A resort in Haridwar? Haridwar, at the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand? A destination where only those advancing in years go? Isn’t Haridwar is known for seedy hotels that sit cheek by jowl? Yes, yes, maybe and yes. Well, my first efforts at arousing the interest of companions to accompany me to what is regarded to one of the holier sites of Hinduism and once-in-12-years host of the mega Kumbh Mela elicited no interest at all! Incredulous looks seemed to be the dominant reaction my near, and not so near ones, to my stating that I would be going to Haridwar to stay at a resort.
Well, those impressions may generally hold, but an experience at Aalia Resort could change your impressions. Aalia is a spacious resort, and it is well away from the crowded confines of Haridwar. Best of all, it is by the Ganga – or rather one of its channels as the river in this area is a braided river with multiple channels. One can be by the river any time one wishes.
More importantly, Aalia is trying out a concept rather new to India – villa hotel, informs the affable General Manager, Dheeraj Chauhan. The resort has villas where rooms can be hired individually, but the entire villa can be hired too. This implies a family for example, or any group can essentially have a house where they can be very comfortable, with friends and family around them instead of strangers as it would be usually in a hotel. Also unlike resorts with individual cottages, here a single villa has three rooms so multiple members of a family get to stay together. “It works well for us,” says Chauhan.
While there are four categories of rooms, the Aalia Villas can be booked as an entire villa which means getting 4,150 square feet of spacious luxury with three bedrooms, reading room, living room and kitchen. Incidentally they are also closest the river. Note the aesthetics. The villas are unlike the region’s predominant traditional architecture of slanted roofs and flimsy structures. Instead you have villas that would not be out of place in a Scandinavian resort – strikingly contemporary in design and colour palate. Large grassy lawns occupy most of the resort, interspersed by manicured hedges!
All the 12 villas have three rooms each. For an extended family, this could easily be an independent house. Especially as each villa comes with a common living room, complete with tasteful seating arrangements and even a work desk. Books and board games add to the charm. The rooms themselves are spacious and come with every creature comfort. The ground floor rooms have a private garden, while the upper floors have balconies. Some of the balconies have Jacuzzis, so ask for such a room if you prefer.
The resort is serene and makes for a great getaway from the urban crowds. It is just as equally good as a family weekend getaway. Not only are the dwelling quarters family friendly, the resort is full of activities for children to spend time in. There are many options for play time provided in the resort – from table tennis to pool, volleyball, badminton, and even archery and trampoline! Even the younger kids have a space dedicated for them, with lots of entertainment options. For the more adventurous, there’s mountain biking and nature walks nearby.
Of course the adults have their own niches too. Spending leisurely hours by the Ganga, watching an occasional swimmer or a angler in a flimsy boat, the birds island hopping, floating in the fresh mountain swept breeze, the trees swaying to the same tunes, blue green mountains all around puckered up to kiss the skies – it’s bliss nonpareil. Note the colour play above – from azure to cerulean to cobalt and then indigo as the sun goes down, and this is a slice of luxury that’s priceless. When you have tired of that, there’s a lot to choose from within the resort – a quiet (or indeed chatty) evening by the pool or a quaffing your drink at the bar, browsing in the library, indulging in a spot of self indulgence at the two spa rooms, there’s a lot on offer.
A huge attraction for the resort is its close proximity to the Rajaji National Park, which in season (from November 15 to June 15) is a magnet for tourists, and is a great option to [see box – Around Aalia] some of the magnificent Indian wildlife. For a scenic route, do take the canal road to the park gate, even if the park is closed!
Of course Haridwar’s main attraction for most remains its connection to ancient Hindu traditions. While the evening aarti at Haridwar is well attended on any day, and you would be advised to reach in time to not miss it. The town has hundreds of other temples. Interacting with the thousands of people who make their living out of religion, is an experience in itself. There are ropeways to some temples high up in surrounding Himalayas such as the Chandi Devi Temple.
What is likely to extend your stay however is the charming yet unpretentious service at the resort, which is round the clock. Indeed Chauhan, a former Oberoi former hand, and his team, including his wife who supervises housekeeping, have the resort functioning perfectly. This may not be a spa resort at the luxury end, but not even a blade of grass is out of place and the quality of luxury has a timelessness about it. For a brief time, the balance in your life may be just as harmonious. Making Haridwar a destination of choice.
SNAPSHOTS: Aalia in pics
The hotel is on a highway, and is well connected by road, rail and air networks. The nearest major station connecting it to Delhi and beyond is Haridwar Junction, which is about 10 kilometres away. The nearest airport, Jolly Grant, is about 44 kilometres away. Aalia is located about 8 kilometres from the ghats of Harki Pauri in Haridwar. It is also just 7 kilometres from the Rajaji National Park.
The hotel’s entrance is on the side away from the river. The villas are arranged in two broad rows behind the reception block, stretching towards the river. The villas furthest from the entrance are closest to the river. If solitude is not what you yearn, then choose a room near the entrance. We recommend the villas closest to the river, if only for the view! The extensive grounds are easily one of the main attractions.
The lobby itself is welcoming though a tad small, though it meets all usual requirements. The reception is here and handles check in / check out. Do not make up your mind the hotel by the look of the lobby!
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v MUST KNOW
Of course you would preferably have reservations in advance.
Check out the weather forecast as well, for it is close enough from the mountains to get rains any time.
Getting in and out of the resort will require a personal vehicle. The hotel has a few, though guests driving in could get their own too. Parking is available within the resort.
Haridwar within a certain area near the ghats prohibits consumption of non vegetarian food. Aalia is well outside, but when going into town, keep this restriction in mind.
There are 12 villas have three rooms each. For an extended family, this could easily be an independent house. Especially as each villa comes with a common living room, complete with tasteful seating arrangements and even a work desk. Books and board games add to the charm. Note the lovely wooden centre table and comfy sofas.
The rooms on the ground floor open to a little private lawn each, while the upper floor rooms have extended balconies/ decks.
The rooms themselves come in the following categories –
Chila Suite – first floor rooms, with a private terrace
Garden Suite – ground floor rooms with a private garden
River Suite – Located on the first floor, it has an exclusive 350 square feet private terrace with views of the serene countryside.
Aalia Villa – Booking an entire villa means getting 4,150 square feet of spacious luxury with three bedrooms, reading room, living room and kitchen. Are closest to the river.
The room keys are traditional, not swipe card based.
The rooms are large, with a king / twin bed in the middle with comfortable pillows and blankets. There is a flat panel TV with cable connection, though check for your language channelsif you want to watch TV. For sitting, there is a smallish couch, though you may miss a work desk in the room.
The rooms have some plug points, though if you need to plug in multiple devices, carry a multi-pin plug. Net connectivity is there, though remember that this is a fairly remote area.
The wardrobe, actually a walk in closet is effectively a large enough to be a small additional room. It comes supplied with a safe, bathrobes, two pairs of slippers, extra pillows and laundry bags.
The washroom is spacious, and has the advantage of natural light to light it up during the day. There is a shower area, though no plunge bath, though some of the upper floor balconies have an outdoor jacuzzi.
Given that the area can cold, hot water is perquisite, and comes supplied by individual geysers in the rooms. So if you want hot water, remember to turn on the geysers!
Toiletries are by Inara, and include a bottle each of shampoo, shower gel, hair conditioner and hair and body lotion. Basics such as combs, shower caps, soaps, shaving kits etc are present. Yes, there are enough towels.
Being a family resort means catering to the need of children. There is a common playing area colourfully done up with a variety of options for games.
The hotel lists a number of activities:
Darts board games
There are options around the resort too
Jungle safaris through Rajaji National Park
White Water rafting at Rishikesh
All Terrain Vehicles for off-road adventures
v Pool & Gym
There is a small charming pool in an area near the river. Next to it an area with wooden flooring and canopies, good for anything from yoga to an evening relaxing drink by the fire. A bar outpost is also here, for easy access! The gym is not huge, though more than adequate for a weekend stay. And unless weights is crucial for you, do spend the time outdoors!
The spa has two treatment rooms, and there are plans to extend this, says Chauhan. Great for mind and body, it would be a great place to pamper and rejuvenate oneself.
A lovely wooden staircase leads to the restaurant above the reception. With both indoor and outdoor seating. it provides scenic views of the river across lush green lawns. Taking in the views might satiate you quite a bit!
The menu is extensive. Breakfast buffet have all the basics in place – balancing international options such as toasts, sausages, stir fried veggies and egg options along with more Indian choices such as parathas, puri- sabzi, idlis etc. The a la carte menu too has options from Indian and international cuisines.
v Hotel services
The hotel can arrange transfers from the airport and railway station
The hotel provides adequate business centre facilities. There is a boardroom that can host small meetings. Great for a board meeting.
Guests travelling with domestic staff also can get accommodation for them, at a small additional fee.
Guests can bring and park their own vehicles in the hotel. Yes, there is a heliport just in case that’s your preferred mode of travel.
v Must try
w Sitting by the Ganga
w Exploring the neighbourhood on the ATVs or All Terrain Vehicles
w Indulge in myriad games during your stay, including if you are up to a certain age, the trampoline!
w Have a picnic in the beautiful lawns, with sound effects provided by the Ganga.
w In the evening, relax by the pool
w Outside the hotel, well a jungle safari at Rajaji in season is the top attraction.
w For the religious minded, an evening at Har Ki Pauri will be a must, though be warned, the prayer time is really short on most days, so make it well in time if you want to catch it.
w A trip to Rishikesh via the canal route is a scenic journey, and you actually get to drive through streams in places!
The architecture of the villas blends tradition and modernity beautifully. While the roofs are slanted, they are more the Scandinavian rather than the traditional Indian way. The external cladding for most of the buildings are gray slate, and this lends an austere calmness to the resort.
There is a fair sprinkling of wall art all across – in public spaces and rooms. Note the paintings in the washroom, and the bright tinted blown glass vases in the living areas, which combine well with the stolid wooden furniture. Antique looking fans in the dining area combine well with the most slanting roofs in the resort.
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v AROUND AALIA
The closest major town is Haridwar, literally ‘doorway to god’. It is regarded to be one of Hinduism’s holy cities, and is a site for the once in 12 years Kumbh Mela. In recent times pilgrims have thronged to the city from India’s hinterlands in droves, and on any given day, you will find people from many parts of India here. However, like almost all of India’s religious cities, Haridwar is downright unclean. Har Ki Pauri is where the faithful congregate, and is known for its evening aarti or prayer.
The hills surrounding Haridwar have a number of temples. Chandi Devi Temple is dedicated to goddess Chandi and is situated atop the Neel Parvat on the eastern summit of the Shivalik hills. Two other oft visited temples are Mansa Devi Temple and Maya Devi Temple. The climb can be steep, though a ropeway at Chandi Devi temple can ease and shorten the journey time. The main town is full of temples too, though few can claim any artistic merit. Strictly for the devout.
Rajaji National Park, spread over 820 km² and three districts of Uttarakhand: Haridwar, Dehradun and Pauri Garhwal, is a spectacular forest area nestling in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas. The park is open from November 15 to June 15 annually. Highly recommended as a day trip, though of course bookings have to made in advance to enter the park. The park is a habitat for the tiger, though many other residents make it one of India’s most diverse in terms of flora and fauna. Check out the herds of elephant and sambhar deer. Avoid the wild boar, macaque, bear, cobra, jackal – the hyenas and leopards will avoid you! The park is known for its birds too, from pea fowl, woodpeckers, pheasants, kingfishers and barbets, and a number of migratory species during the winter months. Special here are the Great Pied Hornbill, Himalayan Pied Kingfisher and the Fire Tailed Sunbird.
Rishikesh, where the river is still in the mountains, is just about 12 kilometres away. Similar in spiritual energy, its main attractions are two colonial era bridges that were originally pedestrian bridges. Walk across the upper bridge or Laksman Jhula for spectacular views of the Himalayas and the river. Beware of resident monkeys snatching just about anything you are carrying.
v Healthy living
Blending with nature in large dollops is why most people would want to come to Aalia, and that opportunity presents itself at every turn. The air here is crisp and feels soothing and delicious at the same time. The pool, spa, yoga lessons all contribute to making the experience richer.
The resort is dotted with beautiful plants and trees. Of particular note are the manicured bushes, which are shaped in perfectly geometrical cuboids and lines.
Having the Ganga within a few metres is an unbelievable experience, and though the actual channel shifts by season and year, all it means is scrambling over a few pebbles. There is an island near by and you could watch villagers row, or more usually swim across to the island – it’s their only way to reach, and carry provisions too!
v Best time to visit
October, November and March are usually the best months when the temperature is moderate as are the rains.
April to June are the hottest months, and temperature can rise to high 35C – 36C. December to February are the coolest, when maximum temperature falls to about 20C, and the minimum becomes about 5C. Monsoon rains are very heavy from June to September.
v Do not waste your time on…
… Exploring Haridwar, especially the lanes just off the ghats, really not worth traipsing through the crowds and muck if you are not into that kind of thing. Yes, the ‘clean India’ campaign will take its time reaching here.
… When (and if) giving alms have what you want to give in an easily accessible place ahead of when you start giving. Spontaneous guilt giving may lead to the sudden appearance of a flock that could overwhelm you.
…. Going during monsoon is not advisable. Not only are the rains too heavy to enjoy a trip, the river often floods. Also, the Rajaji National Park is closed!
… Monkeys! Not only is the area full of them, they often come in swarms and snatch food, or just about anything!
v Hotel group
Aalia is a brand promoted by JPL Hospitality Services, which is a part of JPL India, the group’s flagship company
Like any hotel in India, rates now depend on season. The rack rate suggests Rs 6,000 odd for a room. The hotel is booked early in high season and during the holidays, so check before you go.
Aalia – Hotel and Resort in Haridwar
Near Rajaji National Park, Chila Range, Shyampur Noamabad, Haridwar | Haridwar, Uttarakhand, 249408, India
+ 91 9899975469
+ 91 7351008802
Check out packages on the hotel website
(The reviewer stayed at Aalia as a guest of the resort)