Himalayan Rest Houses

Harish Kapadia

After a long arduous trek, one of the most welcoming signs are the three words Forest Rest House, nestling amidst beauty that one would treasure, probably for a lifetime! A welcoming chowkidar, basic amenities and chhota hazri (high tea of breakfast) awaits a weary traveller here. After a restful night, you gather your wits, refreshed enough to face your journey to the next destination, if lucky, to another rest house. This is how the British era trekkers went about their pleasure treks, and the forest officers looked after magnificent forests by riding horses from one Rest House to another. Once motor roads were constructed deep in the Himalaya, another variety of rest houses namely the Public Works Department Rest Houses were constructed for officers travelling on road. These PWD rest houses, were more spacious and well stocked as there were located on motor roads. Eventually, when important dignitaries started travelling on these roads, Circuit Houses were constructed which were a notch fancier than the PWD Rest Houses.

Today, many rest houses of yesteryear continue to welcome travellers and trekkers in their fold. These rest houses can be booked only through ‘Babus’ (government officials), and can be occupied by visitors only if they are officially available at that time. In several parts of far flung areas like Arunachal Pradesh, Circuit Houses are only places available to stay for a visitor.

Here are a few of the Himalayan Rest Houses that I have stayed in and would love stay there again to get bada hazri (lunch or dinner!)


British-built Forest Rest House (FRH)

A wonderful example of a British-built Forest Rest House (FRH), at Takrasi, below Jalori pass in Kullu

PWD R.H. Across Jalori pass at Shoja


A classic FRH after entering Bara Bangahal valley across a high pass

Classic FRH

Pulga FRH is on the way from Manikaran to Pin-Parvati pass. This FRH was used by many climbers. (Inset) Entry in the log by Dr J. de. V. Graaff and others en route to the first ascent of Manirang in Spiti

Pulga FRHPulga FRH
Newly constructed bungalow at Kalpa, KinnaurNewly constructed bungalow at Kalpa, Kinnaur

Newly constructed bungalow at Kalpa, Kinnaur. (Inset) Outside the old bungalow at Kalpa, with Kinner Kailash range in the background.

Public Works Department (PWD) rest house at KhanagPublic Works Department (PWD) rest house at Khanag

Public Works Department (PWD) rest house at Khanag, below Jalori pass, Kullu. (Inset) Travel writer Penelope Chetwode died in these hills and a memorial plaque is erected here


British-built Forest Rest House (FRH)

Rest House at Vijaynagar, at head of Noa Dihing valley. Perhaps the most distant RH in India as it can be approached by a seven day trek or by helicopter!

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