At The Foothills Of Gods, With Their Canine Protectors

The Kumaon, a cosy tranquil sanctuary nestled in the shadow of the Nanda Devi range, wraps you in its warm hospitality and offers unrivalled views of the mighty Himalayas
Views from the terrace at The Kumaon
Views from the terrace at The Kumaon

After a short train journey, followed by what seemed like a day's worth of driving, we made our way down a slanting path to The Kumaon. Juno and Elsa welcomed us, guiding us as we meandered through a path lined with purple flowers that ended at a stunning reception area. From the hanging balcony, the might of the Himalayas lay bare in all its glory, with mountains touching the sky against the rhododendrons. I sat my weary body on the wooden floor, and Juno joined in, gazing at the view, my legs and his paws dangling from the air as we took in the splendour of Binsar.


I had heard about The Kumaon on and off for a few months, and a sudden trip took me to the sleepy village of Gadholi in Binsar, one of the last bastions of surefooted oaks in the Uttarakhand region. Unlike most mountain resorts that sound their names on clarion calls, The Kumaon sits discretely in the shadow of the Nanda Devi range, surrounded by undulating hills and valleys that are the domain of the Gods. Our introduction to this elegant retreat was announced with the view of the striking cantilevered restaurant suspended over the valley below, where we snacked on pakodas and sandwiches before retiring to our rooms to wash off the travel.

While the pace at The Kumaon is leisurely, most visitors make haste to experience the plethora of activities that beckon travellers away from the confines of their electric blankets and bukharas. But more on that later. The property, Binsar's many delights regardless, stands on its own when it comes to elegance and architectural appeal. The 10-chalet retreat takes you on a winding trail down a hill, peppered with mountain shrubbery that glimmers every morning, and even causes a shudder if traversed alone after dark. 

Each chalet offers a stunning view of the Nanda Kot and Nanda Devi peaks mirroring their glory is the Panchchuli range that delights us every early morning as I struggle to favour a trek against my inane desire to give in to the stupor. Kasar, the name of the chalet that was my abode for the weekend, was a terrace chalet with, as the name suggests, a terrace beyond the full-length bay windows. The lower garden chalets boast outdoor seating areas that look out to fruit trees. 

The tranquillity of the Himalayas is matched in this modern and sustainably designed space that adds warmth to our winter evenings through its generous hospitality. The staff is local some even stayed on after helping raise this brick-and-mortar to life. Their love for the place is palpable it feels more like home. And rightly so, for it was born from a need for a residence by Vikrom Mathur before he met investor Raghav Priyadarshi. Later, Zowa Architects were brought on board to bring their vision to life. 

While sustainability is a hogwash at most places, here at The Kumaon, it sings softly from all corners of the terrain. Simple materials and natural elements form the bedrock of construction the lower suites are built of locally-quarried stone mirroring Kumaoni village homes, while the upper terrace chalets have fly-ash bricks clad with bamboo sticks and copper wire. 

And the food. There is more to be explored than said about the Kumaoni cuisine that delights us on our slow vacation here. With simplicity at its core, much like the rest of the property, the kitchen serves local delicacies that delight and dazzle in equal measure. Lunches and dinners are often a blur Jhingora taboule served with sweet potato wafers, a Himalayan leaf salad, murgh curry, and hemp seed chutney on the side are a few of the many offerings that come out of the kitchen. But our first slice was always of the sun-bathed Himalayas that shine through the floor-to-ceiling windows, suspended in time.  


When you're not lounging at the spacious library with a nightcap in your hand (or a buransh cooler, if it's morning and you're a stickler for rules), the naturalist on deck would be happy to lead you to the bushy outdoors on treks. Binsar offers much to every traveller if a slow walk is your mood, you could, like us, make your way down the Gadholi village on a short trek before setting up a cliffside picnic. The Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is a 45-minute drive and a hike away from The Kumaon. If you are more spirited, take a jaunt up to Kasar Devi temple, or meander through the forests and hills to the Chitai Golu Devta temple, where devotees leave letters in faith and hope. 

Our naturalist guide Suraj ensured we learnt much about the local flora and fauna on our walk through forests of oak, cedar and rhododendron, peppering his stories with mentions of the local wandering leopards, one of whom was responsible for a limp in Elsa's foot. Our collective shudder stayed for a while as we looked to Juno for some semblance of protection. 


When here, travellers can seek comfort in isolation as they seek respite from the evening chill in front of their warm bukharas. Or they can, like I did, huddle up with friends around a bonfire and gaze at the stars. What was to be an evening of stargazing turned into midnight as we peered through a telescope to witness the celestial dance of planets and galaxies. Mars, Jupiter with its moons and Saturn with its rings unfolded a world of possibilities as our stupor made way for animated chatter before the silence of the night took over. 

At The Kumaon, there is the sky, stars, and a peaceful sanctuary. Binsar truly is the abode of the Gods, the mighty Himalayas, and its canine guards.  

Getting There

Address Village Gadholi, Binsar Road, Near Kasar Devi Temple Near Kasar Devi Temple, Binsar, Uttarakhand

Kathgodam, the closest railway station is a four-hour drive away. Pantnagar airport is five hours by road. Delhi to Binsar by road takes approximately eight hours.

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