Seetalvan Orchard is a Homestay located in a natural exquisite setting of the Kotgarh hills in Shimla district of the state of Himachal Pradesh. Looked after by an enterprising lady, who has tastefully converted her family-owned orchard into a modern-day rejuvenation centre; the Seetalvan offers an idyllic break from the humdrum of city-life. A few days ago, I stayed here for three days and this is what I have to say about them and the region.
About Kotgarh (1950m)
The Valley of Kotgarh, popularly known as the valley of Golden Apples lies at a comfortable drive of 30 minutes (16 km) from Narkanda on the Shimla-Rampur highway. The small settlement on its hillside, a historic village on the erstwhile Hindustan – Tibet highway, is enveloped by a dense forest cover of deodars, pines, spruce and oaks. In its heyday, due to its comfortable-cum-strategic location on the erstwhile trade-route, the village was no less popular than Shimla. Whereas, Shimla evolved to become the popular summer retreat and ultimately the capital of British India, Kotgarh still has been able to almost retain its alluring charm. Read more about Kotgarh and nearby areas including the activities here: The misty hillside of Kotgarh.
The Seetalvan Orchard Homestay (2174m)
The owners of the Seetalvan Orchard bill their property, a modern Homestay, to be an “ideal blend of warmth, rustic appeal and luxury” offering a beautiful view of the middle Himalayas. Enclosed by a densely wooded deodar patch, the orchard comprises basically everything that can be grown on hills of this region. Apart from seasonal vegetables, the produce includes red, golden apples, kiwis, pears, peaches and cherries, etcetera.
The owners, a Jhina family, pride themselves with giving a personal, cultural and yet modern touch to create a semi-commercial property out of an ancestral estate. Having incorporated the basic fundamentals of modern architecture, the rooms are newly built. The kitchen-staff here has been especially trained to dish out homely north-Indian meals prepared out of locally procured ingredients. “We strive hard to serve tasty, healthy and fresh food so that it’s worth every penny you pay,” asserts the website. The owners also offer to organise sightseeing and adventure walks in the nearby area.
My Experience at Seetalvan
I can never get tired of visiting the sylvan Kotgarh-Thanadhar hillside. The reason is obvious; not as much of a touristy region and a more preserved countryside for which I thank the flourishment of apple cultivation in the region. Guest houses or homestays are not plentiful in Kotgarh and finding a fully functional one is not an option; barring a couple of other possibilities. The orchard of Seetalvan is situated a little before the main settlement of Kotgarh. As I crossed Theog, a message from the owner, giving directions of the property, flashed on my phone. With much ease I located it.
The caretaker, already waiting for me at the parking lot, escorted me to the room. The room was large and spacious for single occupancy or double, in fact, triple even. Minus a TV entertainment, intercom connectivity and Wi-Fi, the accommodation was well-appointed with almost everything one would expect at a luxuriously-billed property. I made myself a cup of tea. Polished in the typical yellow hue, much of the furniture and doorways was made out of deodar wood. The resin smell of the divine timber can actually work wonders and make you even more cheerful which is precisely what happened with me. Outside, the room opened up to a spacious balcony which had some prearranged basic furniture. The view encompassed Kullu and Mandi regions of the Himalayas. The rounded ridges endlessly rippled up far in the sky until they faded into the insipid blues on the horizon. Below me, the smell of recently plucked apples; juvenile magpies chasing each other, conversations of fellow resident-guests and the stretch of the orchard caught my attention. Further down on the valley floor, the mighty Satluj rounded to enter the Kullu region. Claimed to be the oldest organised cultivation, the lush green patch of dense deodars stood towards my left.
The common room was equipped with a small library comprising college literature, a couple of board games and a large screen to watch TV or play games. Reached through a stoop, the common-room opened up to a balcony on the right side. It was just an ideal place to grab a hot cuppa and pick a book or something. On one side the view commanded a sweeping Himalayanscape and the orchard on the other. I caught up with the owner Ms Minakshi Jhina, who was completely devoted to the upkeep and maintenance of the property of Seetalvan, her brainchild. With herself hailing from the Kotgarh-Thanadhar region itself; the property demands her attention and involvement all the time despite the staff being local. And she is ever willing; constantly tutoring and guiding her staff, a young, energetic and cultured team of local boys. The support-staff at Seetalvan was keen to accompany me or a walk and show me the terrain. Although, I preferred my own company but I found this willingness or service-option to be fairly useful as it would be of much help to a newcomer into the area.
The way I saw it
Ambience and Location: 4.5/5
Accommodation and Staff: 4.5/5
Food and Dining: 4.5/5
If you wish to book your stay here, you can contact at +91.980.55.94069 or reach out through their website. It is listed fairly well at most travel planning portals and apps.