Imagine a pastoral Himalayan landscape, its valleys hiding stone-roofed villages set in groves of walnut and pomegranate trees, its terraced wheatfields and neat vegetable patches petering out towards a distant horizon that cuts the sky like a saw. This is Kumaon, part of the Indian state of Uttaranchal. With neighbouring Nepal so unstable and Bhutan so expensive, this corner of the west central Himalaya provides a blissful, hassle-free escape: relaxation after high-level trekking; a gentle alternative to the serious stuff; or a mountain retreat to combine with visiting Corbett National Park or Ananda at Rishikesh.
Forests of pine and wild rhododendron, tumbling waterfalls and tiny temples are set against a panorama of some of the highest peaks in the world. The option of a four-day "soft" trek, a stiffish but short and well-supported hike based on the little resort of Kalmatia Sangam near Almora, brings it all within reach.
The hotel has gone half shares with three village home-owners in renovating their houses - each some six hours' walk apart - to standards of minimal comfort: providing webbing beds, squat loos and bucket showers. The hotel lays on the porters who cook and carry kitchen gear, food and bedding. This example of low-impact, eco-friendly tourism (limited to four trekkers at once) takes you to the heart of an open and friendly Pahari mountain community.
At 2,000m, Kalmatia Sangam perches 7km above Almora, an old British hill station, 380km northeast of Delhi. A colonial-style house with nine cottages, the resort is scattered round a two-hectare site; verandas, terraces and hammocks make the most of the mesmerising view: a 400km-long chain of ice-bound peaks, stretching deep into Nepal. Visibility is best from mid-September to April.
The comfort factor
Most chalets have separate living and sleeping areas with wood-burning stoves. The owners, German designer Dieter Reeb and his Indian wife Geeta, have kept things simple, with cane furniture, handwoven rugs on stone-flagged floors and striped cotton covers on excellent beds. The spa offers yoga, meditation, aroma massage and the services of a reflexologist.
En-suite but fairly utilitarian: showers, no bathtubs, but plenty of hot water and pleasant herbal soap.
The food and drink
Chef Dhiren's speciality is the warming mountain food of the area. Staples include rotis made with finger millet; brown lentils; unpolished rice; curries sizzled in mustard oil. Dinner: £6.55 per head plus tax; no wine but beer is served. Don't miss the rhododendron juice.
A fairly even mix of Indians escaping the summer heat and foreigners looking for post-trekking pampering.
Fabulous walking country. Take a hotel picnic and listen to the birds; 250 species at last count. It's a few minutes' drive to Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary and 34km to Jageshwar's medieval temples.
Steep stairways connect the hillside site, including the restaurant. There are no lifts.
Cazenove + Loyd (020-7384 2332; cazloyd.com). A 10-day trip including two nights' b&b in Delhi, three nights at Kalmatia Sangam and three in village houses, all full board, costs from £2,200 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and transfers. Alternatively, doubles range from £53.50 per night to £101.55, including breakfast.
Kalmatia Sangam Himalaya Resort, Kalimat Estate, Post Bag 002, Almora-263601, Uttaranchal, India (00 91 5962 233625. kalmatia-sangam.com).
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