The charming Lodge at Wah is situated just outside the historic town of Palampur. Lying in the heart of the Kangra Valley, in northern Himachal Pradesh, the lodge is surrounded by a ring of foothills and the distant snow-capped peaks of the Dhauladhar Himalaya. The air is crisp and fresh, the sky is wonderfully clear and blue (out of monsoon), and the countryside is stunningly beautiful in its mountainous wildness.
The Wah Tea Estate (originally created in 1857) surrounds the lodge, with its pretty pathways and shady trees turning it into a feast for the eye. Now run by the fourth generation of the current owning family, this dynamic young couple wanted to open up their lands to guests and built The Lodge at What which is an utterly charming, cosy, intimate small home in the hills with 8 rooms divided amongst 3 cottages. Using local craftsmen, traditional building techniques and materials, the lodge is constructed almost entirely of wood, mud, stone and slate. They have a strong eco focus in using everything natural and the result is an earthy, rustic, inviting place to rest up in the foothills of the mighty Himalaya.
Very much hosted by the affable owning family, one has an opportunity here to immerse oneself in local culture and tradition, and the workings of a tea estate, chatting by a bonfire in the garden or by a roaring log fire on colder nights. The simple but deliciously comfortable bedrooms are spacious with beamed ceilings, soft, earthy hued furnishings and no paint has been used. Replete with chunky wooden furniture and a plethora of rugs, they have a delightful, country atmosphere but want for nothing – heating, air-conditioning, great bathrooms, some have balconies.
The main house is home to a cosy sitting room and dining room which have been brightened with cheerful fabrics and furnishings. Dining here is a feast and concentrates on flavoursome local recipes, using only organic, local produce and what is in season at the time. In keeping with their strong eco focus, almost everything is home or locally grown – farm to table at its best!
The Lodge at Wah makes the perfect base for visiting visiting tea plantations or nearby Dharamshala which does not really boast anywhere particularly wonderful to stay, and the walking and trekking in the Kangra Valley is fabulous. There are numerous local monasteries, temples and historic Kangra Fort to visit, along with a multitude of idyllic picnic spots – not to mention some of the best paragliding sites in the world! It really is the perfect place to unwind for a few days after a hectic tour around India.
Having decided to escape from the city and build their dream home in the pristine mountains, and live in a pure and clean environment, the owners decided to build the house in a completely eco-friendly fashion - right down to natural materials being used even for paint. They have coupled this with organic and fresh produce. Having noticed the skill of the locals with mud, stone, wood and slate, they were inspired to build their home using materials and skilled craftsmen only from the region. After extensive research on mud cottages from around the world, inputs from the local artisans and numerous trials and errors, they succeeded. The river stone and slate used in the building has been hand chiseled and crafted to give it the feel of the local Kangra architecture. The bricks used to build the cottages are from the mud which was excavated when the foundation was being built. These bricks are all naturally dried in the sun.
Even the white colour of the walls has been done with a natural formula and no paint has been used. The wood also has a story behind it. Whilst walking through Palampur town they followed a delicious aroma of pine wood which lead them to the Old Palampur Courthouse, which was being demolished to be rebuilt. They instantly bought the wood, rather than let it go to waste / the shredder and this now makes up a large part of the villas guests stay in. Roof lining details, banisters from witness stands, and even whole doors and windows are originally from the Old Courthouse. More of the wood is pine and cedar from the Wah estate, in place of which multiple trees were planted. While building the villas even the smallest ‘natural’ detail was looked into. The furniture has been coated with linseed oil, river and land rocks have been used in the gardens and villas, slate has been picked up and scrubbed and the result is a totally natural environment. The staff is local.
The dairy products are sourced directly from the local herd. The fresh produce is from their organic garden. Glass or copper bottles, using water from our own water source which is then filtered, is kept in all the rooms. Single use plastic toiletries have been replaced with custom designed ceramic dispensers. Their waste is regularly composted and added as a rich fertilizer for to their garden. Within the kitchen, all attempts are regularly made to refrain from purchasing plastic containers.
A charming place for a relaxed get together and ideal for a takeover, being so small. Due to the mountain location, entertainment opportunities are limited and they do not like to disturb the environment.
An exclusive early morning tea tour as the estate comes alive.
By air to Dharamshala followed by a 1 hour road journey.
By train to Pathankot.
By road 3 hours from Pathankot, 3 hours from Kangra.