Vana Retreat is a remarkable place. Built by the Singh family, it is the private passion of Veer Singh who heads a team of more than 250 staff and therapy specialists. With its holistic approach to wellness and his sensitivity to the ecological balance of the project, Vana exhibits an extraordinary thoughtfulness in concept, process and design. No expense has been spared on this 80-room sanctuary, and yet there is nothing superfluous, nothing jarring, nothing that you would wish to do without. Its mission is as clear – to lead its guests on a self-focused, inward journey that is transformative and sustainable. The roadmap for this journey is unusually disciplined, with some uncompromising guidelines. Among these are a required minimum stay, a guest program defined only after an on-site wellness consultation, and a prohibition on electronics in public spaces.
From the spare design that provides the backdrop and the volumes for a wonderfully eclectic collection of art and craft, to the exquisite plating of really delicious food, there is no detail out of place. The staff is just as perfectly attuned. Their anticipation of guests’ needs is something remarkable.
Daily included activities are yoga and meditation, but there is also dance, aqua moves in the indoor pool and nutritional cooking. The core of the retreat, however, are the therapies that range from Western massage to Ayurveda, authentic Tibetan Sow Rigpa treatments, and natural therapies such as Raag therapy (relaxation in the presence of a wonderful flutist). You can also be guided in a detox or panchakarma program. All treatments are scheduled after an initial hour-long meeting with a doctor and are held in large, comfortable treatment rooms.
A standout at Vana is the food. Both Western and local menus are available, much of it organic and sourced through a network of local farmers, plated with a fine, creative hand and served on exquisite dishes in the lovely, open Salana dining room. Twice a week an Ayurvedic menu is offered at lunch at Anayu, an indoor/ outdoor restaurant set with gorgeous brass place settings and equally as beautiful. Breakfasts are served a la carte in addition to a small buffet of freshly baked breads, yoghurts, smoothies, fruits and fresh pressed juices of all kinds.
The whole experience is utterly delicious.
From New York, where I live, it is a long trip – 26 hours door to door via New Delhi before arriving in Dehradun. But once there, on the on 21 acres of Sal forest and planted fruit trees in the Himalayan foothills, you want for nothing. A kurta pajama awaits you in the closet and there is little need for any other luggage.
I found no reason to leave the property, but one can go on walks in the lovely hills. For accommodation, there is a range of spare, light filled and comfortable rooms at reasonable prices, the best overall pricing being in the summer months.
All of India awaits.