While true destination spas are few and far between, Vana, Malsi Estate (Dehradun, India) is proving it can compete with the best of them. Founded by Veer Singh, the spa and wellness retreat made its debut a year ago after nearly five years in the making. Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, the estate encompasses 21 acres and includes 69 guest rooms, 17 suites, two restaurants, and 55 treatment rooms. According to Singh, the land, which belonged to his family, was originally intended to be the site of a resort. However, after spending time in Spain working to become an organic farmer, he returned to India and took over the project. According to Singh, it was his interest in ecology, nature, personal wellbeing, and traditional healing that ignited his passion for creating a wellness retreat. “Our vision sums up our intention and inspiration aptly, which is to be of service and enhance wellbeing,” says Singh.
Defining the Vana esthetic, nature is at the heart of the spa and helps explain why Vana, which means forest, was chosen as its name. Nature, embodied by the butterfly, is one of the seven elements represented in the Vana Tree, a symbol chosen to illustrate the threads that are woven throughout the retreat. Within the tree, a dove stands for contemporary luxury, a leaf for ecology, a bee for design, a lotus for wellness, a bud for service, and a mango for identity.
To set the stage for the relaxing retreat, Singh turned to Esteva I Esteva Arquitectura in Spain to create the modern yet welcoming look and feel. “Our design is a departure from anything in India,” says Singh. “We have stayed away from the usual Indian clichés. And yet, we have showcased elements of India in a contemporary setting in a manner that is unparalleled.” Intent on achieving an ambitious LEED certification in the near future, Singh and his team were mindful from the beginning to uphold high standards in sustainability and energy optimization. The property was built using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood, and the guest rooms all feature bamboo flooring.
The spa is eco-friendly in a variety of other ways. It relies on certified-organic bed and bath linens and on stationery that is sourced with nearly 100 percent post-consumer recycled waste paper and biodegradable materials. “Our bottling plant also allows us to save more than 100,000 plastic bottles annually,” says Singh. The spa also doesn’t air freight food. It does, however, harvest rainwater, grow organic herbs, and use seasonal produce, which is sourced locally. Based on wellness and Ayurveda principles, the cuisine is yet another example of the spa’s dedication to healthy sustainability.
While spa-goers can feel good knowing Vana subscribes to a green philosophy, the real draw may well be its programming. “The sheer breadth of our wellness offerings and the obsession for authenticity, quality, and detail are truly unique,” says Singh. The idea is to create a personalized wellness itinerary for each guest based on information they share before their arrival, as well as in their introductory consultation, which helps determine their objective for the visit. Guests may choose from a variety of retreat objectives, such as Beauty, Destress, Detox, Fitness, Relaxation, Natural Healing, Weight Management, and more. To ensure guests are successful, there is a minimum five-night stay, although some retreats may require a longer stay. “Our spa and its offerings are designed to help guests relax, restore, revive, and rejuvenate but also to deliver therapeutic benefits,” says Singh.
Vana focuses on seven areas of wellness: Ayurveda; Sowa Rigpa, also known as Tibetan Healing; Yoga; Natural Therapies, such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM); Spa; Fitness; and Aqua, which involves aquatic exercise classes. According to Singh, retreats can be focused around one offering, such as Ayurveda, or a combination of offerings. “It depends on what will eventually help guests best achieve their objectives,” he says. “We seek to deliver results that are measurable, tangible, and sustainable.”
One of the ways it does that is with its own range of products, Vanaveda, an Ayurvedic-based line. It includes essential oils, such as camphor, clove, jasmine, sandalwood, and more, which are extracted in India. Another way is with a diverse team of specialists, practitioners, consultants, and experts on healing and enhancing wellbeing. Vana features a team of nearly 300 to help guests find their way. “We see challenges as part of the journey and opportunities to improve,” says Singh. “In all our actions, our endeavor is to positively participate in one’s journey to wellbeing.”
That journey is one Singh is taking, as well. As ambitious a project as Vana turned out to be, the end result has certainly been worth the effort. And Singh has no intention of stopping there. According to him, there are plans for additional locations, although the next two will most likely be set outside of India. Says Singh, “The desire to grow is not for the sake of expansion but to provide unique and transformational experiences of wellbeing for our guests to facilitate growth and development of both the Vana team and myself.”
Owner: Veer Singh
Wellness Director: Christina Watson
Opened: January 2014
Most Represented Countries:
21 acres; 55 treatment rooms
ARCHITECT AND INTERIOR DESIGNER
Esteva I Esteva Arquitectura (Palma de Mallorca, Spain)