Take a look at this wonderful building. Where in the world do you think this is?
Perhaps nestled in the Scottish Highlands? Or Northern Ireland? Perhaps even Scandinavia?
You might be surprised to learn that this is The Himalayan Resort & Spa, and as the name suggests, it’s actually located within the Himalayan mountain range. In India.
Yes, I know. I was shocked too.
I stayed here for two magical nights to find out how this unique luxury hotel came to be, and what lies behind the facade.
This fantastical building is the brainchild of Nishat Mohi and his brother Bobby, who spent ten years building it on inherited family land in Manali, Himachal Pradesh. He knew he had the view, and now he just needed the building to do it justice.
It started with an idea. “Every boy wants to be King of their very own castle”, Nishat told me. “So we embarked on an ambitious project to make it happen. Two years in to the build we had to let our architect go. He was thinking Pyramids of Giza and I was thinking Taj Mahal. Both are beautiful, but they’re incredibly different.”
The structure is impressive, considering it was planned and managed by the two brothers with no help from an architect. The 24 rooms are spacious and well thought out, with detail inspired my Nishat’s world travels.
“I studied in Shimla and New Delhi, and then attended hotel school in Switzerland before moving to Key West in Florida, and London, England to carry on my trade. I knew I was always destined to have my own hotel”.
Rooms within the castle itself all have four poster beds and most have views across the valley, but it’s the standalone cottages which really steal the show.
Spread over two floors, they come complete with well equipped kitchen, dining and lounge area with open fireplace (perfect for enjoying a glass of wine), and on the top floor you’ll find a large bedroom with bathtub, and separate shower room. Plus those incredible views, of course.
The hotel also boasts the only swimming pool in Manali, for those who are brave enough to take the dip. My advice would be to wait for the warm season (May-Sep) for this option!
The town of Manali is well known along the backpacker trail in Northern India, but it’s less well known as a location where you can come and sit by a crackling fire with a good book, before waking to the fresh mountain air and taking on a hike the next day.
But at just over an hour’s flight from Delhi, it’s becoming more of a viable option for couples and families wanting to get that ‘away from it all’ feeling. Plus for the more adventurous, Manali offers white water rafting on the Beas River, paragliding in the mountains and remote treks over several days.
It’s becoming popular with nature-loving honeymooning couples who want more than to lie on a beach for two weeks. Plus, it’s amazingly affordable. A meal for two in Old Manali costs around £10 for two people including a couple of beers each.
The hotel is only 4 years old, so is still learning and growing, but Nishat has big plans for the future including adding a steam room and sauna to the limited spa options currently available, and using as much home grown food as possible on the restaurant’s menu.
If you find yourself at the Himalayan, make sure you try the spicy fried trout, caught locally in the Beas River. It’s out of this world.
“We are always improving. Due to the hotel’s remote location, only the bricks are quarried locally at a painstaking rate of 8 to 10 per day. Everything else including the furniture, doors and finishings had to be flown in via the local airport”, Nishat reveals.
For someone looking for a mountain lodge feel in an adventurous and affordable location, The Himalayan is a perfect choice. Rooms can be booked through RARE India and start from RS 7500 (approx £75) per night plus tax, excluding breakfast.
Disclaimer: My stay at The Himalayan was organised by RARE India, who specialise in small, individual hotels with soul across India, and provided free of charge by The Himalayan. As always, views are completely my own.
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