India is full of undiscovered gems – beautiful hotels, amazing locations and places to visit, and wonderful people to meet. Itmenaan Estate in Kumaon, in the foothills of the Himalayas, is one of those gems and is a perfect inclusion in a tour of India that comprises a Himalaya tour program.
Itmenaan is the largest of three private retreats, set in different locations in the mountains in the state of Uttarakhand, all of which make for a great get-away from the big cities and main tourist attractions included in tours of India. They are also a great way to see and experience some of India’s natural beauty while staying in unique regional accommodation. The three properties are all in the region of Kumaon, with the closest town the hill station of Almora. As well as the amazing mountain scenery all around with breathtaking views of the snow capped Himalayas, there are temples and hill stations that can also be seen during a stay at Itmenaan or similar Himalaya tour.
To reach this beautiful part of the world, we recently took the early morning express train from Delhi that takes about five hours and then drove on for about four hours, winding through the mountains. It’s our second walking tour in Uttarakhand in recent years, as we love the countryside and adore walking and staying in the small villages – it’s a unique experience. Uttarakhand is a great place for walking holidays in India – be it gentler short day walks or more challenging longer multi-day walks – and offers spectacular views of the Himalayas, plus gorgeous scenery of pine and cypress trees, rhododendrons and bird life. A stay in the region also provides a glimpse into some of the traditional farming practises that continues in the local villages.
Itmenaan Estate and its two sister properties are set about 2 hours by vehicle apart, or can be reached by foot over four-to-six hours. Guests can stay at some or all of them during a Himalaya tour. They are true to the local Kumaon style of slate roof houses – and are in fact local homes that have been bought and refurbished without compromising the original style or design of the homes. The three properties vary – but have a couple of common factors – amazing views of the mountains and wonderful service.
All of the properties have just a few rooms but you’ll have the entire place to yourself. The properties have been restored and include ensuite bathrooms, comfortable accommodation with crisp white sheets and lovely textiles. They are fully staffed, including a chef who prepares fresh local style meals.
One of the standout features of these properties is the local staff – which have been trained so well and provide subtle, excellent service. The meals are also wonderful and more than you expect when you are on a walking tour of the Himalayas. The three-course lunch we had one day at Itmenaan made it very hard to put the boots on in the afternoon to walk and we particularly enjoyed the ginger tea as the sun came up over the mountains at Thikalna Cottage! The evenings were very pleasant with bonfires as we watched the mountains change colour in the fading light.
We spent 5 days there and walked between the three properties, staying at all of them. Any of the properties or all of them and walking can be included in a Himalaya tour or broader India tour. If you like walking tours or just want to see some of India’s natural beauty – a stay at Itmenaan Estate provides the ideal setting to do it in comfort.
For a sample itinerary in Uttarakhand please read the following. All trips can be customised according to your level of fitness or general interest. http://www.indiaunbound.com.au/itineraries/kumaon-uttarakhand-trek/