Living in the city gets to you, eventually. You feel like moving away from the urban madness and cacophony; experience life at unhurried, and quiet pace. We all crave for a rustic holiday to break away from all things urbane and enjoy simpler things in life every now and then. Our yearning for a simple and peaceful vacation led us to the beauty called Jyoti Niwas Homestay in Palampur – a homestay that offers much more than just a stay.
Jab We Met
Four bloggers in need of a break from the hustle and bustle of the city plan a hideaway for some meditative, peaceful downtime. A quiet place with rustic ambiance far from all the noise yet close enough to a borough, should their restless souls kindle hoo-ha. It’s an onerous task by any gauge. StayOnSkill comes to their rescue and arranges a lovely stay at Jyoti Niwas – a beautiful mountain getaway that meets all the needs and wants of them. Stay on Skill meetup is a great way to connect with like-minded people and fulfill the passion of travel without paying a penny. Yes! You heard it right. Share your skills and learnings with others and travel your heart out. It’s a beautiful concept and I’m glad to be a StayonSkill Expert.
Four of us (I from travelmelodies, Yogesh and Rajni from coupleonbike, and Mohit from jaunting journeys) were almost strangers when we met at ISBT, Delhi but as they say, travel is a magic that brings people together and turns strangers into lifelong friends. The people you travel with will be some of the celebrated friends you could possibly ever ask for. Travel is the glue that bonds. I can vouch for it now.
Journey to an Elysium called Jyoti Niwas Homestay
There’s nothing more soulful than driving down to the tree-lined country lanes, crisscrossing through the rolling hills, breathing in a lungful of fresh air, getting an eyeful of endless open skies and staying in an ancient cottage that is composedly located in a valley encircled by the majestic Himalayas. Smells dreamy? It did to us till we lived that dream.
After an overnight Volvo journey and a short local bus journey through the hills, we reached Averi village in Kangra Valley. The Kangra Valley is one of the most scenic valleys of lower Himalayas. Low rolling hills traversed by slender gushing rivulets, oodles of little hypnotic villages, lovely tea gardens and paddy fields with a backdrop of splendid Dhauladhar range – all this and much more makes Kangra Valley otherworldly.
Averi is a sleepy tiny village that welcomes you with its breathtaking vistas. Nothing much to do here and this is exactly its charm. It compels you to slow down and admire all the little things you’ve long forgotten to even look at like the way sun’s rays play peek-a-boo through the trees, morning birds sing to wake you up, colourful flowers bloom beautifully to cheer you up and beautiful sunsets from the window over the valley to colour your soul.
Located just on the road in the tiny hamlet of Averi, a drape of lush meadows hides Jyoti Niwas Homestay from the eyes of the passers-by. As we unloaded our luggage, a smiling local guided us towards an archaic green gate that led us to the colonial cottage with the beautiful open patio through the lush green trail. Just entering the place felt refreshing after a long bumpy bus ride.
Welcome to Jyoti Niwas Homestay
Rajkumar Ji, the caretaker of the homestay welcomed us with a beaming smile and helped us with our luggage. He delights guests with his ever-smiling face, amazing cooking skills, and lively outlook. The place looks grand yet rustic. Each and every moment at this 80 years old British-style cottage is an atavism to the olden times.
The property has two en-suite bedrooms with attached study, beautiful living room, dining hall, huge balconies on both the sides and is enveloped by dense forest.
A Homestay with a Tradition
Jyoti Niwas is a delicious blend of royal legacy and countryside charm. The summer retreat of the Nawab of Bhawalpur in 1937, the cottage was acquired by the royal family of Jammu and Kasmir in 1951.
Run by Vivasvat Chauhan and set amidst an estate encompassed by the lush green forest; the smell of the past lingers in every corner here. The estate surrounding the cottage is known to be the second home of Hari Singh’s (Last ruling Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir) wife, Maharani Tara Devi. Probably, the region is now named as Taragarh after Maharani Tara Devi. It’s an absolutely blissful place where the urban noises and ordinary routines seem miles away. We savored the quiescence while relaxing on the patio, sipping tea and swapping travel stories with each other.
Bedrooms open to the balcony that brings the sunshine all day. Furnishings are thrifty but meticulous.
Our Experience at Jyoti Niwas Homestay
Rajkumar ji served food at the common dining hall where we relished the authentic and delicious food with added spices of chitchat.
We stepped out to take a walk around the village and tea gardens but the cottage’s sit-out balcony and huge flower-bedecked patio drag us back. Believe me, you would just want to read a book, indulge in sketching, listen to the heartbeat of nature, converse with friends over endless cups of chai or take a nap – spoil yourself doing nothing.
The mornings start with a hearty breakfast followed by a stroll through the huge garden where the fragrance of flowers fills your lungs and soul. The sheltered yet open veranda allows you to enjoy the outdoors no matter what the weather is.
As dusk cascades upon Palampur, we basked in the sweetness of the winter cold sitting by the Bonfire that not only warms our bodies but our hearts too. Rajkumar ji with his signature smile attends to our needs and brings hot soup to comfort our wintry bodies. He waits for the bonfire to dim so he could serve hot dinner for us. Hospitality seems to have been ingrained in the brick and mortar of the cottage and Rajkumar ji doesn’t fail to add to that tradition.
At night the surrounding silence would startle you and the starry sky would bedazzle you. It may sound a little melodramatic or cliché, but stargazing on a cool clear night is almost like being in another world.
The overall impression is of a simple and comfortable yet tasteful homestay that holds ample beauty and tradition to allure anyone. The home-style food and hospitality offered; authenticate the impression. In case you couldn’t read this long post; here’s the upshot of the article – Jyoti Niwas Homestay is hands down one of the finest homestays I’ve ever visited and worth all your money and time.
Before leaving the cottage, I moved around to have a quick look at a place that was our home for two days.
With a heart full of memories we bid adieu promising to come back pretty soon.
Palampur is 483 km from Delhi. HRTC Volvo bus from ISBT, Delhi takes around 10 hours to reach Palampur. Tickets can be booked online from HRTC website. There are daily flights from New Delhi to Kangra Airport (40 km from Palampur.) Palampur – Kangra Valley Narrow gauge railhead connects Palampur to Pathankot but I’d suggest avoiding the train journey as it takes 6 to 8 hours to cover just 113 km and is not worth the time.
Take a local bus to Baijnath from New Bus Stand, Palampur and deboard at Taragarh Post Office. Jyoti Niwas Homestay is on the road exactly opposite to the Taragarh Post Office. You can also hire a cab from Palampur.
Best Time to Visit
The weather is most favorable between September and June. The Valley receives a mild rainfall between July and October which makes trails slippery. February and March are the best seasons to visit as the temperature begins to rise yet the town is still wrapped in a white blanket. It’s a pleasant cold and the sight of snow-capped peaks are at its finest.
Jyoti Niwas Homestay in Averi is utterly rustic with two simple yet comfortable en-suite bedrooms and attached study or kid’s room. It’s perfect for large families with children or group of friends traveling together like us. Meals are home-cooked. Mobile phone signals work perfectly and the house has WiFi facility too.
How to Book
I’m sure you are quite excited to book this lovely retreat right away.
Places to Explore in and around Palampur
Tea Gardens of Palampur – Palampur being the Tea Capital of North-West India has plenty of beautiful lush green tea gardens. We visited the Himalayan Brew Tea factory and witnessed the tea making process. Tea tasting is one of the best things to do here. They majorly prepare green tea and black tea in Palampur. Don’t forget to buy Kangra tea which can be a souvenir you can take back home.
Baijnath Temple – Baijanath is ancient Lord Shiva temple in Beas Valley in Kangra district. 16 km from Palampur, this Nagara style architectural marvel is worth a visit. I felt at peace as I softly whispered my prayer in Nandi Bull’s ear which is believed to reach Shiva. Even if you don’t believe in it, the act will give you happiness.
Andretta – Just 13 km from Palampur, Andretta is a peaceful tiny hamlet in the lap of the Himalayas that was turned into the artist’s colony in the 1920s by a gutsy Irishwoman, Nora Richards. The village became the juncture for creative minds since then. Famous painters, sculptors, theatre artists, actors, and potters came to Andretta and never thought of going back. Andretta Pottery and Craft Society and Sobha Singh Art Gallery are some of the must-visit attractions here. Buy beautiful pieces of fine art at Andretta Pottery’s in-house shop. Each and every piece is unique and a work of art made by the heart and soul. Plates, bowls, show pieces and much more; be ready to get spoiled for choices. They look classy and swanky.
Paragliding at Bir-Billing – If you crave to soar high in the sky like me; your dream will be a reality here. Yes! Bir Billing is one of the best paragliding destinations in India. It’s not just paragliding but the Tibetan Monasteries, cozy cafes, beautiful tea gardens and umpteen trekking opportunities make Bir-Billing a must do.
Barot Valley – Take a leisurely stroll and discover nature at its best in Barot Valley, a mysteriously far-flung town. The valley is trekker’s paradise as many beautiful trekking trails begin here. Trout fishing in clear waters of rivers here attracts anglers from far and wide. If angling isn’t your cup of tea, driving through the zigzagging mountain roads or taking a picturesque walk over narrow wooden bridges will delight your senses.
Dharamkot – It is a cute little hamlet known to be the hippies’ paradise. If you need some respite from the crowd of Dharamshala, head to Dharamkot. Just 13 km from Mcleodganj, it’s the base for popular treks like Triund, Indrahar Pass and more.
Dharamshala and Mcleodganj – Pretty landscapes and Dalai Lama’s presence have made Dharamshala a famous destination for travelers and tourists. Namgyal Buddhist Monastery, famous Cricket Stadium, Kareri Lake, Kangra Fort, and Naddi Village are some of the famous attractions in and around Dharamshala.
Other recommendations: Nugal cafe, Tashi Jong Monastery, Saurabh Van Vihar, Jakhani Devi Temple, Chamunda Devi temple, and Gopalpur Zoo.
There are endless things to see and do near Jyoti Niwas Homestay. Whether you want to explore or you just want to luxuriate or relax, Jyoti Niwas Homestay fits all.
A perfect haven for writers and artists, this heritage homestay is a destination in its own right. An ideal idyll!