Passion Points: Spa/Wellness
It had been six years since my last visit to India, and as much as it had changed, it was a relief to see what hadn’t. India wouldn’t be the same for me if traffic didn’t come to a halt because a cow was taking its time to cross a busy street or if tuk-tuks filled beyond capacity didn’t buzz by blaring their horns.
India assaults the senses with its cacophony of sounds and stimulating diversity of colors and smells. The unrelenting sun that bears down upon the country’s colorful street scenes would wilt even the most seasoned traveler. On my recent trip, I started in Delhi and stayed at the recently opened Leela Palace before journeying on to the Himalayas. Thus, my eventual arrival at Ananda was a welcome stop that beckoned me to put my suitcase down and stay for a while.
The resort is located an hour’s flight from Delhi and tucked away high above a winding scenic road that kicks off in Rikikesh, the so-called birthplace of yoga and a world-famous center that draws wellness seekers and healers to its ashrams every year. The heat of the city yields to cooler, drier temperatures around Ananda, and the noisy congestion of the more populated areas is replaced by the verdant hills of the Himalayas. The hotel is built on a Maharaja’s palace estate that’s spread out across 100 acres, and views of the Ganges can be seen throughout the property and even from many of the rooms’ bathtubs (the resort encompasses 75 rooms and suites, all with private balconies, as well as three brand-new private villas). It’s truly a place of wonder and tranquility—an ambience, in part, achieved thanks to Ananda’s incredible staff.
The warm, caring environment is a perfect backdrop for Ananda’s casual everyday. Guests don’t have to bring much for a stay, since upon arrival you are given a set of white “kurtas,” a long tunic with drawstring pants that’s also dubbed the Ananda pajama. Guests are encouraged to wear kurtas to all activities, and this uniform serves to minimize any appearance of difference in a guest’s personal background. When I didn’t wear the kurtas on the second day of my stay, I was gently asked if I didn’t find them comfortable. When I explained that they were simply too big, a tailor was sent for and adjustments were made on the spot.
Days at Ananda entail a variety of wellness-focused activities. My schedule included a mix of yoga classes that took place in a spectacular outdoor amphitheatre, meditation and chanting sessions, as well as lectures. Particularly fascinating for me were the discussions on Vedanta whose fundamental teachings are based on the belief that all living things are divine. Guests may also choose to schedule a visit with the onsite Ayurvedic doctor who gives advice on nutrition and lifestyle changes that one should make in order to balance one’s “doshas”. A full gym with a schedule of exercise classes, a pool, and a 6-hole golf course are also available for those who desire different types of activities. No matter how you choose to structure your days, the spa at Ananda, one of the world’s finest, should not be missed. It comprises thirty therapy rooms and a menu with more than one hundred different treatments.
A visit to Ananda is a holistic and healing way to end a trip to India. It is a place to rest, to retreat from the world, and to reflect upon all of the rich—and overwhelming—impressions of an Indian journey. To me, the resort truly embodies the spirit of this incredible country at its very best.
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