There's a primal connect between us humans and forests. The lush greenery draws us and many of us love the idea of living amidst the trees, even if only for a few days at a time. You don't have to go right into the forests or a wildlife sanctuary to experience forest living. India is blessed with many regions and areas where nature is present in all her beauty. Here are six getaways in the lap of nature:
1. Soulitude by the Riverside, Uttarakhand
The swift mountain river Kalsa flows on one side and the forests loom on the other, in between is a private estate that almost completely blends in with the surrounding jungle. This is Soulitude by the Riverside, a six-acre property offering just seven rooms set in two rustic cottages and an over 90-year-old restored village home. This is a true nature retreat, but with the comforts and luxuries to ensure you have a cosy mountain holiday. At it's heart is a 90-year-old village home that has been carefully restored. The building has been restored using traditional methods of vernacular architecture, like mud and husk plastering. The owners have added two new cottages, along with a lounge, that also sit lightly on the land without disturbing the natural systems. A holiday here is meant as a chance to reconnect with nature and get reacquainted with her rhythms. Walking around the beautiful property and just picking a spot to enjoy the views is a great way to pass the time. You can spend many an hour just watching the river flow by. The hosts have identified many hiking trails and guests can go on guided walks in the forests and hills and to Chanfi village nearby. Going birding, taking part in a cooking lesson, getting your hands dirty in the organic farm, exploring nearby destinations in Kumaon are all great options.
2. Elephant Valley Eco Farm Lodge, Tamil Nadu
In Tamil Nadu’s Palani Hills, just 20km from the beautiful hill town of Kodaikanal, is a resort that takes pride in its close-to-nature credentials. Set in a 100-acre bio-diverse plantation, the Dune Wellness Group’s Elephant Valley Eco Farm Lodge is a perfect blend of nature and creature comforts. Located on a heavily wooded stretch of the Western Ghats, Elephant Valley is about getting in touch with Mother Nature. It is the last settlement on the border of the National Forest that extends into wildlife sanctuaries of Kerala.There are just 20 bungalows on this property. In true Dune style, each bungalow is unique and will excite anyone with a bit of adventure in his or her heart. The plantation grounds are a joy to explore. There are a number of nature trails within and outside the property boundaries on which to observe wildlife. The Shola forests, the pride of the Palani Hills, are as worthy of wonder as the wild animals. From wild orchids to ageless palms, there is a wondorous plant world right at your cottage’s doorsteps.
3. Tirthan Riverview Homestay, Himachal Pradesh
Luxury is not just about modcons and creature comforts. You will realise this truth at this small homestay run by people with large hearts.In the lush forested wonderland that is Tirthan Valley, at the gateway to the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) is the tiny village of Ropajani, almost hidden amidst the soaring trees and surrounded by mountain peaks. Here, perched above the Tirthan river is the family-run Tirthan Riverview Homestay. The homestay is entirely family-run. The owner’s son takes care of the guests and takes them hiking, trekking, camping and fishing. The ladies of the house ensure the guests are well fed. The food is cooked on wood fire and comprises of local dishes. A stay here is for those who are looking for an active holiday. The woods around the homestay and beside the river are great for walks and hikes. The hosts also help organise longer treks to nearby points of interest as well as within the GHNP area. You could try your hand at angling and cook the fresh caught fish on open-air grills! In fact, picnic by the riverside is a memorable experience. Visting nearby villages and trying out rock climbing and river crossings on zip lines are also options. There are numerous festivals and fairs to attend between January and July, like the unique and colourful local Mask festival.
4. Amara Homestay, Karnataka
This family-run homesta is located in North Karnatakaa's Dandeli, a land of thick forests, swift flowing rivers and ancient temples. The homestay is located within the Kali Tiger Reserve. Amara Homestay is for those who are keen birders and nature enthusiasts as the land and forests here are teeming with wild animals and birds. It is also for the adventurous, who want to go river rafting, trekking or overnight camping. It is also for those interested in the arts. The elder couple, Mangala and Ramachandra are practitioners of the traditional Yakshagana art and dance form. Their son Ajit is a Hindustani classical vocal singer and his wife Archana is a painter and her Warli art work can be seen on the outer walls of the cottages at the homestay. All four of them, along with Ajit’s grandmother run the homestay.
5. Jungle Lore Birding Lodge, Uttarakhand
Pangot, 17km from bustling Nainital, is a pretty hill village that happens to be a birder’s paradise. Thick forests surround the hamlet and host about 350 bird species. Set amidst oak trees, Jungle Lore offers accommodation in five cottages. You can spend the day in your cottage’s balcony watching the birds through your binocular or monocular. Of course, exploring the surrounding woods is the main purpose of visiting Pangot and hiking and trekking the forest trails is a rewarding experience. You can book the services of a guide at the Lodge for the hikes so you do not miss out on the better trails.
6. Windermere Riverhouse, Kerala
On the banks of mighty Periyar in the evergreen land that is Neriamangalam is a stately colonial bungalow, the Windermere Riverhouse. Set in two acres of sprawling gardens and enveloped by lush forests and rubber plantations on three sides and the river on one, the Riverhouse is idea for a nature getaway.In keeping with the surrounding solitude, the Riverhouse is a small hotel with just five guest rooms, all large and spacious. The spacious property amidst nature ensures there are many quiet and beautiful spots for guests to relax in and enjoy the peace of the place. You can spend days on the riverbank, for instance, gazing at the waters. Or you could do a spot of fishing or go on a canoe ride. The garden, which was earlier rubber plantation, is filled with native trees, flowering plants, spice trees and attracts many birds and small animals. There’s much to do here, like forests walks, guided birding hikes, cycle rides in the jungles and plantations, boat and kayak rides or explore the hamlets here.