India's Top Spa and Wellness Retreats

Written by  Maxine Albert

Asia-IndiaWhen planning a trip to India, what usually comes to mind is a journey filled with Maharaja’s palaces, wondrous temples and a riot of sensory delights. In this exotic and fascinating land, you’ll also find remarkable destination spas and wellness retreats that take you on a different kind of journey - one that rejuvenates and stimulates the body, mind and soul. With a growing international wellness movement, more people are including health related activities, massages, body treatments, meditation and yoga as part of their travel plans.

Destination Spa In The Himalayas: Ananda
Award winning 14 year old Ananda Spa Resort, favorite of Oprah, Kate Winslet and Uma Thurman, situated on a 100 acre mountain estate overlooking the Ganges, at the foothills of the mystical Himalayas, is set in a Maharaja’s Royal Palace. Close by is the holy town of Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga and site of the Beatles’ pilgrimage to see the Maharishi many years ago. At this luxurious destination spa resort, classically elegant rooms and suites offer balconies with palace and valley views amid lush greenery. I arrived late afternoon just in time for a high tea spread with French pastry in the Art Deco salon.
Whether you come to Ananda for wellness, rejuvenation, a tune up or merely to relax in the splendor of sublime creature comforts, you’re bound to experience Himalayan bliss. Here, world-class spa options are combined with a menu of ancient and contemporary therapies by excellent practitioners and consultants.
After an Ayurvedic (holistic Indian) consultation with the excellent Doctor at the dazzling 21,000-square-foot spa, you head to the luxurious treatment rooms. I was agog at this gorgeous temple of healing. An array of Ayurvedic treatments, pampering Western massages, scrubs, facials, rituals, beautifying, detoxing, anti-aging and relaxing therapies await. Couples can have spa treatments in their own spa suites for ultimate relaxation which stimulates positive emotions and deepens the level
of connection.
Starting this June, Ananda is offering bespoke fitness programs through a partnership with acclaimed Delhi-based Sumaya. This affirms their strong commitment to integrating the connection of body, mind and soul. Meditation and yoga classes are held outdoors in the garden amid fountains and gazebos. The facilities include a pool, tea lounge and a lovely restaurant. Dine in or outdoors and choose from either the tasty menu geared to your body type or the delectable local and international specialties - all delicious and healthy. Don’t miss the boutique, a veritable shopper’s paradise. There’s something about taking the time to slow down, purify and pamper that speaks to our heart.

Vana, Wellness Retreat
Vana, which opened in January 2014 in Dehradun, also in the Himalayan foothills, is a state of the art, multi- discipline wellness retreat. Set on a 21 acre estate with mango and lychee orchards the design is minimalist with contemporary rooms and suites with sweeping views of the surrounding Sal forest. Culinary offerings from one of India’s finest chefs are locally sourced and organic. The emphasis at Vana is on exploring our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects, which if not in balance - cause health disturbances.
Harnessing India’s ancient healing traditions, Vana brought together the top practitioners from the region and around the world. Facilities include an Ayurveda Center, Tibetan Healing Center, Yoga Pavillion, Wellness Center, Spa, Watsu, pool, gym, tennis courts, walking paths and more than fifty treatment rooms. The amount of offerings is staggering.
On arrival each guest has a wellness consultation with a doctor and from there a personalized program is crafted for each guest with follow ups to assess progress and revise needs. Guests can choose from a variety of retreat objectives that include natural healing, de-stress, yoga, detox, fitness, relaxation, weight management and beauty.
I had a consultation with a remarkable Physician who practiced traditional Chinese medicine, followed by acupuncture. My colleague had an Ayurvedic consult and was very impressed. What really fascinated me was my Tibetan consult, with a doctor trained at the Dalai Lama’s Institute in Dharamsala which focused on how the foods we eat affect our body and brain.

Soukya, International Healing Center
Founded in 2003 by world renowned holistic health practitioner Dr. Issac Mathai, this International Healing Center has been frequented by Prince Charles, Camilla, Ravi Shankar, The Dali Lama, Sting and Deepak Chopra. Located near Bangalore on a thirty acre organic farm, Soukya looks like a luxury resort in the middle of a pastoral paradise. This lush health oasis boasts a swimming pool, walking paths, lotus ponds and fragrant gardens with herbs and vegetables which are used for the treatments as well as for the delicious vegetarian cuisine. Accommodations include deluxe cottages with private gardens and outdoor decks.
At Soukya different systems of medicine including ayurveda, naturopathy, homeopathy, allopathy and over 30 complementary therapies are combined, not only to treat medical conditions but also to promote general health and well being.
After a comprehensive interview, a specific regimen is assigned. All of the medicinal herbs used in the treatments are grown in the organic garden, then processed under the supervision of doctors. Once your dosha, which is your ayurvedic mind and body type, is determined, specific herbs are selected for your treatments. Your dosha tells everything about you - your emotional make up, preferences, sleep patterns, skin, joints, hair. It governs which foods, activities and climates are right for your specific body and temperament.
Early morning yoga classes are led by naturopathic physicians with yoga decrees. In addition to acupressure and reflexology massages, I had a hot lava stone massage with medicinal oils picked specifically for me. I felt my body and mind completely relax. Dr. Mathai explained that the herbal properties open up micro channels, releasing impurities and that the ayurvedic oils have a rejuvenating effect.
“Prevention is better than cure and the best time to take stock is when you are alright,” says Dr. Mathia. “Listen to your body and indulge and pamper this most precious gift.”

To Arrange
Pallavi Shah, a New York based India specialist, owner of top travel company Our Personal Guest, has had first hand experience at all of these places and can help you understand what to select for your clients.
For more information, visit India Tourism at

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