If you're someone who loves to go trekking off-the-beaten track, you'll be delighted by the pristine region around Kalap village in Uttarakhand.
The tiny village of Kalap is located 7,800 feet above sea level, in the remote Tons Valley of Uttarakhand's far northwestern Garhwal region. It's not accessible by road or rail, and has remained completely untouched by mainstream tourism. Agriculture, and the rearing of sheep and goats, are the main sources of income there. Yet, it's not enough, and the village's youth are commonly forced to migrate to the plains in search of work.
Sustainable Community-Based Tourism
Uttarakhand, while blessed with spectacular natural beauty, is also extremely ecologically fragile. Its remoteness and challenging terrain has always made it difficult for inhabitants to earn a livelihood. With this issue in mind, Anand Sankar established a responsible tourism project in Kalap in mid 2013.
A photojournalist from South India by profession, Anand decided to become a responsible tourism provider after covering development-related issues and interacting with numerous communities across the country.
By bringing responsible tourism to Kalap and other villages in the Tons Valley through the Tons Trails social enterprise, Anand hopes to introduce new skill sets that will enable the villagers to sustain themselves without losing their future generations. Anand has also formed the Kalap Trust to provide education and medical assistance to the villagers. (You can read more about his work in this news article).
The Kalap Experience
The Kalap Experience is a five-night trip that's available all year round, staying in comfortable accommodations with western-style facilities that have been set up for guests in villagers' traditional wooden homes.
The villagers are friendly hill people who warmly welcome guests. You'll get a taste of village life including local food, folklore interpretation, cultural performances, and day treks in the area.
Day treks around Kalap offer stunning views, pristine mountain rivers, and jungle alive with scents of pine and wild lavender. However, even if you're not into trekking, Kalap is a remarkable place to get away from it all and experience the simplicity of village life.
The trip is suitable for families and not very strenuous.
To reach Kalap, you'll need to hike for 4-6 hours from Sankhri, where the road ends. Porters and mules are provided. Sankhri is about 6-8 hours drive from Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand. The nearest railway station and airport are at Dehradun.
More information is available from the Kalap website.
Other Options for Exploring the Tons Valley
Tons Trails conducts a range of other trips in the Tons Valley. These include:
- The Nomad Trail (Five Nights) -- This signature trail follows a path well trodden by seasonal nomadic herders but unexplored by outsiders. You'll get to walk and camp with nomadic herders as they take their sheep to feed on the high altitude grasslands of the Himalayas. The trail is active family-friendly and moderately strenuous. It's possible anytime from April to November.
- The Tons Heritage Trail (Four Nights) -- Uncover the folklore of the Upper Tons Valley on this trip. You'll be taken on a drive to meet and interact with the communities that live in the Supin and Rupin valleys there. Stay in local homes, eat unique cuisine, and go glamping by the river. No trekking is required and the trip runs all year round.
- High Altitude Nomad Retreat (10 Nights) -- This remarkable trip is for adventure enthusiasts and experienced trekkers only. It follows nomadic herders to some of the highest grasslands in the world, in what is the biggest such migration in the western Himalayas. You'll get to visit and explore two high-altitude Ramsar wetlands around two massive glacial lakes -- Barad Sar at 14,512 feet and Kana Sar at 14,650 feet above sea level. If you want to learn about life in the remote inhabited regions of the Himalayas, this trek is a must do!
Tons Trails also conducts parents and kids retreats, and immersive journeys to village festivals in the Tons Valley (such as the annual Kalap Village Festival in January).
More information is available from the Tons Trails website.