Ananda in the Himalayas

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 September, 2008, 12:00am

Where is it? In a piece of paradise, nestling in the foothills of the Himalayas in north India. The spa is set high up on a 40-hectare estate surrounded by forests, hills and the Ganges River, which winds through the Hindu holy town of Rishikesh.

What's so special about it? It's been voted the world's top destination spa by Conde Nast Traveller for the last three years.

Are the awards justified? Yes, an Ayurvedic massage with aromatic oils is a treat. With verdant gardens and picture windows - even the Swedish sauna room gives amazing views of the valley - the aim is to find serenity through harmony and beauty.

What kind of treatments does the spa offer? It depends on the guest's needs - detox, weight reduction, yoga or Ayurvedic rejuvenation. Apart from ancient Tibetan and Ayurvedic massages, it also offers European and Thai treatments.

Rabbit food? Surprisingly, no. The chefs offer healthy and tasty treats with some divine desserts. They know that, apart from feeling relaxed and well, people want to enjoy themselves.

Is it only for health freaks? It caters to everyone. There are those who are so serious they settle down for a month following a strict regimen of food, exercise, yoga and treatments. But it's also for those who just want to have a break in beautiful surroundings, laze by the pool and perhaps give the massages a try.

What else is on offer? There is plenty to do apart from enjoying the grounds, pool and tea lounge. Ananda offers trekking, nature walks in the woods, golf, white-water rafting and visits to a nearby wildlife sanctuary.

When is a good time to go? Any time. However, during the monsoon is lovely because, refreshed by the torrential rain, the grounds look like an enchanted, fairytale garden. In the hills, the weather can change from blue-skies-and-sun to operatic thunderstorms in the space of a few minutes - watching this from your balcony is pure theatre.

The surprise factor: just a small one. Guests are encouraged to wear Indian clothing during the day - a loose white cotton tunic and trousers. It is oddly liberating.

What's the bottom line? A valley-view room is US$438 a night per person. A luxury suite is US$663 (exclusive of meals). The basic amenities are free, treatments are extra.

Ananda in the Himalayas, The Palace Estate, Narendra Nagar, Tehri Garhwal, Uttaranchal, India, tel: 91 1378 227500. For details, visit