Through the crowded, dusty roads of Haridwar, the jeep took me through Shyampur’s dimly lit village towards the yellow lights of Aalia.

I had just finished the Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib trek. Escaping the exhaustion, I allowed Aalia to flatter me with its luxurious comfort. And in the following days, I realised how addictive this could be.

Styled in contemporary villas, the sprawling property stands on the bank of the calmer side of River Ganga. My room was spacious, clean and more than what I needed as a traveller. The balcony opened up to wide views of the river and an open-to-sky jacuzzi. The free wi-fi, the concrete open-spaces and the diverse collection of books were like a smooth transition from the mountains to the city.

Read: Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Trek: Things to Know Before You Go

My room.
My room.
The pool with the river on the background.
The pool with the river on the background.

I had an agenda for the day—I was allowing myself the prized gift of relaxation. Tempted by the spa, I made an early appointment and sneaked in for an hour. Amar, in-charge of the spa, ran me through the various therapies available. Focusing on international therapies, the popular Thai and Balinese massage were available along with the rare Reiki Healing or Fusion Therapy. My therapy was a quick back scrub and massage, as I wanted to spend more time outdoor.

Rejuvenated, I invested the other waking hours of the day with a book and staring at the open skies or the quiet river.

I chose Anita Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss from their existing collection. And by the following morning, I had completed the book, which I had longed to read for years now. I thought I had lost the ability to read a book so quickly and I’m glad to have proved myself wrong.

Read: Unwinding at Keanna Village Home, Uttarakhand

Common areas in the villa.
Common areas in the villa.
Spaces of Aalia.
Spaces of Aalia.

This was my third visit to Haridwar and thankfully, I didn’t feel the need to venture out into the chaotic lanes once again. However, I realised I hadn’t tried the local Garhwali cuisine of the state yet.

And without having to express a word of this, I was surprised that my dinner was a spread of the traditional Garhwali food. It was a vast platter! Luckily the portion size was perfect for a single person.

The meal started with til and bhaang ki chutney accompanied with swaal or roti stuffed with dal and kaddu raita, on the side. The curries included aloo ka jhol, kulat ki dal, channe ka fanu and chicken in Garhwali style. My favourite, of course, was the jhangoora or rice like couscous. Needless to say, I was smitten.

Read: People of the Garhwal Mountains, Uttarakhand

The delicious Garhwali dinner!
The delicious Garhwali dinner.
Remains from the Aarti.
Remains from the Aarti.

Even though I was by myself, it was a perfect balance of solitude and social interaction. People tend to assume that I need company and constantly check on me, when I’m travelling alone. I was happy to experience otherwise here.

As I departed the property, Dheeraj Chauhan, the enterprising and hands-on General Manager, introduced me to the all-terrain vehicle (ATV). Intimidated by its size, I jumped at the opportunity to ride it. With a few wrong turns here and there, I managed it. Will I ride it again? Defintely!

After leaving Aalia, I visited a nearby village (coming soon in photos) en route to Rishikesh, the mystic land of India. My short stay was beautifully organised at the property and beyond.

Sometimes, when I look back, I realise the importance of transition. And Aalia was just that for me—it gave me time to be and blend into the city-life pace, without the chaos of Haridwar.

Read: Photo Story: Walking in Rishikesh

Trying to take a turn on the ATV.
Enthusiastic about the ATV.
Reading by the river.
Reading by the river at dusk.

Good to know:

– Aalia has 33 rooms in all, where each villa has three bedrooms and common living spaces, study sections and balconies; making it an ideal group getaway destination. Also, while I was travelling alone, I did not feel the common rooms would have been uncomfortable, if I had to share them with other guests.
– The list of services here are unending. Wi-fi, swimming pool, spa, yoga, indoor games, crèche, children’s room and bar (in spite of Haridwar being a dry state) are all available.
– Yoga classes are conducted every morning at 7:30AM at the designated room. I wanted to attend one of them, but sleep overpowered my good intentions.
– Every evening, the Aarti happens at sunset by the banks of the River. I loved the moment with the sky colours changing.
– The property is very quiet and the staffers are soft-spoken. If you are travelling in a group, please maintain the peace of the place. It shapes everyone’s experience.
– Aalia is faraway from civilisation and even though everything you need will be available here, it makes sense to figure out your own transport beforehand (they can help you.) Or it is mapped out correctly here.
– They have a comprehensive list of activities and I would highly recommend them. They include complimentary ones like archery, wall climbing, croquet, table tennis and yoga, amongst others. And quad biking, jungle safari, nature/bird walk at minimal charges. Ask them for more details.

Have you had such an exclusive experience in Haridwar?

Note: I was hosted by Aalia, in collaboration with RARE India and as always, it did not influence my review of the place.

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Amrita Das

I have been a travel and culture independent journalist. My bylines have appeared in many publications worldwide including National Geographic Traveller India, Lonely Planet Magazine India, The Indian Express and World Travel Magazine. A fellow of Media Ambassadors India-Germany 2019 program by Robert Bosch Stiftung and Centre for Media Competence, University of Tübingen. Currently, I am the photo editor for RoundGlass Sustain, a wildlife and conservation e-publication. I live in India.

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11 thoughts on “Aalia, Haridwar – Luxury by the Banks of River Ganga”

  1. Looks really nice! An answer for all those who feel that Indian tourism in lesser known places cannot accommodate luxury! Well written Amrita Das!

    1. Thanks Chaitali. It was a lovely stay and I do hope to revisit someday again.

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