have fire. If you trek with Ramakant ji chances you might get to stay at his home!
Given the richness of the experience at homestays they have become my preferred options. I hope more and more people will opt for it. The only thing to remember is that when we stay at home, it is someone’s home and not a hotel, hence the level of services will vary. If you are willing to put up with that, you will have a gala time!