This Himalayan Spa has just been voted Best in the World!

Ananda in the Himalayas

Why did this hotel catch your attention? What’s the vibe?
I arrived in the evening after a long and stressful travel day. The grand Maharaja’s Palace at the entrance was an impressive sight, aglow in the dusky light of the fading day. There was an old-world grandeur to the palace that was contrasted by the modern buildings that housed my room, the restaurant, and spa at the back of the gardens. The mood is very zen. Guests were speaking in hushed tones and wearing the white pajamas provided by the spa.


What’s the backstory?
Ananda was founded by Ashok Khanna, a hotelier who dreamed of a holistic hotel and spa that synergizes Indian traditions luxury and service with a health and wellness escape from the daily grind.

Tell us all about the accommodations. Any tips on what to book?
I stayed in a newly renovated Deluxe Valley View room with nearly 500 square feet. The room was appointed with a king bed, a settee, and a writing desk. I spent a good deal of time on the balcony taking in the views of the Rishikesh Valley. I recall one day after a hike the skies opened up with a tropical deluge, and the sound of the pouring rain in the trees was like soothing music. The decor was neutral and traditional, understated, tasteful. The bathroom had a bathtub with an LCD TV and windows overlooking the valley. Rooms are equipped with DVD player, tea/coffee maker, stocked mini bar with healthy options, electronic safe, and complimentary high speed Wi-Fi internet access. If I returned, I would love to stay in one of the private villas.

Villa Bedroom

Is there a charge for Wi-Fi?
No. I don’t recall the quality being an issue. But being super-connected with the outside world was kind of going against the grain of being there.

Drinking and dining—what are we looking at?
After arriving, you have an assessment with an Ayurvedic doctor who determines your Dosha (mind/body type): Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Once that is designated, it determines your diet for your stay (if you choose to follow the program). Mine was Pitta (fire and water), so everything was very mild and intended to be soothing for the system. I tend to like spicy, so I cheated on my last night and ordered a spicy curry from the regular Asian menu.


And the service?

The service was seamless—from the restaurant staff to the yoga instructors. One highlight was an excursion to Rishikesh (where the Beatles visited the Maharajah) for the nightly Ganga Aarti sunset ceremony on the banks of the Ganges at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram. It was musical, magical, and spiritually uplifting.

Villa Pool

What type of travelers will you find here?
The tribe might be called the wellness warriors or seekers—those looking for improvement in their lives, both spiritually and physically, by leaving the trappings and unhealthy behaviors of their everyday behind. They wear white pajamas, attend daily yoga sessions, and follow the prescribed Ayurvedic spa rituals and menus. Some have come to lose weight, to detox, to destress, to up their yoga game, or simply just to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the place.

Oil Massage

Is there anything you’d change?
Perhaps more zen-like modern minimalist room decor.

Any other hotel features worth noting?
I am not an experienced yoga person, so this was a good place to learn the essentials in the birthplace of the practice, where it is still kept pure. One of my private morning introductory classes took place on the terrace of the palace with hawks circling above. My instructor was patient and kind, and he humored me at some of my more awkward attempts to hold a pose. At the end, he asked, “Is it true that there are hundreds of different kinds of yoga classes in New York City?” Then shook his head in disbelief.


Bottom line: Worth it? Why?
If you are looking for a true retreat and escape from the world, yes. As a destination, you would probably want to stay a few weeks to get significant results. I did a four-day introductory program that was great to add-on to an existing trip to India, but certainly would not be worth traveling there just for that.

Review by Laurie Kahle

This hotel was voted the Top Destination Spa for 2019 by CNT Readers’ Choice Awards