Dunagiri Retreat is just that - a retreat for tired bodies and souls who seek peace and tranquility from their usual hectic stressful sides.
It's pretty at first glance there is definitely tremendous energy that envelopes you. This is the place where we were first introduced to the Mahavtar Babaji known to have passed on Kriya Yoga to his disciples. One needs tremendous enthusiasm and a never say die spirit for that hard climb up to the cave where he is supposed to have first appeared. Once there you are glad - the cave is peaceful, cool and one automatically gets into a meditation mode no matter how ordinary a mortal you feel you are. We enjoyed the walk up to the shrine behind the retreat, visiting the famous Dunagiri temple and would have loved a forest walk if we had more time
Piyush and Katy are genial hosts they can converse on anything that interests you. A lot of retreats are held here. There was Sufi whirling by a group from Singapore while we were there.
Accommodation was disappointing.. The rooms need a total face lift. Half the things don't work. With just one major domo Manoj running all over the place cleanliness is a big issue. Our room got a cursory sweeping and the bathroom was not cleaned during our entire stay of two nights. Disappointing if you look for basic human comforts. Food can be far far better and adequate enough to fill growling stomachs constantly hungry in the mountain air, hygiene definitely needs to be paid attention to in the kitchen. Flies feasting on the salad is not a pretty sight.
Remember the reason you go to Dunagiri Retreat for then no physical discomfort should matter
This is a place you should go to if you literally want to 'get away from it all'.....no TV, virtually no internet, erratic cell phone coverage, no Malls or markets, no town...yes it is in the middle of nowhere! Nor is it some fancy shmancy resort (note it's called Retreat, not a Resort) --it's pretty basic. Yes you have your decent beds and linen etc but if you come in the monsoon you may not be able to get a change of towels and sheets daily because there's no sunshine to dry the clothes and there certainly aren't any dryers or washing machines, in fact electricity supply is, well, not bad, but it's there when it's there, that's all you'll get. The rooms are nice enough, mostly old village houses converted into rooms, some have better views, the one I stayed in had windows in place of one wall and I loved the open feeling; some rooms have low or sloping roofs so you have to watch your head when you go to the bathroom or at the corners. The rooms are spread over the fairly large property so there's a walk (a few minutes but if you're health is compromised or you have bad knees -you might be just a trifle upset-) and it's on the side of a hill or mountain really there is a fair amount of going up and down from one location to the other, say, the meditation hall -made as a pyramid, the dining room, other rooms, in and out of the property.
The food is more like home cooked than from a hotel but the best part is that they are pretty accommodative if you have any special needs- say if you are vegetarian, vegan or eating oil free etc.
There are places you can hike to --from a 20 minute walk to a few hours and a small town 30-40 minutes drive away. Some temples and of course the famous Kriya Babaji's cave to which people are drawn from all over the world I'm told.
The best part is being totally in the lap of nature and far away from the pollution and hustle bustle of city life. I was just there in the monsoon this time and I loved the downpours. Took a hold of my umbrella and rubber slippers, turned my trousers up and splashed through the water. the grasses and loved watching the flowers beginning to blossom and the potato crop grow. Another visit I was there in February I think and it was much dryer and not anywhere near as green as this time so it depends on the season when you go. There were a few spiders in my room and I came across a couple of scorpions here and there but I left them alone and they left me alone? Of course the boys who work there can easily take them out for you so there's no problem like that.
Went to Dunagiri Retreat as part of an organised Yoga retreat. Spent ten days here and could have stayed longer! Tranquil setting, delicious organic food and a wonderful host, Piyush. I stayed in a room at the top with an amazing view of the mountains and sunrise. Each day could be spent hiking, visiting temples, markets or simply staying amongst the beautiful cosmos in the peaceful silence of the retreat. Piyush puts money back into the community and deeply cares about the local people and the area. I don't usually go back somewhere twice, with the idea to experience somewhere new, but this place is an exception. Thank you Piyush, Katy and all of the staff for making it a wonderful time and memory!
I had the pleasure of staying at Dunagiri Retreat recently with several of my childhood friends for a reunion. It was an excellent experience - starting with very warm and welcoming hospitality of the owner, Piyush, along with his staff. They made us feel like we were visiting family and were their personal guests.
Facility itself is in a beautiful area surrounded by majestic mountains. It is set up to provide optimal privacy to guests with an excellent choice of rooms ranging from completely separate cottages to a room in the main lodge. All rooms offer a great view of surrounding forested hills. Staff prepared fresh, vegetarian meals which were really excellent. They even arranged a special cake for us to celebrate our reunion.
Piyush accompanied us on nearby hikes to Babaji's Cave & Dunagiri Temple. Hikes were excellent with great views. Piyush is a gracious host who knows a lot about the area's history and shared it with us. He is a nature lover whose company can make a hike even more enjoyable.
Weather in the mountains can change quite drastically - from warm & sunny during day to really cold when raining. Take appropriate warm clothing.
Imagine you have a friend who has a bungalow somewhere in Kumaon region. The place is full of stories from Sat, Treta and Dwapar yuga. You have stories from Hanuman, Ashrams of Shuka and Garg muni, a 'gupt' vaishnav shakti peeth - the only one other than Vaishno devi at Jammu, you have a cave where Pandavas were supposed to have lived and deceived Duryodhana's spies, you have Bababji's cave - the same babaji who lived no one knows how many centuries, the who initated Lahiri Mahashay and whose description can be found in Chapter 34 of Swami Yoganand's book "Yogi Kathamrit" or "Autobiography of a Yogi". You can also meet an extra-ordinary living person - Bhatkoti baba - who is believed to have lived in a cave here only on leaves for 10-12 years.
So much about the place, but what about the retreat ? It is owned and managed by Piyush who does not think he acquired the property, but the property acquired him. And one can see why. With lush green valleys, snow capped peaks in a distance ( in early April) and complete solitude....
Your friend's bungalow will be as houses are. A couple of people who take take of the bungalow, greet you warmly, serve you home made food, local delicacies and show tremendous warmth and hospitality. You do not go there thinking of a mass market hotel or a room service menu. You eat and drink what is lovingly prepared. Then there is book shelf - books ranging from history of the place to Kriya yoga to and then not to forget omni present chetan bhagat and Linda Goodman !! The place where there is no TV, and internet is down as well. Yes, it is that kind of place and once you have decided you want to visit such a kind of place, chances that things will go wrong are negligible.
Piyush is passionate about what he is doing there. It is a nice cozy place , minimalist but comfortable - providing you with all things you will need but nothing that will pamper you. I will not bore you with details - other reviewers have lovingly described it and I have nothing more to add.
I travelled with my wife for one night on my birthday - just wanted it to be different from the typical receive-gifts-you-do-not-want-and -then-go-out-for-dinner kind of routine - something that starts boring you as you cross forties or approach fifties. I must say I was very pleased.
Achars and Chutneys were very fresh ( ever heard for bhang-ke-beej ki chutney ? (non-intoxicating of course), yoghurt - completely natural - made from milk obtained from desi cows who feed on organic plants and leaves. Local vegetables. Think of home away from home.
Piyush and Kathy will organize cabs for you, give you tips on what to visit and will help you plan your outings. Everybody in the village knows PK. He is passionate about "sustainability". And you can have intelligent discussions with him.
Overall - a very good different experience.
So why just four stars and not more ?
Well a couple of things. It is not just about the retreat itself but also about your 'journey' to the retreat. When I wanted to book this place, there was no website I could find. I could not find Piyush's contact details ? Exasperated, I wrote an email to Dunagiri foundation who promptly gave me Piyush's number. He took on an average two days to respond when you would expect same day response. Once there I did realize the reasons. Website had been down for over two months ( it still is at the time of writing the review). The cab he arranged arrived on time to pick us up at Kathgodam - and the driver was a very sweet natured one - but no seatbelts ! Piyush would do well to train the locals about the importance of belts on hilly terrain. These two things have knocked off one star from the review.
A huge round of applause should go to the 'family members' - Jeevan, Himmat, Pantji etc.
Also to Indar - who not only rode us around but accompanies us to Babaji's cave as well.
Keep up the good job Piysuh and Kathy. I do plan to visit next time and hope there wont be anything that compels me to give less than five stars.