Ananda in the Himalayas

Narendra Nagar, Uttarakhand, India Book from US$490

Set in the grounds of a Maharaja’s palace high above the Ganges, this award-winning Ayurvedic spa offers world-class relaxation and retreat
Ananda is the Sanskrit word for ‘bliss’ and this magnificent retreat certainly lives up to its name. Created from the palace and estate of the Maharajas of Tehri-Garhwal, it's set on a mountain ridge amongst the breathtaking Himalayan foothills. This part of India has a long tradition of yoga, meditation and Ayurveda, so being here is a feast for the soul and a delight for the senses. Unparalleled spa facilities (24 treatment rooms, more than 79 body and beauty treatments, yoga, hydrotherapy and heated pools) and awe-inspiring scenery (100 acres of virgin forest, with the Ganges valley below and snow-white peaks above) allow you to commune with nature whilst revelling in the lap of luxury.

You can sign up for a tailored programme of diet, exercise and therapies, or dip into daily yoga, meditation or Reiki classes in tandem with temple trips, rafting, hill-walking and lazy afternoons around the stunning pool. Either way, the superb service, excellent cuisine and attention to detail will leave you feeling serene and refreshed.

Highs

  • The spacious rooms all have a view of the Ganges valley or the palace, and include some of the most luxurious villas in India
  • The sumptuous cuisine is prepared using Ayurvedic principles; the chef also creates Indian, continental and oriental menus
  • The mountain environment is extremely soothing - the fresh air is rejuvenating and no petrol or diesel engines are allowed inside the gates
  • The spa has skilled practitioners and has twice been voted 'Best Destination Spa' by Conde Nast Traveller
  • It's a serene haven with woods (no trees were uprooted to create the property), landscaped gardens and manicured lawns overlooking holy Rishikesh and the Ganges River below

Lows

  • You don't stay in the palace itself, but in a modern block a short buggy ride away
  • It's expensive by Indian standards (less so out of season), and the spa gets busy at peak periods, so book your treatments in advance
  • It's larger than most i-escape properties
  • It's a bit of a hike to get here: 4.5 hours by train from Delhi to Haridwar or an hour by plane to Dehradun, then a 1-hour drive
  • With so much to do on site, it's easy to miss out on local culture (though rafting, hiking and temple trips are arranged)
  • If you're coy about your body (or saying 'om' in public), or don't want to cut down on coffee and alcohol, this may not be the place for you

Best time to go

Ananda can be visited throughout the year. From November to March the days are cool and clear and visibility is at its best. April and May are warmer months, building in humidity until the monsoon arrives in late June. Sporadic bursts of rain last until early September. May and October are usually reasonably dry and still benefit from low season rates, while Christmas and New Year are peak booking times (and the spa is incredibly busy).

Our top tips

Don't even think of staying for less than 3 nights - the long journey to get here means you'd end up leaving just as stressed as when you arrived. If you plan to stay for 7 nights or more, it’s well worth investing in one of Ananda’s Ayurvedic wellness programmes for maximum benefit.

Great for...

Eco
Foodie
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Spa Hotel
  • 77
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • 14s and over accepted
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Concierge Service
  • Snooker Table
Room: Deluxe Room

Rooms

Apart from the Viceregal Suite, which is in the Maharaja's palace itself, the 70 rooms and 4 suites are set in a modern, low-rise building a short buggy ride away. Its stepped architecture and terracotta roof echo the cottages in the nearby hamlet of Narendra Nagar. Restful interiors are designed in a 'minimalist and holistic fashion', with teak flooring, ultra-comfortable beds and big windows merging indoor and outdoor spaces. All rooms have balconies with spectacular views of either the palace or the Ganges valley.

Marble bathrooms feature sunken bathtubs placed in front of ceiling-high windows, plus a separate shower. The evening bath menu offers a milk and saffron bath (normally reserved for Indian brides) or a rejuvenating soak in fresh flower petals. Yoga mats and white cotton kurta pyjamas (the resort’s unofficial uniform) are provided in every room.

The Deluxe Rooms are spacious, with dressing areas, walk-in wardrobes, a private bar and a safe. Colours are soft and tranquil, floors are dark wood, furniture is classic and classy. WiFi is provided for those with laptops; you can also borrow one from the front desk if you really need to check your emails.

The Deluxe Suites on the first and third floors of the main residence all have a separate living and dining area; the Ananda Suite on the ground floor also has a private garden. But if you have the opportunity (and the means), you should grab the 220 sqm Viceregal Suite in the palace. It boasts a large wraparound terrace, an outdoor Jacuzzi, a marble bathroom with a separate shower and steam room, its own telescope, a four-poster bed and 3 fireplaces. Perfect for entertaining, its generous dining and living room offers seating for 6, with traditional design motifs such as antique Jamawar fabrics and pillars decorated by Rajasthani master craftsmen.

There are also 3 luxury villas, each with a private heated pool (10x4m), a Jacuzzi and a sauna. Two of these have 2 bedrooms, the other has a single bedroom. Inside, they're beautifully designed with high wood-beamed ceilings, parquet flooring, contemporary furnishings and log fireplaces. The bathrooms have vast windows offering awesome views of the forest - and, best of all, you get your own personal butler!

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Cd player
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dvd player
  • Fan
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Plunge pool
  • Pyjamas
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Terrace
  • Tv
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

This is no boot camp, as you will have gathered. Besides delicious customised Ayurvedic menus, you can also choose from a wide selection of Indian, European and oriental dishes; or go off menu - just ask. In keeping with Ananda's philosophy, locally grown organic vegetables and herbs are used where possible and the cuisine is carefully designed to rejuvenate, revitalise and renew.

There's as big a choice of venue as of menu. Aside from the beautifully sited restaurant overlooking the Rishikesh valley in a grove of trees, there's an outer 'treetop' deck, a hillside theatre (dinner shows are held here from time to time), the palace tea lounge (formerly the Maharajah’s guesthouse) and a winter garden. A poolside pavilion also serves light snacks and healthy juices.

Mouth-watering cuisine is prepared by internationally trained chefs in the main restaurant, while the spa chef is on hand to tailor menus to individual dietary requirements and Ayurvedic principles. No beef, pork or veal is served here, and the organic chicken and lamb are used sparingly. Fresh fish is sourced locally and there’s a wide variety of inventive salads on offer. We were impressed by how each dish made the most of its ingredients' colour, texture, flavour and aroma. Alongside grilled river fish and fresh asparagus, there’s tandoori chicken, fresh naan bread, vegetarian sushi, king prawns and even cannelloni. You’ll be surprised to discover an extensive dessert menu and a good, if somewhat expensive, wine list (it's a dry state).

Breakfast (best taken on the treetop deck) offers a sumptuous buffet spread as well as an à la carte menu. Besides continental staples, you'll find chillas (savoury chickpea cakes), banana bread, vegetable juices, fresh fruit, high-protein pancakes and a delicious spiced cottage cheese and tofu scramble.

Luxurious picnics with full butler service are also available on request -spread out on the Palace Lawn, or hide away in the Secret Garden, the Music Pavilion or the Star Terrace. Specially prepared hampers can also be taken out into the surrounding countryside.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cooking classes
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

The Spa

  • Personalised health regimes can be created for your specific goals, encompassing diet, exercise and therapies; there are over 79 treatments to choose from, drawn from Ayurvedic and other ancient Indian traditions, as well as Western and Thai spa practices. These include reflexology, hydrotherapy, stress management, deep relaxation, weight loss, detox, Tai Chi, Reiki and all manner of massages, from a yogic post-rail-journey rub-downs to an energising, full-body abhyanga

  • Explore Ayurvedic therapies as much or as little as you like, starting with a consultation with the resident physician and following up with a tailored cleansing, relaxing, revitalising and curative programme

  • Nourish your body with daily yoga - there are 5 indoor and outdoor yoga spaces, and the magical yoga pavilion is perfect for quiet contemplation. Classes cater for beginners, intermediates and advanced; personalised sessions are also available

  • Achieve inner serenity through meditation or sadhana, with sunrise and evening classes for beginners and regulars alike. If you feel the need, the spa can also offer counselling

  • Wallow in the Finnish sauna, the Turkish steam room, the chilled plunge pool, the heated swimming pool or the "Jacuzzi with a view"


The Rest

  • There's a 6-hole golf course set amongst virgin Sal forest, with majestic views of the Himalayas; you can hire clubs on site and there’s a separate driving range for private lessons

  • The energetic will find a gym, an aerobics studio, a squash court and a heated lap pool; the lazy will find a billiards table

  • The restaurant hosts Ayurvedic cooking classes to help you stick to your new regime

  • Evening lectures explore the ancient philosophy of Vedanta and encourage a more holistic approach to life. Topics range from anger management and meditation to parenting skills, self control and the art of happiness

  • Participate in an evening excursion to the ashram town of Rishikesh, known as the ‘City of the Divine’. Witness the beautiful Hindu ceremony at the Parmarth Niketan conducted by Pujya Swamiji, as oil lamps and candles float down the holy river Ganges; yoga devotees can visit other ashrams by arrangement

  • Go rafting on the Ganges - available from September to May, it's an exhilarating excursion consistently recommended by guests

  • Fishing is popular: the Mahseer is one of the strongest fresh-water sport fish in the world and is found only on the Indian sub-continent. Rafts and expert guides take you to otherwise inaccessible waters and stays in overnight camps are available. The angling seasons are March to April and October to November

  • Take a safari to the Rajaji National Park, one of the largest elephant reserves in India. Watch for an amazing array of birdlife, sloth bears, chital, sambars and perhaps a tiger or leopard. Jeep or elephant safaris are available from November to June

  • Visit the myriad of temples in the region; there's a proposed 3-hour walk every Thursday up to the Kunjapuri Temple, dedicated to Shiva and his wife Sati

  • If you enjoy hillwalking, there's a weekly 'nature walk'; or you can follow lovely paths meandering through the grounds

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Rafting
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking
  • Well being
  • Wildlife
  • Yoga

Kids

Children under 14 aren't permitted and guests aged under 18 aren't allowed in the spa areas. No extra beds are available, so an additional room has to be taken to accommodate children over 14. Ananda is not really geared up for teenagers though - the emphasis is on recharging and relaxing.

Kid Friendly:

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