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Homestays in India, Sri Lanka & Nepal

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Staying at establishments which are owner managed is becoming increasingly popular, allowing one to experience the subcontinent in a far better way. An owner managed retreat or a home stay is similar in concept to that of a bed and breakfast.

Guests are either accommodated in the family home, or in separate quarters nearby. Nowadays, most home stays provide their guests with just as much comfort as a reputable hotel. And, on top of this, you get to feast on delicious home cooked food and receive personalized attention. If you've ever experienced famed Indian hospitality, you'll know what a treat this is.

While India has some magnificent home stays, there are a few that stand out in terms of facilities, location, and hosts. Villages, royal residences, forts, and the tranquil backwaters of Goa and Kerala are just some of the mesmerizing settings where you'll find home stays in India. Now there are wonderful retreats ranging from tented camps in rural Rajasthan, to small, owner managed lodges where one can view leopard and other wildlife as well as horse ride. 

Stay at forts which are still owner managed offering spectacular views of the countryside from their battlements and plantation houses and gorgeous backwater retreats at Kerala. These houses are largely run by active, retired professionals.  A stay here combines the comfort and distinction of a small hotel or larger fort with the personal hospitality, informality and local knowledge enjoyed when staying with family friends.

One of our favourite owner managed retreats in southern India offers wonderful cuisine and even better still, fantastic cookery classes, from a day to a week. It is always full of guests from France which is a good indication of the food!

Sri Lanka has some of the finest boutique properties on offer, however currently it only has a handful of these wonderful home stays. We have been very lucky to stay at and experience one which really stands out – The Mud House. Set up in 2005 by two friends Kumar and Tom, it is surrounded by lakes and is nestled in sixty acres of forest at the foot of the mysterious Paramakanda Rock Temple. It combines charming and adventurous accommodation with a great range of off-the-beaten track excursions.

Accommodation is in a variety of uniquely designed, thatched huts built entirely from natural materials that blend harmoniously into the idyllic natural environment. To stay here is to get a glimpse of real life in rural Sri Lanka, to live amongst nature whilst having your small creature comforts subtly taken care of.

All huts have a selection of double beds,endsuite western loos and outdoor jungle showers. This is refined simplicity, with beautiful attention to detail and an overall atmosphere of peace and calm. Night times are magical, with lighting provided by kerosene lamps and candles.

In the foothills of the Annapurnas to the west of Pokhara in Nepal, there are four excellent lodges, around five hours walk apart, built and managed by a specialist trekking company. Located on the fringe of small hill villages, each lodge is built in the traditional Nepali style and has tastefully decorated rooms surrounded by pretty gardens.

Although termed as luxury lodges, you are very well looked after by trainedSherpa’s. The lodges are actually relatively simple, but with their high standard of maintenance and service, and unsuited bathrooms with hot water they are certainly luxurious in this remote part of the world and there is nothing else like them in the Annapurna.

Three course set evening meals are served at the communal dining table after drinks and appetizers are served around the fire, or on the terrace with a view of the mountains. Down jackets, woollen gloves and hats are provided in each of the rooms.

There are a number of reasons why staying at an owner managed retreat can be preferable to staying in a hotel.

They offer distinctive and characterful accommodation! Tired of sterile hotels? There's no better way to experience the incredibly diversity and charm of India than at a homestay. The options are almost endless and include plantation bungalows, historic havelis (mansions) and remote rural cottages.

They offer personalized service. In contrast to a hotel, a homestay usually only has a few rooms. The family who resides there runs it and acts as host. This guarantees that guests receive plenty of individual attention. You can spend as little or as much time with the host family as you like.

Some guests choose only to dine with them, while others spend hours chatting to them. Regardless, staying with an Indian family is the easiest way of finding out about Indian culture and way of life. Many guests and hosts find that they bond with each other so much, that they keep in touch long after the vacation is over.

They have incredible local knowledge. The wealth of information that the hosts have about their local area makes deciding what to see and do a breeze. Such local knowledge is extremely helpful in getting the most from your visit. Many hosts are delighted to show their guests around their local area, providing them with invaluable insights that simply aren't available from a guide book.

You can enjoy delicious home cooked food. There's a huge difference between the Indian food served in restaurants and hotels, and the food that's cooked in their home. By staying at a homestay, you'll be able to taste authentic Indian home cooked food, made to order. It's a lot lighter, and has more variation and flavour than restaurant food. Some homestays even welcome their guests into their kitchen, and let them watch and participate in the cooking process.

Another grander form of homestay, is to stay at a Palace, with the Maharajah and his family.

They can arrange unique activities. As a guest at a homestay or palace, the focus is on you, your likes and preferences. The hosts are usually very accommodating and will put a great deal of effort into arranging activities that are of interest to you. These activities will vary depending on location.

Exploring a coffee plantation in Coorg, watching a polo match in Rajasthan, herding animals in remote northern India, village visits, picnics, cycle with Kumar to the Tonigla rock whilst at Mud House, a lovely spot to the catch the sunset, to privately guided village treks in the Annapurna region in Nepal, and temple tours are just some of the options. Guests are often invited to attend weddings, or other festivals that are happening, as well.

Staying at an owner managed establishment on the Indian Subcontinent is all about immersing yourself rather skimming over it on the tourist trail.

Homestays in Shakti Ladakh

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