By Arushi Sakhuja
A mere 4-hour drive from Delhi, Aalia Jungle Retreat and Spa, the newest addition to the Claridges Collection, is nestled in the midst of a forest reserve near Rajaji National Park in Haridwar, Uttarakhand. Officially opening in August this year, the property stands as an embodiment of exquisite luxury, and natural splendour and is a harmonious blend of opulence and nature, offering a lush green escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Steering away from traditional resorts, this retreat was a sanctuary for nature lovers and a haven for peace. The idea? Surround yourself with the serene beauty of nature and activities that make you forget the digital world and immerse yourself in the present moment. A lush green property with local tall trees and shrubs, flowers and beige-coloured tents with brick structures add an idyllic charm to the open environment.
For those seeking the epitome of luxury, Aalia offers a myriad of indulgent experiences. Guests can unwind with rejuvenating spa therapies, by the pool, indulge in activities like nature walks, horse riding, sunset picnics, savouring gourmet cuisine and special dining experiences, or embark on a journey of mindfulness and calmness. Whether basking by the infinity pool or exploring the nearby Rajaji National Park on a safari, every moment at Aalia Jungle Retreat and Spa promises a luxurious and tranquil escape for discerning travellers. It's the ideal destination for those in search of serenity and sophistication in the lap of nature.
After a 4-hour comfortable and hassle-free journey, we made it to Aalia. Driving into the gate we were instantly surrounded by tall trees, a pebbled pathway and a rustic charm. The lush canopy of greenery fused with a warm homely vibe at the reception was a sheer delight. Greeted by the warm and hospitable staff and fun-loving dog who stays at the property, Bixie, our journey to discover this hidden gem commenced.
Stepping out of the car, two brick and mortar structures made using large rustic stones were surrounded by greenery, forests and evenly spaced tents. Looking far beyond all one could see was a canopy of greenery, a rare sighting in cities. While one was the reception, the other was a luxury boutique retreats restaurant, both the spaces oozed a rustic charm on the inside and a warm, cosy, homely feel on the inside. The interiors were brought to life with contemporary furniture pieces solid sofas and modern chairs upholstered in solid and wildlife-inspired prints. These were juxtaposed with rugged wooden ceilings, walls painted in hues of light brown and artistically framed photographs of animals that don the subdued walls. Adding more character to the cosy corner was a bookshelf donned with a curation of intellectual reads and family-friendly games like Uno, Ludo, Monopoly, cards against Humanity and more.
After checking in and sipping on refreshing lemon grass iced tea we made our way to the adjacent structure, the restaurant which offered a similar aesthetic. The only difference was that the tables were laid out with gold accent centre pieces and bougainvillaea centre pieces that infused some colour into the primarily wooden interiors. In essence, Aalia Jungle Retreat and Spa's ambience is a captivating fusion of contemporary elegance and rustic charm.
Being a lap of luxury in the wilderness, Aalia has a total of 11 luxury tents and one two-bedroom villa in a secluded spot (only on referrals), both encapsulating the notion of luxury. We walked along the pebbled pathway to our tents. On either side were tall lemon grass shrubs to keep the mosquitoes at bay (and they actually did) along with locally found plants. The sweet sound of birds chirping enlightened our spirits as we finally reached our luxury tent.
With a beige facade, the spacious tents greeted us with a large patio. On one side was a chaarpai in the same beige hue with a printed bolster pillow and on the other side of the patio were two wooden chairs with olive green fabric and an adjoining table. This was the perfect spot to savour your cup of tea while enjoying the sunrise, sunset and the sound of wildlife - be it the bustling sound of the leaves as the wind blows, animal sounds or the pitter-patter sound of rain.
The property boasts thoughtfully designed luxury tents, each exuding an air of opulence while seamlessly integrating with the surrounding natural beauty. On unzipping the tent door, I entered a space that was large, luxurious, opulent and had an old-world charm. The spacious air-conditioned tents were dimly lit with bespoke furniture and lighting accents including a chandelier, a coffee machine, a modern kettle, brass serve ware adding a rustic charm and the latest amenities. exuded the idea of luxury in the jungle. The wooden floor was further enhanced with two opulent silk carpets, and a king-sized, four-poster comfortable bed added a colonial-charm. But the highlight was the lavish stone bathrooms offering ample space and even a shower area! Yes, they were THAT big. Be it during the day or night the calm and soothing ambience lets you sink into some much-needed R&R with insect noises and birds chirping all day.
However, that's not all. Remember we mentioned a two-bedroom villa? In a secluded spot within the Mango groves of the 350 property is the villa. It boasts a private garden, fireplace, lavish patio, large living area and two bedrooms with bay windows overlooking the green scape outdoors. Modern accents are yet again paired with wilderness-infused elements making the area plush and sophisticated. But this isn't open for everyone yet, they are available only by referral for now.
But what's a luxury retreat without delicious food? The multi-cuisine restaurant helmed by chef Ritesh Negi tantalises your taste buds and the warm and hospitable team makes every dining experience special. From indulgent North Indian food like butter chicken and Dal Makhani to South Indian specialities like Masala dosas and Poha and Indian household staple dishes like palak paneer but with a smokey touch (we highly recommend trying this), chilli fish, and the melt-in-your-mouth mutton curry (the meat literally falls off the bone!), the wide variety of cuisines can never leave you bored. For breakfast, French toast and fresh juices are a must-have and if you want to savour traditional flavours the Dev Bhoomi Thaali is one you should ask for. being inclusive, the property also offers Gujarati and Jain Thalis.
However, if a special occasion or proposal is on the cards, the team goes above and beyond to create a romantic dining experience. From candle-lit dining in the wilderness with mashaals and a bonfire under the starry sky to a romantic set-up by the pool, each spot is picturesque helping you create memories that will last a lifetime.
But one experience that I enjoyed the most was the sunset picnic by the river bank. Get on board the safari jeep as you pass by quaint lanes of the jungle. After a 15- 20 minute drive through the village and a dense forest, you will be greeted with a wide green river bank surrounded by white kaashfuls and a small trickling stream. As the sunsets and the sky turns to hues of pink and orange the sunset casts a warm glow making it an ideal picnic spot. Set up on the bonnet of the jeep was a high tea experience with crispy pakoras, chai, and sandwiches. We saw in complete silence awestruck by the beauty of nature and soaked in the aura. It was peaceful, tranquil, scenic, relaxing and luxurious.
Championing luxury, the property not only has over 1 lakh buckcane trees, but also a farm, mini golf course, fishing pond, safaris, ATV ride, horse riding and a swimming pool, ensuring there’s something for everyone. Steering away from mainstream resorts, experientials are ingrained as a unique aspect of the property. The retreat encapsulates the concept of luxury with a range of unique experiences — from a plunge in the pool to a relaxing deep tissue massage, nature walks, horse riding, sunset picnic by the river, and romantic dining setups with mashaals. Unwinding in the midst of a jungle, the sounds of insects, birds and the water had a calming effect.
Early morning nature walks in the forest and cycling, allow you to catch a glimpse of the variety of bird species, cattle and even animal pug marks or you can opt to discover wildlife with a safari at Rajaji National Park. For those who love sports, try your hand at golfing at the mini golf course or make your way to the Amana Stable as you meet and greet the horses Special Delivery and Ampilifier before you go horse riding. Take a visit to the farm and pick fresh vegetables including herbs and aubergines or try your hand at archery because every time you hit a bullseye it is a satisfying experience. For a more relaxing experience, take a plunge in the pool surrounded by buckcane trees and simply unwind in the jacuzzi. The beauty of Aalia is that there is something for everyone. At night the property is illuminated with old-world British era-inspired pole lights which add a softness to the space.
Saving the best for the last. The Spa at Aalia deserves a shoutout. Opting for a deep tissue massage, Jelina, my highly skilled masseuse kneaded away my stress With unique strokes and top-notch massage techniques, she targeted the smaller muscle groups that were stiff along with the entire body. Heated massage beds, divine lavender fragrance oil and soft soothing music added to the experience. The serene and calming environment proved to be relaxing and rejuvenating, a soulful experience that lifted my spirits.
Overall, Aalia was relaxing, adventurous, rejuvenating and luxurious, focusing on outdoor activities and unique dining experiences. And I truly enjoyed every moment to the fullest. It was a great break from city life and allowed me to immerse myself in nature. Breaking away from screens, the property allows you to interact with wildlife, flora and fauna that surrounds you.
Address: Khasra no. 192, 193 KA&194 - Village - Lalwala Mazbata, Bandarjudh, Tehsil, Bhagwanpur, Uttarakhand 247662
To book your getaways:
Call: +91 9999361801