The overnight bus journey from Chandigarh to Manali was cold and tiring and with the break of dawn, I had landed at Patli Kul in Kullu, looking forward to a warm and luxurious stay at the ShivAdya Resort & Spa, a boutique resort set up in the picturesque village Karjan, near Manali. The resort staff was already at the designated bus halt to receive the guests and drive us up to the property, which is around 10 minutes uphill drive on the Manali – Naggar Road.
Handcrafted Ode to Himalayan Architecture
The first look of ShivAdya Resort and Spa is wow inspiring. The bucolic setting is dreamlike and there, tucked in the midst of apple orchards with a panoramic view of the Himalayas, stands this stone and wood specimen, almost blending into the background with its earthy disposition.
The invite to the resort had described ShivAdya as a ‘handcrafted property’ among other things, and the word ‘handcrafted’ had left my curiosity piqued. Handcrafted – did someone design and assemble the property by hand? Wood piece by wood piece, tile by tile? What else could handcrafted possibly mean? Presently, as I stood taking in the first impression of the sprawling property from its courtyard, I could sense that the adjective is not a misnomer. The traditional Kath khuni architecture inspired property indeed looks like a brilliant specimen of deft masonry, and I want to dig more into the details about how it all came together.
Mr. Ritesh Sood, the owner of the property and the man behind this creative concept elaborates more on this as we sit down for an animated chitchat over hot cups of masala tea. The setting is perfect – ShivAdya’s snug lounge, heated by a wood-burning fireplace, which additionally adds a nice warm glow to the setting.
ShivAdya is a striking manifestation of Ritesh’s immense sense of pride in his Himachali roots. A travel industry veteran, his dream of promoting Himachal Pradesh in totality saw fruition in ShivAdya, an eco-friendly boutique resort inspired by culture, concepts and architecture of Himachal Pradesh, particularly the Kullu region. A beautiful fusion of stone, wood and mud, the design of the property found inspiration in the architectonics of Himachali temples, local houses of Kullu and Kinnaur, colonial bungalows and Himachali palaces of yore.
While this informal chitchat educates me about the traditional Kulluvi lifestyle, a leisurely tour of the resort post the tea session turns into an inspiring lesson in eco-friendliness and zero wastage.
The name ShivAdya is a comely amalgamation of Ritesh’s two children – son Shiv and daughter Adya – and you have to see and spend some time here to understand that this pretty retreat too has been nurtured as one would nurture a child. Right from the idea of the resort to its design, planning, and execution – everything evolved from Ritesh’s passion and single-minded determination to create a property that reflects the Himachali ethics in as eco-friendly a way as possible.
- The resort has been built following the concept of zero wastage, with the leftover construction material and other wastage going into landfills.
- 90% of resort’s construction work was done manually and machine tools were only used where necessary.
- The walls in the rooms have been plastered using the age-old technique of mixing cow dung, rice husk, pine needles and mud.
- Most of the guest area is without paintwork, and whatever little paint exists is in natural colour of wood and mud. Even the furniture upholstery is in muted tones, giving the rooms a very earthy feel.
- The woodwork across the resort (and there is lots of it!) too is without paint or polish. It has just been smoothed with finesse and treated with preservatives to protect it from decay.
Haven of Beauty and Quietude
Besides its earthy, eco-friendly design and architecture, another highlight of ShivAdya is its richness of location. Located right in the midst of apple orchards overlooking the mighty Himalayas, the resort is a nature lover’s delight.
Though the time I was there, the apple trees had lost most of their leaves and were readying themselves for the long winter sleep, but still last of the season’s fruit hung to some spindly branches, red enough to delight me. Add to this vibrant scenes of abundant flower-beds teeming with blossoms — the delicious looking roses, the cheerful sunflowers, pale pink moss-rose, and geraniums of the richest colours — and top it all up with the unending view of the mountains and lush valleys and you get a postcard-pretty destination that is just about perfect to unwind and relax.
Welcome to Kunzum!
Creative ethos pervades almost every aspect of ShivAdya, but if I were to pinpoint one particular facet that takes the cake then it surely is the creative naming of the rooms here. The boring number system has been done away with and, as a tribute to the grandeur of Himachal Pradesh, all 15 rooms have been named after its villages, passes and the mountain ranges. Isn’t it amazing? I thought this is a brilliant idea to get the guests curious about Himachal Pradesh and inspire them to explore the state beyond the obvious destinations.
During my visit here, I stayed in Kunzum, a luxurious room named after the Kunzum Pass, which connects the Kullu Valley and Lahaul Valley with the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh. Similarly, there were guests staying in at Kalpa, Hamta, Rohtang and Dhauladhar. To be honest, in those 15 names, there were some names that I was unfamiliar with – for example, Chaderkhani – and I had to look them up on Google to learn more about their location and significance.
And now that I have mentioned Kunzum here’s a little peek into the cozy room, and there’s a little video too. Do check out the traditional wooden ceiling and view of the mountains and apple orchards from the balcony!
Taala – a Restaurant without a Menu
In many western countries the concept of menu-free dining has become quite commonplace, but to try this in India is nothing short of an adventure. ShivAdya has a spacious fine dining restaurant named Taala that runs without a menu. However, that does not mean that in the absence of a menu, the guests will have to eat whatever the kitchen staff whips up. Instead, the chefs, trained in all kind of culinary extravaganza consult the guests about their food preferences and customize the meal accordingly. An arrangement such as this not just helps the guests to experiment with local food but also allows the chefs to break away from the monotony of cooking a fixed menu.
During my stay at the resort, I got a chance to sample a delectable range of cuisine right from Indian to continental with a lot of fusion food added in. From plain garden salad to melts-in-the-mouth smooth lasagne, every single item food item I ate was delish and left me craving for more.
While ShivAdya Resort & Spa’s Himachali ethos and eco-friendly aesthetics won me over, the cultural immersion that I experienced there took my stay experience to a completely new level. Let me share more on this fun as well exhilarating experience in the next blog post. For now, let me wrap up by sharing that I absolutely loved staying at ShivAdya Resort & Spa. This cozy retreat surely makes for a great stay option to relax and unwind, so close to a bustling hill station yet far removed from its ever growing chaos.
Note: The trip to ShivAdya Resort & Spa was by invitation. The views expressed here are my own.
For more information on ShivAdya Resort & Spa, you can check their website or connect with them on Facebook.