A Himalayan Tea Retreat

The Lodge at Wah-Kandbari

The Lodge at Wah-Kandbari

Kandbari
, Himachal Pradesh
, India

Embraced by towering pines and with the whisper of the stream running alongside, The Lodge at Wah Kandbari is a villa with four individual bedrooms, a living room, two patios – set at two levels and a quaint garden to muse in. The villa has plenty of outdoor space to relax, and meals can be taken al fresco on the expansive balcony whenever the weather permits.

Our Rating: Mid-Range
Property Type: Plantation

Destination

The Kangra valley in Himachal is often regarded as the tea capital of the north-west of the Indian Himalayas. A strike valley also called the longitudinal valley, Kangra is presided by the grand embrace of the majestic Dhauladhar range and blessed with hundreds of streams and brooks around Palampur. This abundance of flowing water (palum) is a boon for growing tea. This is where The Lodge at Wah, Palampur is located – an hour away from Dharamshala, with Shimla and Manali accessible within a few hours.

A part of the Prakash family since 1953, Wah Tea Estate is one of the largest manufacturers of tea in the Kangra region. An interesting history precedes the setting up of the Lodge which was established as a plantation estate in 1857 by the British. After decades of continuous cultivation that did not pause even with the earthquake of 1905, the estate was taken over by Sir Sikander Hayat-Khan, the son of the Nawab of Wah in Pakistan. Hence the name. That’s right, ‘Wah’ is indeed ‘wow’ an involuntary reaction of every guest at their first sight of The Lodge at Wah, Palampur.

The Lodge at Wah, Kandbari

A tranquil escape set amidst the hills of Palampur with the snow-covered Dhauladhar glowing golden at twilight, the villa at Kandbari is the latest offering from the Lodge at Wah. Set just 25 minutes from the Palampur Estate, the meandering road to the property turns with the landscape, bringing up stunning vistas one after another. This spot is especially perfect if you enjoy solitude and walks in nature.

Accommodation

The villa is set over two levels, with two bedrooms on the lower level and two bedrooms on the upper level. All rooms come with a king-sized bed with ensuite bathrooms with hot water. You will not find televisions here, WiFi works best in the common areas.

Dining

The menu for the breakfast and dinner are pre-decided keeping guests preferences in mind. Inspired by local cuisine and ingredients, all meals are freshly prepared. Lunches can be ordered a la carte.

Meals feature the Kangra cuisine and a smattering of other Indian and global recipes such as Khow Suey and a Mongolian stir fry, but consciously using organic and local produce as much as possible. Wheat is grown on the estate and used for breads, rotis and pizzas. The Kangra Dham is a must try as well as the pizzas made in a wood fired oven. Special requests and dietary preferences can be easily accommodated. Meals are cooked outside in traditional way over a wood stove.

Experiences

There are a few tea bushes within the area of the Lodge and guests are welcome to try their hand at tea plucking. The Tea Estate Tour is led either by Deepak or Surya and includes a tea session. Plans are afoot to make a tea boutique where guests can try their hand at making their own teas and taking it back with them. There are walking trails marked on the Estate and guides are available if needed. The yoga shala is ideal for practise with mountains all around. A teacher can be arranged on request. Evenings can be spent by the bonfire area when possible before moving to the dining area. Private dinners for a couple can be arranged.

Go paragliding in Bir, considered the second most beautiful place to paraglide in the world. It is filled with interesting cafes and makes for an ideal day out. The narrow gauge train offers scenic vistas and guests can take a short journey. The Andretta village is not far away; guests can also take pottery classes here. For the active traveller, there are treks organised with an outdoor partner with trained guides.

Inhouse activities include excursions to the riverside, with a pristine stream and multiple waterfalls. The trek is tough for a small part and recommended for children above 10 and for those with some fitness levels. Picnics with meals can also be arranged here and in other places. The Estate is flourishing with birds and so far over 60 species have been documented.

Why we love this place

At The Lodge at Wah, you are in nature’s haven. Cycle in the tea gardens, enjoy learning about the journey of tea from the garden to your cup, try paragliding and head off to a trek, ride the Kangra mini-train or take longer excursions to the Kangra Fort, McLeodganj, Norbulingka Institute, Baijnath temple and Masroor. And if ‘doing nothing’ is on your agenda, you have found the perfect place.

About your host

Originally built as a personal home by Deepak Prakash, The Lodge at Wah is open to travellers who are looking for a retreat away from the stress of their urban lives. During one of their travels through New Zealand Surya and Upasana, the young owners and hosts of the Lodge were inspired by a beautiful homestay to bring the same experience in Palampur. A member of the family is always present on the property.

Responsible/Sustainable Tourism

“We are deeply passionate about sustainable and responsible tourism, as we realize every day the lasting impacts, small decisions and actions we take can make on nature, the environment, and our everyday lives” – Deepak Prakash, Owner, The Lodge at Wah, Palampur and The Lodge at Wah, Kandbari.

The Lodge was built by the Prakash family specifically as a home to lead a wholesome, healthy lifestyle away from city life. While the Wah Tea Estate has been in the family since 1953, there was a general inclination to protect the natural beauty of the area. Thus, there begun a quest to protecting natural resources, using best practices, adopting the architectural style of the area with local materials and craftsmen, ensuring no wastage of electricity and avoiding use of harmful chemicals.

No Single Use Plastic: There is minimal use of plastic and there is every attempt to reduce its usage and the idea is to move to a zero-waste lifestyle. Toiletries provided are made from natural ingredients, and, are filled in reusable ceramic dispensers. They are sourced from a small local business in reusable bulk containers. Drinking water is provided in glass or copper bottles.

Safe Garbage Disposal: The property has done away with plastic garbage bin liners and lined the bins with tin making it easy to clean and wash. Housekeeping uses soapnuts to clean floors along with essential oils to ward off insects and mosquitoes. Cling wrap has been replaced with beeswax wraps as well. Dry waste is segregated and recycled, and wet waste is used for permaculture techniques of organic farming.

Water Conservation: Rain water is harvested for use in the gardens and part of the tea estate. Guests are encouraged to keep showers short.

Energy Efficiency: The large windows in the common room let in plenty of natural light and fresh air. Energy efficient appliances and lighting are used reducing electricity wastage. Very little cement has been used during construction and its use restricted to largely the kitchen. Mud bricks made with mud extracted during construction have been used for the main walls. In the summer, the mud walls keep the interiors cooler thus reducing the need for use of air-conditioners. In the winter months, the mud retains heat from the energy efficient all-weather air-conditioners, and the double insulation in the wooden ceilings further traps the heat, therefore requiring them to be switched on for a few hours only.

Nature and Biological Diversity Conservation: The tea gardens follow the same principles of no toxic chemicals and Wah Tea is wholly pesticide and weedicide free. Neem oil and chilli paste are used to get rid of pests naturally, biochar is being brought in to replace fertilizers and the tea waste is used as natural mulch material to increase productivity of the land.

Local Community Engagement: The entire team at Lodge at Wah are from the local community and nearby villages, and come with stories, experiences and anecdotes about their life in the region. Guided treks and hikes are conducted by a company that employs young men from the villages who know the terrain and are happy to take you on untrodden paths. The toiletries are sourced from a local establishment that runs a small batch factory.

Produce is sourced from the inhouse organic garden and selected local farmers who follow organic farming practices. Dairy is procured from the cowherd who lives behind the house, while raw and natural honey is sourced from a local apiary not far away along with spices, Himalayan rock salt and cold pressed cooking oils. Pickles and sauces are made either by the ladies on site or sourced locally from the village. Peaches and apricots are used to make ice creams and jams for the guests. Wheat is also grown within the Estate and used for making breads and rotis.

Light Footprint Tourism: The Lodge has taken steps to ensure that harsh toxic chemicals are not used. The home was built without the use of these chemicals; instead, a natural white clay was used to add the white colour to the indoor walls. The wood is polished naturally with linseed oil and beeswax. Mosquito repellent is made in house with natural oils.

Sensitive Destination Discovery: Offering plenty of activities that are easily accessible on foot or a short drive away, these are done with sensitivity with insights to the region, and through the eyes of the local guides who are from the nearby villages.

Heritage Preservation: The Lodge has been built in the traditional ‘Gaddi’ or Kangra style of architecture. The Gaddi tribes build their homes using slate roofs and mud flooring. Materials used at the time of construction was sourced from less than two miles around the estate and have a backstory. While walking through Palampur town, the distinctive aroma of pine wood led them to the Old Palampur Courthouse which was being demolished. The Prakash family jumped at the opportunity and brought the wood including roof lining details, banisters from witness stands and whole doors and windows.

The Lodge serves the Kangra Dham’s local thali with ingredients either grown in-house or sourced locally.

Human Touch: The Lodge would like to be increasingly involved in the local community by starting a reading program for the children and helping women switch to environmentally safe feminine products.

Future plans include moving to renewable energy such as solar energy and increasing rain water harvesting to use the water in the tea gardens and organic kitchen garden, where eventually they would like to grow even more fruits, vegetables and herbs to provide guests with 100% organic meals thus providing the farm to table experience.

Our Recommendation

Hike to a nearby pristine river for a picnic lunch with waterfalls for company.

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