The Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is a beautiful mountain nature reserve clad in forests of oak, pine and rhododendron, with some of the most unspoilt landscapes of India, set against the awesome backdrop of the mighty Himalayan peaks. Binsar lies at the heart of the Kumaon hills, in the state of Utterakhand, about 20 km from the district capital of Almora. An unending sequence of pine-clad and terraced hills with picturesque villages and small temples clinging to their sides, Binsar sits in the Himalayan foothills at an altitude of 1,500 to 2,500 m, and is named after the Bineshwar temple. The narrow valleys are rice-growing areas, irrigated from the small streams and rivers. All are overlooked by the great peaks of Nanda Devi, Trisul and Panchachuli.
This is a wonderful place to discover wildlife. The Binsar Sanctuary is home to deer, wild boar, porcupine, pine martens, langur monkeys and several breeding pairs of leopard, while birds include various species of woodpecker, eagles and vultures.
Each village of Binsar will give you its own special welcome, and each has its own personality - but all are the home of mountain people, hardworking, stalwart, warmly hospitable. They love to talk, to laugh, to sing and dance. They love their animals, often keeping pets, and know and respect the wildlife that surrounds them. Despite living in comparative isolation, you'll find they're up-to-date with the outer world - and will know the latest cricket score before you do!
The six villages - Kathdhara, Gonap, Satri, Risal, Dalar and Matkanya- are isolated: none is connected to a road and there is no electricity. And yet the villagers are aware of the outside world, many having had to migrate to earn money, and there is a high level of education. Each village is different but all love their home and provide a ready welcome to guests, adhering to the traditional Hindi saying Athithi devo bharwa ('A guest is a God in my house'). Our Guides are all local people, with deep affection for their environment and their culture, keen to show guests around and to share experiences and laughter.
Your stay in Binsar commences at Khali Estate, a small family-run hotel steeped in history and an integral part of Village Ways, while through the forested slopes are scattered the villages and farms of Binsar. Your room is in one of the picturesque stone rondavel cabins set amongst the pine trees, clustered around the British Raj style house that was built by General Sir Henry Ramsay. You can truly relax at Khali - it is peaceful (no TV), with good vegetarian food, attentive service and plenty of short walks. In winter there is a warming log fire in the sitting room.
Your guide will meet you here to discuss your itinerary around the villages, the walks you wish to make and what you are interested in seeing. The walking in Binsar is flexible and open to all; most paths are even and slopes are gentle, with some steeper gradients. A typical day’s walk might involve 3 to 5 hours of walking, however your guide will tailor the routes and length of the walks according to your wishes.
The houses have been purpose-built by the Village Tourism Committees, assisted by loans and grants from Village Ways. They are built in traditional style, by local craftsmen using traditional materials. Walls are made of stone with mud mortar and minimal cement has been used. They are simple, comfortable houses that give a flavour of the way people live in the villages.
Each guest house has three twin guest bedrooms, a combined dining and sitting room and a terrace to make the most of the views. Each house has one separate modern toilet and shower room. A traditional Bokhari - wood-burning stove - keeps the living room cosy in winter, while solar power ensures hot water for showers and power for light through the year. Water to wash in comes from the village’s own source and drinking water is boiled and filtered. All of these resources are limited and we would ask you to use them modestly.
Your Village Ways holiday includes return transfer from Delhi: taxi transfer to Old Delhi station; train to Kathgodam and onward road transfer to Khali Estate and the villages. We can arrange to meet you at Delhi Airport, to fit in with your flight arrival and departure times, or if you are already in India we can arrange for you to be met in Delhi, at the place of your choosing, to start on your journey to the mountains. From Kathgodam a scenic road journey takes you through the Himalayan foothills, via the hill town of Almora, to Khali Estate in the Binsar Sanctuary.
We ask our guests to make their own arrangements for international travel to India. We offer some general advice and useful links regarding travel, visas, insurance, health requirements.
The weather varies markedly by season, so you need to choose the time that suits your preferences. Temperatures at these altitudes (2,000 - 2,500 m) can fall quite suddenly, so carry a sweater with you, even during the spring and summer.
During the real winter daytime maximum temperatures are still a comfortable 10 – 15C but night temperatures sink to around 0 – 5C. Some small amounts of rain can be expected, and even a little snow, but the days are warm and sunny, with good views. Bring a small umbrella just in case and plenty of warm clothes, gloves, woolly hat and padded jacket for the evenings.
The SW Monsoon rains clothe the hills in cloud. The air is humid but delightfully fresh. The rain storms are localised and tend to be in the evenings, allowing time to walk during the days. Temperatures are around 20C during the day but fall back to 15C at night. The rains clear the dust, allowing crisp views over the hills and glimpses of brilliant green rice crops in the fields. Bring an umbrella to guard against the rain, which can be intense, and a waterproof rucksack. Also beware of the odd leech in damp places and slippery paths.
From March onwards the temperatures rise steadily from maxima of 15C to around 30C in May but the nights remain comfortable (10-15C). If you live on the plains of northern India, you will find the weather a welcome relief. This is the dry, hot season when villagers start to prepare the land for the monsoon crops. The air can become hazy, due to local forest fires and views of the Himalayan peaks are usually limited to the early mornings and evenings (obviously, we cannot guarantee that you will glimpse the peaks on your trip).
This the best time for views of the Himalayan snow-capped peaks. The landscape is still green after the rains. The days are warm and sunny but the air temperatures start to drop as the winter progresses, with maxima of 20 degrees and minima of 5 degree C. There is very little rain from mid-October onwards. This is a good time for witnessing the harvest of the rice crop and planting of the winter season crops of wheat and vegetables, with clear skies and extensive views. Bring warm clothes for the evenings.