ShivAdya in Karjan is just about as far off the beaten path as you can get. Hidden just out of view, this boutique hand-crafted resort is set in a breathtaking landscape, and offers a slice of luxe Himachali living paired with unprecedented comfort. I spent a couple of days in this little sophisticated hideaway and was surrounded by the prettiest flowers, art and glorious food.
Breathe a sigh of relief as you exit the choc-a-bloc streets of one of Himachal’s most popular hill-stations, Manali. ShivAdya is an hours drive away from Kullu Airport and 20 kms from Manali. GPS will guide you with no trouble.
On check-in I was offered this glass of strawberry lassi which was so addictive I could have drank a bottle of it!
ShivAdya Resort and Spa stands out for a multitude of reasons, the biggest of all being that it uses contemporary design to literally connect travellers to their environments – and in a place like Himachal Pradesh, if one doesn’t do just that, it’s as good as not visiting this gorgeous state in the first place.
The thought, passion and care thats been put into ShivAdya Resort by its owner, Ritesh Sood, is nothing short of inspiring. While the 15-room resort tastefully stands out against dramatic settings of puffy clouds, rich fauna, apple orchards and blanketed hills, it doesn’t solely rely on its location to make it one of the best resorts in Manali. Every corner of the property tells a story and the sustainable practices it has adopted during its construction as well as today is noteworthy. Ritesh says “Nature doesn’t rebel against nature. It rebels against outside elements. It is a common misconception that in order to build something strong and long-lasting, one needs synthetic substances or imported material. We’ve used material from the property and locality to be as harmonious with our surroundings as possible.”
MERGING TRADITION WITH SUSTAINABILITY
True to its Himachali roots, the resort is built using mud and wood like most homes here; material that has been excavated from the very site it stands on. Many other construction elements have been brought in from the village or surrounding villages to minimize transport and carbon footprint. But it doesn’t end there. Even rainwater is harvested and by looking at this adorable hobbit-house-like-structure, you’d never guess that a water pump inside collects and circulates rain water for various uses around the resort.
Each of ShivAdya’s three small buildings feature stone roofs with traditional hanging wooden skittles or chimes that are commonly seen hanging from the roofs of Himachali temples. But within, every common space has flooring in different patterns made with various kinds of wood – teak, cedar, walnut and deodar, that, coupled with warm lighting, adds to the cozy appeal.
What I found interesting was that the main 3-storey building is even named after the storeys in traditional homes. As per the architecture of Himachal homes, the lowest floor is used to house cattle and grain, but at ShivAdya, it is where you can check-in to a luxurious holiday at the reception. The floor above that, traditionally called Bouri, holds insulated bedrooms and living spaces in old homes, and just as locals relax and unwind on this floor, at ShivAdya, you can rejuvenate at their Bouri Spa. The topmost floor, called Taala, considered to be the purest because of its distance from the earth, houses the kitchen and dining area in local houses. In keeping with the theme, the topmost floor at ShivAdya has a bright, spacious multi-cuisine restaurant, called Taala!
The other two wings have a variety of rooms, each one more luxurious than the next. But even here, the attention to detail and aesthetic can’t go unnoticed. The names of the rooms pay tribute to Himachal Pradesh too, with the Luxury Rooms being named after the villages surrounding the property, Elite Rooms named after various mountain passes and Royal Rooms, after mountain ranges.
The design of my luxury room, Fozal, itself lulled me into tranquility during the 2 days I spent in it. For many, the higher the room, better the view. However, my room was on the ground floor and still had a surreal lookout. I’d watch faraway trees appear and disappear as the mist rolled by before the sun suddenly shone, spreading warmth across the land. And at night, when I snuggled in the plush queen size bed, I felt wonderful to be far from maddening crowds and routine, in my own little sanctuary.
You are bound to be blown away by the clean, luxurious, modern rooms. Amazing, without being overpowering, cluttered or fussy, they are well appointed with luxury fittings, a mini-bar, storage space, large screen TV, premium toiletries and more. But while you may feel that there’s nothing extraordinary about that, the rooms too hold hints of old-world charm. Stone and mud walls add heaps of warmth and country flair while touches of finesse, like an armchair that looked like it belonged in an old detective novel, are smartly placed for fine balance. Hanging in frames on the walls of every room are large handkerchief-size versions of Himachali shawls, each one different and exquisitely embroidered.
Another energy saver is that there are no A/Cs or fans required – they are simply not needed in this mountainous area, even in summer. Additionally, the resort does away with plastic water bottles, and glass bottles in the rooms are refilled on request.
OMG I’m still dreaming about that fantabulous Rogan Josh! ShivAdya’s multi-cuisine restaurant whips up exceptional Indian, Continental and Hakka Chinese fare to please even the pickiest of taste-buds. No matter what you try, I promise it will be bursting with flavour. Be it something as simple as an omlete or aloo paratha, or pasta and grilled fish in lemon-garlic sauce, cooked to perfection. What’s interesting to note is that the restaurant, Taala, has no menu. This is done to allow guests the freedom of choice and doesn’t stifle the creativity of its chefs.
You can immerse yourself further in the food of the region by taking a quick master-class with the chef, and learning to prepare items like dal, momos and siddu (a local delicacy.) As much as I was looking forward to it, I didn’t get a chance to attend.
My favourite moments at ShivAdya were spent dining at Agni, the simple outdoor restaurant that is super Instagram-worthy, thanks to the colourful cushions on the chairs and green foliage surrounding it! Relishing a wholesome breakfast out in the open, facing the hills is an enviable way to kick-start a day, and on occasion, I even took my laptop out there to get some work done. That’s what I call ‘work with a view!’
ShivAdya also has a barbeque pit, and well designed circular space around it for guests to get to know each other better. Enjoy some nibbles like tandoori chicken or paneer alongside a drink and unwind as the stars twinkle overhead. Alternatively, a pretty cool tent is located on the opposite side of the property, where you can tuck in to a private family meal, too.
ShivAdya’s Bouri Spa has a range of treatments for men and women, as well as steam rooms, a sauna and family Jacuzzi. After relaxing those muscles at the spa, head to the lounge library – a quaint, comfortable place to curl up with a book or mingle with fellow guests. This inviting space has more than just books and vintage-looking couches. If you’re a lover of the arts, look closely at the Chamba Rumaal on display, for it’s not often that you’ll get to see one. These handkerchiefs feature hand embroidered patterns of either mythological scenes or local life and when rotated, the exact same pattern appears on the back, These framed handkerchiefs are one of the various art forms that decorate the resort.
Another common space, called GupShup Room is quite different in looks and vibe. Contained in an attic of sorts, take in magnificent views as you laze on purple corduroy couches. The space is quite minimal, yet chic, and designed to be a place to indulge in idle chit-chat and conversation.
I believe ShivAdya resets the bar for what’s possible for a luxury resort that goes the sustainable way. It’s much more than recycling water, farm-to-fork restaurant menus and washing linen a little less frequently. This luxury resort near Manali puts the local economy, the planet and people alongside comfort, and that is urban eco-luxury at its best.
YOU MAY LIKE TO KNOW:
- There is free wi-fi, but intermittent connectivity, an accepted fact in many parts of Himachal Pradesh
- The resort is not pet-friendly
- If you’re looking to unleash your adventurous side, there is a lot to do around Naggar and Karjan – from treks to waterfalls and a visit to an ancient castle. More on that in my next post.
Book your stay at Shivadya here, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram until you make a trip to this upscale resort in the lap of rolling hills! You can find ThatGoanGirl on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where I share more experiential stays as well as the best places to dine!
If you enjoyed reading this, leave me a comment below! Bye!