We’ve known it for a few years, and now surveys confirm it. Homestays are here, well, to stay.
A recent look into countrywide statistics by HolidayIQ, a travel and holiday information portal, found that homestays form 13 per cent of total accommodation of the top 50 emerging tourism destinations of India. And, with good reason too. A personal touch and the warm comfort of home-cooked meals are what make them a popular option among travellers in search for an experience, rather than a destination.
Here are some of the best homestays around Mumbai that you should keep your weekends free for.
Deogadh the Homestay, Pawna
115 kilometres from Mumbai
Charges: Rs 3,250 per person
(min booking 6, max 15)
Go there for: A stay in an eco-friendly home Annabelle Ferro, who lives at this eco-friendly home with her family, lays Down the rules: this is not a resort; don’t expect a pool or air-conditioner. Remember, you are staying at someone’s home. This is also not the place for stag groups and those craving a party. If you still think it’s the place for you, it comes highly recommended. It’s where you spend a quiet weekend and go away with eco-friendly tips. Ferro’s residence boasts water harvesting, garbage recycling and ground water recharge. PS: Don’t miss head cook Mirabai’s tamda rassa and thecha, or the special feast she prepares during Ganesh Chaturthi.
Dhun Heta, Panchgani
250 kilometres from Mumbai
Charges: Rs 1,500 per person per night
Go there for: The history
Built in 1914 by an Englishman named Henry Couldrey, Dhun Heta stands on Table Land Road in Panchgani. In 1942 bought over by Manijeh Patell. The homestay is now run by her daughter Heta Pandit. The furniture at this 101-year-old cottage is from the early 1900s, and in a corner of the dining hall is a wash basin — the sort used in ships. Don’t wash your hands here, though. It’s an artefact. There’s also a refrigerator from the 1940s that once used to run on kerosene.
140 kilometres from Mumbai
Charges: Rs 4,000 per cottage
(up to 4 persons per cottage)
Go there for: A weekend in the woods
Leela Broome, an author of children’s fiction, runs the place with her husband Ashok, a tea planter and ‘gentleman farmer’. What we liked was that when we called Broome, she said, “the network is terrible here.” That, and the promise of nature walks through organic rice fields and eight-acre fruit farm is worth it. You can either cook your own food or opt for packed sandwiches and fruit for lunch, and hot fusion meals for dinner. Sounds like a picnic. Two warnings: Pets are not allowed. And mosquitoes are problem. Carry a repellant.
245 kilometres from Mumbai
Charges: Rs 400 per person
Go there for: Enjoying village life
There’s no denying that what brings the tourist to Velas village is the Turtle Festival. Every year, the threatened Olive Ridley turtles lay their eggs on the beach, and when they hatch, the young ones crawl back to the open waters. Since 2006, the Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra has worked towards conserving the Ridley turtles (ensuring that they return to the sea unharmed), bringing hoardes of environment friendly tourists to the village. What’s unique here, is that instead of assigning one villager’s home as a stay, the locals take on guests by rotation. Basically, the entire village is a home stay. Meals are, therefore, basic, delicious and a community activity.
Serene Couple’s Retreat
160 kilometres from Mumbai
Charges: Rs 7,000 per night onwards
Go there for: A passionate holiday
Not often are spaces built only for couples. There’s usually a lot of ambient noise (meaning other, noisy guests). This property, however, sells itself as a retreat for two only. The single-bedroom cottage has been built overlooking the Khadakwasla lake. Spend your weekend reading a book on the hammock or enjoying each other’s company in silence.
Details: Call 9930234555
Niwant Sagar, Srivardhan
190 kilometres from Mumbai
Charges: Price on request
Go there for: Lazing on the beach
Despite being a city built by the sea, we never enjoy the beach. If an endless horizon is your weekend dream, head to Srivardhan. The homestay is built along the Konkan coast, and boasts a machan. But, it is not operational during the rains. An Arabian sunset with the fishermen casting their nets more than makes up for it.
Details: Call 9821681163