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Resort & Spa Review: Ananda In The Himalayas, Narendranagar in India

Ananda In The Himalayas

Renowned as one of the best spas in the world, Ananda in the Himalayas offers much more than a luxurious escape. Travel writer Nilufer Atik takes a look at what makes this former royal palace in India so unique…

It is famed for housing some of the highest peaks in nature and considered one of the most divine places in the world. But the Himalayas, which is situated in the northern border of India and spreads across six Asian countries, has more than Mount Everest and Buddhist monks among its list of attributes. Nestled in the tranquil foothills of the region sits possibly the most spectacular well-being resort ever created.

Set amongst 100 acres of virgin forest overlooking the river Ganges, Ananda in the Himalayas is South Asia’s first ever luxury destination spa, with the emphasis firmly placed on the ancient practice of Ayurveda – one of the world’s oldest holistic whole-body healing systems. Near the bustling towns of Rishikesh and Haridwar and just 260 kilometres away from Delhi, this palatial complex was once the residence of Maharaja of Tehri-Garhwal, originally built in 1910–11 and brought back to life in 2000 as a premier rejuvenation hideaway.

Ananda In The Himalayas
Ananda is the spiritual pathway to the ultimate, discovered through the union of body, mind and soul

Numerous celebrities have graced its grounds, from Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates to Kate Winslet and Nicole Kidman, not to mention royalty and dignitaries from around the globe. In fact, the Ananda has such an impressive reputation it has been voted the best overseas spa retreat by the traveller’s bible, Conde Nast Traveller, the world’s number one destination spa by Reader’s Choice magazine, and is the only such resort in India to be awarded the coveted 5 wave certificate by the British International Spa Association. No wonder then that countless travel enthusiasts list it as the one place they want to visit before they die.

And the moment you step foot inside the former palace it’s easy to see why. Nothing is too much trouble for the ever-smiling, white-uniformed staff, who greet you at every passing with hands clasped together, a quick head bow and a whisper of the word, ‘Namaste’, meaning ‘I bow to you’ in Hindu. Even the 40-minute drive from Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun (the nearest airport to the Ananda) is pleasant and accommodating. You can pre-book a driver from the resort to pick you up and transport you inside a gleaming air-conditioned car with bottles of water and even snacks on hand to make your journey more comfortable. Plus you get to see luminescent temples, bustling market stalls and even a few monkeys along the way.

Little prepares you for your first sighting of the Ananda however. The title itself means ‘a state of bliss’ and is more than fitting. The majestic, creamy yellow entrance building which stands in front of a vast 100-acre complex with 78 rooms, suites and villas scattered around a lush landscape, appears almost like a proud architectural guard.

Ananda In The Himalayas
Inside Ananda, the atmosphere is instantly one of serenity and warmth

Inside, the atmosphere is instantly one of serenity and warmth. Hot sweet herbal tea and the alluring smell of incense awaits every guest as a special welcoming touch. After a ceremonious check in where the staff adorn you with prayer beads and a blessing, a driver whisks you down the tree-lined hill in golf buggy to the main area, which comprises a block of rooms at the end of a small wooden bridge, the spa built into the hillside, and a huge restaurant which has a sun-soaked balcony area looking over the valley. There are exotic plants and wildlife almost everywhere – graceful peacocks wander the manicured lawns and colourful butterflies dance over the foliage on the way.

All of Ananda’s marble-floored rooms are understatedly elegant and feature panoramic views of either the valley or main building. Then there are the four suites which come with secluded private gardens and three luxury villas, complete with their own pools and deck areas for sunbathing. In every room however, you will find freshly laundered white cotton outfits to slip in to, known as Kurta Pjamas. These are loose-fitting, super comfortable trousers with long sleeved shirts that can be worn all day. Most guests keep them on from morning until night-time and they are freshly laundered and left hanging in the wardrobes daily.

But with more than 70 various treatments on offer in the vast spa, including Shiatsu massage, Reiki healing, traditional Indian beauty treatments and the Avurvvedic ‘Pizhichil’ (where 3.5 litres of warm oil is poured onto your body and rubbed in), it’s unlikely you will spend much time in your room anyway. A visit to the Ananda is a wasted experience if you don’t indulge in the many restorative indulgences available. Guests come here to recharge, refresh and rejuvenate, so along with the numerous massages and facials, daily yoga and meditation classes are a must. In addition, all new arrivals are given a free consultation with the resident Ayuverdic doctor, who performs a health check then puts together a tailor-made diet, exercise and treatment programme based on whether you are Vata, Pitta or Kapha category of Dosha (an Ayurvedic way of determining what type of body and character you typify). 

Ananda In The Himalayas
The expansive spa spread across 25000 sq. ft. with its 24 treatment rooms, state of the art gymnasium, outdoor temperature-controlled swimming pool and luxurious hydrotherapy facilities is the centre of attention at Ananda

If you want the ultimate mind and body cleanse by following this programme, expert chefs in the restaurant will prepare every meal for you, depending on the doctor’s prescription. You will also be given recommendations in terms of which yoga and meditation classes to attend on the Ananda timetable and your spa treatments are scheduled in too, based on which would benefit you the most. It’s all designed to take the thinking out of the experience.

The majority of guests at Ananda are on some kind of wellness package, either to detox, lose weight, revive themselves or de-stress, and can opt for a seven, 14 or 21-day stay. One of the most popular is the seven-day signature detox package, which starts from £1,150 per night for a double room between January and April and includes a Dosha-specific Ayurvedic diet to help rid the body of toxins, herbal medications, massages, and enemas with medicated oils.

You can also visit Ananda on a short ‘getaway’ package though over three or five nights just to wind down. ‘Getaway’ guests can choose their own treatments and make the most of a wider menu at mealtimes and there is still plenty to do activity-wise for those who don’t wish to follow a programme.

There are exercise classes, morning stretches, an outdoor pool to swim in, golf courses to tackle and a fully-equipped gym if you want a more strenuous workout. And aside from the Ananda’s daily yoga and meditation classes, outside instructors also come to the resort to hold their own retreats, such as UK yoga practitioner and detox expert Chris James (

Ananda In The Himalayas
Ananda’s wellness cuisine incorporates key principles from Ayurveda, which takes into consideration not just taste, but suitability to body type

Spiritual leaders and authors give regular talks and lectures too, which isn’t surprising considering Ananda hovers above the sacred town of Rishikesh, the actual birthplace of yoga itself. In the 1960s, Rishikesh was known as the place the Beatles visited in their quest for enlightenment with the Guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Now it is home to dozens of Ashrams.

Of course, the real jewel in Ananda’s crown is the spa itself. The inner courtyard has a zen-like feel and the separate women’s and men’s changing areas both include a marble-benched steam room, refreshing plunge pool, wooden sauna, and hydro foot bath with pebbles of varying temperatures. Embracing the philosophies of Ayurveda, Yoga and Hindu philosophy, the aromatic baths, personalised services and impressive menu of therapies all blend to deliver the perfect combination of the healing principles of the East with the pampering needs of the West. A visit to Ananda in the Himalayas is an experience you’re never likely to forget. As Oprah said, ‘Going to Ananda is more like a pilgrimage than a visit, with every moment designed to cultivate presence.’ And what a glorious presence that is.

Upper Class return flights to Delhi from London with Virgin Atlantic start from around £1,400 in January. Go to To book a stay at Ananda in the Himalayas, go to

Address: The Palace Estate, Narendra Nagar Tehri – Garhwal, Narendra Nagar, Uttarakhand 249175, India
Phone: +91 1378 227 500