After spending two days in Shimla, we were heading towards Manali, when my travel-expert friend Purvi Jhaveri of ways2wander suggested us that we stop over at a village called Raison (in Kullu Valley), which comes before Manali. She suggested that we try out the Neeralaya Resort in Raison, which is surrounded by nature’s bounty of mountains, lush greens and river. Hearing all the wonderful facts that she told us about this resort, we made up our mind to forfeit another hotel booking in Manali and stay at the Neeralaya instead, atleast for a day. We got in touch with Muneer and Manisha Suri: the couple who own the extraordinary property. We were glad to know that a duplex cottage was available for us!
Neeralaya sits just at the banks of the beautiful river Beas. It is one of the calmest and ideal places to spend a hill-station holiday in Himachal. Although it is on the Kullu-Manali highway itself and around 35 min drive from the Kullu Bhuntar Airport, you have to drive down a bit into the interiors as it is in a discreet place, hidden in the orchards. However, there are clear boards showing the way to reach Neeralaya, as you approach the place. Raison is 15 km from Kullu and around 26 km from Manali.
Neeralaya is an extraordinary place to relax and rejuvenate: an experience that’s totally worth every moment spent there. Manisha and Muneer have made it a point not to advertise about the place much, as they do not want to commercialise it. It is the place where Muneer grew up, so he is very attached to it. The resort also has some grafted fruit trees, thanks to his Horticulturist father.
Muneer explained that he bought the land in bits and pieces from as many as 11 people. He has put in a lot of effort in designing the resort. The resort looks gorgeous with the immense beauty of Mother Nature, so perfect that you will wonder whether you are in a dreamland. At the resort, get used to the pleasant chirping of birds (we spotted some unusual kinds of birds here) and the healing sound of the water of River Beas gushing over wild stones. This is a pollution-free and eco-friendly zone where even the drinking water comes from the mountain spring. The water is not only pure, but light, sweet and increases your appetite naturally!
Since Neeralaya is such a peaceful place undiscovered by most travellers, celebrities choose to stay here at times! We were lucky to find a host of Hollywood celebs, including Sam Keeley, Melissa Leo and Kal Penn. The shoot for the Hollywood movie “The Ashram” was going on here.
Muneer will gladly assist you if you are interested in activities like trekking and hiking, white-water rafting, fishing and cycling. Take a trip to Muneer’s own Suri Apple Orchards or take a look at the vegetable patch grown in the backyard. There is a small water body where a kind of Freshwater Carp is farmed: you might spot a few swimming around! You can also visit Manikaran (for the hot water springs), the Naggar Castle and the Vaishno Mata Mandir. But if you just want to enjoy the place and do nothing, simply walking around the 4-acre resort will make you stress-free enough. There are various fruit-bearing trees and plants, like walnut, apple, peaches, crab apple, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, etc. During the season, they will offer you fresh apples and plum juice from these trees. Imagine sipping fresh plum juice straight from the fruits plucked in front of your eyes? Surely an experience that we never imagine in big cities like Mumbai!
As the sun descends behind the mountains and it gets colder, do sip some warm Kahwa here. On request, the staff will light up a common bonfire near the river. Slow down and enjoy the natural beauty as it is. You will miss these moments later.
As said earlier, the Neeralaya Resort is spread over 4 acres. There are just five cottages and 11 beds here. The rooms are all made of wood made of atleast 100-year-old reclaimed Timber, gathered from various Himachali homes over a period of years. Also, they used a lot of stones, slates and clay in their architecture. The cottages are named as Peach Villa, Strawberry Villa, etc., as these cottages have these kinds of fruit trees around them.
For example, our cottage (called Peach Villa) had peach trees around it. Some cottages have one bedroom, one hall and one bathroom. Others, like our Peach Villa, have a master bedroom, living room, a kid’s room upstairs and a kitchen as well. Our Peach Villa had three bathrooms. There was a separate Verandah and the villa was equipped with a fireplace as well. Our cottage was clean and very well-maintained.
Neeralaya has a tree house, a trampoline, swings and hammocks to add to its charm. There is a lovely gazebo just near the river, where you can have your meals as you gaze at the mountains and the river. Or, simply sit here and enjoy the cool breeze and the freshness of the river.
Our Himachali food experience at Neeralaya
They have a very small staff here, but they are really good at what they do. There was a Himachali woman who always treated us with a smile. The manager, Rishi, was very friendly and well-informed. He told us stories of celebrity guests who stayed earlier, about the local Himachali food, and about the Himachali snowfall and how it affects the people. When it comes to food, you must try home-style Himachali cuisine here. “Ghar ka Khana” or home food away from home is always comforting!
Muneer and Rishi explained that although they cook Himachali food in their kitchen, they can provide great Continental food (or other global foods) on request. Just inform them in advance about your preferences. As Rishi told us, they don’t cook pork or beef in Neeralaya. But there are farm-grown fresh vegetables, free-range poultry and fresh fish (including Brown Trouts) to keep you happy!
Here’s a photo-tour of what we ate.
So is this the kind of stay that you were always searching for? If yes, here are the details:
Address: Neeralaya Resort, Suri Orchards | Vpo Raison, Kullu 175128, India
For enquiries and booking, you may also get in touch with travel expert Purvi Jhaveri at firstname.lastname@example.org
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