The Binsar Forest Trail

The Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected nature reserve that is home to oak, rhododendron, and pine forests. Walking amongst this jaw-dropping landscape are leopards, barking deer, porcupines, langurs, and over 200 species of birds. From various points, you are blessed with panoramic views of Himalayan peaks such as Trishul, Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot, and the Panchachulis.

About

Over the course of a week, hike 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.

The Binsar Forest Trail is the perfect balance of active holidaying, nature therapy, and cultural immersion without compromising on comfort, privacy, and safety. At the heart of this are the core principles of sustainable travel: a non-intrusive holiday that does not disturb the traditional, agricultural, and economic aspects of our community partners.

Hospitality & food

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 homes built in the local vernacular by craftsmen using materials like stone and wood, with wooden doorways, windows, and mud-plastered walls that keep the rooms warm.

Each house has a common dining room and a small terrace outside with comfortable seating so you can soak in the sublime scenery.

There are three bedrooms in every guesthouse that hold two beds each. You will sleep on soft mattresses, clean sheets, and have thick blankets to comfort you at night.

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

Eat

Food is served at fixed hours.

Meals are fresh, simple, nutritious, and cooked in a traditional kitchen, on wood-fire.

Bhaang chutney, bicchu saag, hot rotis, and bhatt ki churkani – these are some of the local delicacies you can savour 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. Their welcome is genuine and their sense of hospitality comes naturally.

Your hosts, guides, cooks, housekeepers, and porters are all drawn from different families across each village, sharing both the pleasure of hosting you and the financial benefit. There is ongoing monitoring to check that these benefits are spread around the households over each travel season.

Villages & Khali Estate

Kathdhara

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

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

Gonap

The village of Gonap is full of 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 night.

Take in the sight of a stunning valley and forests that transform in the early sunset. Look northward, and you might be lucky to see the snow-capped peaks of western Nepal.

The local Golu Devi temple is a short hike away. From here, you can see a 200 degree panoramic view of the Himalayan mountains.

Risal

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

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.

This won’t change the quality of care and love you will receive upon arrival.

Satri is situated on a high ridge surrounded by uninterrupted views of the peaks.

Dalar

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

From here, you can see the peaks of Kamet, Badrinath, Kedarnath, and Trishul.

Dalar is the closest village to the Binsar forest gate.

Khali Estate

Wrap up your walking holiday by spending the last night of your journey at Khali Estate.

A sprawling estate that has passed through many hands – including the Nehrus – Khali Estate is a colonial manor that sits within Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary and was once owned by the Commissioner of Kumaon, Sir Henry Ramsay.

You’ll be staying in circular stone cottages with beautiful interiors. Make yourself comfortable after a hot bath, and relish that continental breakfast complete with baked beans, toast, and cutlets in the outdoor dining area.

Grab yourself a couch by the fireplace in the heritage room just like the elder statesmen of our nation once did.

Guides

Our guides, all from our partner village communities, are the real heroes. They are crucial to making the walks an enjoyable and inspiring experience.
What stands out about our 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.

The guides will accompany you throughout your journey, and will introduce you to the area, flora, fauna, local traditions, and to the people you meet during your visit. They are trained in wilderness first aid and are equipped to deal with minor injuries. Their guiding style is natural, unscripted, and unobtrusive.

 

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 conceptualized a holiday that focuses 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 native craftsmen. Employment is strictly local starting from our guides to our drivers.

Who this is for

This is one for the books, folks. 

No matter what your area of interest, you will enjoy this holiday. Nobody will force you to go on long walks if you don’t want to – you can chill in the homestay all day if you want (until you have to go to the next village!) 

If you’re intrigued by the ecology, here is a wealth of knowledge on the secrets of the forest walking beside you and showing you the way. 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 and lichen and moss. 

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

Birders and wildlife enthusiasts will have a wealth of extensive biodiversity in front of them. 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. 

Folks interested in walks in nature – and with an adequate level of fitness – will find the Binsar Forest Trail to be an ideal holiday. 

Hikers who no longer find comfort in camping will enjoy having a warm bed to sleep in at night.

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. – Samyuktha

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

Cost

What is a 'walking holiday'?

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