The ferocious Parvati River roared as its churning waters flowed alongside the narrow road leading to Kasol. It carried more mud with it, appearing almost like milky coffee, since it had been raining for the last few days. On the opposite side, a discreet looking wall hid behind it a dramatic secret that is almost invisible to the unknowing passer-by.
A luxury hotel in the avatar of an old, slumbering 19th-century village, The Himalayan Village, rises majestically against the backdrop of craggy hills. And unlike the castles and fortresses that we’re used to seeing in this modern day, this one isn’t in ruins.
THE HIMALAYAN VILLAGE
Feel like a Maharaja did, hundreds of years ago, when you stay at this elegant hotel near Kasol. True to its ‘Kathkhuni’ style of architecture, the walls of every structure here are made by dry stacking stone and wood, and no cement is used at all. Stone tile roofs, wooden floors, and even the skittles that lace the roofs add warmth and enchantment in abundance.
If you love antiques, you’ll be poring over the items in the cozy reception for hours, although you may have to strain your eyes because it is pretty dimly lit. Two very different vintage telephones that look straight out of an old magazine, gorgeous paintings, vintage clocks and statues adorn the seating area. Observe the stick-figures painted on the mud walls, too – it’s all done with rice paste, turmeric, kumkum and other common kitchen ingredients!
Another thing you’ll notice straight away is how every kind of staff – from the restaurant to housekeeping and everyone in between – sport differently embroidered Himachali caps, depending on their job role. Curtain holders everywhere have this colour differentiation too, and the more time you spend admiring the resort in detail, the more you will be startled at how much care has been paid to things that guests may not even notice.
After finishing the delicious Kashmiri Kahwa welcome drink, I headed over to my room, only to find that the attention to detail carries on here as well! 6 cottages and two Machans are named after various places in Himachal Pradesh, and the symbolism doesn’t only end with the names.There are old paintings and photographs of the region after which the room is named, hanging inside, much to the delight of an art-lover! The rooms are tasteful and in keeping with the hotel’s grandeur.
My room was called ‘Lahaul’ and had images of life in that region from as early has 1863!
I spent my days high up in a Machan, which is a novel watch-tower-meets-tree-house kind of room, and I almost felt like Rapunzel, the fairy tale character, kept as a prisoner by an evil step-mother. My room was one of the most spacious ones I’ve ever stayed at. A massive sized double bed in one corner, an intricately carved wooden couch opposite, yet more seating space beside the bed, a tiny work desk with a view and of course, a little balcony offering a bird’s eye view of the hotel.
A little walk-in closet with a dressing table and mirror still carried the sweet scent of fresh wood. It led to a modest washroom that I felt wasn’t nearly as impressive as the room, in size or appearance. The addition of an exhaust fan to let out steam after a hot shower would have been a good idea. Speaking of showers, the sprinklers in my shower head sprayed water in every direction, managing to almost flood the bathroom, every time I bathed, much to my dismay.
True to the days of yore, a staff member would ring a bell placed outside the room to enter, and on one occasion, presented me with a welcome note in a scroll!
A restaurant lies on either side of the reception – a lavishly decorated one meant solely for hotel guests, and a much humbler one for walk-in diners and guests as well. A simple, wholesome breakfast menu consists of eggs, fruit salad, parathas, puri bhaji, juices and hot beverages, although for a hotel of this standard, I would have expected much more variety on offer.
A dish I really enjoyed during my lunch on Day 1 was the stuffed mushrooms which were generous in quantity, perfectly juicy and I couldn’t stop popping them into my mouth! If you like mushrooms, you should definitely consider ordering it!
One of the highlights of my stay at the Himalayan Village was undoubtedly the Himachali cuisine! I sampled the traditional feast called Dham, which is a thali of sorts, with an assortment of authentic curries and sabzis. It stared out with a buttermilk-based soup called Jhol, which was quite unique to the palate. Mains comprised of Khatta (a slightly sour gravy), Teli Mah, Madhura (a delicious dal variant), Bhatungi and the most flavour-packed gajar ka halwa for dessert! Every element on the plate was mildly spiced and mouth watering. It was interesting to note that curd plays an important role in cooking (even the lentils are cooked in it) and the enhanced taste was quite prominent. The fact that some of the items served in the dham are now considered to be almost-lost recipes made me cherish the special experience even more.
A traditional Himachali Dham isn’t commonly found in restaurants and until then, wherever I went, I came face to face with locals selling ‘Siddu,’ a speciality, as they said. It almost seemed that there was nothing beyond Siddu to try here, and I’m thrilled that Mr. Aman Sood, the owner, insisted I try this out during my last meal at The Himalayan Village.
LIKE STEPPING INTO A TIME MACHINE
Walking around the resort is akin to strolling through a Himalayan Village centuries ago. Pathways lead you from one cottage to the next, where guests sat outside reading a book, drinking a cup of tea or simply just gazing at the hills. Interspersed between cottages are lifelike statues depicting traditional scenes – a woman herding her sheep, a young Himachali man playing a flute while a woman dressed in traditional attire sits alongside… and I bet you wouldn’t be able to walk without stopping every few steps to admire some of the biggest roses you’ll ever see! That’s just another reason why The Himalayan Village is dripping with romance!
No village is complete without a temple, and The Himalayan Village has one of those, too! A tiny temple built in the same style as the rooms reveals a ShivLing inside! If that wasn’t enough, keep your eyes peeled to find little Buddha or Ganesha statues peeking at you from various spots all over the property. Spotting them all on your wanderings around the grounds makes for a fun treasure-hunt!
I could have spent days sitting out on the well manicured lawns toward the front of the property. Being on raised ground and hidden behind the reception and restaurant, it is invisible to passer-bys. Lazing under the sunshine on a hammock here was pure bliss. The sound of the river, the calls of the most colourful birds, views of the rooms and Machans towering in a semi-circle on one side and hills all around is a moment I’ve captured in memory far better than the photos on my camera have. A couple of beautiful wrought iron tables and chairs set on the lawn looked so simply enchanting, that it seemed Shakespeare or Wordsworth would just walk out with their scroll and feathered quill, and start writing a poem.
Sitting here, it was really hard to believe that what I was looking at was actually real life – it seemed like part of a movie set!
THERE’S A SPA, TOO!
The Himalayan Village also has its own spa. I didn’t indulge in a massage, however that didn’t stop me from checking out this arts-y space. A large Buddha statue is placed here, surrounded by artifacts and huge chunks of semi-precious stones that have been excavated from the mountain. I later learnt from Mr. Aman that if one of these had to be left in the mountain for another few centuries, they would have turned into rubies!
… AND IT’S PET FRIENDLY!
Think of how much fun your four legged friend would have, racing happily over the grounds at a place like this! The Himalayan Village is pet friendly, one of the very few hotels in Himachal Pradesh that offer this facility. Pets are welcomed with open arms, and they are allowed to stay in guests’ rooms too! The resort also has a couple of their own dogs and a bunch of fluffy white rabbits that guests are free to take home with them if they wish to.
The Himalayan Village is one of the most luxurious places to stay in Parvati Valley and combines heritage and luxury effortlessly. For those who appreciate art and architecture, this is hidden gem! And for those who love nature and adventure, there are plenty of treks and trails to choose from when you stay here. Malana Village, the oldest democracy in the world is situated 10 kms away. It is definitely a top pick for experiential holidays in India!
Book your stay at The Himalayan Village here, and you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram too! If you do happen to visit this resort in Kasol, drop me a line on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and tell me how you liked it!
Bye for now!