Come monsoon, and Kerala tops the list of destinations to escape to, as spa and ayurveda therapies are considered most effective in this season. With tight schedules, Kerala might seem unattainable; instead, three hours away from hectic Mumbai is a getaway that offers a heady mix of misty landscapes dotted with waterfalls, excellent spa therapies with a fresh water stream flowing next to it.
If you have deep pockets, head to Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa, nestled in the Sahyadris and occupying an expansive 3,500 acres, of which a massive 70 acres is dedicated to the spa while the retreat occupies 320 acres. What sets it apart from the typical marble-floored, soft-lit hotels is that the retreat has been ergonomically designed to keep the forest intact with swish villas set apart from each other.
We were greeted at a roofed lobby with outdoor furniture, and delicious sugar-free multi-grain bars, a lemongrass coolant and warm towels. With only trees and a paved path ahead, the shiny big hotel imagery had disappeared. Using battery-operated golf carts to move around we noticed how different villas are located reasonably far from each other. The sense of privacy was refreshing and welcoming.
Since we reached the place at lunchtime we grabbed a bite before taking a walk. Our lunch venue was Terrazzo, a multi-cuisine restaurant, with a menu that’s not very exhaustive yet offers a variety of dishes ranging from Methi Mutter and pasta. The meal had an interesting start with fresh breads accompanied by mango-based dips made from the fruits collected from 800 mango trees that grow in the property. There’s a section beside a waterfall especially dedicated to create your own special chef table. For those keen to detox, the place will open an all-organic restaurant with produce grown in the premises and imported too. With our tummies full, we set out on an hour-long walk in the woods accompanied by Nitin Joshi, Institute Manager.
As history beckoned us, we walked with vigour, past trickling streams. One can also trek to the Shillim Peak and an adjacent peak (as the trek to Shillim can be slippery in the rains) that offers a brilliant view; the retreat will arrange for breakfast at the peak. Yes!
Our tired selves were revived at the tea lounge that offers exhaustive varieties of natural teas. We sipped on the Fresh Rose and Vanilla tea to calm our nerves. While the tea was delightful, what interested us more were honey varieties —Wild Acacia and Thyme honey that was presented to us to sweeten our tea naturally.
The most exhaustive facility at the property is their spa services. With plenty of therapies to choose from by certified doctors and therapists, one can look forward to complete relaxation through therapies that are more than just glorified massage treatments. Their Spa Villas (with personal pools) and Spa Suites offer even more personalised experience. By the end of our visit, we made a mental note to revisit Shillim for an indulgent pampering session whenever their organic restaurant and wine cellar (their aim is to make it India’s biggest) opens.
Treks around Shillim
> Tungi fort: Also known as Kathingad or the difficult fort, this fort was used as a watch tower and for giving warning signals to the other forts in
> Tikona: The name is derived from the word ‘Tikon’ — triangle in Marathi. On seeing the fort, you know immediately that this is the most appropriate name. The trek to the top will take you to the Trimbakmahadev temple, a water tank, some Satvahan caves and also a pond.
> Korigad When you visit this fort, remember that like many of Shivaji’s forts, this one has witnessed many historic battles as well.
> One can also visit the Karla caves, Bhaja Caves, Rajmachi and Lohagad in the area.
How to get there
>> Driving either from Mumbai or Pune, exit the expressway at Lonavla, pass the Triose Plaza and continue south on the Jalvaayu Marg Road.
>> Pass the Bushi dam on your left hand side and the local Navy and Air Force Base on your right hand side.
>> You will begin the ascent as you head further south on the Jalvaayu Marg. This road will lead you directly to Daatawadi Road.
>> Once you reach Cloud 9 Resort on your right hand side, turn left twice and follow the small sign for Shillim.
>> Continue for approximately 5 km, passing nurseries on either side.
>> Turn right into an unnamed road — noticeable for the Shillim town sign placed on the left hand side.
>> Continue driving for 7.7 km until you find the Hilton Retreat on your right hand side.
>> The retreat offers a luxury limousine pick up from Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (`20,000). They also offer a helicopter ride which takes 25 minutes to reach the destination.
What to do around Shillim
Cycle: The retreat offers bicycles on hire for those who prefer an outdoor trail.
Waterfalls: Shillim is dotted by waterfalls, one can park and take a shower and bite into freshly roasted corn.
Boat: Lake Pawna, a huge artificial lake dominates Shillim’s landscape. One can fish, enjoy a speed boat ride or a romantic meal on the island or a float boat at the Lohgad Boat Club.
Learn: The retreat will soon be starting the Shillim institute where one can learn cooking, pottery, dance and a host of other creative activities.