On a soulful sojourn to Bhimtal, experience the best of early winters in the Himalayas and indulge in some much-needed sound healing at a sustainable farm a few kilometres away from the lake town. By Anushka Goel
On a road trip to Bhimtal
I wake up to the sound of chirping birds as I head out of the main door of my Airbnb stay in Bhimtal. It’s 6:00 am, and we’re set to leave for our first activity of the day – a birdwatching experience in Sattal – and I’m super excited as I explore the lush green gardens and fruit trees of my property, though I’m extremely tired after a long night.
I reached my accommodation, the quaint Sanjwat Homestay located barely five minutes away from the Bhimtal Lake, late at night, after a long day of driving up the hills from Delhi. The property, with its four rooms and ample gardens, provides a calm haven for those looking for a retreat with their family and friends and being so close to the lake, one can be assured of long walks by the water, boat rides, and the markets and cafes at their disposal.
Birdwatching is an extremely calming activity for those looking for peace in nature, as it connects you to the local flora and fauna of the place you’re at on a very personal level. Our group heads to Sattal, where our birdwatching guide Neerdiv Bankoti is waiting for us. The filtered sunlight casts a lovely glow on the hills, and Neer helps us identify various species of birds – from hawk-eyed eagles to owlets to the Himalayan bulbuls. He also helps us identify the various birds’ calls, even those that we cannot see, before we walk to the nearby lake for some peace and quiet. Tired from the early morning activities, I head back to my homestay, where the property’s caretaker, Kishore, has prepared juice from fresh maltas from the backyard and peeled oranges plucked from the trees on the property.
Lunch is a wholesome experience as we head to Bab’s Cafe to gorge on some delicious wood-fired pizzas, a whole roast chicken, and salad made with farm-fresh ingredients. You can taste the flavours of the produce, which is prepared with utmost care and love, and the valley views offer a peek into the mighty Himalayas.
Evening greets me with kadak chai in one of the gardens at our homestay, as the winter chill starts to set in. I’m prepped for the evening ahead of us, which is full of delicious Kumaoni cuisine and songs by the bonfire.
The next day, I’m up early again. It’s time for the sound healing session, which is something I’m the most excited about. Set in Heal Farm, which is located about half an hour from the Bhimtal Lake, the session, conducted by Adnan Vahanvaty, uses various tools and instruments to create sound and vibrations that allow us to calm our senses and heal from within. I’m rejuvenated beyond measure, and all the travel fatigue of the last two days has been relieved off me. And just about in time, because our next destination is KFC (no, not the chicken outlet!), aka the Kumaoni Farm Cafe, located upon another hilltop surrounded by beautiful lush greenery and flowers. We indulge in a vegetarian Kumaoni Thali that consists of aloo ke gutke, ragi roti and bhaang ki chutney, among other things.
Dinner that night is at another Airbnb homestay, La Belle Vie, a beautiful Swiss-style cottage that transports one to the Victorian era. The night flies by with chatter and delicious food, and soon, it’s time to leave.
I’m travelling back home from Bhimtal with a bag full of memories. I feel awake and alive, which the hills almost always make me feel, and travelling amid the pandemic, there could have been no better place for a sojourn than the Airbnb properties up in the hills, away from crowds amid clean air.
By Air: The nearest airport is Pant Nagar, about 58 kilometres from Bhimtal.
By Train: The nearest station is Kathgodam, which is about 30 kilometres from Bhimtal. Two trains run daily from Delhi and you can pick one based on your convenience.
By Road: Bhimtal is roughly 322 kilometres from Delhi, and you can either drive the distance or opt for buses. You can reach Delhi via flight or trains from across India and start your journey up the hills from there.
Sanjwat Homestays offers the entire villa at INR 15,857/night (please check the updated prices at the time of booking), which can hold up to 12 guests in its four bedrooms. The lush green lawns are a treat for any nature and kitchen garden lover, as the place also has a lot of fruit trees and veggies planted for consumption.
Visit the Bhimtal Lake, experience birdwatching with Neerdiv or other guides, go for walks and treks and visit the Heal Farm to interact closely with nature.
Bab’s Cafe offers delicious, fresh meals, but you’ll have to book 24 hours in advance. The Lake Hill Cafe is another beautiful place offering live music during the evenings along with flavoursome food.
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