Eco-therapy, forest bathing and more: 19th-century mansion in Shimla offers the peace you deserve

A palatial 19th-century bungalow in Shimla has a fascinating history and wilderness vibes that take you close to nature
The Jungle House
The Jungle House

The Japanese know both nature and the nature of people. Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing in Japanese, 
is a fast-growing global wellness trend that involves a meditative walk to ‘take in the forest atmosphere’ as its literal meaning goes. Now, a magnificent Colonial mansion in Shimla offers the same eco-therapy for its guests. Starting July 10, Jungle House, the 19th-century mansion nestled in ancient woods adjacent to the Jakhu Temple, has started guided walking tours for guests who love forest bathing.  

The half-day activity (which starts at Rs 2,500) constitutes a walk up to Jakhu Tibba (mountain). An accompanying naturalist unravels the plethora of species that abound here, including Himalayan wildflowers, trees, birds and occasional spotting of some of the wildlife. The 700-metre trail through the forest is lined with pine, deodar and rhododendron trees, and leads to the highest point in the former summer capital of the Raj, which, at 8,000 feet, commands breathtaking views of the valley. “The view is therapeutic. But you must be on guard, especially after dark, when leopards are occasionally spotted,” warns Karan Singh, who owns the property. Singh and his mother Asha take care of the Jungle House, which seems straight out of an English fairy tale, especially when it snows in winter.

The history of the mansion is as fascinating as the landscape around. In 1940, Princess Kusum of Bharatpur returned from England to India along with her infant son and English nanny. Having spent her childhood at her father’s summer home, Peter’s Field, she dreamt of having her own home in Shimla. At a picnic in Jakhu with her cousins, she spotted this charming house. She fell in love with it and bought it.

The princess rebuilt the lounge of Jungle House as a replica of her English home, complete with large bay windows, teak floors and massive bathtubs with views of the Himalayas. Her daughter Asha Singh, the home’s present owner, and grandson Karan Singh, who has several years of experience in the travel and hospitality industry, take care of the mansion.

 “We wanted to retain and restore these heritage structures, which are little treasures in themselves. 
The only way to do that is to use them—the more lived in they are, the longer they live,” says Singh, who started Jungle House as a travel destination in September 2021. To date, the property retains its Colonial hill architectural style and has two exclusive suites named Holly and Chelsea, away from the bustle of Shimla’s Mall Road.

The cottage is meticulously designed with teak floors, high ceilings, large bathrooms, elegant decor and original artwork. With private sit-outs, the rooms offer sweeping views of Choor Chandni peak. Further, the beautifully manicured lawns bloom with a variety of colourful flowers. With an extensive library, a rustic stone fire pit and croquet on the premises, there’s much to do here. The Singhs organise heritage walks, treks and motorcycle rides in collaboration with their local partners.

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