Forests and Festivals
Experience the thrilling celebrations of the Holi and Diwali festivals in the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary. Your stay starts at Khali Estate, a wonderful old residence, where your rooms are in stone ’round houses’ amidst the surrounding trees. From Khali head through the pine-forest to experience the individual character and warm hospitality of the Binsar villages. Enjoy some wonderful guided walking through pine forest and teraced field, nestled in against the backdrop of the majestic Himalayas.
Colours of Holi
On 10th March, the Hindu festival Holi marks the beginning of spring – a season of hope, joy and new life. This Festival of Colours is celebrated across India with bonfires, singing, dancing and bright colours to signify the end of Winter and to welcome the new season. Holi is one of the most colourful and joyous festivals of India, when our rural communities in the warm foothills of the Himalayas are at their most hospitable. Immerse yourself in the spirit of festivity and fun, as you stay in beautiful guesthouses hosted by the local communities.
Holi bridges the social gap as caste, class and gender rules are abandoned. It is a time for great excitement and celebration as people gather together in the spirit of the festival. People throw colourful powders and perfumes on each other, exchange sweets and celebrate together. Bring an old white shirt with you and we will provide a special hat to enable you to enter into the spirit of the day.
Our next special Diwali group holiday departs in November 2020, to coincide with the wonderful festival of light. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness or good over evil, and is a time of hope. You can be sure of a very special welcome as you experience being at the heart of traditional village celebrations for the festival, with homes decorated with rangoli and alight with lamps. This is a perfect time to visit the Binsar Sanctuary for many reasons – crystal-clear views of the Himalayan mountains, pleasant temperatures and abundant wild flowers!
You meet the rest of your party in Delhi and travel up to the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary together. Your holiday includes rail journeys to the hills, accommodation in Delhi, the village guesthouses and at Khali Estate with all meals provided and throughout your stay in the hills.
A transfer from the airport to the guesthouse at the start of the holiday is not included- we will be happy to arrange this for you at a supplement. As the guesthouses provide simple twin bedroom accommodation, this holiday is offered to single travellers on a shared-room basis.
As this is a group holiday, it is not possible to add extra nights during your stay in the hills. If you wish to add an extra night in Delhi before or after the itinerary, this can be arranged.
We ask our guests to make their own arrangements for international travel to India. For Village Ways holidays in the foothills, the nearest airport is Delhi. Travel information for India can be found here.
Stay in Delhi
Delhi is a fascinating and vibrant city. It epitomises the huge leaps forward that India is currently undergowing whilst reflecting the country’s great history. A new metro is being built but much is still moved around on overladen cycles and bullock carts. The shopping opportunities are excellent, particularly for textiles. Why not add a night’s stay in the city to your holiday?
Guest-house accommodation We work with some very comfortable and hospitable guest-houses in the heart of Delhi. We can arrange overnight stays for you, or a day-room to freshen up after a night flight. We can also arrange an upgrade from a guesthouse to a hotel if you prefer.
Driver & car One of the best ways to get around and across Delhi is by car. We offer carefully selected drivers to look after you for the day. On call for you, they will be able to take from shops to India Gate to the Red Fort and out to dinner – or wherever you choose.
From Delhi to the hills
Included in your holiday to and from the hills is a journey on the overnight Ranikhet Express from Delhi to Kathgodam. Included accommodation is in 2nd class, air-conditioned carriages – 2 tier, open plan with curtains around groups of berths. Trains open for reservation 3 months before departure. As soon as reservations open we will be able to confirm your rail journey to you.
Upgrade to 1st class You can upgrade to 1st class where the berths are in air-conditioned compartments of four or two. There is only one 1st class carriage which can be get booked very early on.
From Delhi to the hills by car You can also choose to travel up from Delhi (or return at the end of you holiday) by private car.
Extra nights during your holiday
Extra nights at Khali Estate
All holidays to Binsar include at least one night at Khali Estate, a marvelous place to relax and unwind. Many guests have added an extra night here at the beginning or end of their stay in the hills. If your journey here has been by night flight followed by overnight train it could be good idea to catch you breath with a quiet day here.
Extra nights in the Village Guest-houses
You may wish to prolong your exploration of the wonderful hill villages in Binsar. There is so much to learn and appreciate about village life and the host communities would love to keep you for a day longer.
For many guests, a visit to India would not be complete without a visit to the Taj Mahal, regarded by many as one of the wonders of the world. Whether you wish to make a day trip or enjoy an overnight stay with time to explore more of Agra, we can arrange a visit to suit you.
Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan, hosting some incredible architecture and seeped in history. Not to be missed are the Jantar Mantar observatory and the renowned Amber Fort. Add a visit here to complete the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.
The village of the Binsar Wildlife Sanctury
With Village Ways you stay in very special village guesthouses – ‘village homestays’ – owned and managed by the village committee and benefitting the wider community. Connect with your hosts in a special way and enjoy life at the heart of a village, without feeling that you are intruding in anyone’s home.
In Binsar, the guesthouses are simple and comfortable, built in traditional style by the communities of Risal, Dalar, Kathdhara, Gonap, Satri and Matkanya. They have a living/dining room, kitchen, four twin bedrooms and shared shower/WCs. Each village of Binsar will give you its own special welcome.
Surrounded by pine forest and affording beautiful views of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Kamet and Trishul peaks from the upper parts of the village, Dalar is divided into two hamlets: Valli (“This Side”) Dalar and Palli (“That Side”) Dalar. It is a relatively thriving village with a school and temple. It is a little more accustomed to visitors than other villages, but you’ll be as welcome here as in the most remote corner of Binsar Sanctuary. The village homestay, Minivet House, looks out over the valley, with views of high Himalayan peaks in the distance.
The secluded village is set on the slopes above a deep valley and is surrounded by beautiful mixed forest of oak, pine and rhododendron. Its little paths afford glimpses of wooded hills and green pastures. The villagers produce vegetables and other crops but many have been damaged by wildlife from the adjacent Sanctuary. The Forest department have since established a fence to protect the crops. Bulbul House homestay is neatly located on a terrace near the main village.
Satri village is remote and secluded, located on a high ridge surrounded by a glorious mountain landscapes, with uninterrupted views to the peaks. The village houses form a beautiful series of dwellings, although some are empty. Just four families now live in Satri. In 2003 the villagers believed that they would have to abandon their village, to let their homes and fields be overtaken by the forest. The arrival of Village Ways was, for them, “the big dream come true” – a dream that has helped Satri to sustain its remaining families. You’ll be given a very special welcome here in Pipit House.
Myna House guesthouse nestles amidst terraced fields in the lower part of Kathdara. Enjoy the rhythms of traditional rural life in the foothills in this vibrant farming community. With a name meaning wood (kath) and stream (dhara), this beautiful village boasts extensive terraced fields, orchards and well maintained farms, with views over hills and a wide valley, and glimpses of the awe-inspiring Panchachulli range beyond. The villagers are keen to show guests their farms and let them help with field activities. They have also created a small farming museum.
The farmhouses of Gonap are set on a hillside among terraced fields and vegetable gardens, with wonderful open views backed by richly forested slopes. Its people joined the Village Ways project with great enthusiasm, led by Prem Singh, starting with the building of a retaining wall for the Barbet House guesthouse site – to become known as “The great wall of Gonap”! Although it is a poor village, it has a primary school: the teacher, children and villagers are eager to meet and get to know their visitors, to show them round and invite them in.
Your stay in Binsar commences at Khali Estate, a small family-run hotel steeped in history and an integral part of Village Ways, while through the forested slopes are scattered the villages and farms of Binsar. Your room is in one of the picturesque stone rondavel cabins set amongst the pine trees, clustered around the British Raj style house that was built by General Sir Henry Ramsay. You can truly relax at Khali – it is peaceful (no TV), with good vegetarian food, attentive service and plenty of short walks. In winter there is a warming log fire in the sitting room.
WALKING LEVEL AND ALTITUDE
Our holiday in the foothills of the Himalayas allow you to enjoy the superlative scenery of these
magnificent mountains – without having to be super-fit. We have chosen flexible routes among the
hills that are suitable for people of all abilities. This way you can admire the scale and grandeur of
the mountains without having to climb them. In the Binsar Sanctuary (alt 1650 – 2500m), you walk
along forest trails, through rhododendron, oak, pine and cedar woodland, to reach broad cultivated
terraces as you near each village.
The weather varies markedly by season, so you need to choose the time that suits your preferences.
December to February
During the real winter daytime maximum temperatures are still a comfortable 10 – 15°C but night temperatures sink to around 0 – 5°C. Some small amounts of rain can be expected, and even a little snow, but the days are warm and sunny, with good views.
March to May
From March onwards the temperatures rise steadily from maxima of 15°C to around 30°C in May, but the nights remain comfortable (10-15°C). This is the dry, hot season when villagers start to prepare the land for the monsoon crops. The air can become hazy, due to local forest fires and views of the Himalayan peaks are usually limited to the early mornings and evenings.
June to September
The SW Monsoon rains clothe the hills in cloud. The air is humid but delightfully fresh. Temperatures are around 20°C during the day but fall back to 15°C at night. The rains clear the dust, allowing crisp views over the hills and glimpses of brilliant green rice crops in the fields.
October to November
This the best time for views of the Himalayan snow-capped peaks. The landscape is still green after the rains. The days are warm and sunny but the air temperatures start to drop as the winter progresses, with maxima of 20 degrees and minima of 5°C.