India has 5,000 years of experience in the healing arts as the birthplace of ayurveda, the ancient science of life, and can dazzle even the most discriminating spa travelers.
The luxuriant Kaya Kalp Lobby of the ITC Mughal, Agra
Completed in 2008, Kaya Kalp, at the ITC Mughal, Agra, is now the largest spa in India at 99,000 square feet. Entering the spa through opulent Mughal dynasty portals, with stone latticework and mother-of-pearl inlay, is like retreating to a luxuriant fantasy world. Pomegranate fruit is a recurring theme as is the extensive use of greenery and water, and the synthesis of indoor and outdoor space.
Spa Manager Melissa Wong ([email protected], 011-91-562-4021870) opened the spa and continues to oversee operations. Kaya Kalp boasts a 25-meter lap pool, surrounded by lawns, fruit-bearing trees and relaxing areas for spa guests only (the hotel has a separate pool). Treatments are international, with particular emphasis on Indian and Persian influences. Its signature treatment, the Kaya Kalp Massage, is based in aromatherapy and targeted to the specific needs of guests. Adventurous clients might want to try Chakra Balancing Gemstone treatments, or the ancient ayurvedic treatments such as Shirodhara, the process of running a stream of warm oil on the area between the eyes, known as the “third-eye chakra.”
Agents should consider the most requested treatment rooms for their clients: the Royal Mughal Retreat, which has two massage beds, one daybed and one bath, perfect for a romantic getaway; and the marble Royal Mughal Hamam, where guests can steam and be scrubbed for a sensuous, cleansing experience. Some treatments can be arranged poolside; contact Ms. Wong to make arrangements.
The spacious suites at the ITC Mughal offer 24-hour butler service and have views of the Taj Mahal. Princess Diana, the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela have all stayed in the Tansen Suite, while the Man Singh Suite is recommended for honeymooners.
Because it is home to the Taj Mahal, the city of Agra is on almost every traveler’s itinerary, but it is often experienced as a congested, overwhelming, tourist-packed place. General Manager Anil Chadha ([email protected], 011-91-562-4021700) can arrange for transfers and guides to the Taj as well as other sites such as the Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.
The bi-level spa at The Four Seasons Mumbai features eight treatment rooms
nother new spa is located at The Four Seasons Mumbai, which opened in September 2008. With eight treatment rooms, including two spacious suites, the spa takes up two floors and excels in ayurvedic consultation, aquatherapy (in the Vitality Lounge) and aromatherapy.
“Here the pace of Mumbai slows down to a blissful sigh,” says Spa Director Andrea Meier ([email protected], 011-91-22-2481-8000, ext. 2305), who suggests that clients make reservations two to three days before arrival.
The signature massage treatments are the Synchronized Indulgence, a 90-minute massage that begins with a healing hot-stone massage treatment to warm and relax the muscles and follows with two therapists employing deep strokes, and the Therapeutic Fusion, also 90 minutes, which combines Western massage techniques with the application of ayurvedic healing oils and bundles of medicinal herbs for relaxation and rebalancing. The most requested treatment is the Orient Blend Massage, which melds Balinese and Malay techniques.
We can highly recommend the Yugma Ritual, a seamless two-and-a-half-hour series of treatments that includes an exfoliation, a body polish, a visit to an herb-
infused steam room and a massage, ending with a rose and vanilla tea bath with
chocolate-covered strawberries. This couples’ treatment and others take place in the Nirvana Experience, a luxurious couples’ suite complete with daybed, vitality pool, steam room and aroma and light therapy.
Clients can preface their treatments with a yoga class, an excellent way to enhance the entire spa experience, since they’re already in a relaxed and attuned state of mind and body. Clients should ask for Spa Supervisor and Trainer Kamal Singh Rana.
The Four Seasons Mumbai has just over 200 rooms, decorated with a tasteful blend of Indian influences with contemporary technology. The rooms with a sea view are preferable; they look out on the Arabian Sea and Mumbai’s skyline. On the 32nd floor, the Presidential Suite is just over 3,300 square feet and can be configured as a two- or three-bedroom suite, featuring timber flooring, hand-tufted rugs and a mahogany dining table that seats eight. The Premier Suite on the 31st floor has a similar layout and interior design but is 500 square feet smaller.
General Manager Vincent Hoogewijs ([email protected], 011-91-22-2481-8000) can arrange for a wide variety of sightseeing tours, such as a Bollywood Tour or a visit to a bazaar in one of the hotel’s sleek sports cars. The hotel’s Japanese restaurant, San Qi, is also highly recommended. Its serene interiors and sophisticated fare would beautifully complement a spa visit.
Any spa journey to India would not be complete without a stay at Ananda in the Himalayas (011-91-1378-227500). Located 145 miles north of Delhi, this five-star destination spa is set on 100 acres of forest built around a Maharaja’s estate and features 75 deluxe rooms, two suites and three brand-new villas. The understated deluxe rooms offer valley or palace views; we recommend valley views, for a marvelous sunrise experience. The Viceregal Suite was our favorite—decorated with antiques and old photographs of the Maharaja’s family, it possessed the most regal, Indian feel, and it is set apart from the other rooms, with a wraparound terrace, splendid views and an outdoor Jacuzzi. The one- and two-bedroom villas are for clients who prefer sleek, contemporary design. They offer a private swimming pool, spacious living areas and a pantry and separate entrance for the butler.
Ananda in the Himalayas offers sleek, contemporary design in addition to traditional Indian decor.
Spa Manager Mark Sands ([email protected]) supervises the spa, which measures more than 21,000 square feet with 21 treatment rooms. The menu offers an extensive list of Indian and international offerings. Guests can enjoy a Finnish sauna, a Turkish steam bath and a hydromassage system. The large couples’ suite has a double Jacuzzi, steam bath, resting areas and treatment beds.
But Ananda is much more than a typical spa: Guests start their stay with a consultation with an ayurvedic doctor, who then meets with the chefs in the kitchen, the trainers in the gym and the healers in the spa to customize an itinerary for rejuvenation, weight loss and all-around health. Approximately 400 staff members look after 75 guests on average for a truly pampered journey toward self-improvement. Dr. C. Sreenarayanan is the ayurvedic physician currently on staff ([email protected]). The typical stay is 10 days; 20 percent of guests stay for a month or more. Guests leave with an aftercare program that includes daily practices and recipes.
A full day’s activities and classes are offered here, from yoga to lectures on the ancient wisdom of the Vedanta. General Manager Paul Van Frank ([email protected] spa.com) can see to it that clients make the most of their time at Ananda. Outdoor adventures can be arranged for those interested in the region; recommended excursions include treks through mountain villages to see Himalayan peaks, whitewater rafting in the Ganges and visiting the wild elephants of Rajaji National Park.
Ananda can be reached by a six-hour train ride to Haridwar from Delhi, or 45-minute plane ride from Delhi to Jolly Grant. The resort has a private helipad that is available for chartered flights. The busiest months here—and throughout India—are from October to April.