Over the last three years I’ve been exploring Kumaon and discovering some of its most beautiful secrets. My journeys through the Kumaon mountains have allowed me to experience some charming homestays, meet some amazing people and hear their interesting life tales.
During my recent trip to Kumaon I visited the mountain jungle estate of Jilling, home to beautiful flowers and scenery, quaint pahari dwellings, sweet locals and some very interesting residents who own charming, experiential stays, which date back to the 1970’s. I spent four days wandering around the estate, discovering and walking its gorgeous paths, experiencing its lovely stay options and eating fresh Kafal berries and plums straight from the trees :)
Jilling is located 7 hours from Delhi on the Bhimtal- Dhanachuli road in Kumaon, Uttarakhand. The drive from Delhi is fairly easy with various pit-stops en route. I always stop at CCD in Gajraula for a refreshing cold coffee for the drive!
The base of the estate is a small Kumaoni village from where the hike to Jilling begins. It takes 1.5 - 2 hours depending on one’s pace and the trail is peaceful, cutting through lush mountain forests. In parts it is steep, sometimes soft, but always beautiful, dotted with fresh plums and Kafal berries.
During my time at Jilling, I stayed at a gorgeous cottage that was originally built in 1933. A few years ago, a couple from Delhi decided to buy the property and start a boutique cottage, inviting travellers to experience the spirit and serenity of the mountains. They have done an excellent job of refurbishing the interiors to make them comfortable and luxurious, while maintaining the original heritage structure of the house.
The house offers 2 double rooms, 2 suites and a 2 bedroom cottage that can comfortable accommodate 4-5 people.There are various hang out spots around the cottage, beautiful balconies, a dining area, a small kitchenette and a charming garden where one can sit out in the evenings around a fire and watch the star-lit sky.
Each room is themed after the different trees found in the region - Kafal, Padam, Buransh, Utish and Ringol. The rooms are tastefully decorated with a rustic and luxurious look. High ceilings, warm lighting, wooden floors, stylish bathrooms and chic upholstery. Each and every room has its own charm and welcomes you with warmth and mesmerising views of the lush mountains!
The staff at the cottage are very warm and hospitable and ensure that the travellers needs are catered to. There are three cooks, each with their own expertise in different kinds of cuisine. You could get some delicious local Kumaoni food, simple Indian cuisine, yummy italian dishes or some mouth watering chicken momos! The team is headed by Dilip and Vimla, a very sweet Kumaoni couple who is always smiling and ever ready to help and chat with travellers.
HOW I SPENT MY TIME AT JILLING
Jilling is not an activity packed place. It's a place for slow travel, a place that allows you to re-connect with yourself and be one with nature, and an ideal place for soul-searching amidst the beautiful mountains.
During the four days that I was at Jilling, I spent my time wandering around the estate through the various forest trails, bird watching, star-gazing and exploring small pahari villages. I also spent a lot of time hanging out in the garden and just being at the cottage, enjoying the stillness of the mountains. There were times when the travel planner in me was beckoned to work, but it hardly seemed like work while chilling on a hammock ;)
On one of my trails around the estate, I met Steve and Parvati Laal, a sweet couple who have lived in Jilling since the 1960’s. Steve is a total mountain man who moved to the mountains years ago as a young man with his mother. He met his wife, Parvati, a local Kumaoni woman during his youth here and it was love at first sight. Her strong spirit and love for nature made him fall in love with her, and they have lived happily in Jilling ever since, building their family of a beautiful daughter Nandini, their various dogs and cows, and all the local villagers. They have 4 cottages on the estate that they let out to travellers. Each cottage is simply decorated, completely in tune with Kumaoni architecture and warmth and a perfect space for nature and shanti lovers.
This trip to Jilling made my heart and soul smile! I am super grateful to Sheela and Rajiv for hosting me at the cottage and allowing me to experience such beauty, peace and serenity. I have fond memories of the mountain trails, the sweet people I met, the sunsets I saw and yummy Kafal berries!
Hope my journey to Jilling has inspired you all to get there! Here's some practical information for you:
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Although summer is a popular time to visit the mountains, I highly recommend that you travel to Jilling in the monsoons. The hike will be a tad more challenging than in the dry months, but the greenery and the sights will be mind blowing!
BEST SUITED FOR
The cottage is a quiet place ideal for nature and mountain lovers. It's great for couples who love nature trails and beautiful sunsets. Small families who enjoy quiet retreats and an opportunity for them and their children to connect with nature. And groups of friends looking for a beautiful getaway, some shanti and a fire.
The place is also pretty ideal for offbeat corporate outings, yoga and wellness retreats and big families looking for a place where they can spend quality time with each other amidst a peaceful, gorgeous setting.
All five rooms are priced differently, starting at Rs. 5,000 going up to Rs. 9,000 per night. The price is inclusive of breakfast, lunch and dinner for 2 adults.
For Wanderbugs, the cottage offers a special 10% discount on the tariff :)