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volante: india

Luxury getaways in IndiaLuxury getaways in India


ESCAPE AND RENEWAL figure mightily at Ananda in the Himalayas, a destination spa situated on a majestic hill overlooking the river Ganges, near Rishikesh. First you have to get there, and that alone takes some commitment. You can ride the train up from Delhi to Haridwar, around five hours. You could take a private car, a six-and-a-half-hour trek from Delhi, through villages, then a state reserve, home to wild elephants. You will meet a lot of monkeys, who congregate on the roadsides waiting for handouts. There are scheduled flights into the little airport at Derha Dun. By far the best option is to charter your own helicopter from Delhi, which will follow the lazy path of the Ganges north, finally settling on a helipad just down the hill from the property, which is set within the confines of a maharajah’s palace estate above a forested gorge. The view of sacred river through the haze from that altitude evokes visions of ancient culture and wisdom, and complete separation from the accelerated world of big cities and throngs of humanity.
   This could be the ultimate destination spa in the world, if seasoned travel pundits and major publications are be to believed. Think of Ananda as a place to reflect, an uncrowded oasis and never rushed, where you quickly forget there are 73 rooms and three villas (which each have private pools and come with butlers) nestled among the conifers. People typically stay one week or longer. Guests often extend, in fact 70 per cent of the property’s business are 10-plus days. You will meet an unusually high number of single travellers, 35–50 years old, 60 per cent from abroad, many of them women traveling alone. People seem to be doing a lot of networking. You may be at the time of your life when you are asking, ‘Is that all there is?’ This could well be the place to find some answers.
   Your stay commences with a consultation at the spa under the watchful scrutiny of an ayurvedic doctor, who will no doubt tell you to reduce intake of all the foods you like, and eat more of everything you’d rather not, advise you which spices and herbs are good for you, and what body type you are. It’s a nice experience, though, talking about oneself for nearly an hour, and at the completion the doctor meets with Executive Chef Anup Gupta, and briefs him on your dietary profile. Thus surfaces the next dilemma, since the kitchen believes that while the cooking of foods is a ritual and a worship, you need not torture yourself unduly. Chef Gupta offers a prayer before a meal, ‘Let this food do good for me,’ and he will indulge your preferences. He visits your table, discusses the lunch or dinner, and then asks, ‘May I have your permission to cook for you?’ His ulterior motive is to give his guests a lifestyle, which they take home with them after they go. This is a kitchen unafraid to dispense large portions, enlightened enough to list calorie and carb counts on the menu. A chef and waiter are assigned to each guest. You can attend twice-weekly sessions in Chef’s show kitchen, where he freely dispenses the secrets of his trade. Of course, it will be difficult to duplicate the flavour of his eucalyptus wood fire grill. This kitchen does excellent work, with both western and traditional Indian fare.
   The other cornerstone of the Ananda experience will be your visit to the spa. The extensive and modern facility spreads out over three levels adjoining the pool area, and offers every imaginable iteration of ayurvedic treatments, from full body massages and clinical hydrotherapy to heated oil dripped over the forehead and things so exotic you will need a good hour to read through the menu of offerings, an embarrassment of choice. Be bold, daring, adventurous and you will be rewarded. The spa is committed to ethical values, and strives to be as green and sustainable as it can, using mostly locally sourced herbs and oils and minerals, including a range of outstanding products. There’s a palpable humanism present, and a high pampering quotient made possible by a staff of 75 devoted spa professionals.
   Daily yoga ought to figure in any visit, and it’s available at a variety of levels from gentle beginner stuff to private hard-core instruction. Weather permitting, you can get oriented with a 7 a.m. class outdoors in a lovely amphitheatre, or you may be fortunate enough to catch a session in one of the lofty rooms of the palace up the hill. To fill out your itinerary, you might audit Vedanta lectures. Recently Shri Ronan, senior disciple of Swami Parthsarthy, acted as guru-in-residence, and conducted a series on topics relevant to finding fulfilment in the lives we lead. As if that is not enough, you could study Ayurveda, do some serious meditation, avail yourself of the six-hole golf course, set a fitness regimen, or delve into past-life regression. Or take some unforgettable side trips to a temple at the snow line of the Himalayas, trekking through local reserves in the company of expert guides, seek the blessings of local swamis, or journey down into Rishikesh to wander among the pilgrims, and end your day with a sunset ceremony on the banks of the Ganges.
   While management positions the property as a place for de-stress, detox, purification, anti-ageing, or weight management, there is a deeper level of experience to be found. Ananda in the Himalayas has a splendid isolation, miles away from the commodified world of commercial spas. You have made a major journey to an ancient spiritual capital, the birthplace of yoga, where guests regard the time taken as a necessity, a place for recharging the batteries, for reconsidering the meaning of life, and for finding the strength to go forward. Highly recommended.


Ananda in the Himalayas
The Palace Estate
Narendra Nagar, Thhri Garhwal
Uttrakhand 249 175
Telephone 91 1378 227-500


THE GREATEST DILEMMA with travel in India comes in two areas: the first concerns transit, the simple fact of getting from one place to the next. Connections are often problematic, or filled with cultural obstacles that aren’t easily understood. These might be as mundane as getting stuck in your vehicle on a country road somewhere in the thick of an endless line of cars, all waiting for a traffic accident to clear at a remote railway crossing; going through the arcane protocols of multiple baggage checks at a secondary airport; negotiating for a taxi back to your hotel; choosing the right inter-city flight; or the simple process of finding the right train platform, then coach, then seat at the Delhi station. The second comes in selecting the right guides, destinations and lodging which fit your individual preferences.
   The key in India is to work with an expert firm who create exclusive itineraries and personalized travel experiences. This is an indispensible part of the process. Delhi-based Travelscope India pays personal attention to each traveller, and brings a wealth of insider knowledge gleaned from years of working in this fascinating market. The firm has created customized itineraries for things as exotic as elephant trips from city-to-city to archæological tours, and their expertise reaches into all corners of the subcontinent. Mohan and his staff of travel specialists can handle any requests with the optimum of efficiency, insider knowledge and a real human touch. This dimension of involvement can make the difference between a trip that is simply memorable or one that is memorably outstanding. •


Travelscope India
118, DLF Qutab Plaza, DLF City, Phase-1
Gurgaon 122 002 NCR of Delhi
Telephone 91 124 438-1801


Stanley Moss is travel editor of Lucire.


Chhatra Sagar | Devi Garh | Amanbagh | Ananda in the Himalayas


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You may be at the time of your life when you are asking, ‘Is that all there is?’ This could well be the place to find some answers

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