Far away from the cacophony of city life, perched 1,750m above sea level on Uttarakhand’s Kasar Devi ridge, stands The Kumaon, a retreat with an understated opulence. After a three hour-long drive from the Kathgodam station and a 10-minute hike from the main road, the hotel—camouflaged in the ochre landscape—reveals itself like a pleasant surprise to weary travellers. Its advantageous location allows unhindered views of the Nanda Devi range and the quiet luxury of isolation. Interestingly, The Kumaon didn’t set out to be a commercial property. Owner Vikrom Mathur had envisioned it to be his private home, but a chance meeting with investor Raghav Priyadarshi in 2014 led to the property opening its doors to guests, while carefully limiting its accessibility and commercialisation. “The enchanting, uninterrupted view of the high Himalayas made our decision very easy,” recalls Priyadarshi, co-owner of The Kumaon.
The property is sprawled across 3-acres, with 10 luxurious suites existing in isolation while providing an immersive experience of unadulterated nature. Named after the neighbouring villages, these luxury suites have a contemporary yet rustic vibe, built with locally sourced materials like stone, bamboo and pinewood. The steel cantilevered dining space, with floor-to-ceiling windows and concrete walls partially covered in bamboo sticks, is perhaps, the most imposing feature of the property. The main building also houses a rustic library, a lounge, and a spa.
The floor-to-ceiling windows and extended terraces look out to views of the mountains ahead
The suites in The Kumaon are divided into lower and upper decks where each enjoys floor-to-ceiling windows, an extension of its efforts to let the outside peek into the inside. While the lower suites have outdoor sitting areas surrounded by lush greenery, the upper decks enjoy bay windows and extended terraces to inhale the crisp mountain air. Every room is fitted with the Kumaoni bukhari, a traditional wood heater to keep the suite warm and toasty. Earthiness, being the leitmotif of the project, resonates in the décor elements of the property through traditional engraved copperware, upholstery sourced from tweed mills in Almora and elegant stone accessories created by local artisans.
The dining experience at The Kumaon is intentionally simple. Every dish is compliant to the Kumaoni palate, which is still heavily undiscovered. It’s not every day that you are served bhang chutney made with cannabis seeds along with millet flatbread, gehet dal, pahadi chicken, Kumaoni raita, or forest-foraged rosemary tea. However, if you’re looking for a star dish, you probably won’t find one, with the thali comprising of several well-balanced dishes created to complement each other.
While aimless strolling is a given when staying at the resort, one can also opt for the tailor-made itineraries which include a visit to ancient shrines, sun– bathing alongside the river, or exploring the neighbouring villages, which are just as stimulating for those with itchy feet. With numerous wellness retreats springing up across the country, The Kumaon, with its rustic simplicity stands out.
Photographs: Ashish Shah (Alaya F), Akshay Sharma