The Binsar Forest Trail

Knowhere Travel Co
15th June, 2022

ABOUT

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Since our inception, we have wanted to execute meaningful journeys that truly explore India. This unique experience is the winner of 3 WTM Responsible Tourism Awards.

The trail is set at an average altitude of 1500 to 2500 meters above sea level. From various points, you are blessed with panoramic views of Himalayan peaks such as Trishul, Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot, and the Panchachulis. Imagine being at eye level with some of the highest mountains in the world! This sanctuary is waiting for you to discover its magic, one moss-covered branch at a time.

This forest trail is punctuated with breaks at three or four villages inside the sanctuary. Each village consists of only 3 to 10 households, and together, these kindly folk run and manage comfortable guesthouses and feed you steaming hot Kumaoni food straight from their wood fires and farms.

Rest up, eat well, and unwind on beautiful porches with your fellow hikers and engage the locals in discussions that we promise will give you a new perspective on life. The people here are intelligent, good-humoured, and excited to welcome you to their corner of the world.

We have conceptualized this experience as 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.

Lodging

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. These are either restored homes or 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 shared washroom with hot water, and a shared restroom with a spick-and-span western commode.

Food and hospitality

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 - are some of the local delicacies you will get to taste 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.

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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 sun set in front of a toasty fire and listen to Mr. Happy (Puran Ji) tell you stories of the village.
You might be lucky to spot a crimson sunbird or a greater woodpecker!

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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.

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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 here. In the morning, you may be able to hear the call of barking deer over the constant sound of the gushing river.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The 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.

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We’ve conceptualized 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 native craftsmen. Employment is strictly local starting from our guides to our drivers.

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This is one for the books, folks. You will enjoy this holiday no matter what your area of interest is.

If you’re intrigued by ecology, there is a wealth of knowledge on the secrets of the forest walking beside you. Keep an eye out for minivets and griffons, lichen and epiphytes, butterflies and beetles, orchids and ferns, creepers and vines, the list goes on!

If you’re curious about the local way of life, culture, and history, you will find that there’s a lot to learn from the native folk about their homes, farms, and even their diet!

Folks interested in geography and landscapes will find the Binsar Forest Trail to be a mouthwatering visual journey with a variety of terrains and habitats.

Hikers who no longer want to set up camp after a long day’s walk will find comfort in having a warm bed to sleep in.

Guests are required to have a basic level of fitness – as a thumb rule, the average duration of walks every day would be between 3 to 5 hours.

We at Knowhere Travel pride ourselves in advocating experiences only after we have personally verified them. We prioritise the safety of women and children and ensure every guest is of a similar wavelength.

The mountains are calling, we’ll keep a room ready.

Family having fun

Lunch around the fire

Walking by the river

Family portrait

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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 6 am. Our team will receive you here and you will be under our care until we drop you back to Kathgodam at the end of the trip.

Day 1 – Pick up from Kathgodam, drive to Binsar (4 hrs), a meal at Khali Estate, begin walking to the village.
Day 2 to 6 – You will spend the next 5 nights in 3 or 4 villages before returning to Khali Estate for a night.
Day 7 – After breakfast, drop to Kathgodam for your onward journey back home. Until next time!

Location

See what our guests have had to say!

 

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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

How do I get there?

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What's the food like?

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Is this activity child friendly?

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Can I bring my pet along?

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