As I mentioned in my New Year goals, one of our family goals this year is to travel and spend more family time together. We went on our first family vacation in the month of January. And it was not just our family but my parents, my brother and his wife , my husband’s sister and daughter who accompanied us on the trip. In all we were seven adults and two kids.
We were all clear that we didn’t want to do the usual tourist vacation and stay in a hotel but we wanted to explore the option of Homestay in India this time. Homestays as you know are local houses/cottages in any destination where you can stay and experience the local life.
After searching for a while we decided to choose for our vacation. It is an eco resort and a budget homestay in India. The glowing tributes at , countless praises on travel magazines and lovely reviews aside it was the gorgeous pictures of the place at their website which made up our mind. We spoke to the owner of Emerald Trail Sumith Datta, booked the package and our trip was on.
Bhimtal is the quieter cousin of the crowded and too touristy Nainital. It has a picturesque lake and is surrounded by lush hills and greens. Located at around 300 km from Delhi, Bhimtal is at an altitude of 1200 m and is an offbeat family travel destination.
A colonial styled cottage with a farm to boot, Emerald Trail is located 6000 ft above sea level in Jungliangaon which is another 9 kms uphill from Bhimtal. It is surrounded by dense, lush woods on one side and the beautiful, mesmerizing valley on the other.
The story of Emerald Trail started when Sumith Dutta, a busy and stressed out corporate executive took a vacation in Bhimtal and also a spontaneous decision of buying a plot of land. He had a vision of developing this land as an eco-friendly and sustainable resort where one can co-exist with the nature while living a peaceful life.
With the ultimate vision of “providing employment to the local villagers and leading a simple life amidst the natural surroundings” Emerald trail was conceptualised in 2005. Today it is not only known for its warmth and beauty but also for being among the finest eco-friendly, pet-friendly and green resorts in India.
Accommodations and facilities
You should not expect 5 star facilities from a homestay but if you are looking for a friendly and homely atmosphere with clean and well maintained facilities, Emerald Trail is definitely the place to go. The property is spread over 3 acres and has an old style colonial cottage with a common living room, a dining room looking over the valley, four bedrooms and a reading nook. There is a fully equipped kitchen with cooks who are adept at preparing local fare as well as most of the popular Indian cuisine.
Emerald Trail is a self-sufficient, green and sustainable habitat. There is a 1000 sq feet green house where vegetables of all kinds are grown round the year. Apart from that there are patches of green all over the land with various kinds of fruits and vegetables. There is also a range of fruit bearing trees scattered across the property. Everything at Emerald Trail is grown organically without any use of chemicals or pesticides.
They even have their own cows which provide the daily supply of milk and cow dung is used as manure. This apart there is 5 KW solar plant which acts as power-backup and there are solar water heaters which provide 24 hr hot water.
The first thing that struck us when we reached Emerald estate was the quaint but gorgeous cottage. Almost completely made of wood the cottage has been tastefully decorated and comfortably appointed rooms. In the morning we opened our eyes to the scintillating vista of the kumaun hills that is breathtakingly beautiful.
The best part about our holiday was that we never felt compelled to do anything that a tourist must do. We hardly left the estate during our 3 night stay. The day started with a spirited badminton match between the couples while the kids ran wildly on the grounds and sat in the swings. After a heavenly breakfast we would do whatever we fancied like reading books, writing out journals, listening to old music or just relaxing while looking out at the majestic valley. There is only a common TV in the living room and surprisingly the kids never even bothered to switch it on. We played games like monopoly, carrom board, scrabble and so on after a long time. We even played card games till the wee hours. All this fun along with some good old family laughter was just what we all needed for a break from our routines.
Their kitchen allows guests to try their hands at their favorite meals plus they are happy to organize a camp fire for those chilly nights, which also adds to the holiday charm. Trekking and exploring the quaint village surroundings through the winding forest area is another option around Emerald Trail. If you are a keen nature photographer then you can capture exotic birds and butterflies with your camera. A special word needs to mentioned about the staff at Emerald trail and especially Lalit, the manager of the estate. They are not only warm, friendly and extremely resourceful but they are genuinely interested in making your stay one of the best ever. At the end of the trip we were quite emotional to leave his cute little daughter who was a darling with our kids.
As I mentioned it is a pet-friendly resort and you are most welcome to bring your pets at absolutely no extra charge. The farm itself has four adorable dogs who were an absolute riot to be with. If the weather had been kind enough we would have loved to take our families’ two labradors along. Who knows! Next time for sure.
We went to Bhimtal in the fag-end of January and the weather was quite chilly at the time. Despite our apprehensions about the extreme cold in the area we went along with the trip. Fortunately for us the cold was mostly at night time and with heaters provided in all the rooms it was not at all uncomfortable.
If the farm life gets a bit too dull for you, you can go downhill to Bhimtal and do boating. There is also a paragliding spot along the way and has many tourists who want to try the adventure of paragliding. There is also the beautiful lake of Naukutchiatal where again boating can be done.
Packages and contact details
The prices and packages will depend on the season you are visiting, whether you are booking a single room or the entire cottage and of course the number of days you will be staying. You can visit their website for more details.
Tips for Travelling
- The best season to travel is between March to June. Spring and summer bring out the best in the greenery and flowers of the valley.
- Although the travelling time mentioned for the route is 5-6 hours via road it usually takes 9-10 hours thanks to the pitiable road conditions in the Morabad bypass-Bilaspur route. But the hill roads are exceptionally good and not at all uncomfortable.
- If you loathe road trips then another option can be to take the train till Kathgodam and then take an onwards taxi to Jungliagaon.
- If you want to take bathroom or lunch breaks enroute I would suggest Haldiram’s at Gajraula (around 130 kms from Delhi) and then at Haldwani.
- Hill roads are winding and can cause Nausea so don’t eat anything heavy before you start the hilly part of the journey (uphill or downhill).
- Emerald trail is best enjoyed as a group either of family or friends. If you are looking for a romantic destination then this might not be the right place for you because unless you book the entire cottage you will have to do a fair share of mingling at dinner time and otherwise.
- The cooks at Emerald trail are exceptionally good however if you want a certain thing cooked a certain way you need to tell them beforehand so that they can adapt accordingly. For example my dad who is a diabetic could not eat the aloo paranthas they served for breakfast and because we informed them well ahead they made Mooli paranthas for him ( for which the radishes were plucked from their fields) and tasted out of this world.
Overall Emerald Trail is an excellent family holiday destination if you want to take a break from the madness and chaos that the city life is. The resort actually gives you time to be one with the nature without any distractions while also helping you to discover yourself in the process. If you are a creative person then the solitude of the place will work wonders for you and if you are going there with your family it will bring all of you closer together like it did for us.
This was the first time we explored a homestay and have come back wanting more. We want to take another weekend break in the next two months. Have you ever stayed at a homestay? Do you have any suggestions for me? Share your thoughts, queries and suggestions in comments below.