Banlekhi Resorts

Hilltop cottages near Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

Lined up on a lonely hilltop overlooking a tree-covered valley in the Kumaon hills are the six pinewood and stone cottages that make up Banlekhi Resorts. This secluded ‘resort’ is meant for city dwellers wishing to truly get as close to nature as possible.

While there are farms and villages nearby, Banlekhi—named after the namesake village where the property is located—is quite remote. The owners have consciously not built a motorable road right up to the property gates to ensure the natural setting is not disturbed and so guests need to undertake a short trek. But the rewards at the end of the trek are worth the climb.

First, there’s the stunning view. Even when the mist and the thunderous rains roll down from the mountains! For, you get to feel like you are at the last outpost of human civilisation.

The remoteness does not mean you have to make do with fewer creature comforts. The cosy rooms made of local pinewood and stone are comfortable and come with attached bathroom and sit outs. The kitchen serves delicious ‘pahadi’ cuisine as well as other Indian and even some international fare.

While guests will be tempted to just laze around and enjoy the views while sipping a cup of hot tea, we suggest you resist that urge at least some of the time. The forest and village trails here are great for treks and hikes; bird watchers will rejoice at the many sightings they are sure to have; picnic lunches and overnight camping are also arranged; guests can help out with farming activities and will especially enjoy harvesting the vegetables (the management assures us that guests will end up buying bags of the fresh, organic vegetables to take back home once they get a taste). The resort, which is not fenced off from its neighbours, has an open door policy and so villagers walk in and interact with guests. The visitors can also make a return call at village homes. Whether it is peace and quiet or experiencing nature at her finest, guests will have their days full at Banlekhi.

Price: Rs 4,200 per person per day (includes breakfast)

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Slow Travel

The philosophy of Banlekhi Resorts is inclusion, be it in architecture and decor, in ingredients and cuisine or people. The exterior structures such as the entry gate, the open-air fireplace and the supporting stone walls are inspired by the traditional architecture of the hills. The construction work was carried out by locals who also helped design the terraced garden where local produce is grown with the help of rainwater harvesting. The six cottages are made of local pinewood, legally sourced from nearby villages. The cottages are built in traditional style with sloping roofs to allow rain and snow to slide down. The number of cottages has deliberately been kept to six, so that the resort remains eco-friendly. Local cuisine is served at the resort and the food is made with organic vegetables and fish sourced from nearby farmers. All employees are from nearby villages. No drilling has been done for water and only natural reservoirs and government water supply is used. Since the region faces water scarcity swimming pool and water-intensive landscaping have been avoided.