Two chic and remote retreats offer an ancient prescription for perfect health.
On the outskirts of the vibrant town of Dehradun, India, among acres of lychee and mango orchards in the foothills of the Himalayas, the newly opened Vana, Malsi Estate offers a contemporary and authentic wellness experience with a focus on Ayurveda.
An hour’s flight from New Delhi, Vana is the ambitious creation of Veer Singh, the 30-year-old founder whose desire to live a sustainable and conscious life—in the most elegant and aesthetically pleasing way possible—is evident throughout this palace of vitality. Singh’s family purchased the land 15 years ago, and Veer, who had spent considerable time immersed in organic farming in Spain, had a vision of creating “the most iconic wellness retreat in the world,” as he says. After five years and $55 million, Vana opened its doors in January.
The resort prides itself on offering Ayurveda, India’s traditional form of medicine and healing, in its purest form. Translating to “the science of life,” Ayurveda is rooted in the premise that understanding oneself and living a balanced lifestyle are the key ingredients to a healthy life. Ayurveda, explains Singh, looks at a person holistically, and considers his or her physical, mental, and spiritual self, in addition to the environment. For Singh, it boils down to well-being. “Well-being is the end state, the goal to work toward, physically, mentally, and spiritually,” he says.
Tapping into centuries-old knowledge to understand each person individually, the onsite Ayurvedic physicians determine each guest’s dosha, or constitution. Once determined, the physicians prescribe a physical course as well as a diet for patients to follow while at the resort and once they return home.
The sought-after Spanish design studio Esteva i Esteva Arquitectura succeeded in creating a soothing contemporary design that melds with the surrounding natural environment. The 69 rooms, 17 suites, and four villas are situated to maximize the soothing views of a sal forest. Each suite, peacefully neutral in tone, has its own meditation room featuring a hand-painted bodhisattva, as well as intoxicating handmade incense, created by monks from Dharamsala. An exquisite attention to detail is evident in everything from the retreat’s own beautifully formulated product line, Vanaveda (tailored for the three doshas), to the organic cotton bed and bath linens to the light, cotton designer Abraham & Thakore robes to the custom-made bamboo combs. At turndown, a hot-water bottle is placed beneath your duvet.
Public spaces aplenty beg for one to slow down, stop, and reflect. They include the Ayurvedic center; a contemporary spa with a steam room, a sauna, and a whirlpool; and a modern wellness center where treatments and consultations take place with Vana’s team of consultants, each one a doctor of traditional or complementary medicine. More than 50 well-appointed treatment rooms make up the spa, as well as three yoga studios and pavilions, an indoor and outdoor pool, a Watsu pool, tennis courts, and a 1,500-square-foot fitness center outfitted with top-of-the-line Technogym equipment.
There are two restaurants, one with an open kitchen, Salana, which features international gastronomy, and the other, Ánayu, dedicated to Ayurvedic cuisine. Noted chef Kuntal Kumar (who has worked with Gordon Ramsay) creates nutritious and mindful cuisine based on the retreat’s wellness principles. The food is delicious, creative, and locally sourced, much of it from the organic herb and vegetable gardens on property. Alcohol is not encouraged, although wine and champagne are available in the evenings. A private dining space is reserved for those guests who choose to participate in the panchakarma program, an intense detoxification therapy lasting from 14 to 35 days.
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