A forest hidden close to the city. A banana grove to wake up to. Taking flight and reconnecting with the Earth. Bird calls. Crocodiles. A tooth-shaped mountain. River streams. Escape the city at these five experiential stays.
Kokum Tree: When you have a Calvin volume placed by your bedside, you know you know you are in good hands. Look up from the bed, and you find yourself in a banana grove; the leaves unrolling along with your days. Set up in ancestral land in Lonere, about four hours from Mumbai, the homestay is a great place to slow down.
The newly built glass house, with four rooms, is perfect to laze in and gaze out at the same time – replete with french windows, a balcony, libraries, board games. There’s also a Bamboo house, a plunge pool and a paddy field. The surrounding orchard is laden with bananas, jackfruit, mangoes, chickoo, kokum, cashews, coconuts and lots more. Pineapples line the sidewalk to small river bodies within the property, where you can occasionally find a few crocodiles.
The endearing part of Kokum Tree though is the food. There’s plenty on offer – fresh organic produce from the farm, Maharashtrian-style thalis with seafood or meat as well as pizzas and apple pies. You will want to keep eating despite being full. Thankfully, there are just enough activities to keep one occupied and burn some calories. The Panhalgad fort is nearby for a short trek. As is the dam, where you will be left to your devices to enjoy the stream. Alternately, you can just sit by the deck inside the property and watch the sunset.
Location: Lonere, 4 hours from Mumbai (Close to Mangaon)
Native Place: Less than an hour from Lonavala, this earthy homestay overlooks the Vadivali lake. Airy rooms with high ceilings, blue picnic benches, a central courtyard, trellis and plenty of flora define Native Place. Use the discovery cards to identify the trees and shrubberies all around, walk the organic garden or laze around in hammocks under the umbar tree.
The property has plenty of stay options – tents, dorm rooms and barbecue for a camp-like feel. The family rooms come with verandas where you can easily fall asleep listening to different bird calls or read in peace. If you are the adventurous kind, they offer paragliding courses which are coupled with room tariff. There are periodic permaculture workshops as well. The meals are simple, homely and a community affair.
The lake is a mere 5 minute walk away. Sit by the bank or head up to the terrace for magnificent views. You can also visit the orchid farm nearby. Contrary to all our expectations, our orchid is still alive and blooming. On your way back, you can stop for a meal at Anglo Indian cafe in Lonavala.
Location: Kamshet, 3 hours from Mumbai
Tooth Mountain Farms: It’s hard to miss the mountain shaped as a molar on the expressway. It’s where the boutique property in Karjat gets its name from. The rooms here are named after trees growing on the property – Amaltas, Palash, Parijat, Ashmantak, Basant Rani. Each is designed differently, with either private gardens, balconies, library or open-to-air sky-lit sections. The main villa houses indoor games, there’s a lap-pool, a farm-to-table restaurant and a nursery within.
The farm is located right next to ND studios. If you love Bollywood, there are plenty of sets and props to enjoy. Within the farm space is also Art Village, which offers art immersive activities and programs. Peacock Life, next door, is designed by Shabnam Gupta and offers a more private setting.
Location: Karjat, 2 hours from Mumbai
Hidden Village: This is a no-frills stay, with chickens and ducks walking alongside you. It’s rustic, surrounded by greens, some Warli art, hammocks and indoor games. There’s a lake nearby to unwind. What’s more interesting though is dipping your toes in the natural pool, which instantly attracts a school of tiny fish (Remember the fish pedicure, which was quite the rage once). The meals are simple, with a few items, but homely. There are categories of rooms, which offer different views, including tents, cottages with sitting areas, and larger cabins for families. It’s a good pit stop enroute to Nashik or Igatpuri. Hidden Village also offers day packages, so you could just make a quick round trip of it as well.
Location: Sakhroli, 2.5 hours from Mumbai
Devrai: If you are the kind who likes to couple relaxation with some art, Devrai is the place for you. Home to artisans, the art village has brought to fore the indigenous Dhokra technique, giving it a twist by fusing rock with it. The property is dotted with figurines big and small. You can buy from their collection, see the artisans at work or even create something of your own as you enjoy the crispy cool air of the hill town.
Location: Panchgani, 5 hours from Mumbai
Ps: The recommendations are based on personal visits and stays. We don’t do paid reviews.