Sikkim and the neighbouring Seven Sister States are an unexplored haven — interesting cultures, delicious cuisines, and colourful festivities, all with the rolling mountains and flowing streams as the ideal backdrop. They say the best way to discover a new place is through the people, a hotel simply cuts you off from all the authentic experiences a cosy homestay offers. Homestays come with several advantages; you become a part of your host family for as long as you stay, they cook a variety of dishes, often from the local cuisine that you wouldn’t always get to eat some place else, and they know the best of local activities to do. The love and warmth that accompanies their hospitality makes you feel ‘at home’, even a hundred miles away.
Imagine opening the windows of your room to the soaring Kanchanjunga peak, knowing the local markets are a stone’s throw away with insider guidance, and coming back home to the most delicious, steaming chicken momos one could possibly find around town — that’s what living in a homestay was like for me, in the quaint hilltown of Pelling.
While that was nearly two years ago, the region’s locals have opened their doors to many tourists, leading to several unique and gorgeous homestays dotting the North Eastern states. Besides the above features, a homestay’s affordability is a major advantage too. We’ve curated a list of homestays around the North East to drop by on your next trip:
Where: West Sikkim
Nestled amid mountains, at the foot of the beautiful Rhododendron sanctuary, the Dhungay Homestay is a charming stone bungalow. Wooden balconies fringing the top floor are perfect for watching the sunrise with a morning cuppa. Spacious and comfy bedrooms with wooden furniture add a lovely rustic touch while the cardamom gardens around the house are perfect for a nice stroll.
The family of Kunwar Chettri have arranged for an entire experience of living the Hee-Bermoik village life – village tours, lunches, and visits to local attractions being some of them. Besides, incredible food from the Chettri kitchen, local recipes, momos, and their special wildberry chutney only seals the deal. If you’re interested, you can also take momo-making lessons from Mrs Chettri!
Perched on a cliff, Chalamthang houses a machaan that opens up to stunning views of the snow-capped mountains and the beautiful Teesta river. Catch the sinking sun, and conclude the day with dinner and drinks. Organic food enthusiasts can pick veggies from the homestay’s garden and hand them over to the kitchen staff for a fresh salad. With absolutely no cliched tourist rush, the homestay is perfect to disconnect from routine scurry.
The Buddha Park, the Tendong biodiversity park, and markets are at a stone’s throw from the stay. The staff also arranges guided visits to the local tea gardens and the factory. With four rooms, the stay promises a warm, friendly, and an attentive staff. And in case you just can’t do without internet, they have Wi-Fi too!
III. Longchen Homestay
Where: Dimapur, Nagaland
Just 1.5 kilometers away from Dimapur airport, Longchen can be conveniently accessed. If you wish to drive over, they also have ample parking. A pretty house with four bedrooms and green fields around till as far as you can see, Longchen Homestay offers the perfect idyllic getaway in the heart of Nagaland. The arrangement of rooms around the dining and living areas brings a comfy, home-like feeling. And speaking of the dining, host Annie can prepare authentic Naga food if you want something out of the usual, but delicious nevertheless, in your plate.
IV. Aerodene Cottage
Where: Shillong, Meghalaya
It is one thing to land in a normal room with concrete walls even when you’re in Shillong, but who’d want that when you can experience living in traditional Assamese architecture? A 60-year-old house that’s now restored into a homestay, Aerodene’s charm lies in its colonial farmhouse-style appearance. Beautiful wooden panels cover bamboo frames, wide windows that open to the surrounding gardens, and tasteful interiors that assure a comfy stay. If you’re a nature enthusiast, there’s tremendous nature around to explore. To make the most of this tranquil setting, they also host yoga and meditation sessions so that their guests can contend with complete rejuvenation.
Where: Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh
As an initiative to promote sustainable eco-tourism, the local Apatani tribe of the pristine Ziro valley have opened their homes to travellers, as a part of the NGO Ngunu Ziro. Guests can experience closely the local culture and food, living almost like a local. If there’s something that’s off the beaten path for you to do in your trip, it includes participating in their volunteering activities such as conducting nature walks and butterfly monitoring. Feel free to talk to your hosts, know about their age-old traditions, and eat the Apatani home-cooked food. Choosing to live with them in your time at Ziro would mean ensuring that the paybacks of Ziro’s tourism reach the locals directly.
VI. Bookman’s BnB
Housing three comfortable bedrooms that look out to the dwindling mountain paths of Gangtok, Bookman’s BnB is certainly the best homestay to consider when in Gangtok. While the guest bedrooms on the middle floor feel intimate with their snug furnishings and beautiful wooden flooring, the owners living on the top floor and ensure a warm hospitality for their guests.
Downstairs on the ground floor, there’s an interesting book cafe downstairs. Rachna books houses a tastefully curated collection of books that have become the centre of interest of the creative community. You can be a part of their various events that involve storytelling and poetry recitation over, say, a tall glass of elaborate ‘Vietnamese Cà Phê Sữa Dá’. And when you have to go just upstairs for slumber, there can’t be a more convenient arrangement. In case you wish to shop some woollens or explore the local restaurants, Gangtok’s iconic MG Road market is right down the street.
Where: Mawsynram village, East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya
Mawsynram often contests with neighbour Cherrapunji for being the rainiest place on the planet. In effect? The village is surrounded by picturesque waterfalls and green pastures, and is something of an oasis. In conclusion? The perfect off-beat location for backpacking through mountains. It is relatively untouched by tourists, promising a much-looked-for peace and quiet along with its serenity.
Built back in 1970, Emily And Sankrita Homestay brings a unique, old-worldly charm to your stay. In what might be the most beautiful house amid the romantic vistas, guests are offered comfortable bedrooms, meals consisting of dishes from the traditional cuisine cooked by host Sankrita herself. Local markets are at a close distance, but so are some incredible locations such as Mawjymbuin Cave, and Ummawiong village that’ll make you feel like you’re in one of the Blue Lagoon movies.
VIII. Baruah House
Where: Guwahati, Assam
While Guwahati is turning largely metropolitan, some nooks and corners still retain bits and parts of its antique charm. Six bedrooms with walk-in wardrobes and all modern amenities such as air-conditioners and bathtubs, make for a relaxed stay at the Baruah House, an age-old ancestral home. While the gardens are well-kept, decorated with potted plants and colourful blooms, the terraces open to stunning views of the mountains and are perfect for dinner over some drinks.
Although located in the City’s heart, the homestay and its immediate surroundings are surprisingly tranquil. The Brahmaputra riverfront is hardly minutes away, and so are the local shopping spines. If you wish to tour far beyond the City, folks at the homestay can provide you with details, and also guides to accompany. Sometimes, the travel gods do have mercy and let luxury and affordability unite.
Where: West Sikkim
A stone farmhouse in the middle of green pastures and shrubbery that completes the picture, is not only gorgeous to look at, but also to live in. The gorgeous setting of 44 acres of greens dotted with chestnut, rhododendron, pine, and Himalayan alder around the homestay will surely make it difficult for you to recover from. An edifice of Tibetian architecture, the stay with its five wood-panelled bedrooms is something out of the cliched and mediocre.
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