To celebrate Responsible Tourism, we have for you a luminous bouquet of homestays from all over our beloved country. Homestays do tick all the boxes. There’s no new construction in most cases, just the creative reuse of an already existing building. They are small and intimate. There’s no easier path to local immersion. The homestays in  this list stretch the definition in every direction. Some have no electricity, while others are working farms, and some are set at the edge of deep forests. Food is splendid everywhere. But what makes these homestays truly sparkle are their hosts, each of them with a riveting story to tell. And that’s why each of them is absolutely unique. Go on then, plan your next guiltless trip with Part 1 of India’s Best Homestays

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Salban—A Kanha Homestay

Exactly a year ago, Jhampan and Sheema Mookerjee began living their dream life. Successful city professionals both—Jhampan runs a specialist wildlife travel company and Sheema worked for a travel publication house—they built a simple, low-rise, red-tiled and altogether pleasing home and called it ‘Salban’. And they’d love to share two rooms in their jungle home with like-minded travellers. One is a double-bedded room on the ground floor with a sitout and the other a twin-bed room on the first floor. The living space is large, bright and welcoming. Food is fresh and appetising, with produce from their land proudly whipped out on to the communal dining table. Lovers of the wild, get thee to this proud little home in one of India’s most beautiful jungles. Tariff: 7,000 doubles, all inclusive. Contact: 7692835206, salbanhomestay@gmail.com, facebook.com/salbankanhahomestay/

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Chilipili Estate, Coorg

Coorg is lovely, dark and deep—but you already knew that. Hundreds of homestays are to be found here—and you probably know this too. How then to choose? One way to go is to simply trust in the popular vote. And by that standard, Chilipili Estate is top of the pops. Named for the local Chilipili temple and run by the highly hospitable Dilip Ganapathy, this place needs advance reservation. Your Kodava hosts are also extremely accommodating—literally, their three cottages are known to have housed up to 20 people! Delicious local specialities (pandi curry et al), long walks, child-friendly activities, excursions, there’s much to be done here. And oh yes, you might want to leave your phone in your suitcase; connectivity isn’t great in these parts but then you’ll have brought yourself here to switch off, disconnect and reboot. Do so. Tariff: from 3,750 doubles, including breakfast. Contact: 8272230123, coorgchilipili.com

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Farm of Happiness, Phungus

Brought up in Mumbai, with glamorous and insanely busy lives in advertising and acting, respectively, Rahul and Sampada suddenly found themselves confronted with an eternal, unanswerable question: are we happy? Well, perhaps sometimes the question does get answered, since the couple seem to not only have found happiness, they are now in the business of making and purveying happiness. Farm of Happiness, they call it, the ‘agroecotourism resort’ they’ve built in the land of their forefathers. Set in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district, in a village called Phungus, the couple is more than happy (but naturally) to share with you the wonders of nature’s bounty. At the table and through conversation, during tours of their 20-acre farm and chats over lemongrass tea. Three rustic but attractive and comfortable en suite rooms are on offer, as is traditional Maharashtrian vegetarian food (non-veg available too). Tariff: 5,000 doubles, all inclusive. Contact: 9820002863, farmofhappiness.com

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Chhotaram Prajapat’s Homestay, Jodhpur

There are homestays and there’s Chhotaram Prajapat’s. Chhotaram’s family, members of the Prajapati weaving community and based in Salawas village outside Jodhpur, specialised in dhurries. But fed up of being exploited by middlemen, his father, Pukhraj, set up a weavers’ cooperative. And Chhotaram carried forward the pioneering spirit: the craftsperson turned entrepreneur and set up a homestay on his father’s large landholding. Accommodation is in attractive mud huts, embellished only with bright curtains and lovely handwoven dhurries. The food is appetising village fare. Trying your hand at the loom is encouraged. Camel and jeep safaris are arranged happily. And smiles and welcomes are aplenty. Tariff: from 2,400 doubles. Contact: 0291-2696744, salawashomestay.com

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Shahpura Bagh, Shahpura

Two handsome mansions, set on 45 acres of gardens, pastures and farmland, which also feature two lakes… Sound like the abode of kings? Well, you wouldn’t be wrong. The family that lives in one of the two mansions that constitute Shahpura Bagh are indeed descendants of royalty. And that makes a stay at their home a right royal treat. Accommodation is in one of nine suites, split between Nahar Niwas, the family homestead, and Umaid Niwas, the building that once hosted visiting nobility. Choose the former for a true homestay experience, possibly the most luxurious you could experience in the country. The suites are massive and high-ceilinged, but none is oppressively grand nor gloomy—all are light-filled affairs, with subtly rich good taste pastoral sights soothing, the family warm and welcoming. Located midway between Jaipur and Udaipur (4hrs from either). Tariff: from 12,950 doubles, including breakfast, excursions, wifi. Contact: 9982226606, shahpurabagh.com