Review by Victoria
Why you’ll love Atali Ganga
Rishikesh has no shortage of hotels offering outdoor activities but there are none quite like Atali, Ganga. The property, a self-proclaimed activotel, is the first of its kind in India and offers an enormous array of adventures under expert supervision.
The resort is built into the mountainside, high on the riverbanks with views across the Ganges Valley. Here your stay is structured around the numerous activities on offer from wall climbing, mountain biking and hiking to yoga, kayaking and astronomy. And then of course there’s the rafting, which ranges from timid aqua bumps to more challenging (and drenching!) rapids.
Another hotel highlight is the cutting-edge high-ropes course suspended among the trees. Safety standards are high and all activities are supervised by trained Activity Officers. It’s worth noting that the resort covers 2.5 acres of steep terrain and a fair level of fitness is required in order to simply get around the property. As such, Atali is best suited to Big Kids and Teens, although many Little Kids (usually younger siblings) have stayed here but under close supervision of their parents
N.B. Atali, Ganga originally opened as Latitude 30.
Why the kids will love Atali Ganga
Atali, Ganga is, in many ways, like a giant outdoor playground. One of its key aims is to get children, particularly city kids, away from TVs and computers and into the great outdoors. It also encourages families to share adventures together (warning to parents: don’t think that you can hand over your kids to the Activity Officers, you will be expected to join in the fun too!).
Most of the activities on offer are geared towards Big Kids (6+ years) such as wall climbing and kayaking either in the swimming pool or a calm section of the river. One- to two-hour guided nature walks are also offered through the surrounding forest where you will visit villages, enjoy a surprise picnic and return an expert in birdlife. Rafting can be arranged in a quiet corner of the river for children as young as six, although this is still not for the faint-hearted!
Kids who want to sleep under the stars can spend the night in a tent that the staff will erect in the grounds. For something a little more adventurous, take advantage of the globetotting package (contact us for more information) and sleep under canvas at Atali’s affiliated tented camp on the banks of the River Ganges.
The 16 one-bedroom, stone cottages have been built into the hillside around the White Water Café (the heart of the resort); those at the top of the hill definitely enjoy the best views but they also require more effort to reach them!
The cottages are all the same size and enjoy the same design and layout. Glass patio doors open onto a private wooden deck overlooking the mountain across the valley. Each sit out also has a couple of sun beds and a hammock.
Inside, the décor is uncluttered with modern fixtures, crisp white sheets and brightly coloured cushions and throws. A large photo of the river rapid that your cottage is named after hangs on the wall. The bathrooms are a good size and the showers powerful with plenty of hot water (although a poster in the bathroom politely reminds you to keep showers short to ‘keep enough water in the river for rafting’). There are no bathtubs.
All rooms are equipped with air-conditioning, a ceiling fan; a kettle for tea/coffee, filtered water, an iPod docking station and an alarm clock for those wishing to fit in a bike ride or yoga session before breakfast (yoga mats are provided). Heaters are provided in winter months. Hairdryers can be provided on request
Best rooms for families: There are three Family Cottages. Two of these are two-storey (rooms 10 & 11 and 12 & 13) and are connected by an external staircase. Rooms 16 & 17 make up the third Family Cottage; these rooms sit side by side and are joined by an internal door. These cottages are ideal for families with Big Kids and Teens or groups of families and/or friends travelling together.
The other cottages have a hideaway bed that can accommodate one child. Atali, Ganga does not have any baby cots.
Families are best positioned near the White Water Café (the midway point of the slope), as the cottages at the top end require a lot of effort to go back and forth from, particularly for little legs. A good baby monitor is likely to stretch to the restaurant from rooms 1 to 9.
Healthy eating plays a key part here and a lot of thought has been put into the menu. All meals are served in the informal White Water Café and consist of a buffet offering simple, yet wholesome Indian and continental cuisine. This is not about fancy dining; the food is homely, nutritious and well balanced. Special attention is also given to hygiene. A handful of highchairs are available. All meals are included in the rates.
The breakfast buffet includes cereal, homemade bread and toast with delicious jams sourced from a local NGO, fresh fruit and juices. Eggs can be cooked to order
Lunch is intentionally light to prevent guests from crashing-out in the afternoon! When we visited, lunch included Fattoush salad (a Lebanese salad), pitta bread, hummus, Mutable (an Arabic dish), couscous, chicken shawarma and a delicious vegetable stew. Pre-dinner drinks and tandoori snacks are served on the terrace outside the café accompanied either by a game of charades or a guitar-led sing-a-long around the campfire.
Dinner is a hearty buffet of Indian and continental options including vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. The Mangalorean mutton sukkah was our favourite.
Afternoon tea is served in the White Water Café and includes masala chai and biscuits, giving you that extra energy boost before heading off on your next adventure.
For Kids: There is no kids’ menu, however the buffet has been designed with children in mind and there are plenty of child-friendly options such as chicken burgers, pasta, plain dal and rice.
Activities for Parents: Experience Rishikesh’s main attraction, white-water rafting. This roller-coaster ride down India’s legendary Ganges River is a thrilling and unforgettable experience, although not for the faint hearted! The rafting is organised by Atali’s partner, Aquaterra Adventures, and is one of the most professional operators on the river (listed in National Geographic’s Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth). The seriously intrepid and experienced can have a go kayaking through the rapids in a ‘Ducky’, otherwise known as an IK or inflatable kayak. This rollicking ride is for daredevils only. Introductory sessions are also available on shorter (and calmer) stretches of the river.
A state-of-the-art High Ropes Course aims to improve team bonding, leadership and problem solving skills. Ideal then for families with teens! The giant obstacle course is set at 25-30 feet in the air and participants are attached to the devise with a harness. The 14 segments include a giant swing, traversing a rickety bridge and scaling a colossal ladder.
Relish the peace and quiet on an early-morning mountain bike ride where you can explore the forests and villages before returning to a hearty breakfast. If that sounds too strenuous, you can begin the day with a sun salutation instead led by Atali’s resident yoga expert.
Grab a walking stick and a pair of binoculars and stride off into the surrounding forests, accompanied by Bianca, the extremely knowledgeable Activity Officer who leads the way along one of the numerous nature trails behind the property.
Challenge your kids to a climbing competition on Atali’s 20 feet high climbing wall. There is also a 10-foot high wall for Little Kids to clamber on.
If you still have energy to spare, take a dip in the swimming pool while your children take a break in the adjacent playroom / TV room.
Are you ready for the Ultimate Atali Experience? This full day of adrenalin-pumping fun starts with a 12km mountain bike ride before transferring to inflatable kayaks for a 25km paddle down a remote section of Ganges. A picnic lunch breaks up the day. Go for it!
Activities for Kids: Kids as young as six can have a go at white-water rafting, and younger children can try too providing their parents agree. A short section (with Class 3+ rapids) is ideal for first timers but it’s important to note that this still may not be for every child. They are likely to get splashed or soaked with icy cold water and the bumpy ride, whilst thrilling for some, may be terrifying for others. There is also a risk that the boat may flip. Whilst this is less likely to happen in Class 3 rapids, parents should be fully aware of the risks involved.
Learn how to paddle in a kayak. Atali has special kids’ kayaks for lessons in the swimming pool. Older, and more confident children can even learn the Eskimo roll before transferring to the river. (Approx 6+ yrs).
Kids aged 12 and over can swing like Tarzan from the High Ropes Course and children aged 6 and above can make like Spiderman and scale the kids’ climbing wall.
Head into the forest with Bianca, the resident Activity Officer, who is excellent at keeping curious minds occupied. Learn the secrets of the woods such as how to treat eye infections using forest berries. The walks are best suited to children aged eight and over owing to the length and terrain of the walk.
Escape mum and dad and camp under the stars for a night. Learn how to identify plants, stars and constellations with Salil, the astronomy Activity Officer. Groups travelling together will enjoy the scavenger hunt; follow cryptic clues scattered around the property until you find the hidden treasure.
Pay a visit to Atali’s nearby tented property on the banks of the River Ganges for a play on their sandy beach.
Take a break between activities in the semi-open air playroom where you can watch movies or challenge your siblings to a board game.
Air-conditioning, babysitting, common rooms, doctor (and ambulance) on call, 2 extra bed permitted per room, inter-connecting rooms, kids’ activities, shop, swimming pool, travel desk, WiFi.
When to go:
Atali is open year-round, however the best time to visit is October through to early April as the summers can get extremely hot with temperatures reaching 35C. The monsoon arrives in July and it rains until September. The winter months (particularly January) can be cold at night – temperatures during this period range from 5C – 25C. Bird watchers should come in the autumn and winter months when both altitudinal migrants from the higher Himalayas and Palaearctic region gather here. White-water rafting opens on 15 September through to 30 June. There is no rafting from July through to mid-September.
Location & Travel:
Atali, is located 30km from Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India. Dehradun’s Jolly Grant airport is the fastest and most convenient way to arrive at Atali. Daily flights arrive here from Delhi and Mumbai among others. The hotel is located 45 km from the airport, approximately 1.5 hr drive. Atali can organise transfers between the airport and the hotel. Atali is two hours from the closest railhead at Haridwar (50km). The morning Dehradun Shatabdi (express) train from Delhi or the overnight Mussoorie Express are both convenient ways of getting here.
1) Be prepared for activities and adventure. If you want to relax with a book, this isn’t the place.
2) If you plan on going white-water rafting bring a wetsuit. The boat is likely to flip and the water is COLD!
3) Spend one night camping in their sister property by the river (NB the river has VERY strong currents so children need close supervision).