Homestay Review: Seetalvan Orchard at Kotgarh

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.

The Seetalvan Orchards and Homestay

The Seetalvan Orchards and Homestay at Kotgarh. More pics from the region at Flickr

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 common room; Notice the fireplace

The common room; Notice the fireplace

The Dining Hall; the fireplace again

The Dining Hall; the fireplace again

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.

Clockwise from top: Harvested Golden, Red Apples, pathway inside the premises, wood-fired oven

Clockwise from top: Harvested Golden, Red Apples, pathway inside the premises, wood-fired oven

Ready to be plucked fruits: Golden apple, Red apple and Kiwi

Ready to be plucked fruits: Pears, Red apple and Kiwifruit

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 humble entrance to the Homestay; located a couple of kilometer before Kotgarh

The humble entrance to the Homestay; located a couple of kilometer before Kotgarh

That was my room

That was my room. Please visit Flickr Photoset for more images of the region

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 spacious balcony

The spacious balcony. More images from Kotgarh-Thanadhar at Flickr Photoset

At the breakfast table; washed down with plentiful of fresh Apple Juice

At the breakfast table; the sumptuous meal was washed down with plentiful of fresh Apple Juice

An Oriental White-eye feasting on a ripened Golden Apple

An Oriental White-eye feasting on a ripened Golden Apple

A riot of flowers

Apart from a variety of fruits and vegetables, the colourful orchard was a riot of seasonal flowers

More flowers

The flowers included dahlias, zinnias, geraniums, nasturtiums, bergenias, pansies, hydrangeas, fuchsias, asters, etc

Sunset as observed from the orchard

Sunset as observed from the orchard. More images from the region at Flickr Photoset

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.

Ms Meenakshi Jhina, the owner of the Homestay

Ms Meenakshi Jhina, the owner of the Seetalvan Orchards and Homestay

The Kitchen and the Cook

The Kitchen and the Cook at Seetalvan

The staff at the Seetalvan Orchards

The staff at the Seetalvan Orchards

The way I saw it

Ambience and Location: 4.5/5
Accommodation and Staff: 4.5/5
Food and Dining: 4.5/5
Amenities: 4/5
Tariff: 3.5/5

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.

Disclaimer: This particular visit to Kotgarh and Thanadhar was based on an invitation from Seetalvan Orchard. The views expressed here are free of any bias and are solely based on my experience.

26 Comments on “Homestay Review: Seetalvan Orchard at Kotgarh

    • Thanks for stopping by the blog. Glad you liked it. Keep visiting bNomadic for more such travel stories 🙂

  1. beautiful composition, I like the way you present all this content,
    it shows your dedication and passion about writing and travel,
    it would be nice if u could support you or help you in your blog.
    Keep Blogging

    • Thanks Abhishek for showering the blog with appreciation. Certainly it would be a great idea to have your expression on the blog. Lets meet sometime soon. And keep visiting bNomadic 🙂

  2. I’ve begun to like homestays and this one really looks and sounds good 🙂 Thanks for sharing buddy…

  3. Wonderful review bNomadic. Budget stays are very much the need of the hour. Keep sharing your experiences with such in depth stories. Way to go.
    ps- lovely pix.

    • Thanks Tikuli. Its just the place where you could creatively pen your couplets and poems. Keep visiting bNomadic 🙂

    • I am glad you liked it. Thanks for stopping by the blog. Keep visiting bNomadic for more such travel stories 🙂

  4. great post 🙂
    i am traveling to Kotgarh next week, would you know if there are local buses from Narkanda to Kotgarh and Thanadhar?

    • Thanks for stopping by the blog Shilpi. Bus connectivity is excellent till Narkanda. Afterwards, you will have to wait at the bus stop of Narkanda to avail the limited bus service for Kotgarh. I am not very sure of the current timings and usual waiting period. Will try and find that out for you. Keep visiting bNomadic for more such travel stories 🙂

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