Ananda in the Himalayas review: a truly rejuvenating retreat in India

Discover what your mind and body really need at this destination spa resort

Ananda is located on a 100-acre Maharaja’s Palace Estate in northern India
Ananda is located on a 100-acre Maharaja’s Palace Estate in northern India
(Image credit: Ananda)

A holistic attitude to wellbeing is inherent in ancient Indian philosophies – and this is the benchmark for the principles being served up at Ananda in the Himalayas. At this destination spa resort you can discover what your mind and body really need and you’ll leave as an enhanced version of yourself.

Ananda is located in the foothills of the Indian Himalayan region near Rishikesh, “the yoga capital of the world”, said Lara Johnson-Wheeler in Vogue. And the property is perched on a “lushly forested mountainside” more than 1,000m above sea level.

To get here you can either drive around five hours from Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi or take a 45-minute flight to Dehradun Airport. From there it’s a short journey to this truly rejuvenating retreat.

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The healing begins when you step out of the car into the restorative forest setting. Then comes the cultural bow from the welcoming staff, before they place a sweet-smelling flower garland over your head. As soon as you arrive, you know that you’re in a special place.

There are 70 rooms and three garden suites

There are 70 rooms and three garden suites
(Image credit: Ananda)

The rooms

Walking into the accommodation at Ananda immediately evokes serenity. The white walls are paired with natural wooden flooring and the dark emerald marble in the bright, light flooded bathroom boast a window framed garden view. The pièce de resistance is the private balcony overlooking vibrant flora and fauna. Homely touches include sage and white soft furnishings while paintings depicting local scenes and ancient Asian figures create a contextual environment.

Wellbeing goodies in the bathroom include a copper tongue cleaner, aromatic oil for nose cleansing, cold pressed sesame oil for oil pulling and a fragrant oil rollerball dispenser to massage into your feet pre bedtime.

There are also sustainable, refillable amenities as well as a locally made oil burner embossed with “Ananda”. Silver hammered containers and candles around the bath add more luxury. And soft, stylish, white “kurta” pyjamas are there for guests to wear in total comfort around the property.

Guests can enjoy group yoga sessions

Guests can enjoy group yoga sessions
(Image credit: Ananda)

Treatments and experiences

Ananda offers a combination of expert-led yoga, meditation, vedanta, ayurveda, oriental and international wellness therapies, as well as insightful emotional healing and complimentary cuisine. Using these tools, there are tailored and specific programmes which last various time-spans and focus on anything from detoxification of body and mind, stress management and hormonal balance through to weight loss.

I signed up to the holistic detox programme with emotional wellbeing. Incorporating aspects of light hypnosis and regression to connect to the sub-conscience, I personally found the sessions to be both thought provoking and useful. As were my sessions with senior ayurveda physician Dr Sreelal Sankar. To have someone so knowledgeable in his field, offering a different stance to what I have known in the UK, was fascinating.

Dr Palak, the physiotherapist who is the bridge between emotional healing and the gym, reminded me that the myofascial tissue holds the memory of emotions, hence why we often have back pain. She not only did a full body assessment, but also helped with top tips on how to sit when working for long periods.

Meditate within the beautiful grounds

Meditate within the beautiful grounds
(Image credit: Ananda)

Standout treatments included the “eye rejuvenator”, a magical medley of grapeseed oil, patchouli, chamomile, frankincense and vitamin C which soothe the eyelids while the vibrating ting of the Tibetan tingsha bell lulls you to relax. Other treatments included “udwarthana”, a stimulating dry massage using herbal powders to firm and tone, and “choornaswedana”, a therapeutic massage with dosha specific oils, followed by warm herbal poultices to increase circulation and expel toxins. In the “aroma cocoon”, grounding and detoxifying oils such as wild rose are applied, then you are cocooned in a warm blanket which encourages the absorption, followed by warm nourishing cream massaged into the skin.

The daily activity schedule is varied from cooking classes to morning mantra sessions. And in such a beautiful and spiritual part of India guests are encouraged to explore. You can go on guided treks and even pay a visit to the Ganga Aarti – a moving evening ritual in Rishikesh which worships the famed Ganges River.

Food here was a joy to taste

Food here was a joy to taste
(Image credit: Ananda)

Eating and drinking

Indian food is globally appreciated, yet Ananda manages to serve authenticity with health in mind. With guidance from a doctor, you will find out your “dosha”. In ayurvedic medicine there are three energies, or dosha, which are believed to circulate in the body and govern physiological activity. The prominent ones must be balanced. Depending on what diet you choose to follow, you will have a bespoke menu daily, or you can order à la carte.

With numerous courses offered, albeit healthy and wholesome, you won’t feel hungry. I discovered new tastes and health tips to integrate into my lifestyle, for example a post-dinner cumin, fennel and coriander tea which aided digestion, while the touch of mineral-rich black salt in my smoothie enhanced the antioxidant effect. I also tasted sattu (roasted gram flour drink) for the first time – a delicious concoction which cares for your heart and is a great source of insoluble dietary fibre.

Being in the restaurant is something to look forward to

Being in the restaurant was something to look forward to
(Image credit: Ananda)

Buffet lunches were a favourite for me and featured fresh herbs from the garden, pickles, goat’s cheese, bowls of nutritious pulses and sprouted grains, vegetable and salad medleys, fresh exotic fruit and more. There were lighter versions of Indian classics including idly – steamed rice and lentil dumplings with chutneys, dosa – and numerous local savoury “porridges” and curries which incorporate digestive spices and beneficial vegetarian ingredients.

Being in the restaurant was something to look forward to. Guests can enjoy live melodic Indian music played at dinner or be surrounded by warming sun rays while sitting outside sipping almond milk masala tea. Looking out to the Himalayas, life feels good and mindful consumption is inspired. The food here was a joy to taste and the informative staff were happy to answer any questions or to help you pick.

An range of treatments are on offer

An range of treatments are on offer
(Image credit: Ananda)

The facilities

Lined with loungers, the pool offers either an opportunity to exercise with vigorous lengths or a holiday vibe laying in the sun. For golfers, there’s a six-hole golf course woven into the hillside that is a treat. The winding paths and invigorating views first thing in the morning were well worth waking up for.

The gym is well equipped and features a body composition analysis machine which gives you an accurate reading of your body mass and make up. Personal training sessions can also be booked.

An extensive 25 treatment room spa includes an infra-red sauna featuring a Himalayan salt brick wall which can aid circulation, stimulate blood flow and decrease pain. The salt gives off anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. There are also hydrotherapy treatment rooms, steam, sauna, plunge pool, relaxation beds and Kneipp foot rituals.

Head to the pool for exercise or relaxation

Head to the pool for exercise or relaxation
(Image credit: Ananda)

The verdict

You don’t need to be broken to book a place on a programme at Ananda, but you will certainly leave feeling more whole, more connected to your inner-self and with a deeper understanding.

The rich rewards from ayurvedic and other ancient practices tend to guests from the inside out, from insightful and transformative emotional healing and philosophical vedanta talks to detailed doctors’ appointments and soul soothing spa treatments, the latter of which was the most diverse menu I’ve seen to date.

Combined with nourishing and delicious food, Ananda stands out for all the right reasons in the world of wellbeing retreats.

Yasemen Kaner-White was a guest of Ananda In The Himalayas. The Palace Estate, Narendra Nagar Tehri - Garhwal, Uttarakhand - 249175, India; anandaspa.com

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