A ten cottage homestay sits calmly in the hills of Garhwal, Uttarakhand. The kitchen staff prepares a simple and authentic meal with ingredients that are locally produced in the farmlands around. Often you will hear the bells of the grazing goats and cows, while you sit by the huge windows of your room that open up to an infinite view of the Himalayan mountains. There is no electricity to charge your gadgets so you can happily bid a goodbye to technology. A solar lamp will come your way in the night, while the mornings are an early start with the first ray of bright sunshine. This is a typical day in THE GOAT VILLAGE.
If you have been searching for an offbeat getaway in the mountains – imagine living a peaceful farm life surrounded by the picturesque mountains, well cultivated step farms growing fresh fruits and veggies, and the eco-friendly yet luxurious mud-timber cottages to live in. Expect living with locals, get a warm service that reminds you of home, and still travel for a cause – uplifting the agricultural produce and livelihood of the local farmers of Garhwal.
The concept behind “The Goat Village”:
The primary purpose of this well-thought venture is to initiate reverse-migration of the Garhwali farmers – to pull back the youth of Garhwal who have been leaving their farmlands for various reasons. Majority of them left due to a lack of fertile-soil affecting local produce, and others left because of the growing inclination towards city life, unemployment, seasonal weather and fear of natural calamities.
Due to such heavy migration, ironically, the region remained untouched for a long time – making the soil non toxic and unpolluted, hence, perfect for growing organic produce and promoting agriculture – the main source of Garhwal’s livelihood.
Therefore, started with a simple thought of the founder who himself comes from a hospitality background – was the concept of ‘Green People’. The innovative idea was to start an ecologically responsible agro-tourism movement which involves inviting guests to stay at this Himalayan village, promoting the local seeds and local produce grown in the village itself and selling the produce merely by word of mouth to generate some revenue to help the cause. The founder believes that by hearing about the innovative growth, tourism and the boom in agricultural strength; the Garhwalis would be inspired to come back to their homeland and help in its development, while promoting new opportunities of self-employment.
Why the name The ‘Goat’ Village ?
It is believed that “goats” are the closest livestock herded by the farmers in their daily routine, making them not only the most important form of livelihood but also the their closest companions. Hence, the name The ‘Goat’ Village.
What to expect? A message to the travelers:
When visiting this simple yet surreal homestay, expect to leave behind the materialistic city life and be ready to explore your inner self while dancing along the songs of nature. Regard this trip as an opportunity to disconnect from the world and reconnect with the uncorrupted and unsullied way of life. There is no electricity and network coverage is low in and around the area. So, leaving your gadgets behind is a good idea.
How to reach The Goat Village?
Dehradun – Lessergaon – The Goat Village: Lessergaon is located approximately 100 km away from Dehradun when traveling via Mussouri. The travel duration is around 4-5 hours by road depending upon the traffic and road conditions. The last stretch is covered through a short trek starting from Lessergaon towards The Goat village following the signboards.
Bonus: The site is the midpoint for the popular Nagtibba Trek.
Architecture and Ambience:
Constructed amidst the Himalayan hills, the homestay is a total of 10 elegant cottages constructed primarily of mud and timber, based on the local and ancient ‘Kotibanal Architecture’. These cottages are not only ethereally luxurious and extremely spacious, but also earthquake resistant making them the most suitable for this region.
The huge windows offer picturesque views of the mountains and the attached bed to the window was my favorite place to relax – with a mix of music and lots of sunlight.
The homestay also houses a barn with lots of goats and hens – their sounds keeps the village alive and adds to the experience of living on a typical mountain farm.
The most appealing place to chill around is the common hall, beautifully designed as a spacious yet cozy room having elegant wooden furniture, a transparent ceiling and a little indoor garden – making the place look fresh and colorful.
This is also the dining hall and the place where one can interact with other fellow travelers. The cherry on the cake was the guitar lying in the corner – which I played my heart out – making the spot perfect for a musician.
A book shelf with a variety of books is thoughtfully placed in the corner, which you can enjoy while sipping a coffee or while lying down on the lounge style seating arrangement or the cozy mattress.
The village is maintained with well defined stone pavements to walk around and explore the priceless natural offerings of the village. The trails are fenced by colorful flowers and the farmers working on the crops adds to the whole experience.
The hardworking team is composed of the local people from Uttarakhand, who were sent for training at various partnering 5-star hotels for professional enhancement and development of their hospitality skills.
This staff was extremely loving and made us feel like at home – a part of their small goat village family. The few days I spent in The Goat Village with these people helped me share beautiful moments and create some unforgettable memories.
Experiences and special things to watch out for:
The Morning Tea: I loved to wake up in the morning and prepare my own tea with the lemongrass, mint and tulsi – freshly plucked from the garden while enjoying with the staff in the kitchen.
The Solar Lamps: It was fascinating to see the homestay using solar energy in the form of solar lamps which looked cool charging under the sun during the day; shining bright in the night.
The Keechad/Mud Party: Yes, they really have a Mud Pool on the top of the village where they organize, as they call it, ‘The Keechad Party’ for large groups. And we were crazy enough to dip in it as soon as we heard about it. It was simply the craziest experience ever.
A night in the Mud House: Luckily one night, a local farmer’s hut, just a few steps downhill was vacant, so they organized our stay inside – where we heated our own food by burning coal on the hearth and had an amazing time with some of the staff who joined us for dinner.
The early moonrise and dreamy nights: The night was dark, but still full of light. Being from Delhi it was mesmerizing to sit under a sheet of numerous stars, so clear and so close, making me want to connect the constellations and spot the bright shooting stars every night. The sunset showed magnificent colors with the mellow touch of the early moonrise.
The food: The food here is served lavishly in ‘brass’ crockery, and is cooked using the local crops grown in the farm itself. The crops grown are organic and fresh which adds to the scrumptious flavor. They also cook some local dishes that typically belong to the Garhwal region – unique and surprising for the taste buds.
The local crops are also packaged and marketed under the brand name ‘Bakri Chaap’, to be sold to guests, client hotels and supplied to nearby areas in order to generate more revenue for the management and the promotion of the cause.
- About the Author: Saraansh Gupta is a multimedia producer with a deep passion for travel, food, music and landscape photography. While traveling you can expect him to be funny, witty, calm and cautious, all at the same time. He is StreetTrotter’s Chief-traveler in India at the moment and is available for future projects in and around the country.
- Photographs by: Saraansh Gupta & Ankur Schroff