Tree of Life review | spa hotel, India
Hillside villas with private spa treatment areas near Jaipur
The Quick Read: This spa resort consists of just 13 villas scatttering a hillside in splendid isolation, well away from the chaotic charm of Jaipur. Privacy is key – each villa has acres of space, an outdoor bath and shower and is own private spa treatment area. A simple but excellent restaurant features daily changing menus, service is gentle and attentive, and there’s a beautiful infinity pool. The very simple ‘spa’ is actually just a couples suite with a sauna, steam and jacuzzi and wasn’t up to scratch on our visit, but each villa has its own private spa area, so you need not even move for your (very good) massages. It’s close to nature, and there is absolutely zero light pollution at night, which makes for wonderful star gazing. It’s a lovely choice for quality time away with those closest to you, whether you’re with a lover or your family.
Who it’s best for: This resort is perfect for honeymooning couples or those simply yearning for much needed time together, for days are invariably spent locked away in the privacy of your villa. It’s family-friendly too, and manages to cater well to both adults alone or those with children without either jarring – in fact you’re unlikely to encounter another guest until dinner. Bird lovers in particular will feel at home as the area is habitat to a multitude of species. If you want to be near the centre of Jaipur’s attractions, this isn’t the place for you, as it’s beautifully remote. Given the topography of the location and the multitude of steps around the resort, it isn’t well suited to those with mobility problems.
What you can do: Whilst Jaipur and its myriad temples, forts and attractions are just a 30 minute drive away, the resort encourages you to stay put and relax. Your villa has everything you need to while away the day, but for those that feel the urge to emerge, there is a beautiful infinity pool, lovingly kept gardens, a library and terrific restaurant.
The spa is very simple, and perhaps the least realised area of the resort, designed for couples with only one double treatment room, sauna, steam and jacuzzi bath. Various pampering treatments and massages are on offer – we found having massages in our villato be the best experience.
You are surrounded by unspoilt countryside which is perfect for hiking, walking and bird watching too. We also recommend a romantic dinner under the stars to the haunting sound of a Rawan Hatha musician at Dera Amer.
Particularly recommended is a dawn hot air balloon ride with Sky Walt, which takes you first high over the countryside before stooping low over remote villages; it’s a morning you will never forget. The resort also offers a plethora of curated activities that aim to immerse you in local culture, so speak to guest services and talk them through in detail. Of course, a visit to Rajasthan isn’t really complete without a trip into Jaipur, but you’ll need a guide and driver, all of which can be organised by the resort. Everything of historical interest can be covered in a day or two, but Jaipur is a shoppers paradise with textiles, jewellery and its famous blue pottery all worthy of investigation. However, rather than a must do list of ‘what to do’, this is a resort that allows you to do nothing at all, which is arguably just as good.
Where you stay: The Tree of Life is a true labour of love by owner Himmat Anand, who purchased a barren plot of land seven years ago and set about creating the resort. The most affordable villas are the garden ones, which have a large lounge and dining area with satellite TV for cosy nights in over a movie. Bedrooms are also generous with a super comfy kingsize dressed in top quality linens, the domed ornate ceiling providing a suitably romantic setting. Bathrooms are expansive with dressing area, twin vanities, shower and loo. Outside you’ll find a sunken bath, shower, loungers and a table and two chairs. A covered tented treatment area sports twin massage beds where therapists perform miracles. Air conditioning is efficient and quiet. Water is complimentary and there are numerous lovely touches throughout. A few days here and your villa really starts to feel like home.
A pool villa has the added benefit of a large private pool – big enough to swim in rather than just wallow, and with a thoughtful raised shallow end just a few inches deep and perfect for tots, or to simply dip your toes in. Both are one bedroomed, but a large daybed in the lounge can be set for a child, making them perfect for small families. None have any views to speak of as they are surrounded by high walls and lush planting, thought this is what makes them wonderfully cosseting and private (a midnight skinny dip isn’t a problem).
At the top end is an impressive two bedroom villa set over two floors with a huge garden and pool, also with outdoor bath, shower and private spa area. Perfect for larger families or those that crave extra space. Set at the back of the resort, this villa features views out over the countryside, which are (naturally) best enjoyed from the infinity pool.
How was it for us: I came here for 5 days respite on a trip to India, and loved it. After a 6km drive down a rough road and dirt track from the main highway, we reached the gate, our bags were whisked away and welcomes were genuinely warm. English was spoken well by all the staff, and within a few hours they all knew my name, beverage preferences, likes and dislikes. I immediately fell in love with my villa ‘Jarul’, named after a local flower, with its white blossom forming the design motif for the interiors. What immediately impressed me was the space ineach villa, and whilst the design was fairly contemporary, there were endless touches that reminded me of where I was, from the ornate wood and stone work, the bright pink cushions that echoed the saris of the local Rajasthani ladies, to the little metal bird that sat on top of the loo dispenser – a perfect mix of modern comfort and local flavour.
At the very simple spa I opted for a facial, and whilst it wouldn’t win any awards for indulgence or finesse, my skin looked terrific afterwards. I took my massages in the privacy of my villa garden which is where the spa offering comes into its own. An hour in, the therapist’s undoubtably skilled hands accompanied by the sounds of birdsong was blissful. Five days at the resort felt like an age, and I departed rested and recharged, ready for my next Indian adventure.
What we took home: A feeling of deep relaxation. It’s a place that encourages you to do as little as you desire, which was exactly what I needed.
Would we go back: I’d return in a heartbeat. I’m a sucker for a private pool and the value here is outstanding. India draws me back regularly, and Tree of Life is most definitely a place I’ll call home again.
People watch: All the staff are exceptionally well trained and motivated to deliver a personalised experience to each guest. All reported being happy at the resort, well looked after and valued by the owner. A particular special mention must go to Ravi in the restaurant who served most of my meals with professionalism and warmth.
Food watch: The food is really good, and it’s a place to indulge. Breakfasts were long and leisurely, with freshly squeezed juices, breads and pastries, more traditional options and a daily changing Indian dish. We spent my lunches mainly by my private pool with in-villa dining delivering whatever I fancied, and despite the heat, the homemade soups and breads were exceptionally moorish. We particularly appreciated the daily 6pm visit to our villa from the executive chef, who discussed the evenings simple but inspired menu, noting all our preferences and prefered dining times accordingly. Dinner is a highlight here, and is more accomplished than many of the more famous hotels that surround the area. You can eat local specialities each night – the fish curries are particularly excellent.
What’s lowly: The spa. Whilst the in-villa massages are accomplished, the spa interior needs a complete rethink. It’s looking at little dated, and is functional rather than luxurious and indulgent.
Insider tip: It’s worth paying extra for a pool villa, as it really elevates the experience. If mobility is a problem, ask for one on the lower level of the resort, close to the main building.
Price with a companion: From about £130 per room per night night plus taxes (including breakfast). A pool villa is approx. £175 per night plus taxes including breakfast. Packages are available, including half and full board dining. Rates vary according to season.
Price going solo: There are no reductions for solo travellers – rooms still costs as above.
Value for Money: Exceptional. Arguably the best value private pool villas in Rajasthan with all F&B very reasonably priced.
Sister retreats: There are two sister resorts in the Tree of Life group. The Tatsaraasa Resort & Spa in Udaipur and Jaagir Lodge situated in the Dudhwa National Park.
Reviewed by Andy Whiteside
© Queen of Retreats
Andy flew from Delhi to Jaipur with Jet Airways in their new business class Premiere cabin. For details visit jetairways.com.