The Glasshouse on the Ganges in Rishikesh. Photo: Praachi Raniwala
Living in a concrete jungle like Mumbai, one can be unacquainted with the simple pleasures of living amidst nature—like spotting a monkey scamper down a mango tree as you have breakfast, or watching a flock of birds dance in the sky as you aimlessly lie in the grass. So, we traded blaring car honks for the glorious sound of silence with a quiet weekend in the hills at the newly refurbished Glasshouse on the Ganges in Rishikesh. It offers a bird’s-eye view of the river from every vantage point.
The hills are alive
A direct flight to Dehradun followed by an hour-long drive will bring you to this three-acre property, 23kms above Rishikesh, that was once the private orchard of the Maharajas of Tehri Garhwal. Today, standing on the same grounds is this 20-key boutique hotel that reopened doors in December 2020 after a complete overhaul. The hotel’s 10-metre proximity to the river (the closest in the town) strikes you as soon as you step into the glass-fronted lobby. You’re greeted by views of the leafy estate and its glass gazebo, all of it overlooking the Ganga. A stroll through the lychee and mango tree-lined Himalayan slate-walkway is dotted with many more Instagram-able spots: a temperature-controlled infinity pool tiled in colours to match the river’s turquoise hue, an open-air yoga pavilion, and the 117-feet-long aptly named ‘Ganga deck’ where you can sip hot chocolate or enjoy freshly-fried pakoras to the soothing soundtrack of the gurgling river. While our visit to Uttarakhand took place before the flash floods in Chamoli, we did call the hotel to check on them, and are happy to report that they have been unaffected by the calamity.
A room with a view
None of the 20 rooms and suites, spread between five blocks across the premises, are alike. What’s common, though, are the tall windows that let you wake up (and fall asleep) to the view one can’t get enough of. The cosy interiors are inspired by the surroundings, and all the rooms are named after Indian rivers as an ode to its location. For the best seat in the house, book the Gangeshwari suite in block IV that comes with a generously-sized balcony to really get you in that ‘stop and stare’ state of mind. The two luxury tents, perched on a wooden patio in the manicured lawns, will give you a taste of glamping. While the hotel’s redesign magnifies the surrounding natural charm, it also evidently employs mindful elements that tick the twin boxes of safety and sustainability. Think biodegradable toiletry kits, hot and cold in-room air-conditioning instead of a centralised system, and biodiesel fireplaces that burn cleaner compared to bonfires.
If lazily basking in the winter sun is not enough rejuvenation for you, then book a treatment (or many) at the flagship Spa by Forest Essentials—the only one in the country. Take your pick from the 90-minute signature Ayurvedic massages or the 120-minute nourishing body treatments, and get your glow on with facials that use Forest Essentials products along with local seasonal ingredients. Fun fact: the hotel’s premises, as it turns out, is owned by the luxury Ayurvedic skincare brand’s founder Mira Kulkarni.
After a massage, drink in the picture-perfect landscape and accompany it with comfort food and classic favourites from their menu—a mix of all-day breakfast, north Indian, continental and Asian fare. Your pasta here will be topped with edible flowers and microgreens while the chef is happy to whip up special Asian curries based on your preferences. Dig into your meal at the all-day restaurant, or request for a private setup at one of the many pretty outdoor spots that the hotel is teeming with. A rooftop al fresco bar and lounge is also in the works.
Enjoy the local flavours
In the mood for local Gharwali food? Work up an appetite for it with a trek especially organised for house guests—cross over a suspension bridge, follow the forest trail and walk through Sirasu village to arrive at a local house for homemade delicacies. That’s not all. Their roster of activities has something for everyone—rafting for the adventurous, yoga sessions for the jaded, and temple excursions for the pious. A dip in the Ganges, to wash away those sins? You only need to climb down the few steps from their deck for it. Private aartis are performed every morning and evening on the riverbank too. Ask, and a special seat can also be set up for you to lounge (read or even click pictures) on the very same spot any time during the day.
Whichever way you choose to pamper yourself, it’s impossible to come back from The Glasshouse on the Ganges without feeling refreshed. Even if for a brief moment, you get to leave all your worries back in the big city; inhale the fresh air, ogle at the views and fall asleep to nature’s melodious ballad. So if you are looking for a home away from home in the hills, this hotel—with its inspiring vistas, serene vibe and homely hospitality—might just be it.
Here’s what to expect:
Doubles from Rs16,000 per night. Website.