Ananda: a destination spa in the Himalayas

A visit to a top-of-the-range spa isn’t usually top of an overland traveller’s to-do list, but this overland traveller decided to make an exception for Ananda. After the chaos and sweat of Delhi, a four-hour train ride to Haridwar took me and Craig to the welcoming bosom of Ananda’s air-conditioned care. Recently voted the world’s number one destination spa by Condé Naste Traveller readers, Ananda is India’s only destination spa.

I’m not used to luxury holidays and harboured a vague concern I would feel out of place, but the staff at Ananda made sure that didn’t happen. From the very charming general manager to the friendly waiting staff, we really felt that everyone had our best interests at heart. One worry was immediately laid aside – our scruffy, backpack-rumpled clothes could be cast aside in favour of a pair of crisp, white, cotton kurta pyjamas. I have never been made to feel so welcome in a place that doesn’t belong to family, close friends or religious hardliners.

Ananda is built on a philosophy of Ayurveda, Vedanta and yoga, and every part of it, from the food and treatments to the Himalayan location, seamlessly blends to bring these three pillars to the forefront of your stay. No sooner had Dr Shree pronounced me as vata dosha, than the waiters were offering me warm water instead of cold, and the spa staff were tailoring my treatments to suit.

The hotel room was incredible: balcony with view across the Ganges valley, bath in front of large window with aforementioned view, pillow menu – need I say more? The restaurant menu was somehow both delicious and healthy, using Ayurvedic principles to produce a huge range of dishes to cater for all doshas (vata, pitta and kapha), nationalities (the chicken burger, pizza and curries I tried were all tasty and nutritious) and non-spiritual urges (there were more pastries on the breakfast buffet than you can shake a sugar-coated finger at).

Facilities include a vast spa, swimming pool, gym, six-hole golf course, billiards table and a number of activities such as yoga, meditation, Vedanta discussions, full moon stretches, golfing lessons and exercise classes. It’s up to you how much or how little you do, but one of Ananda’s priorities is making sure you’re comfortable spending time with yourself. Because I was there on a press trip I was kept very busy, from 7am yoga to dinner with the general manager at 8pm, but no matter how tired I was before going to an activity (the jet lag was still a devil on my shoulder at this point), I left it feeling invigorated.

Two things not on my press schedule will stick with me for a long time: the nap I took after an afternoon meditation class and a bath in milk and petals. The nap was under a whitewashed, ornate shelter with large blue sofas surrounded by cut grass and calm pools reflecting the Himalayas and the Maharajah’s palace. The view, had I kept my eyes open long enough to fully appreciate it, would have taken in the sweeping Ganges valley. I awoke refreshed and with two spider bites. (After all my worries of mosquitoes, it turns out spider bites are far more itchy…)

On Saturday night, I bathed like Cleopatra in milk and saffron. Nourishing and pure luxury, the finishing touch was pink rose petals. A member of staff was on hand to run the bath and set the scene; he made sure the temperature was right, lit candles and when I said, “Oh, I feel so special!”, replied without hesitation or obvious hint of sycophancy: “You are special, madam!”

And you know what, after two nights at Ananda, I really did feel it!

One Response to “Ananda: a destination spa in the Himalayas”
  1. Hi Emma, I’m slowly getting the hang of it and we have already received 3 comments- thanks to your initiative. Look forward to keeping in touch. Have read the daily posts on your blog.

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