It’s not just the out-of-this-world mountain setting of Ananda in the Himalayas that makes this hotel so special: gem-like gardens beneath the grand Viceregal Palace lead to the award-winning spa, the first of its kind in India. Find your inner yoga bunny with daily classes, then indulge in an ayurvedic massage with Ananda’s delicious own-brand products – we challenge you not to buy them all in the spa shop. Reserve the treetop table for dinner and let chef Sandeep Biswas tempt you with individually curated menus, before falling into your four-poster for the soundest slumber you’ll have had in years.
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Evening aarti ceremony (with songs and spiritual rituals) by the Ganges in Rishiskesh
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in is at 2pm. Guests who arrive very late or very early can relax in the lounge or the spa, or have a something to eat in the restaurant if their room isn’t ready immediately.
Double rooms from $674.99, excluding tax at 28 per cent.
Rates generally include a buffet or à la carte breakfast, Ananda’s signature Wake Up tea and daily scheduled yoga, meditation, fitness and lectures; American breakfast is available at INR1,200.
The hotel likes to ensure guests are kept at their cosiest with honey, lemon and ginger tea delivered in the morning, a range of aromatic baths (for an extra charge of INR1,330), and a range of pillows from super-soft to sturdy and supportive.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout; gym, personal training, pilates and yoga classes; six-hole golf course. In rooms: hair dryer; travel adapter; walk-in wardrobe; private balcony; LCD TV and DVD player; tea- and coffee-making facilities (kettle, french press, sachets for tea and coffee and sugar/sweetener); fruit basket; air-conditioning; and minibar. Suites also have a private butler service, magazines and a small kitchenette.
Our favourite rooms
Ananda’s main rooms are set a short walk away from the main palace, in a modern white building nestled neatly in the surrounding landscape. While the Palace and Garden View rooms are quietly luxurious, the Valley View rooms are the ones to beat: the unparalleled balcony vistas are easily the best. For a seriously sexy couple’s retreat, the Viceregal Suite is the ultimate in indulgence. On the top floor of the main palace, the suite has a wraparound balcony and valley views. Persian rugs dot the marble floors and each room reveals hidden treasures, from the grand bathroom fireplace to the antique four-poster in the bedroom. The decadent interior gives way to 360-degree views from the enormous private terrace, which even has its own rooftop dining room for star-strewn evenings à deux.
The heated outdoor lap pool is surrounded by a comfortable deck where guests can relax on white cushioned sun loungers in the dappled shade. Pick up a healthy drink or something to curb your appetite at the poolside bar throughout the day.
Ananda’s 2,230sq m modern minimalist spa is a far cry from the opulence of the main palace. Ensconce yourself in one of the 24 treatment rooms for Tibetan facials and holistic rituals or a Swedish massage, washed down with a calming cup of hibiscus tea. The classic aromatherapy scrubs will leave you as sweet-smelling as the gardens outside, and the indulgent couple’s massage in the Kama Suite uses specially selected oils for a truly sensual and spiritual experience. The separate steam room, sauna and Kneipp hydrotherapy area are so state-of-the-art they’d make NASA proud, and the spa boutique is as chic as any designer denizen. Stocked with Ananda’s delicious own-brand spa products, books, yoga mats, clothes and jewellery, it’s not to be missed for a spot of retail therapy.
Bring hiking boots for long walks around the compound and surrounding area, as well as loose, covering clothing to protect you from the sun. Aside from walking gear, there isn’t much else you’ll need – Ananda gives all guests signature white cotton Kurta pyjamas, which most people wear while they waft around the compound.
Ananda regularly hosts special wellbeing workshops with visiting masters. Teachers, therapists, healers and ayurvedic doctors – each of whom are experts in their field – come from all over the world to share their health secrets with guests.
Over-14s are welcome, but under-18s are not allowed in the spa. Although there are special yoga programmes as well as adventure and nature activities for outdoorsy teens, Ananda isn’t particularly well suited to children.
Ananda supports organic local farms in Tehri and Dehradun and sources most of its produce locally. And, there’s an ayurvedic herb garden on site for essential ingredients used in the spa and cuisine. All cleaning products are ecologically friendly, and the hotel has its own waste-water plant.
The tree-top deck is the best table in the restaurant for its panoramic views. Sit here on sunny winter days with the birds for company, or on balmy autumn nights. Guests are serenaded every night by an acclaimed flautist and Tabla artist.
Most guests don their Kurta pyjamas for meals, but you’re welcome to wear whatever you like.
Masterful chef Sandeep Biswas whips up a mouthwatering array of Indian, Asian and European delights, designed for certain body types and geared towards wellness and specific diets. All ingredients are locally sourced from nearby organic farms, and the vegetables are just-picked fresh. Have the Garhwali thali for lunch for an example of healthy eating that doesn’t cut back on flavour – lentils and black gram and yoghurt curry pack a savoury punch, followed by an outrageously creamy-tasting rice pudding.
As a wellness hotel and spa, Ananda doesn’t have a bar, but wine and spirits are available on request – on cheat days ask for them to be added to your minibar.
The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and encourages guests to wake up and go to bed early – dinner closes at 10pm. If you’re peckish between meals tea is served every afternoon in the Viceregal lounge.
Ananda has a selected room service menu of healthy meals and goodies, from international appetisers to Indian favourites, available around the clock. Every room's minibar can be adapted for each guest – so you can have a bottle of wine if you like.
Part of the 100-acre Maharaja Estate, Ananda’s location is as impressive as you’d expect of the resident Indian aristocrats. Tucked in the Himalayan foothills and surrounded by lush forests, the palace overlooks Rishikesh and the Ganges.
The closest airport, Jolly Grant in Dehradun, is 30km from the hotel. Ananda offers a taxi service to and from the airport for INR 4400 a car (for up to three people) each way. There are no direct flights from London to Dehradun, but Air India offers regular flights to Delhi, from which it’s another 45-minute flight to Jolly Grant (www.airindia.in).
Haridwar Railway Station is 40 kilometres from the hotel and served by Indian Railways; there are trains to both Dehradun and nearby Rishikesh, for intrepid travellers looking to explore the surrounding area. Ananda can organise taxis to and from the station for INR5,600 a car, each way.
Driving in India is notoriously difficult. If you think you’re up to the challenge and would rather fly to Delhi and motor to Ananda, the drive takes around seven hours. At the hotel, you’ll be greeted by an on-site car park and free valet parking to boot. Avis India has a range of cars available at their Delhi Airport outpost (www.avis.co.in). If you fly to Dehradun, hire a classic Ambassador – the first car ever to be manufactured in India – from Dehradun Car Rentals.
Ananda can organise helicopter transfers from Delhi and elsewhere. The journey from Delhi takes around two hours.
Worth getting out of bed for
Spend a day exploring Ananda’s gardens to the tune of trickling streams, and discover architectural gems like the Hawa Mahal and the Music Pavilion nestled between the trees. The small amphitheatre is the garden’s most enchanting surprise: weekend evenings see young performers from a nearby orphanage come to entertain guests with Indian dancing. Twice-daily, free yoga sessions in the garden make the most of Ananda’s cultural location – the hotel is close to the spiritual town of Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga. Vedanta – meaning ‘the culmination of knowledge’ – an enlightening overview of Indian philosophy, is taught twice a day to guests looking for a little mental, as well as physical, peace.
The hotel runs cooking classes twice a week where guests can see how the meals they are served every day are prepared. Daily menus stay true to the ethos of Ananda, focusing on individual dietary needs and ayurvedic principles. One unusual must-see is the 100-year-old billiards table in the main palace: the Maharaja’s original hand-carved cues are still housed in this historic room, which has played host to Indian politicians and guests of the King.
Hikes in the surrounding hills are unmissable. Three treks are available from the beginning of October until the end of May, and can last either a few hours or whole days. Guests can curate their own walk and decide on anything from a solo wander to a fully guided tour, with a pre-packed picnic to sustain hungry travellers. A wildlife safari is also highly recommended; the Deodar and Sal forests at the Himalayan foothills are a paradise for bird enthusiasts, and nearly 500 species can be spotted here throughout the year. White water rafting on the Ganges is suitable for newbie daredevils and rafting veterans alike, and is the perfect way to explore the natural landscape with a dash of adventure.
Any homesickness for good old Blighty – as well as a healthy dose of celebrity curiosity – can be cured with a visit to the Beatles’ ashram in Rishikesh. Nearly 50 years ago, it hosted the world’s most famous English band as they went on a spiritual journey that transformed their music forever. It was here, at the former home of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, that the band was thought to have penned most of the iconic White Album. Now, the long-abandoned ashram has become a shrine of a different kind, as faithful fans daub lyrics on the ancient walls.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this Indian paradise in tranquil Tehri-Garhwal and unpacked their traditional Kurta pyjamas and spa goodies, a full account of their bliss-filled break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Ananda in the Himalayas…
Perched in a nook of the Himalayan foothills, Ananda’s other-worldly setting immediately inspires serenity. Allow faultlessly attentive staff to usher you through the impressive doors of the Viceregal Palace, then drift through gem-like gardens on your way to yoga in the Hawa Mahal, before picking from an Ayurvedic menu for a poolside lunch. Ananda is a ‘no pressure’ spa; even the most fitness-phobic guests will find something to their taste in this hillside sanctuary – even if that taste means a cheeky chocolate and a glass of wine after evening meditation.
Sink into one of Ananda’s indulgent, award-winning massages for an afternoon treat, and – if you’re not sleepy enough to fall straight into your double bed afterwards – have dinner at the restaurant’s treetop table under a sky strewn with stars.
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