Want to have local village experience in Kumao region in Uttarakhand, and see real Kumaoni culture? Visit Naikana village, near Jageshwar Dham.
Not very high in the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, I happened to hike through dreamy villages, deodar forest, and secret rhododendron trails, where locals would wake up at 4 am to chop wood across daunting terrain. They would climb up and down a steep mountain face while I carefully place one foot in front of the other.
My 2-day stay in this sleepy village called Naikana, which, in fact, was located only 20 minutes away from a well-trodden road, remains the most beautiful journey I’ve ever had in Uttarakhand. It took me to a world where iPhones, drones, and Instagram were just a dream.
During my recent 20-day road trip I decided I was to going to have a real Kumaon village experience in Uttarakhand. I wanted to stay someplace local eating local Kumaoni delicacies. But I wasn’t sure how!
To make it possible, however, I carried a tent, with a plan to camp in a village somewhere, befriend locals (as I often do) and be a part of them. But as far as dining in someone’s house, or trying local food was concerned, I wasn’t sure how that was possible.
Since I was motorbiking after a long time, I pre-booked hotels for the initial week. And the first few days – of my stay in Jim Corbett, Nainital and Almora – turned out to be quite ordinary. I stayed at hotels that guaranteed a comfortable stay, a timely breakfast, and satisfactory customer service. There was nothing local about the experience. Nothing raw.
And then village Naikana (near Jageshwar Mandir) happened!
Local Village Experience In Uttarakhand
While planning my trip, I happened to find an exclusive stay online, that, at least on their website, guaranteed a local experience.
“A renovated old house into a boutique homestay” their website read, and I was instantly intrigued – not because it said the term HOMESTAY (that term, I’ve figured, is vaguely misused in the mountains off-late) but because it said A Renovated Old House.
If nothing, I thought, I was going to experience some Kumaoni architecture.
I booked two nights with them and it was exactly what I needed: a 100% local Kumaon village experience in Uttarakhand.
Related: If you are travelling in Himachal Pradesh, near Shimla, and looking for a similar village experience, visit Village Cheog.
The property was literally an old house equipped with new-age comfort. It was located right in the middle of a village with not much intrusion, of course.
And apart from other activities, there was one activity that concluded my trip: lunch at someone’s house in the village.
Local Kumaon Experience: Sometimes Change Is Good
If you’re a frequent reader of my blog, you may already know that I do not promote hotels on my blog. Though I often briefly talk about Where To Stay in my usual City Guides, I do not dedicate my entire blog to the subject.
But this time, as I stayed at Kot Naikana, and explored village Naikana, I knew that it was going to be an exception. And it wasn’t because of the local experience I had there, for I have had more village experiences during my travels than I can remember. I wanted to promote this place because here any regular tourist could stay without giving up much on comfort.
For some reason, it reminded me of my campsite in Manali — FootlooseCamps.
Lately, I have been on a hunt around the Himalayas to explore offbeat homestays or tourist properties that offer more than just a shallow experience. Places that owe to local culture and give back to the society they earn from. Where guests travel solo but end up being a part of the community and making friends. And this was certainly one such place.
What To Expect From Village Naikana
In short: a true village experience where the air is fresh, the food is organic and the company, is seemingly familiar.
During my two-day stay, one day, I trekked to the famous Jageshwar Temple, located only a 20-minute walk from Kot Naikana. If you don’t know, Jageshwar Dham is a 16th-century temple located in the Kumaon region in Uttarakhand. It is possible to trek and plan a one-day trip to the temple from Kot Naikana.
After the trek, I went to a local family house for the authentic Kumaoni Lunch. the menu included Bhang ki Chutney, lentils, Kandali Saag, rice, Kumaoni Raita and Mandua ki Roti (made from a cereal called Mandua) — one massive feast that completed my urge to eat a 100% true Kumaon food.
In just two days, I spent a fair share of my time exploring the village life and the hardships of the locals — from collecting firewood to walking long distances to go to school. All in all was an experience to topple my notion of India’s rural-urban divide.
How To Get There
Just Google Map Navigate for Kot Naikana and follow the route. Now, if you’re driving, you can either park your vehicle at Jageshwar Mandir and trek from there. Or, you can go to the other side of the circle (imagine Kot Naikana as the center of a circle, and you’re on the other side now) at Sankar Jaim Temple (which can also be Google navigated) and follow a more rural and smaller trail to Naikana Village (3-5km from Sankar Jaim temple). From this point, your stay is about 3 minute’s walk.
If you’re taking a bus, however, you will have to take a bus that goes from Almora to Pithoragarh (or the other way) and get off at the road that goes towards Sankar Jaim temple. Walk from here will be around 4-6 km.
Further Reading: Delhi To Munsiyari Road Trip Itinerary
You can also watch the Youtube video of my Naikana Village: