The Binsar Forest Trail

Welcome to Knowhere Travel Co’s flagship walking holiday - The Binsar Forest Trail. Conceived as the perfect balance of active holidaying, nature therapy, and cultural immersion, we are proud to call this a truly sustainable travel experience.

About

Our walk takes place within Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, established in 1988 to conserve and protect pristine oak and rhododendron forests and the inhabitants within it. Binsar was once the summer capital of Kumaon and is now home to over 200 species of birds, wildlife, trees, and tiny hamlets. This beautiful mountain nature reserve is set against the awesome backdrop of the mighty Himalayan peaks.

Without compromising on comfort, privacy, and safety, this is a holiday that does not disturb the traditional and economic aspects of the community here. 

Binsar lies at the heart of the Kumaon hills, in the state of Uttarakhand, about 20 km from the district capital of Almora. It sits at an altitude of 1,500 to 2,500 m and is named after the Bineshwar temple. The narrow valleys are a vision of forests, picturesque villages, and small temples. Look up, and you’ll catch the great peaks of Nanda Devi, Trishul, and the Panchachulis.

Over the course of a week, walk with knowledgeable guides from village to village within the sanctuary while enjoying the hospitality of your hosts. Each village consists of only 3 to 10 households, and together, they run and manage comfortable guesthouses and feed you delicious local food straight from their wood fires and farms.

Rest up, eat well, unwind on beautiful porches, and engage the locals in discussions that we promise will give you a new perspective on pahadi culture. The community is friendly, good-humoured, and excited to welcome you to their corner of the world.

Scroll down to catch a glimpse of the beauty that awaits you.

Food and hospitality

Lodging and stay

Each village has a guesthouse owned and managed by the village committee. This encourages ownership – and with it comes the kind of care and attention that you just won’t find in a hotel.

Stay in wood and stone homes built in the local style by community craftsmen and retire in rooms kept warm in winter by mud-plastered walls. Each house has a common dining room with a small terrace from which to soak in the sublime scenery.

There are 3 bedrooms in every guesthouse with two beds each. Sleep on soft mattresses, and clean sheets, with thick blankets to comfort you at night.

All the guesthouses are equipped with a combination of shared and common washrooms with hot water and spick-and-span western commodes.

Nourishment

Meals are served at fixed hours. The food is fresh, simple, nutritious, and cooked in a traditional kitchen, on wood fire. Bhaang chutney, bicchu saag, hot rotis, and bhatt ki churkani – you’ll get to try these local delicacies during your stay. For breakfast, expect fresh fruit and country chicken eggs.

The village community team has received training in hygiene, home management, and cooking – but they aren’t professional hoteliers. Eating here is the same as eating at a friend’s home up in the mountains, and you’ll be spoilt with hot, steaming, and delicious food to fill up your tummy after a long walk.  

Your hosts, guides, cooks, housekeepers, and porters come from different families across each village, sharing both the pleasure of hosting you and the financial benefit.  These benefits are spread around the households over each travel season.

Villages & Khali Estate

Kathdhara

With only 9 family homes in this village, Kathdhara is filled with lemon trees and terraced farms. A hot meal awaits you as you reach this jewel box in the heart of Binsar. Watch the sunset in front of a toasty fire and listen to Mr Happy (Puran Ji) tell you stories about the region.

You might be lucky to spot a crimson sunbird or a greater woodpecker from the porch!

Gonap

The village of Gonap has small terraced farms that grow chillies, onions, garlic, turmeric, and cucumbers. Walk through a canopy of delicate bamboo and you will arrive at your home for the evening.

The farmhouses of Gonap are set on a hillside among vegetable gardens, with open views of richly forested slopes. 

The forests and village here transform in the early sunset. Don’t be surprised if you’re invited to have a cup of tea at the home of a Gonap resident. Take a walk up to the local Golu Devi temple to see a 200-degree panoramic view of the Himalayan mountains and the snow-capped peaks of western Nepal.

Risal

On the slopes of a forest-covered valley is the tiny hamlet of Risal.

This secluded village is surrounded by a mixed forest of oak, pine, and rhododendron, through which are glimpses of wooded hills and green pastures.

There are only 8 families residing here. All practice farming and grow a variety of vegetable crops. You might have to cross a leopard’s trail on your way to Risal. In the morning, you may be able to hear the call of barking deer over the constant sound of the gushing river.

Satri

This is the smallest and most secluded of all the villages with just 3 homes.

It is the farthest village from Khali Estate, on a high ridge surrounded by uninterrupted views of the peaks.

Just three families currently live in Satri, and the villagers believed that they would have to abandon their village, to let their homes and fields be overtaken by the forest. Thanks to visitors like you, Satri continues to be able to grow. The welcome here will be no different than in any of the other villages.

Dalar

Dalar houses around 48 people and is slightly larger than the other villages. It is divided into two hamlets: Valli (“This Side”) and Palli (“That Side”).

It is surrounded by pine forests and with beautiful views of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Kamet, and Trishul peaks from the upper parts of the village. It is the closest to Khali and the Binsar Forest gate and so, a little more accustomed to visitors than other villages.

Khali Estate

You will start and end your adventure at Khali Estate, a colonial estate built by General Hon. Sir Henry Ramsay, the Commissioner of Kumaon in the mid-1800s. On the last evening of your walking holiday, you’ll reach the estate and stay in stone rondavel cabins, all facing the peaks. It’s a breathtaking sight.

Have a hot bath before coming for a decadent meal in the dining area. Spend the evening by the fireplace and end the journey in the historical common room, once frequented by Mahatma Gandhi and Vijay Lakshmi Pandit. 

Guides

Your friends in the forest

Our extremely special guides will accompany you for the duration of the trail. They are all from the villages themselves and are crucial to making the walks an enjoyable and inspiring experience. What stands out about the guides is their pure, unadulterated passion for the forest and its many creatures. With their help, we promise you’ll have a newfound appreciation for every little stream, leaf, and rock that you walk past.

Every guide is trained in wilderness first aid and is equipped to deal with minor injuries. If you want to identify a bird call or a curiously-shaped leaf, your guides are the ones to ask. Each one brings their own unique personality to the mix, and their guiding style is natural, unscripted, and unobtrusive.

For every six guests, there are two guides. Your guides will be your mental and physical support systems during the trail. And don’t worry about the pace of the walk, the guides leave no individual behind and will go only as fast as the slowest member.

 

Who this is for

There’s something in here for everyone, no matter what your area of interest. If you want to stay and enjoy village hospitality, there will be no pressure from anyone to overexert yourself – you can rest and relax in the safety of the guesthouse until you move to the next village.

Build a deeper appreciation for montane forest ecology – here is a wealth of knowledge on the secrets of the forest. Your guides can identify all the birds here by bird call (seriously) and will show you how to identify leopard prints, wake up to the call of the barking deer, and understand the difference between epiphytes, lichen, and moss. 

If you’re curious about traditional food, you will find that there’s a lot to learn about authentic Kumaoni cuisine.

Birders and wildlife enthusiasts are obviously in for an absolute treat. Keep an eye out for the crimson sunbird, scarlet minivets, Himalayan griffons, woodpeckers, bulbuls, Eurasian jays, and magpies. During spring, many varieties of butterflies come out and play amongst bright rhododendron blooms. 

Walking, which is a highly recommended form of exercise for anyone, is starkly different from urban sidewalks. You’re breathing clean air, the scent of pine needles, and mountain soil. Since this walk requires an adequate level of fitness, it’s the ideal alternative to walking in the city. If you have hiking experience but don’t find the idea of camping appealing, this is perfect because you will come back to a warm bed to sleep in at night. 

Responsible practices

The Himalayan ecosystem is experiencing the extreme effects of global warming, and sudden seasonal shifts are seen vividly. As a result, we believe it is our responsibility to curate journeys that are mindful of this reality. We’ve conceptualised a holiday that focusses on the preservation of the forest, and the communities within it. This is why we encourage small groups of no more than 6 guests at a time.

We practice the Leave No Trace principles. We discourage guests from picking up anything from the forest such as pinecones, flowers, feathers, rocks, etc. Apart from being the collective stakeholders of the guesthouses, our village communities employ low-usage water systems in order to conserve water. All the water comes from natural springs that are boiled and filtered. We do not provide single use plastic bottles.

Our partners encourage gender equality and the representation of minority castes on the committees that manage the guesthouses. All our guesthouses are built using local materials by resident craftsmen. Employment is strictly local starting from the guides to the drivers.

Overview, pricing, & dates

Itinerary & getting there

Day 1 – Pick up from Kathgodam at 5 am, drive to Khali Estate for breakfast, begin walking to the villages.

Day 1 to 6 – You will spend the next five nights in the villages before returning to Khali Estate for a night.

Day 7 – After breakfast, drop to Kathgodam for your onward journey back home.

Catch the overnight Ranikhet Express (15013) train, or a comfortable Volvo bus from New Delhi and arrive at Kathgodam or Haldwani (7-8 hours) by 5 am. Our team will receive you here and you will be under our care until we drop you back to Kathgodam the end of the trip.

If you prefer air travel, fly into Pantnagar, our team will receive you at the airport and drive you to Binsar. The itinerary and pricing would be subject to change since the flight arrival timings may require spending an extra night in Kathgodam or at Khali Estate.

Pricing & dates

INR 45,000 per person (on a twin-sharing basis).

Children between the ages of 6-12 years are charged 50% and will share the room with their families. If a single child is accompanying a single parent, adult charges will be applicable for the child.

Includes: all accommodation, all meals (veg), tea/coffee/snacks, transfers to and from Kathgodam, one internal transfer, local guides, porters, entry fees, GST, and service charges.

Excludes: flight/rail/bus fares, 5% additional charges for foreign nationals, tips, trip extensions, travel insurance, alcoholic beverages, anything not mentioned under ‘includes’

Our group departures are confirmed only when a minimum of 2 adults sign up. Group sizes are limited to a maximum of 6 adults (kids extra) and we work on a first come first serve basis.

Cancellation policy:
30% cancellation charges after booking.
50% cancellation charges 50 days before the start of the trip.
100% cancellation charges 30 days before the start of the trip.
In case of cancellation, 90% of the booking amount will be offered as a 1-year credit note IF we find a replacement.
Cancellation terms are only applicable if our payment terms are met.

Payment terms:
To confirm and block your slots, we request a 30% advance of the total booking amount within 24 hours of receiving this document.
The balance of 70% is payable 30 days before the start of the trip.

DATES FOR 2024

January 13 – January 19

January 26 – February 01

February 10 – February 16

March 08 – March 14

March 24 – March 30

April 07 – April 13

April 14 – April 20

April 28 – May 04

May 10 – May 16

June 15 – June 21

Dates are subject to availability.

To leave an enquiry, scroll to the bottom of the page.

For customised bookings, get in touch with us at discover@knowheretravel.co

Reviews

“I can’t think of one takeaway, because there were so many! One thing that stood out though, is to see the content faces of the people we met, they were happy with what they had, and it reminded me to be simply content with what I have, even if it is the bare minimum. Reconnecting with the outdoors also taught me to be patient, in listening to the sounds of the forest, in seeing birds, and in remembering the names.” – Akshaya

“Moving from one village to another each day, and staying in new homes every day reminded me that the only thing constant in life is flux. You learn to adapt and enjoy what you have in that moment. You learn to stop comparing to be able to savour what you have currently – homes, people food, warmth, landscapes.” – Nagashree

“This is an incredible experience that more people should be exposed to and introduced to so they can travel the right way. It’s quite crazy that Indians haven’t heard about this to date.” – Samyukta

“Really enjoyed the balance of activity and rest, on the whole, I found the week incredibly calming and peaceful. I loved that this hike also made a positive contribution made to the local community. Felt very welcomed and surrounded by warmth and care. Would do pretty much anything you guys organise and will definitely be recommending this to friends and family (already have done!). Thank you to everyone who made this happen.” – Kiri

“Didn’t feel like a tourist.” – Angad

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