A Memorable Homestay at the Musafir Cottages in Palampur

In this blog post, I cover the Musafir Cottages in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh.

Last Thursday I was hosted at the Musafir Cottages in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, for one night.

Even though it was my maiden visit to this unique property, it didn't feel like I was meeting the host, Abhinav Verma, for the first time. Abhinav, a native of Palampur, went out of his way to make me feel welcomed.

An overnight road journey from Delhi to Palampur took approximately 10 hours to complete. When I arrived in Palampur early morning on Thursday, 7 A.M., Abhinav had already arranged an Innova to pick up my family from the Palampur Inter-State Bus Terminus (ISBT). The distance from Palampur ISBT to Jakhni Mata Mandir Road (where Musafir Cottages are located) is mere 7 km, but because of the hilly terrain, it took us approximately 30 minutes to reach the cottages.

To my surprise, however, Abhinav was personally present at the cottages to welcome my family, which was heartening, to say the least! After a quick round of introductions followed by the morning tea and cookies, we were given a tour of the two mud cottages - Samarkand and Bukhara -  reserved for my family.

I have to be honest. The personalized, handwritten welcome messages from Abhinav inside both the cottages left an excellent first impression about the host. The rooms were neat and clean, stocked with basic amenities like television with cable, toiletries (toothpaste, soap, paper rolls, towels, etc.), geyser, sofa cum bed, quilts, and so on.

All paintings and murals that you see inside or around the cottages are hand-painted by Abhinav.

The names of every cottage at Musafir have been borrowed from the Silk Route, the ancient trade route that links China to the Mediterranean.

A perfect weekend getaway to rejuvenate and calm your senses, Musafir is the only commercial property built inside the pine forest area. With the pristine snow-capped Dhauladhar mountains as the backdrop, Musafir Cottages offer beautiful, breathtaking views of the Palampur valley from the top.

After we freshened up, Abhinav took us for a tour of his third cottage, Kashgar, which is adjacent to Dastarkhwan, the dining hall.

The passageway to this cottage is lovely; I couldn't help but notice how Abhinav has reused old crockery from his mom's kitchen to recreate art. Every bell in the passageway can be used for communication with the kitchen staff; you don't require an intercom!

Like I mentioned earlier, the most significant cottage at Musafir is called Kashgar. Unlike Samarkand and Bukhara, which attracts smaller groups of people, especially those who want to experience the Kangra style architecture, this cottage, in particular, is vast and contemporary. It comes with a living room and a working fire chimney. If you're in the mood to cook and pamper your taste buds, Kashgar also offers a kitchenette. A projector is hung in the attic to organize the perfect movie night for you!

The cozy and inviting fireplace and the antique refurbished Himalayan furniture in the dining room of Kashgar were beyond doubt the two highlights for me. After all, who wouldn't want to snuggle up inside a blanket next to a toasty fireplace in the peak wintery seasons of the Himalayas!

If you're an avid book reader, just like yours truly, the mini library that Abhinav has assembled will surely come in handy. Choose your pick and discover your favorite corner at Musafir!

Staying at Musafir will help you connect with nature ... you'll be able to hear the sounds of water rustling somewhere in the valley, bees buzzing the morning rhymes, peacocks screaming in the pine jungle, birds singing on trees, and pouring of the leaves ... all of which you'll never be able to experience in the mundane hustle and bustle of city life.

Musafir is surrounded by pine jungles, and the bay windows provide a fantastic space to read while sipping on your coffee and watching the sunrise from the mighty Dhauladhar range.

For those among you who wish to indulge in unique experiences, ask Abhinav to provide his insights on organic farming. He'll be happy to offer a firsthand experience of how he prepares local cuisines by growing vegetables and fruits on his farm. The menu in his dining hall, Dastarkhwan, boasts the best in farm-to-table cuisine.

Abhinav has constructed a greenhouse using polycarbonate plastic, near the cottages, where he grows vegetables and fruits that are even out of season. He does this in a controlled environment, by reusing seeds from his own produce. Ask Abhinav how he makes his own compost by using cow dung. My kids were super excited to learn so much about organic farming in such a lil time from Abhinav.

The delicious breakfast spread at Dastarkhwan was prepared by Abhinav's mom, Pravesh Verma. I still can't get over the farm fresh organic green salad served with exclusive flavored salt made of mountain basil! Try their Rhododendron juice, homemade pickles, and clay oven bread served with local cuisines. Come, experience nature this year with Musafir!

If days at Musafir are meant to end with live music and bonhomie, the nights still carry the sweet memories of winters. Stargazing at Musafir is no less magical ... and if you're a stargazer by any chance, you just might be able to witness the meteor shower ... you need nothing more, nothing less for a perfect break from your monotonous life.

Meeting Abhinav and staying at his cottages were the highlights of our trip to Palampur this time around. I'd also take this opportunity to thank caretakers Sunny and Bunty, who we had the privilege of knowing during this trip. Suffice to say, it was our best homestay to date.

An exceptional host that he is known to be, Abhinav is also a beautiful human being with various hidden talents. A singer, gardener, book reader, poet, guitar and tabla player, and painter. He wears all these hats with equal ease!

If you're visiting Palampur anytime soon, don't forget to stay at the Musafir Cottages, run by Abhinav. With his calm demeanor and great hospitality, he'll make sure you're coming back to Palampur again and again ...