India Spas: Holistic Havens

  • Practicing shirodhara at Kalari Kovilakom.

    Practicing shirodhara at Kalari Kovilakom.

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Above: Preparing for a treatment using herbal pouches at Somatheeram. – Jochen Tack/Photolibrary

Sizing up some of India’s top Ayurvedic wellness retreats.

By Petrina Price

Ananda in the Himalayas

Occupying a modern building on the 1835 estate of the maharajah of Tehri Garhwal, in the Himalayan foothills near the Hindu holy city of Rishikesh, this famed hideaway offers everything from single-day visits to extended wellness retreats. A long list of Ayurvedic therapies can be enjoyed in the  marble-and-granite spa overlooking the Ganges, alongside yoga and meditation workshops and indulgent spa treatments (Tehri Garhwal, Uttarakhand; 91-1378/227-500;

Somatheeram Ayurvedic Health Resort

A series of eco-chic bungalows with views of a picturesque white-sand beach on Kerala’s Malabar Coast, Somatheeram employs a team of physicians to assess your dosha, or Ayurvedic body type. Individual health, diet, and wellness programs may incorporate Ashtanga yoga classes by the beach or clinical anti-aging and skin-repair treatments (Chowara, Kerala; 91-471/226-6501;

Kalari Kovilakom

Although the minimum two-week stays here can seem regimental, the Ayurvedic treatments are authentic and the surrounds are literally palatial: this was once the home of Princess Dhatri, daughter of the local raja. Vegetarian meals complement intensive programs for weight-loss, stress-relief, detox, and more (Kollengode, Kerala; 91-4923/263-737I;


Named after the Sanskrit words for self and sound, SwaSwara’s villas perch on a cliff above the aptly named Om Beach. Holistic programs are customized by Ayurvedic therapists and can include yoga, massage, and meditation sessions. Meals are also prepared to nourish the soul, and feature fresh fish and vegetables grown on-site (Gokarna, Karnataka; 91-484/266-8221;

Ayurveda Mana

Set on the centuries-old estate of an aristocratic family, this heritage retreat combines ancient Keralan martial arts (kalaripayattu) with Ayurvedic programs. Between health and wellness consultations, guests can enjoy organic cuisine (much of it sourced from their herb and vegetable gardens) and browse the well-maintained library and Ayurveda museum (Peringode, Kerala; 91-466/237-0660;

Avalon Ayurveda

High in the Himalayas overlooking misty mountains and the Doon Valley, Avalon offers a range of holistic wellness programs, as educational as they are indulgent. A team of health practitioners craft personalized Ayurvedic treatments for guests, complemented by vegan meals and meditation sessions in the lush gardens around the resort’s cottages (Mussoorie, Uttarakhand; 91-135/263-2972;

Originally appeared in the August/September 2009 print issue of DestinAsian magazine ( “Holistic Havens”)

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