Gachibowli was once just wild land and the University of Hyderabad; now it’s all skyrocketing real estate and high-technology corporations. And rocks. Hyderabad is rocks. As incidental décor, they’re pretty hard to beat, and these delicately poised sculptures — and the 16th-century Golconda Fort — are about the only things that will keep the area from looking like Dubai when it grows up.
In the middle of this hi-tech jungle is a sprawling 17-acre hotel built high up on a hill and cleverly incorporating the landscape — Ista’s third Indian offering after the Ananda Spa in Rishikesh and their Bengaluru hotel. The nicest thing about the hotel is that it is easy to miss in the chrome and steel that is Gachibowli today. The architecture is subtle and sober and, thankfully, low-rise. Ista Hyderabad has no floors, just ‘levels’. The vegetation is wild and un-manicured. The interior could have been minimalist, which would have been boring; instead, it’s comfortable and calm.
Ah, the spa. Heavily used by non-residents from the area and Hyderabad proper, the spa is a junior version of a sister concern, the legendary Ananda. The finish is perfect. Not a thing out of place and never a moment without soft, soothing music. Training is taken seriously here, so even a guided half-hour pranayama session (conducted outdoors on a hillock) comes with a scholarly introduction. The seriousness is weirdly pleasant: I asked if I could borrow a nail-cutter to clip my alarmingly neglected toenails during a ‘crystal session’ and I was gently reprimanded for wanting to mix beauty with spirituality.
As for the spirituality, I’m sure there’s plenty of it, but I never really got to find out. My own spiritual takeaway was sleep, a feeling that overpowered me each time I got on to the massage table. During the reflexology, as my feet were pleasurably prodded and pinched, I dreamed of having caught up with long-pending work. During the stone therapy — as hot and cold stones were laid along my chakras — I dreamt, bizarrely, that I was an ancient warrior. In my waking moments I ate the thinnest, tastiest pizza I’ve had in a long time.
You can do every manner of regular spa routines at Ista Hyderabad, but where it really excels is Ayurveda and yoga. The atmosphere can best be described as ritualistic deluxe. There is an endless array of lighter treatments too, from stress-busters to exfoliations and facials, and there’s also a fully equipped gym and a ‘wet area’. Given its location — and consequent clientele — the most popular packages are the quick-fixes. At the end of my own quick-fix, I can confirm that I am supremely peaceful and Buddha-like. Still, a few days in real life should fix that.
Treatments Massages, aromatherapy, reflexology, Swedish/Thai massage, jet lag massage, exfoliation, body wraps, facials and rituals
Treatment Rates Rs 750-6,000
Treatment Packages Rs 5,995-35,000 (2-14 days)
Room Tariff Rs 9,850-33,000
Contact 040-44508888, www.istahotels.com