There is an image everyone envisions as soon as they picture the Himalayas. There are the snow covered peaks in the distance, rolling hills and meadows where animals graze, a gushing river flowing through the valley and the sunlight netting through deodars and pines. There is also the deafening silence of the pristine atmosphere. A complete dissociation with the cacophony of city lives. At Sonaugi Homestead, this is almost achieved.
Heading to Shimla or Manali is no longer the same experience as it used to be, with tourists crowding the town centers and hotels after hotels burgeoning to take advantage of it. In such circumstances, one yearns for the image that one had imagined. And it can be found.
At a slight distance from Kullu, there is a homestead that resides in a crevice of silence and warmth. Located in Sonaugi Village, named after the golden wheat that the land bestowed on villagers, is the Sonaugi Homestead. At once, entering into the village transports one into the land of their dreams – exactly as one had imagined. The first thing one notices is the silence that pervades the village – an untouched slice of heaven.
As one emerges from their rooms on a dew-drops laden morning, the sight of the Himalayas rewards them. The house has been built in the traditional kathkuni style of architecture with plenty of wood and stone. The 5 rooms are cosy and comfortable with german bukharis to keep them warm even when it is snowing outside. There is a feeling of home with all amenities provided without losing the traditional touch of the region. The bathrooms are modern with running hot and cold water. The main highlight, however, is the old style ‘dhuna’ or the living space around the fireplace with cushions and benches strewn around it.
The homestead itself seems right out of a postcard with trellises of vine and flowers framing it. There are sprawling meadows where dogs run amok. There are thickets of deodar on three sides and an apple orchard on one. One simply has to take a book out of their small library and bask in the sun while munching on an apple to feel fulfilled. This is the charm of Sonaugi, a slow decadence of spending the days doing nothing but unwinding in the crisp mountain air. There are plenty of hikes and trails to embark upon and a hike to Janna village is highly recommended. Janna is one of the oldest villages in the region and is sparsely populated. The walk to the Beas river takes 20 minutes and is a delightful path lined by cedars.
The homestead is owned by Vikram and Bhavna Sharma, a couple that plans to make it their retirement home. Until then, it remains open to visitors who are greeted by an ever smiling caretaker. Guests are encouraged but not forced to wake up early to enjoy the beauty of the surroundings in the morning. The morning chai underneath moist blue skies while huddled in a shawl make for very pleasant memories.
Quiet corners through the homestead
The food at Sonaugi Homestead is also much like the rest of it – simple and local. They believe that guests get to sample enough fancy dishes back home and focus on simple signature dishes. Breakfast is a mix of cereal, egg, sandwich, paranthas and juices and fruit. Lunches and dinners are simple dal, roti, rice and vegetables using organic produce. Mohan, the cook, rustles up great fusion soups that are served in the evening under the cedar trees. The food is mainly vegetarian in keeping with the energy of the place and local Buddhist shaman sentiments.
There is a fluid positive energy that surrounds Sonaugi Homestead – guests are hungry like never before, sleep more peacefully than ever and love the taste of the water. The owners do not want the place to be overcome by hordes of tourists and welcome only those who do not want to rush over the experience. The entire charm of the place is in its slow, relaxed pace and if that is what you crave, then Sonaugi Homestead is perfect.
WHAT TO DO IN SONAUGI
Walk of 3 hours through the Deodar trees and small villages will get you to a village of Nashala. Proceed by vehicle to see Naggar Castle and Roerich Art Gallery at Naggar. Return late in the afternoon.Shop now
Thank you very much to you and your team for arranging this fantastic tour. One of the best pick from this tour was your meticulous planning and promptness of service. All arrangements were fantastic, be it a delivery of vehicle at Chandigarh airport, hotels particularly at Chandigarh, Leh, Nubra, Pangong. However the best was at Jispa, Kargil and Srinagar for different reasons. Jispa was simple but authentic with very tasty food.
Rajesh & Gauri Natu
Graphic Designer, Apple
Sunil, after I ran 21k Marathon I bragged about it for years. The same is being repeated again, with my ambition to drive across the Himalayas, which was almost faded with Srinagar under curfew. You and Chetan were the spark to our fire that we could do this drive and without a single trouble. Driving is a passion but driving thru places where there are no roads is trouble, but your breakup of program and awesome car condition helped us actually sail thru. Three cheers and five stars.
Absolute Networks, Mumbai
Wow. wow, wow. What a experience! We took the route of Delhi - Jammu - Srinagar - Leh - Sarchu - Manali - Delhi. Sunil Kapoor gave us excellent service which includes his next to new 4WD in immaculate condition and all hotels were top class. Coming from Australia, we were bit nervous in start but when we met Sunil, we had full trust and all went very positive. Sunil gave us perfect instructions and everything was according to plan. Thank you Sunil and your team for our one of the best experience in life you have provided us.
Director, Webential, Australia
Eight of us from Sri Lanka got Sunil to arrange a self driven tour to Leh and we are very happy with our decision. He was punctual, trustworthy and met our expectations. The service provided was very professional. As foreigners it’s hard to arrange such a tour by ourselves and Unwind outdoor filled in the gap perfectly. All places we stayed were nice and decent. Should specifically mention about the two Scorpios which we instantly fell in love with. They were very well maintained ...
Friends from SriLanka
After days of research, we finally came across a facebook page called ‘Unwind Outdoors’. It seemed like our dream was going to be finally true. Very reasonably priced and Sunil from Unwind was like a know-it-all person.
The itinerary was so crisp and so very well laid out that there was no reason for us to worry other than coping up with nature’s fury.
Clifford Chance, Delhi
We did a SUV self drive trip from Chandigarh to Ladakh and back organized by Unwind Outdoor.
Highly recommend Unwind Outdoor as Sunil and Manpreet took care of everything we needed (car, hotel bookings, sightseeing and food recommendations, permits) and everything was organized seamlessly. Sunil was very patient with all our queries, giving suggestions and options to suit our preferences.
Ashish & Neha Thadani
Great to see the know-how of the Unwind Outdoor team regarding every aspect of the Srinagar - Leh - Chandigarh self drive trip. From weather conditions, to road conditions, to health/clothing requirements, and also driving instructions - Sunil and Manpreet are warm, meticulous and knowledgable. Villa Himalaya in Sonamarg surpassed all our expectations and ensured that our expected standards for the rest of the trip were extremely high.
Symbiosis Law School, Mumbai
Thanks Sunil for arranging a wonderful trip. Everything went well and we were in good hands with friendly and competent drivers. Accommodation was good and tents were comfortable beyond our expectations. We didn't have problem with food choices. It was a totally rejuvenating vacation and experience for us. Thanks from us in Singapore!
We had an amazing 9-day from Manali to Leh. Serene, breathless and picturesque. High altitude sickness was a big issue for us but we were in good hands.
Unwind Outdoor was superb in arranging and coordinating the trip. Taking care of all arrangements and checking-in on us. Kudos to Sunil and his team.
Assistant Director, Jurong Town Corporation, Singapore
We travelled as a couple & completed a self drive trip from Delhi-Jammu-Srinagar-Kargil-Leh-Nubra-Pangong-Tso Moriri-Sarchu-Manali-Delhi. Itinerary was meticulously designed to be a mix of adventure and comfort. Hotel choices were best. Support was available at all points in case of emergency.Vehicle provided was top notch. Thanks to Mr. Sunil Kapoor for personally putting in efforts to maintain such high standards.
Nikhil & Neha Mazumdar
Manager L&T, Mumbai
Six of us (two families) travelled to Leh in Jul / Aug 2015 and we had an excellent experience with Unwind Outdoor. From the very beginning of our excited planning phase, Sunil has been willingly suggesting us options, number of days, places to visit etc. He has all the knowledge of the terrain, passionate about trekking and traveling himself, so he understands travel-crazy people such as me and my quirks.
We landed in Leh in time for cloudbursts and flashfloods and landslides (along with mud and rocks sliding too). Despite Nature's fury, Sunil and Skarma made sure we were utmost safe and comfortable. These guys are just not into travel business, they help people fulfil their travel dreams. Truly! Go guys!!
Barclays Bank, Bangalore