Deep in a fabled part of the Himalayas, a glass-fronted minimalist work of art cantilevers out from the hillside. This is The Kumaon, a haven of peace amongst the mountains, valleys, forests and lakes.
Architecturally stunning yet completely in tune with its natural surroundings, The Kumaon hotel is designed with sensitivity for local context and features striking principles of modernity that makes it a dream come true for lovers of a contemporary, understated aesthetic and scenic beauty.
The dynamic interweaving of nature, landscape and architecture embodies the spirit of The Kumaon and the energy of the international clientele that allows for a unique experience unlike other luxury boutique hotels in the Himalayas.
Characterised by the transparency of its facades, the elegance and simplicity of its lines and geometric beauty manifested in all its natural splendour, this intimate 10-suite mountain hideaway offers an immediate sense of equilibrium that inspires pure indulgence and sublime serenity.
An otherworldly escape in an improbably beautiful setting, the stylish boutique hotel is named after the Kumaon Hills in the foothills of the indomitable Himalayas in India. Blessed with a privileged elevated setting, the retreat’s majestic view is a spectacle to behold. The splendorous beauty of the landscape, bathed in peace and serenity, creates a private sanctuary for contemplation and reflection.
Sublimely minimalistic design
Conceived by award-winning architects Pradeep Kodikara and Juneshi Samaraweera of Zowa, The Kumaon hotel is both sublime and clean-lined in its design.
The overall design intention was to let the surrounding landscape play a starring role and focus on the mountain vistas, whilst paying homage to local materials, tradition and culture. The result is simply stunning – the aesthetic is stark, arresting and imposing, without being intimidating.
The spectacular design combines a strong visual identity with linear modernity and clean aesthetic, without stealing the spotlight from the natural majesty that unfolds in every direction. The stylish design is all about transparency, letting nature be an integral part of the interior and framing views of the extraordinary setting.
An example of luxe restraint and environmentally conscious construction, the uncluttered linear language has been carried throughout the property.
The material palette was kept decidedly simple to create a unified ambience, reduce visual noise and minimise distraction from the outdoor views.
The materials – stone, bamboo, pinewood, ash bricks and fabrics – were locally sourced. The restrained warm colour scheme, with pared-down detailing, natural elements and textures, creates an air of rustic simplicity harmoniously melded with discreet luxury and pristine comfort.
The Kumaon’s cement structures are encased in bamboo, hand-strung together with copper wiring. The architects also used bamboo canes to shroud the glazed walls of the hotel, which cantilever out to give optimal views of the peaks of the Himalayas.
Local craftsmen were tasked with making the copper and stone accessories for the buildings. Even the furniture was custom designed and made on site. The historic city of Almora has a fine tradition of weaving and all woollen fabric for bedding and furnishings was designed and produced locally. Swathed in soothing shades of muted brick, ochre and lovely grey-mauve hues, the individual suites are an oasis of tranquillity.
Suites with quiet elegant luxury
Surrounded by pure, unadulterated nature and imbued with simple elegance, there are 10 luxurious suites nestled in pairs, built across five buildings and spread out over the ridge at different levels.
The lower levels are built with stone quarried in the region, while the upper chalet walls are made out of fly ash bricks with a bamboo stick exterior.
The concrete soffits were left unplastered, and the fly ash walls were finished with just a coat of paint to create a minimalistic atmosphere of rustic simplicity. In each room, the toilet walls are finished in kadappa – black stone cut into tiles.
Each suite, unfolding over 55m2 of luxury, comes with its own private outside space, a semi-open-air bathroom with rain shower, a handmade bhukari (fireplace) and rotating walls of glass to maximise the amazing views of the valley below and the mountains beyond.
The suites are tastefully furnished with a mixture of neutral linens and wood floors that are in keeping with the natural beauty of the setting and the simplistic, yet luxurious ethos of the property.
Carefully curated amenities and services
One of the property’s most striking design elements is the main building’s long and slender cantilevered overhang that creates a visually arresting silhouette. The hotel’s exquisite restaurant is set on the top floor. The dining room, encased in an interplay of glass, steel and bamboo, provides dramatic vistas of the Himalayas.
The restaurant showcases authentic Kumaon dishes while all of the staff are from the nearby villages. They have been trained by a professional hospitality manager from Delhi. Much of the food is grown organically on site or sourced from the surrounding villages, which adds delicious freshness and vibrancy to the cuisine.
The building’s ground floor features a minimalist lounge that is perfect for an evening drink or some reading by the fireplace. The main building also houses a well-stocked library.
There is a panoramic terrace where guests may soak up the glorious vistas of the mountains. It is ideal for al fresco day dining, or even a romantic candlelit dinner, and could also be used to indulge in some yoga or meditation.
Star-gazers will be mesmerised. Sit out on the terrace after dark and soak up the incredible ambiance. Enjoy a warm cup of wild thyme tea and take in the stillness of the night, interrupted only by the chirping of the crickets.
In-room spa treatments such as Swedish, deep-tissue and aromatherapy massages are available. Yoga classes may be organised on request. The breathtaking backdrop of the magnificent Himalayas becomes a source of immense inspiration for one’s yoga practice.
A wealth of activities
With the distinct geography and culture of the Himalayas, there is so much waiting to be explored. Walk through hamlets practising traditional agriculture; descend through forests of oak, cedar and rhododendron to ancient stone temples, or relax in the mountain sunshine and cool breeze, surrounded by birdsong and the fragrant scent of pine.
The hotel offers a multitude of activities accompanied by local guides, such as village treks, high-altitude hikes, walking trails and wildlife sanctuary visits. There is a guided walking tour that takes visitors through the surrounding rural landscapes and ancient villages and lets them discover local cultural traditions and customs of the Kumaon Hills. The people here enjoy simple pastoral pleasures, local rituals, celebration of festivals and hearty, homely meals.
The Kumaon hotel is close to the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary where guests may find leopards, Himalayan gorals, musk deer, red foxes, black bears, red giant flying squirrels and barking deer. The sanctuary is on the doorstep of magical temples dating back to the 12th century.
This is a birdwatchers paradise, where one will find rare parakeets, eagles, woodpeckers, Eurasian jays, magpies and the very regal Himalayan monal.
A dazzling location
Nestled into a hidden ridge of the sacred Nanda Devi mountain range, the retreat sits 1,750 metres above sea level near Almora. The hotel takes its name from the surrounding region of Kumaon, which is known for its picturesque landscape of mountains, forests and valleys. It is a magical and inspirational region, leaving visitors with a feeling that thousands of years of cultural and natural heritage are unfolding in a huge, panoramic spectacle.
This beautiful, historic part of India has attracted artists, musicians, writers, spiritual seekers, pilgrims and scholars for centuries, including Swami Vivekananda, Lama Angarika Govinda, D.H. Lawrence, Earl Brewster, Timothy Leary and Bob Dylan.
Despite being fairly remote in its mountainous locale, it is still easily accessible, with the nearest airport about two hours’ drive at Pantnagar and the closest railway station slightly closer at Kathgodam. The Kumaon is located about 375 kilometres north of Delhi in Kasar Devi, Almora.
An aesthetically striking mountain retreat that welcomes the guests into a natural universe of pure beauty
Located in a place of singular beauty with those Himalayan vistas extending as far as the eye can see, the contemporary holiday escape of The Kumaon offers stunning aesthetics and a discreet, high-end modern appeal.