A boutique hotel is one thing but staying in a heritage property like it was your home is something else. It's a different experience to stay in an old bungalow or palace, surrounded by antique trappings, excellent food, and the company of hosts who have plenty of interesting stories about their rich past.
Here’s the second part of our feature on 10 lesser-known heritage homestays in India, where you can have a truly memorable vacation.
This 18th-century Victorian bungalow in Odisha stands as a testament to the venerable history of Mayurbhanj. A part of what once served as the ancestral palace of the erstwhile royal family has now been transformed into a heritage homestay. The palace was initially built for Sucharu Devi, the daughter of Keshub Chandra Sen, a noted 19th-century philosopher and social reformer of Bengal.
Sri Ram Chandra Bhanj Deo had fallen in love with young Sucharu while he was in Kolkata and later married her despite stiff opposition from his family. The palace is a fine specimen of a seamless blend of Greek and Victorian architecture with beautiful courtyards. Surrounded by the lush greenery of mango orchards and gardens, the palace provides a look into the life and times of the royal family.
At every step, you come across remnants of old-world grandeur. Family portraits and paintings adorn the walls while antique furniture, Persian carpets, and opulent chandeliers add to the lavish interiors. On offer are six suites and rooms, which are characterised by high ceilings and en-suite bathrooms. Art from all corners of the world decorates these rooms. The ground floor rooms overlook a well-manicured garden and open into a spacious veranda. Of special note is the well-stocked library, where you can’t help but drool over age-old typewriters and archaic writing instruments and desks. The cuisine served here primarily includes regional delicacies with a special focus on locally grown veggies and grains. The best part about your stay at the Belgadia Palace, is however the warm hospitality of the hostesses Princesses Mrinalika and Akshita, who will leave no stone unturned to make you feel absolutely at home. You must also visit the nearby Simlipal National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Secret Garden
A stay at the Secret Garden is all you need to make your next trip to Goa more than perfect. Nestled in the charming and serene village of Saligao, this 200-year-old ancestral home of the Menezes family. While the homestay serves as the perfect location to unwind away from the hustle and yet be able to experience Goa’s quintessential beach and nightlife. The house came into being in 1864 and today the descendants of the Menezes family, Derrick Paul Eugene and his wife Helene Menezes, own the house, which stands as the most impressive and oldest house in Saligao. Helene is British by birth and has been living in India for more than 20 years now. She left a career in advertising to marry Derrick after the two met on a beach in Goa. The couple and their children Harvey and Havana-Kay will make your Goa vacation truly special with their amazing hospitality.
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The house has three rooms, which feature attractive curios and artifacts. Then there’s a private swimming pool to loll around in sunny afternoons. Meals are pretty special at the Secret Garden, especially the wholesome breakfast which includes juice, organic tea, seasonal fresh fruits, home-baked bread, and Helene’s special omelet. You can either enjoy your meals in the dining hall or on the patio or poolside. While the beach is just a ten-minute drive away, the St. Alex Church and MOG- India’s largest privately-owned art space are both a kilometer away. The homestay also offers bike hire services.
Dating back to 1923, this impressive colonial home gorgeously tucked away in the Anamalai Hills is a true personification of tranquility mixed with a splash of history. Located in Valparai near Coimbatore, the stunning British era bungalow is perched on a hilltop and surrounded by picturesque hills and tea estates. It’s perfect for that eating-relaxing- sleeping-and-sincerely- repeating kinda holiday we yearn for. You can go for nature walks or take thrilling treks or go birdwatching. You can also take a drive in the tea plantations and learn about the rich biodiversity of the region. The brilliant architecture of the bungalow features sloping tiled roofs, chequered floors, and imposing wooden doors, which will take you back in time. The homestay offers three large bedrooms which can occupy four people each. The bungalow once served as the home to many tea estate managers during the Raj era.
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The absolute silence that the property offers is ideal for a restorative experience. The views from the easy chair in the verandah are simply spectacular with the Sholayar Dam on one side and sylvan rainforests on the other. Its charm is almost infectious, to say the least. For nature lovers, Shekalmudi Bungalow is a sheer delight and offers spectacular sightings of the Great Indian Hornbill among hundreds of other birds. The food at the homestay will remind you of the pleasure of being home. From a wholesome English breakfast to a sumptuous South Indian meal, the food here is prepared from homegrown ingredients. The welcoming staff at the property will be more than happy to share their vast knowledge about the local culture, wildlife, and folklore. They will even accompany you during jungle treks and tea plantation walks.
Constructed in 1783, the Bharatgarh Fort in Punjab could well be among the oldest homestays in the country. Perched atop a small hilltop amidst the pristine Shivalik ranges, this magnificent fort is also one of the rarest standing live-in forts of Punjab. The fort once served as an important stronghold of the Singhpuria Misl, one of the sovereign Sikh states of the time, and enjoyed a strategic position, thanks to its location on the banks of river Satluj. Spread across an area of seven acres, the fort is encompassed by a forest land of 100 acres. The fort serves as the residence of the ninth generation of Nawab Kapur Singh, one of the most respected Sikh and Khalsa leaders. A part of the fort including two suites and a room forms the homestay, while the current owner Sardar Deepinder Singh, and his family live in the fort’s residential part.
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While all the accommodation options are great, we would especially recommend the Heritage Suite that overlooks the valley and the village. The fort serves as the perfect place to experience the rural life of Punjab. Your mornings here can be spent taking blissful walks to the nearby canal or a walk through the private forest. You can even go fishing in the in-house fish pond or go birding. If travelling with your family, you may also fancy going for a picnic near the farms in the Bharatgarh village. Needless to say, the best part about the Bharatgarh experience is the absolutely delicious Punjabi cuisine dripping in oodles of desi ghee and butter.
Shikwa Heritage Homestay
And finally, we have something for our beloved Delhiwalas too. Located less than 30km from the historic Red Fort in Katha village, the Shikwa Mehrabon Wali Haveli commands a majestic view of the Yamuna and lush fields. During the period between the 13th and 18th centuries, the area witnessed the construction of a number of houses and mansions and the Shikwa Mehrabon Wali Haveli was the largest of them all and served as the principal residence of the Qazis or judges and justices of the Delhi Sultanet. The haveli maintained its prominence during the Mughal period, which continued till the early 20th century. In the 1990s, an Indian civil servant Shariq Bin Raza and his journalist wife Alka took the onus of extensively restoring the haveli.
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With #jalis #archgateways and little fountains, this 700 years old #heritage haveli at #baghpat about a couple of hours away from New Delhi reminds of Mughal palaces. Lovingly restored and reconstructed out of rubbles of family property the #shikwaheritagehomestay is one getaway from city life. The hosts Mr Shariq Bin Raza, an UN Diplomat, after leaving his civil services returned to his ancestral land and resurrect the childhood home. The property offers a calm vibe and perfect relaxing ambience and an opportunity for old stories to resurface. I happened to take up an invite to dwelve in history of the property. I must stay the renovation left me amazed at the efforts and the results. It took a patient 13 years for the family to rebuild the structure and decor entirely from memory of childhood. #shikwahavelis #heritagehomestays, #heritagehotels, #homestaysofindia #restorationproject #lonelyplanet #redcoralhotels #TCBG_trips #instatravel #travelstories #travelpics @bhogijogi @lyfintransit @alpaviramonline @yayavaree @delhifundos @whereelse.in
Today the haveli features intricately carved jharokas, stone jaalis, fountains, chhatris, chajjas, imposing pillars and exquisite doors and mehrabs. There are six guest rooms with modern amenities, four lounges, a hall and three special rooms. All the rooms at the property have been aesthetically and tastefully restored to preserve the great heritage of the bygone era. Shariq and Raza are amazing hosts and you’ll be fascinated by their stories of living in 12 countries and travelling to more than 90 countries around the world. They have bedecked every corner of the haveli with souvenirs from their international journeys and staying with them is an utter delight for the discerning traveller. If you are looking for a relaxing staycation which is not very far from Delhi and is not just another homestay in the hills, Shikwa is the best choice.