Caroline Sylger Jones finds relaxation and inner peace in Uttarakhand and Goa
Bordering Nepal and Tibet and made up of deep river valleys and towering mountains, Uttarakhand is a fascinating state where Hinduism meets Buddhism, and inspirational vistas are never far away. Fly from Delhi to Dehradun and make a base in the Himalayas to explore the exceptional landscape of the foothills, then visit the yoga capital of Rishikesh.
The Himalayan Foothills
From Dehradun drive the winding roads, fragrant with eucalyptus, up to the palatial 100-acre spa estate of Ananda (‘bliss’ in Sanskrit), an excellent base from which to explore. The Ananda active programme involves getting out into the Himalayan foothills with personal fitness training and guided outdoor treks, and also includes yoga, ayurvedic spa experiences, healthy food and lots of time to rest and enjoy the spa’s rarefied spaces.
From here, stroll along picturesque hill trails, take thrilling guided mountain treks for views of the snow-capped mountains and visit local temples such as Kunjapuri Devi — on top of a 1,650 metre mountain, it honours the Hindu goddess Shakti and god Shiva. This is a particularly gorgeous place to watch the sun rise or set as eagles soar above. A safari around the Rajaji National Park is a must — it’s home to over 500 elephants, a number of tigers, panthers and thousands of birds.
Pay a visit to India’s yoga capital, Rishikesh. Meander the atmospheric lanes of shops selling blankets, herbal medicine and handicrafts, and amble through the wonderfully restored Chaurasi Kutia ashram, where the Beatles practised transcendental meditation. Finish the day at one of the regular Ganga Aarti ceremonies by the river at sunset — everyone is welcome, and it’s a burst of true spirit and soulfulness.
Why not visit…
Colourful Goa is the most relaxed state of India and an apt place for a wellness holiday. The Goddess of Anjuna temple is worth a visit — it’s where locals go before they begin any new ventures. The trek up to Chapora Fort is worth it for the spectacular views. For beaches, head to Ashvem, where French restaurant La Plage is a great place for Sunday brunch. Or head out to beautiful little Divar Island, taking the free ferry out from Old Goa. Luxurious ayurveda retreat Devaaya is here, which offers treatments to guests who stay in its spacious, elegant rooms, with balconies overlooking the lovely surroundings.