With a stunning view of the layered silhouetted mountains, fragrance of fresh flowers in the air, birds chirping, morning dew, a cup of chai and dreams still lingering in my mind, I wake up to a beautiful morning! A holiday in the hills is bliss, but a one at Ramgarh Bungalows is just short of heaven!
Away from commercial places, at a comfortable driving distance from Delhi, nestled in the foothills of the Kumaon Himalayas is a retreat with breathtaking views of the mountains, old world charm and rustic simplicity – the 19th century colonial Ramgarh Bungalows, a Neemrana property. Ramgarh is a small hill station at an elevation of approx. 1500 meters, in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand, India. Rich in orchards of apricots, plums, peaches, pears and apples, it is also called the fruit bowl of Kumaon.
An early morning train from Delhi to Kathgodam (270 Kms), then a taxi from the railway station to Ramgarh bungalows (50 Kms) and in 8 hours we reached the bungalows. The drive from Kathgodam to Ramgarh gets better as the climb to the mountains. Our bungalow, The Cliff House, is one of the six bungalows, all of which are spread across the hill a few meters from each other, each with a different view and ambiance. Creaking wooden floors, huge rooms, high ceilings, very tastefully furnished and a balcony with a marvelous view! With eyes and mouth wide open in awe I was admiring the decor at our bungalow, when I heard Lunch was ready. We freshened up and walked to the Old bungalow where lunch is served, a delicious home cooked simple Indian meal. Lost in the natural and aesthetic beauty of the place, with all the comforts and warmth of a home, I slept like a baby that night, minus the occasional shrieks spotting spiders on the wooden ceiling!
The Cliff house, near Ashok Vatika, is built on a cliff with huge windows that open to breathtaking views of the mountains. It’s a designer’s delight; a mix of old world and the contemporary, the bungalow is a visual treat. Muted white walls and furniture with indigo block prints and a dash of turquoise, so refreshing and gorgeous! With antique and quirky pieces of artifacts and a rustic atmosphere, it creates just the perfect balance between the new and the old.
The service and hospitality at the “Non-hotel Hotel” is impressive. The next morning we got ready and reached the dining area downstairs with growling stomachs. To our surprise our breakfast was arranged at the adjacent bungalow, as it lay vacant. We walked up and there in the open garden under a tree was a table dressed for us with a pretty red gladiola! Toast, omelette, poha, fresh fruits, Neemrana jams, fresh rhododendron juice AND the view! It was an amazing and unforgettable breakfast in the mountains.
After filling ourselves till we couldn’t eat anymore, we decided to walk around and take a look at the other bungalows. The philosophy behind the Neemrana non-hotel Hotel brand of hospitality – “We call ourselves as non-hotel hotels as none of our properties were originally meant to be hotels. They are all monuments of historical significance with different stories to tell about our glorious history and culture. And, they have been restored by us to their past magnificence and glory! To get ‘more’ from ‘less’ is what India can teach from its vantage point in philosophical evolution. Eventually, it is simplicity which is the ultimate style.” More about the property here.
‘The Writer’s Bungalow’ has authentic colonial architecture, sloping tin roofs and stonewalls covered with ivy. The Noble laureate, Rabindra Nath Tagore is said to have composed some of his best works at the bungalow. Walking around one bungalow to another through the beautifully maintained gardens with colorful flowers, following butterflies, taking pictures and it was time for lunch.
It was a lazy afternoon and after lunch we didn’t feel like venturing out in the sun. With full stomachs, we walked back and caught up on sleep to be woken by a knock on the door. It was the caretaker of our bungalow asking if we’d like to have some tea and snacks. He brought us tea & hot vegetable pakoras and enquired about what we would like to eat for dinner, so the kitchen could prepare and serve us at our requested time. Sipping tea and munching on fresh vegetable pakoras in our balcony here I was, away from city life watching a lovely sunset over the mountains and all I had to think about was what I wanted to eat for dinner…It was a living dream!
For the next four days it had become a ritual to eat, walk, have chai, eat some more, dream…an awesome break from the fast everyday city life to a peaceful serene holiday in the lap of nature. An ideal place to connect and spend time with yourself and those close to you, and enjoy the beauty of nature. A walk around the village with beautiful vistas, houses on the hills, trees laden with fruit, monkeys jumping around from a tree to a house, locals sitting and chatting outside their houses, kids playing out in the open, friendly and playful dogs, cacophony of birds and beautiful sunsets across the overlapping silhouettes of mountains, it was another world, serene and calm, a soulful and rejuvenating experience!
One of those lazy afternoons after lunch we didn’t feel like venturing out so we asked for some chai at our usual chillout place, the balcony. After the whole pot was over we decided to go for a walk around the village. As we were getting ready, I looked out the window in the balcony and there was a monkey sitting on the table, eating sugar from the tea tray lying outside! It was hilarious and the next few hours went by laughing, interacting with and taking pictures of the monkey!
I have traveled to the Himalayas before and it has always been a soulful and refreshing experience but never had I associated the mountains with luxury, style & comfort that I experienced at the Ramgarh Bungalows. Other popular places around Ramgarh are Nainital, Sattal, Bhimtal and Mukteshwar. I would definitely go back to Ramgarh in winters and go all the way to Mukteshwar. It would be a spectacular experience all covered in snow!
This post was originally published on 'Color Odyssey'.