The hill stations of north India are popular tourist haunts with countless resorts, unfortunately resulting in overcrowding, commercialism, and even environmental degradation. A refreshing contrast is Himalayan Village, Sonapani, which assures you of a serene environment amidst pristine nature.
Enjoy a scenic two hour drive uphill from the foothills to Sonapani—the fresh, invigorating air of the mountains, forest smells and breathtaking views are simply a preview of the magic awaiting you at the resort! The journey ends abruptly at the end of a steep incline where vehicles are parked, leaving the visitor to cover a magical trail leading to the property. The difficulties of walking over the rugged path which cuts through orchards and village settlements are forgotten at the sight of snow covered mountains beckoning all along the route, with the valley dropping steeply below.
A warm welcome and astounding scenic views greet you at Sonapani, spread over 20 acres on a 2000 meter high ridge. The name comes from an old natural spring, (which is also the source of water) credited with medicinal properties by the British who ruled India.
There are twelve cottages at different levels, all facing the mighty Himalayan mountains, and separated by stone paths, herb gardens and flower beds. Each cottage is named after the herb bush beside it! The comfortable cottages are made of eco-friendly compressed earth blocks instead of bricks, the walls and floors are plastered with mud, (some have now been paved with stone, to facilitate maintenance), with tasteful pinewood furniture.
The tapping of a woodpecker and rustle of the wind through the pines awaken you, and sitting up in bed, you are bound to gasp in sheer disbelief —for, visible through the windows are ranges of snow covered peaks, glinting in the early morning sunlight. The air is intoxicating in its freshness and natural smells, and the sumptuous buffet breakfast is enhanced by the view from the veranda of the dining hall. The latter, at the highest level, provides a panoramic 175 degree view of the mountain ranges, and closer home, pine, rhododendron and oak forests.
Spend the morning taking a walk through picturesque paths or the nearby pine forest, relax on the cottage veranda or laze on a hammock till it is time for a delicious lunch. However, you could also plan other activities like rock climbing or group programs, but be sure to inform the hosts while booking. You might even visit a typical village home! Students (including those on an annual exchange program from US) and corporate groups hold programs here, due to the peaceful environment and excellent facilities.
The evening sky is splashed with vivid colors from a spectacular sunset, while the view of the snow peaks almost aflame with the last rays is an unforgettable sight. Soon, the hillsides are covered by fairy lights from the small town of Almora which lies across the valley. Sit under a clear, star studded sky around a blazing bonfire, enjoy the company of the hosts and other guests, sip piping hot soup and enjoy pre-dinner appetizers!
The food is delicious, varied and multi-cuisine, including organically grown fresh vegetables and fruits. The flavors and aroma of freshly baked bread and home made jam (some with a hint of lavender from the garden!) cannot but whet the appetite! Be sure to taste the herbal tea made from freshly plucked thyme and rosemary, or lemon grass, if you prefer!
The weather is comfortable throughout the year, but sudden rains bring chill, so carry warm clothes at all times. Moreover, the winter months can be extremely cold, with ground frost and even snow. Sonapani is an isolated resort, so remember to carry supplies of prescribed medicines and personal items, as well as items like spare batteries.
It is without the trappings of a typical tourist destination in the city, but the professional service and warm and personalized hospitality at Sonapani are incomparable, while the magic of nature is sure to cast a spell on you! Whether you need a respite from the madding crowd or simply wish to catch a glimpse of the culture and natural beauty of India, pack your bags for Himalayan Village, Sonapani, for a memorable holiday!