Officially welcoming guests this fall is a secret getaway to the Himalayas – Amaya. The picturesque road journey to reach Amaya gently winds its way to the privately owned and sustainably managed forest on an unspoiled ridge at 4600 feet with remarkable views of cascading mountains and snow-capped peaks in the distance. For the thoughtful traveller, mindful of the fragility of the Himalayas linked to climate change and human pressure, pristine Amaya with its small footprint and an undertaking to restore and preserve its 25 acre private forest is revolutionary for India. The word Amaya has its origins in Sanskrit and means ‘simplicity’. The resort’s minimalist yet elegant appeal is at the heart of every thoughtfully designed structure and curated experience.
An impressive vision of respect and responsibility towards materials, people and the environment are visible in Amaya’s landscape and design. Deepak Gupta, founder of Amaya, shares, “I had always envisioned building a sustainable sanctuary in the Himalayas where one could escape to slow down and enjoy the beauty of the mountains and their crisp clean air. Amaya is the result of this yearning and a 7-year journey of discovery, innovation and collaboration. It is also proof that a habitat can be traditional and contemporary, a modern mountain village of sorts which embraces nature and its glorious beauty instead of displacing it.”
Bijoy Jain is the principal architect for Amaya, he is the founder of globally renowned Studio Mumbai. He and his team studied the forested site over multiple visits and minimally used a section of its panoramic terraces, once farmed generations ago, to nestle a set of unique villas seamlessly into the hillside. Deepening and reviving a connection to this pastoral heritage, each eco-sensitive modern structure was built meticulously by hand using local materials – wood, lime, and stone. They provide guests a rich cultural landscape that deepens their sense of place while offering a quiet haven to reconnect with loved ones and even more, with themselves. After carefully considering the ecology of the site, development has been kept minimal at Amaya and spaces have been allowed to harmoniously blend with the pine forest around them.
Amaya comprises an interesting combination of chalets, suites and villas. Each of the five villas has a study or artist studio, dining and living spaces, a fully equipped kitchen and three independent ensuite bedrooms that centre around wrap-around porches that hug each structure and the angled terraces. Depending on how modern day discerning travellers like to stay while on vacation, there is a choice of nine one bedroom chalets and six suites comprising a bedroom and a study. The interiors of Amaya have been curated by Viewport Studio, London and reflect the concept of sustainable minimalism and Nordic design. The finishes and interiors lend a contemporary aesthetic to the spaces and the furniture, carpets, lighting and fittings have been thoughtfully created utilising the expertise of international designers, plus local weavers and fabricators.
This careful human centred design retains the intimate connection one feels with the landscape from the moment of unhurried arrival. The remarkable mountain vistas change throughout the day as one meditatively watches the horizon with a cup of tea or coffee in hand. Rolling fog in the valleys below, dawn chorus and evening bird song accompany picture perfect sunrises and sunsets.
Seasonal produce and local ingredients are at the forefront of the unique culinary experience at Amaya. With Amaya’s commitment to minimise its carbon footprint and to reforest much of the remaining terraces, expect impeccable service and inspired haute cuisine at the elegantly styled, panoramic farm to table restaurant. Amaya has teamed up with celebrated Chef Prateek Sadhu to push boundaries with bright and innovative flavours centred around seasonal and regional produce. In walking up to the restaurant on meandering hand laid out stone cobblestone walkways, you see expert horticulturalists nurture kitchen and herb gardens lush with organic fruits and vegetables.
Depending on the season of your visit, you can enjoy farm grown organic apple, pear, plum, mulberry, fig, bell pepper, chillies, kale and much more. Dynamic connections with regional cheese makers, the in-house sourdough breads, pickled fruit and vegetables and fermented beverages round off the fiercely local self-sufficient vision, a world away from the city.
With much private space to purposefully get lost in, the heart of the communal experience is at the top of the private ridge that includes the restaurant and dining area, aesthetically designed Finnish saunas for adults, a gorgeous library and a jaw dropping, teardrop shaped, naturally filtered, heated swimming pool that perfectly satisfies one’s longing for rest and relaxation on a vacation. Amaya offers a new way of living that combines the space and freedom of a secluded country existence with opportunities for spontaneous and interesting connections with the modern world. Travellers to Amaya can enjoy a range of curated experiences, a heritage walk to the adjacent Darwa village, private meals on secluded mountain tops, local produce foraging and horticulture tours, riverside picnics and mountain treks.
Amaya is located just under two hours from Chandigarh airport which is easily accessible from all major cities in the country. The low traffic, pastoral road over rolling hills is a charming, scenic 64 km drive with forest cover that shades your car windows as the urban world recedes and you decompress and relax deeply. A restorative sojourn awaits guests who seek endless experiences to explore from design to cuisine, nature to culture, and beyond.
Amaya is that space: a commune, a philosophy, an agent of symbiosis that enriches the lives of all that inhabit it, but also the land upon which it is built.