My early explorations through the Garhwal Himalayas, exploring local life and unique Uttarakhand homestays along the way.
I had never travelled in my own backyard. Born and brought up in the valley of Dehradun, I always wondered what lay beyond the mountains I could see from my terrace.
So I finally decided to find out. I made my way up from Rishikesh, to the villages beyond Uttarkashi and down via Mussoorie. Transfixed by the majesty of the Garhwal Himalayas as much as by the conviction of the locals to move on after the devastating Uttarakhand floods of 2013.
I’ll let these pictures from the Garhwal Himalayas tell you their stories. Then share some recommendations of beautiful Uttarakhand homestays to truly experience life in these mountains:
- Photos from the Garhwal Himalayas
- A note on the Uttarakhand floods
- How to reach the Garhwal Himalayas
- Eco-friendly homestays in the Garhwal Himalayas
- What are your impressions of the Garhwal Himalayas?
Photos from the Garhwal Himalayas
By the river Ganga, I sat down and read
On the shores of the river in Rishikesh, I tried to imagine how this fercious river must have risen to take down parts of the higher mountains.
Wifi and work at Rainforest House in Rishikesh
With the Ganga roaring below. A cosy hideout half an hour out of Rishikesh, surrounded by the tranquility of the forest.
First glimpse of the Garhwal Himalayas
On my journey from Rishikesh towards Uttarkashi. These naturally-terraced mountains, lush green with charming little villages, are nothing like I’ve seen before!
Freshwater pools made by the Asi Ganga
In the Garhwal Himalayas, a hike up from the picturesque village of Kuflon near Uttarkashi.
Catching up on life
Pristine landscapes, a good book and not another soul in sight.
Meeting Garhwali people in Kuflon, among them an endearing 80+ year old couple
She was 11 and he 17 when they got married. They witnessed the grounds shake and the waters rise during the floods. Ganga Singh and his wife still choose to live without electricity (with only a solar lamp), away from their kids, and have much laughter in their lives despite the challenges. Makes you realize how little you need to be happy!
Villages in the Garhwal Himalayas
These are small close-knit communities, where everyone knows everyone else and the village gossip. The village of Kuflon, for instance, is home to only 8-9 families, and in times of tragedy, they look out for each other.
Sampling locally grown Garhwali food
Like fern, which grows wild in the forest, takes a trained eye to identify, and tastes delicious!
Kuflon Basics: My favorite hideout in the Garhwal Himalayas
A perfect hideout set up by a couple who gave up their corporate jobs in the cities for the solitude of the Himalayas. They were in Dehradun when the floods hit, and couldn’t make it home for a month and a half because the bridge leading here got washed away.
Hanging out by the river
With a yoga instructor and new-found friend, I made my way down the road from Kuflon to the Asi Ganga. We marvelled at the sheer intensity of the river that shook the foundation of the might Himalayas. Flash foods have been common in these parts for a long time, but irresponsible pilgrimage tourism has certainly taken its toll on these mountains.
A blank canvas and the Garhwal Himalayas for inspiration
Here words almost flow faster than thoughts!
The pristine Ganga on the way to Mussoorie
The winding mountain roads, both via Rishikesh and Mussoorie, were rebuilt in most parts and work was in progress in the remaining rough patches.
My next abode: A unique homestay in Mussoorie
The eco-friendly La Villa Bethany has been restored to its original glory by a sweet couple who quit their corporate jobs in Delhi to call these mountains home. This unique Mussoorie homestay sustains itself almost completely with rainwater harvesting, solar energy and organic farming. It’s the conviction of people like these that gives me faith that our mountains will survive.
A note on the Uttarakhand floods
The floods of 2013 washed away much in these pretty villages and valleys. While the damages are still visible, most of the roads and major bridges have been rebuilt and are safe for travelling. The locals are slowly rebuilding their lives. The best time to travel into Garhwal is now, when tourism can really help restore the local village economies.
How to reach the Garhwal Himalayas
The nearest airport is in Dehradun. The best way to travel from Dehradun / Rishikesh / Mussoorie to Uttarkashi is by the Vishwanath Seva semi-deluxe bus. It’s a non-AC bus with rickety seats, but that’s part of the experience!
Eco-friendly homestays in the Garhwal Himalayas
As we explore the majestic mountains of Uttarakhand, it’s important to be mindful of the impact of our travels on the locals communities and the fragile ecology. One way to give back is to stay at local homestays. These not only offer a deeper experience of the region but are also socially conscious and environmentally responsible.
Some of my favorite Uttarakhand homestays from these early explorations in the Garhwal Himalayas:
Kuflon Basics (Kuflon homestay)
At an elevation of 5000 feet, the last house in the green little village of Kulfon is Kuflon Basics. Here travellers are hosted by Anil and Sree, who left behind their lives in the city to build this eco-friendly refuge.
I spent my days hiking, dipping in the natural water pools, on the stargazing rock, chatting up Garhwali folk in the village and practicing yoga. The huts at Kuflon Basics are aesthethically built with local materials to naturally keep warm in the cold winter. Drinking water comes straight from the glacial river and waste management is in place at this Kuflon homestay.
La Villa Bethany (Mussoorie homestay)
La Villa Bethany is probably Mussoorie’s only self-sustainable home! It comes with an old-world charm, homely rooms, recipes from across the country and hosts who immediately make you feel like long lost friends.
Much of the wood and stone used for refurbishing the house has been recycled. Rainwater harvesting and solar power ensure that the luxury afforded by this Mussoorie homestay comes at a low cost to the environment.
Rainforest House (Rishikesh homestay)
I looked long and hard for a cosy abode that would let me enjoy the river in Rishikesh without the crowds. And Rainforest House – about half an hour from the main town – was my answer. It was once a homestay, but feels more like a guesthouse / B&B now. Still, it’s location by the roaring river, surrounded by greenery, and the outdoor cafe space were just perfect to chill out for a couple of days.
What are your impressions of the Garhwal Himalayas?