Away from the hustle-bustle of tourist destinations, just 4 km from Bir Tibetan Colony and 2 kms from Bir, is the small Himachali village, Gunehar. The 4Rooms is right in the middle of this village, both a gateway and an oasis.
The 4Rooms is a boutique property that preserves the old world charm of traditional architecture while providing contemporary comfort and aesthetics. An old merchant’s house that was totally burned down, it has been painstakingly restored in traditional style with traditional materials but keeping modern standards in mind.
The house was built 70 years ago in traditional style and occupies a prominent position right in the middle of the village. The owners were local Thakurs but since the death of the original owner, the house had fallen in disarray, finally also catching fire, which destroyed most of it.
Retaining the originality
Since in these modern times of easy accessibility to cement and low-quality bricks it has become ‘trendy’ to remodel or simply dismantle traditional houses, the foremost challenge was to preserve the originality of the house. The thought is that by doing so, traditional building materials like mud and stone as well as traditional building knowledge can be brought back to the mainstream. In the years after the inauguration of the 4Rooms, mud-house building has become quite trendy all around Kangra Valley, at least in the hospitality sector.
After a year-long renovation, the 4Rooms opened in April 2014. Numerous local artisans who had practically forgotten the original techniques revived their memories and worked hard to reinstate the house to its original beauty. The villagers are proud of this achievement and keen to welcome guests to this remote village.
As part of the 4tables project, 4Rooms, offers an unique living experience. Whether you want to get to know the life of a village, or you want to wander in the pristine surroundings, whether you want to do paragliding or visit local temples or just hang out on your terrace to finish those last notes, at the 4Rooms you can wake up to the noise of a village instead of cars and hawkers before you start a day of (inner and outer) explorations.
At The 4Rooms, you are part of the 4tables family, as well as a ‘resident’ of the village.
Each of the well-appointed rooms have comfortable bathrooms, individual patios, a common garden, wifi, tea-and-coffee making facility etc. to make you feel at home.
The 4Rooms is not a typical, all-under-one-roof hotel. There is no 24-hour service, including room service etc. The restaurant, the 4tables Café & Art Gallery, is located 50 meters down the road and it is here that all meals are served. The rooms also do not have TVs.
On the trans-Himalayan trade route
Gunehar is predominantly a village of Gaddis and Bara Bhangalis, whose original homes are further in the interiors of the mountains, beyond the Dhauladhar Range. Since most of these people are semi-nomadic shepherds, and since the extremely cold winters cut off their villages from the Indian mainland for more than half a year, they have traditionally had winter dwellings on the southern slopes of the Dhauladhar Range, such as Gunehar.
Here, the weather is comparatively temperate and the land fertile. Dealing in sheep wool, opium, certain high quality summer crops and Himalayan herbs, these people would ‘come down’ to trade and graze their animals, making Gunehar their base. Gunehar, to them, was the first big trading post, the first ‘town’ or Jhandhar. The world beyond led to Jogindernagar, then the great trading city Mandi, and finally to the Gangetic Plains.
Today, this traditional way of living and trading has died out and Gunehar, once a prominent station on the trans-Himalayan trade route, has lost its days of glory. Yet, most people still move between their original homes in the interiors and the Jhandhar, keeping old traditions (and the old routes) alive. Also, Gunehar still retains its old-time charm and especially its unique culture.
Things to do
Gunehar can be the base for some great, other-worldly treks to the untouched Himalayan interiors.
The 4tables restaurant is just down the road and offers delicious fusion cuisine. The village itself has a few local eateries and chai shops. Occasional cultural activities such as movie screenings, concerts, art happenings are, of course, open to all.
Activities around the village and beyond include:
- walks through the village and interaction with villagers.
- walk beyond the village to the pristine river.
- walk uphill to China Pass and beyond to Barot Valley.
- guided multi-multi-day treks to the Himalayan interiors such as Bara Bhangal.
- tours of ancient Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries.
The nearest airport is Kangra Airport, which has flights from and to Delhi. It is one and half hours drive away from Gunehar. On Road: Gunehar is a 5 hours drive away from Chandigarh.
The nearest train stations is Pathankot, just across the HP border. Overnight trains reach here early morning and then its a three and half hour ride to Gunehar.