Review: The Lodhi Spa, Delhi

Delhi—whether you’re a first time visitor or come here often—can be exhausting. It’s massive. For much of the year it can be very hot (and the rest of the time it’s very cold). And getting around, even with the excellent metro system, can take a while. The perfect antidote to the big-city stress is an afternoon spent at The Lodhi Spa.

I have been to Delhi many times, but in 2016 I visited during the monsoon for the first time. I’d spent two and a half months in the parched high-altitude desert of Ladakh, so Delhi’s thick dampness was actually welcome, despite the heat. Delhi’s lush gardens and tree-lined avenues really sparkle at this time of year. What I love most about the metropolis, and what keeps pulling me back, are the pockets of peace that can be found amid the chaos: in the shade of a fifteenth-century ruin, or walking down a flower-fringed pathway in an unknown urban park. But during this rainy-season visit I had to resign myself to the fact that I couldn’t spend all day walking around the spacious avenues and outdoor shopping areas, like I usually would, unless I wanted to get really wet. A perfect time to retreat to The Lodhi.

The hammam is open for hotel guests and spa patrons to use before or after their spa treatments. It’s even hotter and steamier than the monsoon streets outside.

After plenty of cooling down with air conditioning and ice-cream at lunch, I retreated to the downstairs spa. I’d booked a 90 minute massage, so could use all the facilities except the pool (which is reserved for guests only). I first used the hammam, or Turkish-style steam room. The hammam is open for hotel guests and spa patrons to use before or after their spa treatments. It’s even hotter and steamier than the monsoon streets outside, but is a perfect way to soften the body in preparation for a massage or other treatment. There are four large stone slabs within the steam room to lie on, and a cold and hot-water plunge pool just outside to relax in afterwards. Like the design elsewhere in The Lodhi, the tastefully tiled interiors give a nod to traditional Indian oriental design, but without many of the ornate flourishes that one may expect from Indian architecture.

The staff at the spa were very attentive, and came to get me once it was time for my 90 minute Signature Massage. The massage itself was very strong, but just what my back needed after months of travel in India. Even though I have adopted a slower pace of travel as I’ve gotten older (that is, once I passed thirty!) my over-achiever’s temperament pushes me to stay on the go most of the time when I’m travelling. My visit to The Lodhi came at the end of two and half months in India, and I knew it was time to let go and take care of my body a little. To thank it for the limits that it had allowed me to push, once again in my life.

The therapist’s fingers were firm and precise, and I felt that I was in the hands of a real professional. She herself was cool and unsmiling, but you come to expect that outward manner in Delhi. I actually prefer it to over-the-top fawning. The hand, finger and foot massages were particularly wonderful. She really worked the knots out of my shoulders and back—massage therapists always comment on how tight these are—and I felt the effects for a couple of days afterwards. But it was a good ache, like after a strong yoga session that you really needed.

The ambience was very peaceful, with just soft music playing. The oil had a very strong smell of jasmine, and although I liked it, it may not be to everyone’s taste. I recommend asking to choose your oil if you think you’re averse to strong smells, or if you have sensitive skin. Mine was left feeling a little irritated in some places afterwards.

The therapist really worked the knots out of my shoulders and back—massage therapists always comment on how tight these are—and I felt the effects for a couple of days afterwards. But it was a good ache, like after a strong yoga session that you really needed.

The Spa is attached with a large, very well-equipped changing room, with hot showers, plenty of mirrors, and lots of accessories—such as combs, cotton wool and hairdryers—for getting yourself ready again for the outside world.

The Lodhi is well-situated on Lodhi Road in New Delhi, close to the spectacular Humayun’s Tomb and slightly further from the delightful Lodhi Gardens. The Lodhi is a striking contrast to these Mughal-era heritage sites. It is built in a geometric modernist style, with few of the ornate flourishes common in Indian design. Only the panelling around the exterior that resembles traditional Indian jali screens resembles Indian heritage buildings. But if you look around New Delhi (as opposed to Old), you’ll notice that the design of The Lodhi is actually in keeping with the structured modernism of other institutions in the area, such as the India Habitat Centre, which holds conferences and talks. Because of its location, an afternoon spent at the restaurant and spa in The Lodhi could be combined with a morning at Humayun’s Tomb or the Lodhi Gardens, two of Delhi’s best and most peaceful attractions.

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Sunset in spring is a particularly nice time to visit the Lodhi Gardens: the air is warm and the skies are clear. The Lodhi Gardens are down the road from The Lodhi Hotel.

A different version of this article appeared on Style, Body & Soul website in September 2016. I received a discounted 90-minute signature spa treatment at The Lodhi in August 2016.

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