All places worth getting to take time. Getting to Manali is a long journey only made better by the stunning vistas. But getting to Manali is definitely worth it. Nestled deep in the Bipasha Valley, there is a stunningly luxurious property that is committed to providing the best possible experience for its guests. Urvashi’s Retreat is a property spread over a wide area of rolling greens. Classified by ITC WelcomHeritage group as one of their Nature Resorts, it is an enterprise personally-run by Urvashi and her team.
The idea of Urvashi’s Retreat was envisioned by Urvashi’s family in 2014. Being frequent visitors to the Himalayas, they wanted to give back to the Devbhoomi but as hosts this time. Thus, Urvashi’s Retreat was born. When a project is born out of passion, it shows. Despite the luxurious ambience of the retreat, there is a sense of home that pervades throughout. The property boasts of a spectacular setting, set amidst slopes of coniferous trees and icy blue mountains in the background. Cottages dot the landscape like mushrooms sprouting out from the earth and make for the most idyllic picture.
A 23-room property, the retreat offers a host of accommodations — standard rooms, deluxe rooms, superior rooms, premium rooms (duplexes), a suite, and an exclusive villa. The rooms are segregated based on varying levels of privacy and space. Every room comes with a balcony overlooking the gorgeous mountains,and are fashioned masterfully using wood. The interiors are done up so tastefully that they look like pictures from fairytales. Each room is equipped with WiFi, heating, a safe, a mini-fridge, a tea station, a satellite-linked television, and a DVD player. The same grandeur extends to the bathroom – a heavenly luxury in the mountains.
Hailing from the Royal Khimsar family of Rajasthan, Urvashi’s family has been in the hotel business for a long time. She learnt what it takes to run a hotel very early on and brings those entrepreneurial skills to the retreat as well. It is evident that the hotel is run with pain-staking perfection – right from the tastefully done up rooms, to the indulgent pillow menu or the decadent food. There is also an impressive focus on eco friendly ways and sustainability.
With the motto of ‘responsible luxury’, Urvashi tries to give back as much as possible to nature. “We often think that we own the land that we inhabit. In reality, it is the land that owns us,” she says. At Urvashi’s Retreat, she is trying to do away with this sense of entitlement. Urvashi has opted for minimal wastage strategies such as using terracotta, jute and rice paper instead of disposable plastic. There are no plastic straws in the premises. To combat the problem of waste management, they have created a vermicompost pit where they dispose of all the biodegradable waste which is composted and used as manure for the property’s apple trees. The same consciousness also pervades into the food served at the retreat with organic and alternative diet-friendly food available for guests.
The food at Urvashi’s Retreat is commendable and they fuse tradition with innovation to offer something truly novel. The dining room, Rohtang Pavilion is serviced by three exemplary chefs and offers a host of items, even healthy ones. The experience is made even more memorable because of the bay windows in the restaurant. With views of the Himalayas looming large over your head, it almost feels like dining in the lap of nature. There is also a gastropub called Mike’s Tavern where one can cuddle up on the plush sofa with a book, have a conversation with cocktails or play a game of pool. One of the highlights of the dining experience here is the specially curated Pahaari Dhaam menu. Cooked exclusively by Boti chefs, the community who were chefs to the king, Dhaam meals are pure and saatvik without even onion or garlic. The meal is made using local ingredients such as lentils, pulses, dairy, mustard and ground spices. There are no vegetables or meat used. The meal is a must try here.
The gastropub – Mike’s Tavern
The rooms are stocked with a comprehensive list of Urvashi’s recommendations of activities around the property. Included in the list are various day trips, treks, walks, cafes and restaurants. Walks to the neighbouring villages are exceptionally fulfilling – getting lost in the woods, being around goats and children, and interacting with the locals. Once done with these simple walks or tougher treks, it is most satisfying to return to the warmth of the hotel and perhaps even indulge in a spa treatment. The spa offers an array of massages such as Swedish, Balinese, Aromatherapy and Ayurvedic. There is also steam, sauna and jacuzzi on offer. The soothing interiors and aesthetics of the spa along with the streaming music and dim lights will lull you to sleep while expert hands knead the fatigue away.
Overall, Urvashi’s Retreat is almost an experience in itself. It is not just a place to stay, it is a melee of many moments and memories. The retreat is being run not just as a hotel, but also as a community. There is the unmistakable feeling of home and nostalgia at the same time. One cannot live here and not want to keep coming back. Go here and be touched by the allure of the fresh mountain air, the memories of the sun on your back and the luxuries they provide so tastefully that it reminds one of home.
Thank you very much to you and your team for arranging this fantastic tour. One of the best pick from this tour was your meticulous planning and promptness of service. All arrangements were fantastic, be it a delivery of vehicle at Chandigarh airport, hotels particularly at Chandigarh, Leh, Nubra, Pangong. However the best was at Jispa, Kargil and Srinagar for different reasons. Jispa was simple but authentic with very tasty food.
Rajesh & Gauri Natu
Graphic Designer, Apple
Sunil, after I ran 21k Marathon I bragged about it for years. The same is being repeated again, with my ambition to drive across the Himalayas, which was almost faded with Srinagar under curfew. You and Chetan were the spark to our fire that we could do this drive and without a single trouble. Driving is a passion but driving thru places where there are no roads is trouble, but your breakup of program and awesome car condition helped us actually sail thru. Three cheers and five stars.
Absolute Networks, Mumbai
Wow. wow, wow. What a experience! We took the route of Delhi - Jammu - Srinagar - Leh - Sarchu - Manali - Delhi. Sunil Kapoor gave us excellent service which includes his next to new 4WD in immaculate condition and all hotels were top class. Coming from Australia, we were bit nervous in start but when we met Sunil, we had full trust and all went very positive. Sunil gave us perfect instructions and everything was according to plan. Thank you Sunil and your team for our one of the best experience in life you have provided us.
Director, Webential, Australia
Eight of us from Sri Lanka got Sunil to arrange a self driven tour to Leh and we are very happy with our decision. He was punctual, trustworthy and met our expectations. The service provided was very professional. As foreigners it’s hard to arrange such a tour by ourselves and Unwind outdoor filled in the gap perfectly. All places we stayed were nice and decent. Should specifically mention about the two Scorpios which we instantly fell in love with. They were very well maintained ...
Friends from SriLanka
After days of research, we finally came across a facebook page called ‘Unwind Outdoors’. It seemed like our dream was going to be finally true. Very reasonably priced and Sunil from Unwind was like a know-it-all person.
The itinerary was so crisp and so very well laid out that there was no reason for us to worry other than coping up with nature’s fury.
Clifford Chance, Delhi
We did a SUV self drive trip from Chandigarh to Ladakh and back organized by Unwind Outdoor.
Highly recommend Unwind Outdoor as Sunil and Manpreet took care of everything we needed (car, hotel bookings, sightseeing and food recommendations, permits) and everything was organized seamlessly. Sunil was very patient with all our queries, giving suggestions and options to suit our preferences.
Ashish & Neha Thadani
Great to see the know-how of the Unwind Outdoor team regarding every aspect of the Srinagar - Leh - Chandigarh self drive trip. From weather conditions, to road conditions, to health/clothing requirements, and also driving instructions - Sunil and Manpreet are warm, meticulous and knowledgable. Villa Himalaya in Sonamarg surpassed all our expectations and ensured that our expected standards for the rest of the trip were extremely high.
Symbiosis Law School, Mumbai
Thanks Sunil for arranging a wonderful trip. Everything went well and we were in good hands with friendly and competent drivers. Accommodation was good and tents were comfortable beyond our expectations. We didn't have problem with food choices. It was a totally rejuvenating vacation and experience for us. Thanks from us in Singapore!
We had an amazing 9-day from Manali to Leh. Serene, breathless and picturesque. High altitude sickness was a big issue for us but we were in good hands.
Unwind Outdoor was superb in arranging and coordinating the trip. Taking care of all arrangements and checking-in on us. Kudos to Sunil and his team.
Assistant Director, Jurong Town Corporation, Singapore
We travelled as a couple & completed a self drive trip from Delhi-Jammu-Srinagar-Kargil-Leh-Nubra-Pangong-Tso Moriri-Sarchu-Manali-Delhi. Itinerary was meticulously designed to be a mix of adventure and comfort. Hotel choices were best. Support was available at all points in case of emergency.Vehicle provided was top notch. Thanks to Mr. Sunil Kapoor for personally putting in efforts to maintain such high standards.
Nikhil & Neha Mazumdar
Manager L&T, Mumbai
Six of us (two families) travelled to Leh in Jul / Aug 2015 and we had an excellent experience with Unwind Outdoor. From the very beginning of our excited planning phase, Sunil has been willingly suggesting us options, number of days, places to visit etc. He has all the knowledge of the terrain, passionate about trekking and traveling himself, so he understands travel-crazy people such as me and my quirks.
We landed in Leh in time for cloudbursts and flashfloods and landslides (along with mud and rocks sliding too). Despite Nature's fury, Sunil and Skarma made sure we were utmost safe and comfortable. These guys are just not into travel business, they help people fulfil their travel dreams. Truly! Go guys!!
Barclays Bank, Bangalore