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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
“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
The duration of BFT is 6 nights and 7 days. This includes 5 nights in the villages situated within the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, and a night at Khali Estate.
Group trip dates and itineraries are fixed and you get an opportunity to travel with other nature enthusiasts. The group never exceeds more than 6 like-minded individuals. Whereas private trips have flexible dates and itineraries according to your needs. This is a perfect way to do this if you want to travel with your family or friends.
Binsar is a wildlife sanctuary nestled in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. There are many ways of getting there and it is well connected by road, rail and air. The closest airport is Pantnagar (5 hrs) while the closest railway and bus station is at Kathgodam (4 hrs).
You walk anywhere between 4-7 kms depending on the itinerary. Nearly 90% of the trail is through gentle terrain with very little or gradual altitude gain or loss making it a holiday that is accessible to all. We've had guests as young as 6 to 65 years do this without any trouble!
While you don't need to be an athlete to enjoy this holiday, a basic level of fitness is required to make the most of it. If you're able to comfortably walk 5 kms a day or climb 5 flights of stairs a couple of times without feeling your lungs are going to pop out (:P), you're ready for this!
The Binsar Forest Trail is open throughout the year except for the monsoon season (July 1 to Sept 30). There is no "best time" to do it as each season has its own charm. The weather remains pleasant all through the year and perfect for hiking.
The Himalaya experiences all 5 seasons. July to September is the monsoon with light to strong showers expected every few days. October to November (18-22 degrees) is the fall season with sections of the forest turning into a blanket of yellow and orange with trees shedding their leaves. December - February (14-20 degrees) is winter and the temperatures drop once the sun goes down. The best views of the snow-capped peaks are usually from October to early March when the temperatures are low. March onwards the spring season begins as the weather starts getting warmer and the flowers begin to blossom and the birds return. April to June is the summer season, yet it doesn't cross 24-25 degrees even on the hottest of days.
Binsar is an official bird sanctuary with nearly you will find a plethora of species - both residents and migratory through the year. Nearly 300 species of birds have been recorded in the sanctuary so far.
You need to be at least 6 years old to join. There's no upper limit with age, but it is a function of the guest's fitness levels.
Typically we walk an average of about 4 hours per day. Our walks are not done in a hurry, but at a leisurely pace that suits the group.
You will always have a minimum of one or two local guides on your trip depending on the size of your group.
The Binsar Forest Trail is graded as an easy walk and anyone with a basic level of fitness can do it comfortably.
While we don't have a-la-carte menus and serve only fresh and local cuisine, we can cater to vegan diets as well as guests who might be intolerant to gluten and dairy.
We do not have WiFi available at the village guesthouses. Phone network of nearly all providers is patchy in certain sections. However, there’s always enough bandwidth for phone calls and/or WhatsApp messages. For emergency phone calls, you may also use our guide's phone.
On account of confirmation, we will share an elaborate packing list with you.
By design, our group size is small and limited to just 6 adults. For a small family of 3, we can provide an extra mattress in each room.
Yes, children as young as 6 are welcome to join our trip! Young children have a lot of energy and often outpace even our local guides!
Unfortunately, the walking holiday is not pet-friendly. Do note that we are in a wildlife sanctuary and the presence of pets could harm both pets and the native wildlife.
Our guides can speak Hindi fluently, and while their English isn't perfect, they can most definitely speak it.
All guesthouses are equipped with three rooms with twin cots, comfortable mattresses, thick blankets, a common indoor dining area with a fire place, an open verandah overlooking the sublime views. Three of our five guesthouses are equipped with attached bathrooms with western comforts and hot water while two of our guesthouses are equipped with a common a bathroom and shower.
All guesthouses have electricity supply but do not have power back up. Power cuts are infrequent and only happen in case of bad-weather.
On account of booking, we'll share a simple training regimen with all of our guests.
Yes, there's a high chance for you to spot wildlife, both big and small. The forest is home to langurs, mountain goats, sambar deer, barking deer, porcupines, martens, leopards and several birds. Sightings of these animals usually happen from a far and safe distance and there is no danger for our guests.
While consumption of alcohol and smoking is not permitted during your walk itself, in the forest, you are welcome to indulge in them responsibly once you have reached your village guesthouses. Guests who have consumed alcohol will not be permitted to walk.
If you're traveling solo, you would need to share the room with one other guest of the same gender as you in twin-beds. However, if you wish to have the room to yourself, it is possible for a nominal supplement charge.