Vana retreat in Northern India is a cool, contemporary, luxurious sanctuary run by Six Senses; is it worth it?
Read on for our honest experience of getting there, activities, food and the vibe to see if it’s for you.
VANA How to get there and location
Vana luxury wellness retreat is located in Northern India in a state called Uttarakhand. The nearest airport is Dehradun and the retreat is a 45 minute drive away.
We flew to Delhi from Dubai then took a connecting flight to Dehradun.
If you’re flying from Dubai and want to avoid the connection then I suggest flying to Chandigarh. Then get Vana to organise transport for the 4 hour or so journey by road from there.
What’s the food like? Will I be hungry
We’ve met a few people who’ve been to Vana from all over the world and without doubt the food has been and is a highlight for everyone.
So no you will NOT be hungry, but if weight loss is your goal, you’ll need to possess a will of iron so as not to be tempted to eat a bit more than needed.
There are no restrictions on the amounts you can eat.
All your meals and afternoon tea are included at Vana. There are both vegetarian and non vegetarian meal options that offer locally caught river fish and naturally reared chicken and lamb.
We loved all our food at Vana but particularly enjoyed all the Indian vegetarian food.
See my raagi dosa breakfast below, I had this every morning after yoga!
Chef Naveen runs a beautifully organized kitchen, I did a private tour. He is even making his own miso, persimmon cider vinegar and has a finger millet – raagi sourdough bread starter that’s been going for years!
Activities on offer and do I have to book in advance
There are a multitude of activities and treatments on offer at Vana. Treatments can form part of your package which you book and pay for while the activities in house are all free and printed out on a weekly schedule.
The Treatments at Vana
Treatments manage to incorporate a brilliant blend of Ayurvedic remedies, Tibetan healing and Chinese philosophies in a very accessible, hugely authentic manner.
In fact the Tibetan therapists have all undergone a rigorous training program direct from the well renowned Tibetan medical school MEN TSEE KHANG.
It’s located in Dharamsala the home of the Dalai Lama in Himachal Pradesh.
It’s hard to pick a favourite treatment as such, but reflexology, acupuncture and the Tibetan poultice treatments were all revelatory for me.
ACTIVITIES – In house
Think about an activity and it’s probably on offer at Vana. Your challenge will be to fit everything you want to do all into one day or even in one trip!
It was no wonder that half the guests at Vana were repeat visitors.
I loved my pottery class, the paper making from recycled paper session and the talk on Tibetan medicine. Did I mention the Home Remedies session at the Alchemy bar?
There is yoga Nidra every day after lunch and more conventional yoga every morning for both beginners and more advanced practitioners.
We also did an Om, actually spelt Aum chanting class and learnt so much about breath-work as well.
Vana is set in a verdant, expansive 21 acre estate with mature plants, shrubs and trees, so walks around the property either guided or at your leisure make for a beautiful, must do activity.
ACTIVITIES – Off site
There are a number of hikes you can opt for too. We chose to do the trek to the Shantala Devi shrine one morning.
This was a 4 hour or so trek door to door and was of intermediate level. There are easier and more difficult hikes so do ask about the level of difficulty and the time involved.
You need to ensure you don’t miss any booked treatments back at the retreat.
I would also have liked to walk to the Tibetan monastery and watch prayers one morning. That’s an easy outing and very much in keeping with some of the treatments on offer.
The monastery facade itself looks very impressive from the outside but next time for me.
We also visited Rishikesh an hour and half drive away by car one afternoon.
We chose to participate in a private prayer ceremony and had a good walk around the local market.
Look out for those Rudraksh beads everywhere but maybe buy from shops vs the kiosks.
Your experienced guide and or driver accompany you the entire time and that’s very reassuring.
The street food on every corner in Rishikesh is very tempting but we were advised in strong terms not to partake and so upset our perfectly balanced food plans at Vana!
What do we wear while we’re at Vana
There is a uniform of sorts at Vana and guests, called Vana Vasis, are given loosely fitting white tunics and simple trousers (with warm shawls in cooler months) for their regular daily attire.
We were also offered crocs for our feet.
The philosophy behind everyone wearing the same clothes being we all become pretty much equal.
No one stands out with any designer labels or such like. Quiet luxury included! I loved this idea. Take your own trainers for hikes and longer walks.
I took my own shawl that was of a very neutral colour so it blended in easily with the “uniform”
Don’t bother taking much jewellery as you have to take all of this off for most treatments anyway.
So avoid the hassle and focus on relaxing. You’re also given a simple cotton hold all bag for your essentials to carry around with you while on site.
Think reading glasses, maybe some medication, tissues, a hair tye and your treatment schedule.
Do take your swimming attire as all the pools and wet rooms are gorgeous! Also take warm layers for hikes or outings you’re back late from in cooler months. A hat and sunglasses are recommended too.
Please note mobile phones are ONLY ALLOWED to be used in your room or designated areas in the retreat.
For me to provide all the photos I have in this article special permission was obtained in writing. I was accompanied at all times and had to wear a special jacket!
What’s the accommodation like
There are a number of suites, rooms and some villas type arrangements at Vana. Bear in mind you really don’t spend too much time in your room when booking your accommodation type.
The standard rooms have a lovely view of either the gardens or forest, a balcony, a sitting area both inside and outside and a well appointed dressing area and bathroom.
Note the villas called Casas are relatively far from the main hub of the retreat.
Everything is light and airy and on the minimal side in terms of decor with an emphasis on natural materials while retaining the high quality and luxury feel you’d expect from a Six Senses property.
Would it be suitable for a solo traveller
Absolutely yes it would be, in fact there were a number of people, mainly women experiencing Vana as solo travellers.
Some of these people were also repeat guests! One lady was there on a 20 day break from Switzerland and it was her third visit.
If you want to talk to people, sit at a communal table, we did this most days even though we went as a couple. But then we’ve been married for 30 years!
Everyone without exception is made to feel very welcome and super special at Vana. The staff, known as Vana Sevaks – people who’s job it is to selflessly serve, are now called GEM’s – guest experience managers.
I think gems is extremely appropriate as staff went above and beyond on numerous occasions for us.
What’s the best time of year to visit Vana
See what suits you best and check the weather according to your preferences. We visited late November which brought us crisp, cool, but not cold mornings and evenings and toasty warm days.
Maybe a bit more sun needed for comfy outdoor swimming, but you could do that anywhere right?
Please note this post was written in conjunction with Six Senses Vana but the views are all my own.
If you’re ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER to the blog, then message me below so I can put you in touch with my contacts at Vana directly and answer any questions you may have in more detail.
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