Located on the outskirts of touristy Shimla, this hotel combines the Oberoi service with the colonial history and the surrounding nature to provide a unique experience. The hotel used to be the home of Lord Kitchener and is situated on top of a hill amidst a protected forest. You can spend days walking through the various nature trails around the hotel (with or without guides) and take a picnic made by the hotel’s excellent chefs with you.
Wildflower Hall, Chharabra, Shimla – 171 012, Himachal Pradesh, India, +91 177 264 8585
This is truly a relaxing weekend retreat from Mumbai. The hotel is a bungalow with a courtyard (and a swimming pool) in the center, allowing fresh air and sunshine to brighten up your life. Ark Wellness Retreat also has a herb garden, there are multiple seating areas where you can plonk yourself for hours, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine and reading a good book. You wont be bothered by your phone since there is limited mobile connectivity. If you would like to paint they will provide you with a canvas, an easel, brushes and paints. They also have a spa to complete the wellness experience. The meals are good, a lot of their ingredients are very fresh, either from their own garden or from the farms nearby. The back porch overlooking a stream, is the perfect spot to unwind and maybe do some yoga.
This is a 12th-century Chalukya palace located in a small and underdeveloped village on the border of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Managed primarily by the king Harendrapal Sinh, they offer a personalized experience to their guests. Mr. Sinh himself will literally ‘hang out’ with you and tell you storie. His wife, Kuwarani Kailash Kumari, heads the kitchen and makes sure you are served high-quality, home-cooked meals. Mr. Sinh also organizes trips to his farm, and you can have a picnic there with local delicacies cooked on a wood-fired oven.
This is a new palace that was rebuilt on the location of an ancient palace. They work hard to maintain the Rajasthani tradition of providing the best possible service to the guests, along with the tastiest food. The food here is not cooked as per a menu; fresh meals are prepared as the guest choose.
Karni Fort Bambora, Bambora, Udaipur, Rajasthan 342006, India, +91 98290 23325
Located an hour’s drive away from Shillong, this is a farm stay in a valley, with two rivers and several mountains. You can get a spacious and clean room in a log cabin, along with an attached toilet at an affordable rate. The farm is owned and managed by Mr. James Perry, a treasure trove of information about traveling through Meghalaya in a non-touristy fashion.
The only way to access the farm is by a jeep since you have to go through a river. James is very honest about this being his home and not a typical hotel where you can make random demands at odd hours. If you inform him with a few hours notice, James or his wife will cook you a nice, homey meal. The farm is also very close to the Mawphlang Sacred Forest, and James will pack you a picnic lunch if you want to trek up there (around 20 minutes) and enjoy the serenity of the mountain peak and the forest. Please note that their toilet does not have hot water, but you can access hot water in the common shower area. This is a sustainable farm that runs on wind and solar energy. For dog lovers, this place is truly a delight, with around four dogs running around and happy to play with you.
MaplePine Farm, Lyngkien Village, Shillong-Mawsynram Road, India, +91 98650 41205
Located near Coonoor in Karnataka, this is an organic cheese-making farm and homestay. Every meal here is accompanied with an exotic cheese and interesting conversations with the hosts Mansoor and Tina and the other guests. The guests are welcome to help out in the kitchen and can even do a cheese-making course. The rooms are built far away from each other, thus, allowing privacy and peace. It is quite common for elephants to pass so you might be lucky enough to see one.
This palace used to be the winter residence of the royal family of Jaipur (hence the name). Over the years, it fell into disrepair, and some say that it was referred to as a ‘bhoot bangla’ due to the ruinous state it was in. It has now been refurbished into a heritage hotel that allows you to enjoy scenic views of Mount Abu. Once again, Rajasthani-style service is provided. If you stay in the highest room in this palace, you can enjoy a 360 degree view of Mount Abu, even from the bath tub. Don’t forget to climb up to the little watch tower above the terrace where you can serenely sit and observe the winter mist on the city below.
Most of the hotels in Gokarna don’t take reservations in advance. If you do not want to risk not having a place to stay when you show up, this homestay in a village around 8-9 kilometers from the main beaches is worth considering. Literally meaning ‘house with a tiled roof,’ Hanchina Mane is the host family’s farm and house, in which you can rent a room and enjoy their hospitality. The hosts Mr. Rajiv Gaonkar and his wife go out of the way to make you comfortable. It is also worth walking around their farm and observing the plants that they have cultivated.