If it is rejuvenation and renewal of the weary self that you seek, rest yourself at Ananda in the Himalayas. The property is an award-winning luxury destination spa resort in India nestled among the sal forests of the Himalayan foothills just above the spiritual town of Rishikesh.
Actually, arriving at Ananda itself is a cleansing ritual. Layers of stress peel off as you board the plane, leaving the dust and chaos of Delhi behind and head to the quieter township of Dehradun, then drive through dense forests and scenic mountain roads with stunning valley vistas. Finally, passing through the ornate palace gates as you catch a glimpse of preening peacocks strutting around lush greens, tranquillity completely envelops you.
You are received at the palace with a traditional welcome of garlands, aromatic candles, calming incense and a ceremonial aarti to remove any trace of negativity that may linger with you. Just the sight of the mountain ranges, the silvery Ganga river shining in the green valley, and tall forests hint at a stay that will be nirvana for your mind and your soul. Sure enough, after the check-in, as I am taken through sprawling greens to the rooms, restaurant and spa area which is to be my serene abode for the next four days, I feel I am truly on a purifying pilgrimage.
My visit to Ananda is not meant to be just a quick getaway but a journey for the holistic healing of mind, body and soul. Yoga, ayurveda and Vedanta (a philosophy of life), complemented with organic food based on an ayurvedic diet as well as with international cuisines, seamlessly combine with authentic wellness traditions drawn from other parts of Asia and the west, and make up the recipe for Ananda’s healing process. Overlooking the Ganga valley, this destination spa is fashioned out of the100-acre Maharaja’s Palace Estate and customises your recovery programme for your specific needs.
The spa with its zen-like calmness is, of course, Ananda’s jewel in the crown. The hydrotherapy facilities include an invigorating steam room, wooden sauna, plunge pool, and a foot bath where you can walk on pebbles in a pool that has different temperatures at different levels. There are relaxation areas with sofa and loungers and beautiful views to enjoy before and after the treatments.
Also on offer are yoga classes, meditation sessions, Vedanta talks by visiting masters, swimming, golf, gym and mountain treks as well as a trip down to Rishikesh for the Ganga aarti at sunset. If you have opted for a wellness package, as you should, you are suggested specific treatments and a diet that is most suited to your body type and also advised activities best suited for you after an in-depth consultation with the in-house doctor.
Most guests at Ananda are on a wellness package—either to detox, lose weight, rejuvenate, or de-stress. My detox programme is a brief introduction to the longer, more comprehensive wellness programmes Ananda has on offer. The ayurvedic doctor at the spa explains why I need this cleansing, “Toxins constantly build up in the body due to pollution and other environmental factors leading to lack of energy, weight gain, etc.” Ananda’s four-night Detox-Starter programme is an introduction to those who have not experienced an Ananda Detox before. The programme integrates the essential elements of ayurveda and aromatherapy, yogic kriyas, meditation and personal fitness with a dosha-based customised diet that leaves you refreshed with a toned body, glowing skin and increased energy levels. A word of advice: take an appointment for your spa treatment and do not be late or else your treatment time will be cut down!
A thoughtful gesture is the pristine white kurta-pajama placed daily in your room. It’s a great dawn-to-dusk wear during your sojourn, provided, of course, you are wearing appropriate inner-wear. With over 80 treatments on offer, you’ll be spoilt for choice. If you are on a wellness programme, the treatments are fixed after consultation and it is best to stick to the schedule.
As a ‘Pita’ body type, I was prescribed the Abhyanga, the “four-handed massage”, the Swedish massage and the signature Ananda Fusion—a combination of several tested treatments. My final treatment, a luxurious rose facial, was the icing on the cake.
The Pavilion is the venue for all meals, and I mostly ate on the deck amid fresh air, the chirping of birds and the aroma of the forest all around me. Not surprisingly, the food was organic and fresh, and tasted fabulous. My meals were also planned according to my body type. The dishes were drawn from Indian, oriental and continental cuisine, and ranged from moong dal pancakes and pumpkin soup to mint and coriander marinated fish and sugarfree chocolate ice cream. If you are not on a wellness diet, the choice of dishes is huge and innovative. For wellness-package guests, food is planned depending on whether you are a Vata, Pita or Kapha body type, with all care taken to ensure that it does not become monotonous.
The Ananda experience is perfect for those looking for an introduction to an alternative lifestyle that you can continue even after you have gone back home. To really know what the experience is all about, one should try all that this destination spa has to offer like early morning yoga, Vedanta talks, meditation classes, a walk in the nearby forest, the wellness menu and even a visit to the kitchen garden to learn all about the benefits of different herbs. But if all you want is a calming couple of days, just opt for a valley-view room like I did, curl upon the balcony with your cup of organic tea or coffee provided in the room, watch the Ganga shimmer or the Rishikesh lights sparkle.
If a detox-wellness regimen is not for you, you can also come to Ananda on a getaway package for a few nights. On a getaway break, you can order from the regular menu, even ask for a wine or cocktail. But I was more than happy to be high on just the Himalayas, the signature honey, lemon and ginger tea, and the Ananda experience.
Location: The Palace Estate, Narendra Nagar Tehri-Garhwal, Narendra Nagar, Uttarakhand 249175
Accommodation: 78 rooms, suites and villas
Tariff: A 3N Getaway Package at Ananda in the Himalayas starts from ₹17,500 singles plus ₹11,000 per person per night (spa and meals). A 4N Detox Starter package starts from ₹11,000 singles plus ₹19,000 per person night (spa and meals).
Contact: + 91-124-4516650; firstname.lastname@example.org