Waking up to a spectacular Himalayan sunrise, walking through pine-clad forests, hearing a tinkle of goat bells or a distant cry of a barking deer, anticipating an encounter with a wild boar, foxes or even the elusive leopard, enjoying the humdrum of village life, probably learning a thing or two about traditional craft, and finally ending your day beneath the stars, tired, yet rejuvenated in the midst of a home away from home.
This is what a holiday with Village Ways offers you—an authentic experience in remote villages with unique community involvement and direct social benefit.
Village Ways offers eye-opening experiences in India, Nepal and Ethiopia. In each destination, guests can experience the essence of the place by spending time with local families and communities. Each place of stay is an autonomous business belonging to the community, typically a specially constructed or restored village guesthouse, providing direct benefits to the hosts. Village Ways was a 2014 Finalist in Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Award in the category of ‘Best in Community Engagement and Development’.
Village Ways was born out of a need to empower the rural community in Binsar village in Uttarakhand (India). Owing to the area being declared as a wildlife sanctuary, there was tension and uncertainty among the villagers whose livelihood depended on the forest. Like many other remote villages, a loss in economic viability, migration to urban areas and loss of traditional knowledge and skills was an imminent threat. This led like-minded individuals to come together and start a venture that would offer inspiring holidays while creating a livelihood for the villagers.
Village Ways offers Unique Travel Experiences to its guests, each tailor-made to fit their requirements. The social enterprise started in 2006 by floating the idea among the Binsar community.
At Village Ways, tourists stay in guesthouses at picturesque locations and experience village life first-hand – whether it is hiking in the mountains or sailing around the backwaters of Kerala, each package is tailormade to fit the requirements of the guest. A local guide acquaints the tourists to rural village life and helps them interact with rural communities, participate in local activities and understand their heritage and culture.
Village Tourism Committees are an active partner of the Village Ways business. The rural community is an active partner of the Village Ways business of sustainable tourism. The guesthouses are managed by the Village Tourism Committees, who are not professional hoteliers but have received training in hygiene, house management, hospitality and cooking. The houses are furnished, simply yet attractively, with local materials, wherever possible. Delicious food, often vegetarian, is prepared in the dedicated kitchens over open fires, with most of the produce coming from the farms in the village.
Village Ways nurtures the traditions and indigenous knowledge that has helped communities live in harmony with nature over generations. Guides are trained to value and share their knowledge of local flora and fauna; local craftsmen use traditional skills and materials to build or restore guesthouses and at the same time incorporate energy-saving technology such as solar photovoltaic panels for lighting and heating water.
Due to the additional income generated, many villagers who had migrated to the city have returned back to their homes. They have developed an appreciation for their culture and traditions and learnt how to make informed and independent decisions for their lives. There is a change in the mindset of these villagers. Where there was once resistance, there is now only cooperation as they have understood the need to conserve the rich and bio-diverse life around them. And they have started caring.
Village Ways works in partnership with villages to establish, develop and manage a unique kind of ethical, responsible tourism. Above all, the aim is to provide great holidays that inspire and delight guests. Sustainability is vital, with ownership in the hands of villagers and where both guests and hosts are the beneficiaries.