By Miranda Plunkett
Put aside any preconceptions about India, as nothing should prevent a week at Vana Wellness Retreat, the brainchild of Veer Singh, a visionary heir to one of the country’s wealthiest families. He has created a place so spiritual and beautiful with such incredible attention to detail that I was not surprised to learn that he had slept in every bedroom before opening to ensure the karma was right.
An hour’s flight from Delhi to the small, modern airport of Dehradun, and then a 50km drive by private transfer in one of the retreat’s comfortable vehicles, complete with healthy refreshments and soothing music on a personal iPad, brings you to the hillside multi-acre compound. Perfection is guaranteed on every level by a staff of over 500 for up to 80 guests. Many are drawn from the local Tibetan community, and the center frequently hosts visiting monks from Dharamshala, the Dalai Lama’s residence.
On arrival you receive a personal consultation and your own daily agenda based on an in-depth pre-registration questionnaire. The agenda can be tweaked at any point. A standard visit includes two private treatments per day plus a selection of group yoga, chanting, breathing, meditation sessions and use of the two swimming pools and gym. Private treatments include a variety of massage options (Tibetan, Ayurvedic and Swedish), assisted yoga/stretch, flute and meditation lessons and can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
The spirit of Vana is one of gentleness and serenity in surroundings which touch all the senses; an optional wardrobe of comfortable white cotton pajamas and accessories are provided which most guests end up wearing unabashedly. Appearances tend to become of secondary importance, especially if your program includes Ayurvedic oil treatments. There is even a hairdresser for a good pre-departure rinse. The fragrance of jasmine in the gardens is intoxicating and your taste buds are in for a treat at every meal in both restaurants. Conversation at the optional communal table and the visual presentation of the food distract from the small portions.
Single visitors are often the majority at Vana, as it really is a place for self-exploration. Occupancy tends to be highest December to February. The summer months the quietest, but much hotter. Add on trips to Rajasthan and Varanasi are not difficult, with good connections through Delhi’s international airport without any need to battle the traffic into the City and risk disturbing your post-Vana equilibrium. All payment is taken care of in advance unless you request additional treatments or are tempted by the gorgeous selection of merchandise in the shop.
The service continues to the last minute as you are personally checked-in for your departing flight, and the driver hands you a beautifully boxed snack.
Miranda runs a travel consultancy business, mlpdestinations.com, and advises clients on all areas of travel from whom to travel with to preparing outline itineraries.