Nestled in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district, the quaint village of Sarmoli has emerged as India’s best tourism village, a testament to its commitment to sustainable tourism. With the mighty Panchachuli peaks as its backdrop, Sarmoli stands as a beacon of eco-friendly practices and community resilience in the face of challenges that have left neighboring villages deserted.
Green Tourism Triumphs in Sarmoli
Sarmoli’s journey to becoming India’s best tourism village is rooted in its thriving homestay program, a unique initiative that has not only taken root but blossomed since its inception. The village’s commitment to sustainable tourism caught the attention of the Union Tourism Ministry, earning it the prestigious title. Malika Virdi, the Sarpanch of Sarmoli Van Panchayat, was recognized with a gold medal and a citation for her pivotal role in this transformation.
Approximately 50 families actively participate in the homestay program, while an additional 30 families contribute to the village’s tourism ecosystem through various roles. From taxi drivers to tourist guides and local shopkeepers selling indigenous artifacts, Sarmoli’s tourism has become a community-driven success story. Since 2016, the homestay program has welcomed around 700 tourists, facilitating cultural exchanges and generating a revenue surpassing INR 50 lakh.
Initiating Change: From Ghost Villages to Thriving Community
Malika Virdi, a dedicated mountaineer who became a Sarmoli resident in 1992, initiated the homestay program in collaboration with the women of Sarmoli Jayanti Van Panchayat. The Himalayan Ark Homestay program, which commenced in 2004, has become a cornerstone of sustainable tourism. One of the program’s participants, Pushpa Sumtiyal, offers guests a genuine Kumaoni experience with home-cooked meals using fresh produce from her farm.
Visitors engaging in homestay programs actively participate in the village’s daily life, from farming to cooking, contributing to a total immersive Kumaoni experience. Nature walks, snowy woods trails, and encounters with the region’s flora and fauna create unforgettable memories, fostering a deep connection between travelers and the village’s authentic charm.
Beyond Homestays: Things to Explore in Sarmoli
Sarmoli offers a relaxed experience, encouraging visitors to immerse themselves in the local culture. Notable attractions include the Himal Kalasutra festival, a week-long celebration in May, the Khaliya Top Trek for stunning views, and Mesar Kund, a captivating lake requiring a trek of about 1.5 km.
Culinary Delights and Best Time to Visit
Homestay guests are treated to an array of local delicacies, including mandua ki roti, timur ka saag, and bhang ki chutney. Sarmoli’s pleasant weather makes it a year-round destination, with the monsoon months of July and August best avoided due to potential landslides.
Situated in Munsiyari, Pithoragarh district, Sarmoli is accessible by road or air. Pantnagar Airport is the nearest, with Haldwani serving as the closest railhead. From Kathgodam, local buses and shared taxis transport travelers to this hidden gem, promising an enriching experience that goes beyond the ordinary.