India's best Himalayan escapes
WHEN it comes to the Himalayas, Nepal gets the most attention from travelers looking to conquer its towering peaks.
Chief among these, of course, is a certain little mound of dirt and rock called Everest.
But this 2,400-kilometer stretch of mountains, which also shares borders with China, Bhutan, Pakistan and India, has more to offer those looking to put relaxation before mountaineering.
From hidden lodges and luxury heritage spas to a colonial bungalow offering majestic views, the Indian Himalayan Region is full of fantastic places. Hotel Eagles Nest Surrounded by the snow-capped Dhauladhar range, Hotel Eagles Nest is located above McLeod Ganj, in India's Himachal Pradesh state.
This 150-year-old stone cottage initially belonged to an American Pentecostal mission and was later used as an Angora wool farm.
There are seven rooms and suites set on two levels in the main house and one Moonlight Suite, set apart from the main hotel and surrounded by untouched forest.
Hosts Bo and Sheila left their music careers back home in England to restore this property, taking more than 10 years to reconstruct and refurbish it.
The Dhauladhar suite offers bay windows and a private balcony from which to enjoy unobstructed view of the surrounding mountains.
The property has scenic trails that lead to the Great Himalayan National Park. Ananda in the Himalayas
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Not far-fetched at this former home of the Maharaja of Tehri-Garhwal.
Spread across a 100-acre estate at the foothills of Himalayas in Uttarakhand state, Ananda is about unwinding, detoxing and relaxing.
The resort has a 24,000square-foot spa facility that includes a temperature-controlled lap pool surrounded by manicured gardens, where meditation sessions and morning yoga take place.
The detox starter program lasts four days.
It's a combination of Ayurvedic therapies, aromatherapy massages, customized spa cuisine and a fitness program that mixes yoga, meditation and the gym.
Ananda can arrange a two-hour hike up to the mountaintop Kunjapuri Temple or a trip down to Rishikesh to see a traditional Ganga Aarti performance. Yangsum Heritage Farm
On a clear day, Yangsum Heritage Farm offers one of the finest views of Kanchenjunga -- the world's third tallest mountain.
A 44-acre farming estate in India's Sikkim state, it's the family home of Pema and Thendup Tashi.
"What we offer at Yangsum farm is a glimpse of our family farm life, which has been with us for over 100 years," says Pema.
"The guest can learn to cook local cuisine or help in gardening."
Yangsum Farm offers five spacious rooms decorated in Tibetan style.
The Yangsum Heritage Farm serves great traditional Sikkimese cuisine cooked from the organic produce grown on site.
Guests can chill with a book in the fruit orchard or take a three-hour trek up to the Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary.
Thendup knows the area well and can arrange visits to monasteries and whitewater rafting trips.
Tip: Ask for the room with pine walls, which offers the best view of the mountains.
Jilling Terraces A rustic but luxurious mountain lodge overlooking Nanda Devi -- India's second highest mountain -- Jilling Terraces is a superb retreat.
Sheela and Rajeev Lunkad fell in love with this 80-year-old colonial bungalow a decade ago.
It took them more than six years to restore the property, which had been abandoned.
"We wanted to create a space with minimal impact on nature and to initiate and encourage interaction with the local community, from sharing a home-cooked meal with the villagers to learning about their culture and life," says Sheela.
Guests hike forest trails and eat locally sourced food.
There are four cozy guest rooms -- all offering sweeping views of the mountains -and a separate cottage that's perfect for a family with kids. Glenburn Tea Estate A stay in a colonial planter's bungalow is a memorable way to experience the rich tea heritage of Darjeeling.
Established by a Scottish company in 1859, Glenburn Tea Estate is now owned by the Prakash family, who've been in the tea business for over a century.
Accommodation is spread across two bungalows surrounded by 1,000 acres of private forest.
Two rivers run through the property.
Eight rooms are decorated with colonial furniture, open fireplaces, luxurious bathtubs and large windows offering views of Kanchenjunga mountain.
"To restore the bungalows to their original grandeur, we had to peel off layers of paint added by each manager's wife according to her liking and taste," says owner Husna Tara Prakash.
Excursions include hikes, tea-factory visits and tea tasting sessions.
The hotel can also arrange day trips to the town of Darjeeling.
Panyali Trail – Jilling Terraces' Panyali Trail is a five-hour, 6.5-kilometer hike leading to Panyali village. We're not sure if that estimate takes into account all the stopping to take in these views. (CNN photo)
Ananda in the Himalayas – Ananda in the Himalayas is a luxury spa resort spread across a 100-acre estate at the foothills of the Himalayas in India's Uttarakhand state. (CNN photo)