A meditative walk by the riverside to dipping your feet into the Ganges to river rafting – enjoy all this and much more at the Ganga Kinare boutique hotel on the banks of the holy river in Rishikesh, internationally popular as a yoga hub, which is now becoming a hot spot for adventure sports.
If not for its facilities, or its location, the aptly named hotel has become a favourite summer getaway for many as guests can easily access a private ‘ghat’ through a well-manicured lawn for a holy dip.
Interestingly, most of the rooms either have side or front views of the holy river and you can appreciate the scenic beauty from your window. And the river-facing spacious dinning area, flooded with natural light, allows you to relish freshly cooked food in the lap of nature.
The first floor has a river-facing terrace and the occupants can soak in the natural beauty while lounging there.
Started about 25 years ago, the boutique hotel, built in 30,000 square feet in the town – known as a starting point for the Char Dham pilgrimage to Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath – is a perfect example of combining religion with luxury.
Bustling with tourists, a mix of Indians and foreigners, there is a touch of warmth in everything – be it the decor, the warm service or the food. In fact, some of the recipes would remind you of home-cooked food.
Apart from the sumptuous daily breakfast and dinner buffets that the chefs put together, there is also an a la Carte menu on offer.
However, while ordering your favourite dishes from the strictly vegetarian menu, which offers Indian, Chinese and Italian cuisines, be ready to wait as the chef would need time to rustle them up. But it would be worth the wait.
Must tries are Paneer Lifafa and Macaroni Hot Pot. The Gulab Jamuns are to die for. I have a weak stomach, but during my stay I didn’t have any complaints.
The aesthetically done up rooms, which are not too big yet comfortable, the spacious lobby and the dining area are proof that the owners have an eye for detail.
“We upgrade it every year during the monsoon, which is a lean period in terms of footfall,” Pradeep Semwal, the general manager of the property, told IANS.
While talking about footfalls, he said: “From March till June-end the rooms are mostly full with domestic tourists, while from August to February, the maximum bookings are by foreign tourists.”
“The décor is themed on Indian-Asian culture. Delhi-based interior designer Sonal Dhama has done up the place,” he added.
Rishikesh, 24 km upstream from Haridwar, at the confluence of the Chandrabhaga and Ganga, has more Indian visitors during summer due to holidays and pilgrimage.
I drove down to Rishikesh from Delhi. The drive after Haridwar is refreshing and relaxing with forests and fields on one side, with the river flowing on the other.
The day I reached, I learnt that an Australian couple was getting married in the lawns of the hotel. “We do organise theme weddings,” Semwal said. ”People can get married within a budget of about Rs. 45,000 which would include the arrangements and rooms for a gathering of 25 to 30 people.”
As far as activities are concerned, visitors can join the Ganga Aarti twice a day, enjoy morning and evening walks on a pathway alongside the river.
A boon for the elderly is easy access to the river. They can sit on the steps built just outside the main boundary wall at the annexe of the hotel or take a dip in the ice-cold water.
If lucky, the guests can catch tuskers from the Rajaji National Park, just across the river, playfully splashing in the water.
Complimentary yoga and meditation sessions add to the charm of the hotel. The hotel outsources river rafting, family Ganga cruise, trekking and wildlife safari in Rajaji National Park.
“Rishikesh is known for yoga and meditation, but now people also come for adventure activities,” said Semwal. The boutique hotel has hosted celebs too.
“Anil Kapoor stayed here with us. TV show ‘CID’s entire cast stayed here,” said Semwal.
Getting to Rishikesh:
* From Delhi, it’s about 230 km
* 16 km from Dehra Dun Airport
* 25 km from Haridwar railway station
* Deluxe Room: Rs.5,500 (including breakfast and taxes)
* Super Deluxe Room with front view of the Ganges: Rs.6,600 (including breakfast and taxes)
* Executive Suite: Rs.7,600 (including breakfast and taxes)
* Lotus Suite on the top floor: Rs.12,000
* Ganga Aarti
* Neelkanth Mahadev Temple, Kunja Puri Temple, Virbhadra Temple
* Bicycle ride
* White water river rafting
* Family Ganga cruise
* Jungle safari in Rajaji National Park