“Set in the grounds of a Maharaja’s palace high above the Ganges, this award-winning Ayurvedic spa offers world-class relaxation and retreat”
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!
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.