Enjoy Himachal's wonderful sights and hospitality at the LaRiSa resort located just outside Manali
Should the name of the LaRiSa resort put you in a Sound of Music frame of mind, gambolling down the Alpine slopes, hold your yodelling goats and let me bring you back to Lahauli earth.
La—for the sheltering sky above you, Ri—for the rugged Himalayan range surrounding you, Sa—for the earth beneath your feet. I, for one, was immensely happy to finally place my feet down firmly on the LaRiSa property. The journey from Delhi had not been the happiest. Thanks to an unscrupulous private bus operator delaying departure with staggered stops until the bus was filled to capacity and then proceeding to have not one but two punctures, the bus ride was arduous and far, far longer than scheduled. Thankfully, we were rescued by the hotel a few hours before our misery extended until Manali and whisked away in a car to the safe haven of LaRiSa, where the bracing air, hospitality, warmth-inducing beverages and warm food swiftly mended the ills.
Nestled in about 18 acres of apple orchards, this resort was the brainchild of children of the soil, siblings Puneet and Priya Thakur. While the idea of building a resort in this popular tourist region was no stroke of genius, the fact that it is at a remove from over-popular Manali town gives it a distinct edge in my book.
Tucked away in the little village of Haripur in Naggar, it has 22 rooms in all, spread out in two-floor blocks over four acres. This includes 4 suites on the upper levels with personal jacuzzis, 10 deluxe rooms giving out on to lawns and 8 classic rooms that are equally spacious and pleasing. And there’s mountain and sky enough for all, shared out in full democratic measure.
Central to everything is the reception area on either side of which is a glass-fronted lounge and covered dining room. Barring rain and snow though, guests generally prefer to dine outdoors on the lawns adjoining the dining room, whetting their lunch appetites with the sharp mountain air or warming themselves around a bonfire before an expansive dinner, prepared by an enthusiastic and capable cook and served by an ever smiling and keen staff, all locals who have been trained on the job.
For warm summer days, there’s a swimming pool, and both adults and children can repair to the block that houses a large library and children’s playroom, behind the organic vegetable and herb garden that supplies much of the succulent fresh food on offer.
If traipsing gently around the orchards to the accompaniment of birdsong or picnicking in the pinewoods close by are not activity enough, Naggar has its own tourist attractions.
A short drive away is the Naggar Castle, curiously endearing in its squat solidness. It is built in the ‘kuani’ architectural style with walls in alternate layers of stone and beams of wood, guaranteed to withstand the vagaries of time. Its windy courtyards and galleries offer sweeping views of the valleys below. A room has been dubiously designated as a museum but even the wax models togged in regional dress appear bewildered about their purpose.
A more thoughtful museum does exist further up the hill—the ground floor of intrepid philosopher, explorer and painter Nicholas Roerich’s residence from 1928 till his death in 1947 serves as gallery for some of his works. The second floor has been frozen in the décor of its time but can only be peered at through the barred windows from the wrap-around balcony.
The landscaped gardens descending down the slope are reminiscent of an erstwhile time of grace and privilege and the views of the mountains are splendid but I imagine that it was then less marred with clusters of occupation.
As good tourists must, we also paid a visit to popular Manali town. Many other good tourists had clearly had the same idea. The long snaking queue around the imposing Hadimba cave temple served as sufficient discouragement from seeking to enter so we cut through the cedar forest and ambled on to Old Manali with its undulating narrow, sleepy lanes lined with shops selling local ware and laidback cafés and bars, a throwback to a more languorous tourism.
The return, however, proved rather taxing. At the height of the holiday season, inching in single file down the only exit (and entry) road, caught between customary traffic and the breakdown of some vehicle down the line, it took us more than three hours to cover the mere 11km back. Once again, it was with great relief that I placed my feet back on LaRiSa ground and leaned back into the sky with the mountains wrapped around me. And a further testament to the charm of the resort that its beauty and comforts swiftly dispelled all thoughts of that journey or the one to follow the next day with the return to the city.
Where: PO Haripur, Manali-Nagar Road, Dist. Kullu. The closest airport is 35km away in Bhuntar, Kullu. The closest railhead is Chandigarh, 300km away. By road it is 550km from Delhi, 11km short of Manali.
Accommodation: 22 rooms and suites: 8 classic rooms, 10 deluxe rooms, 4 premier luxury suites
Tariff: Rs 5,500–7,500 plus taxes (low season); Rs 7,500–9,500 plus taxes (high season)
Contact: +91-1902-257400/257401; www.larisaresort.com