Folks from Mumbai often say that they cannot do without the bustle of the city. But you put these same folks in the city for eight months and restrict their travel because of an ongoing pandemic, and their priorities change completely. And so, 2020 happened. Nothing within the city limits seemed acceptable and the need to break free from the concrete confines of the urban life beckoned loud and clear. For such, is this quaint, expansive, and undeniably luxurious. A Hilton, set in the heart of the Sahyadri hills of Maharashtra, and situated just a few hours away from Mumbai.
The Hilton Shillim is the ideal haven for those seeking ultra-luxury beyond the city. It’s best to set off from the city in the early hours to beat the swelling rush of traffic. Entering the property will have you spellbound as it is located just a stone’s throw away from the beautiful Shillim village and stretches across 350 acres, flanked by the towering mountains and exposed to the plunging valleys of the Sahyadri range. It’s no wonder that it’s called the Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa because while the luxuries afforded are stunning and rejuvenating for the spirit, the location is picturesque.
The property has 100 villas, but because of the COVID-19 safety measures, it functions at 33% capacity, which means that only 33 are let out as the lockdown gradually eases across Maharashtra. The hotel staff warmly welcomes you by approaching your car, checking your names, your temperature, ensuring you sanitize, and finally settle into the check-in area, where guests are accommodated one after another. Social distancing is practiced diligently, right from the check-in process, all the way through the check-out.
Being a property with only villas, you get a choice of the basic Valley Villas, the more picturesque Deluxe Valley Villas and Forest Villas, the Private Pool Villas, or the larger Presidential Villas. To cover the vastness quickly, Hilton Shillim has a fleet of Tata Nanos that ferry guests around tirelessly. It’s quite a utopian sight to behold. Checking into the Dharna Pool Villa is as delightful as the alliteration in its name. It has its own garden and a pool (non-heated) with lounging chairs. The bathing options within the villa could leave you spoilt for choice, with a soaking tub, an indoor shower, and an open shower to choose from. The rooms were spacious and the bed was a large four-post one with world-class linen that was inviting.
Before you check-in, the staff pays special mind to your safety and the room’s hygiene. Everything is scanned and sanitized before you ceremoniously break the CleanStay Room seal on the door and enter. The real beauty of the Hilton Shillim is how organically it fits into the heart of the wilderness, surrounded by jungles and teeming with wildlife. As you spend your time on the patio you will come across bird calls that you may have never heard before, echoing through the distant valleys.
Dining at the Hilton Shillim is pleasurable in normal times because you have over half a dozen options to choose from. However, because of the pandemic, only two restaurants were functional. You could always opt for the 24-hour in-villa dining option, which is wonderful especially if you’re checked into the Valley View Villa or the Pool Villa. Or, you could head to Terrazo, the all-day dining restaurant. It may look odd once you enter since the seating is spread out to practice social distancing. However, once the food arrives you can lose yourself in the delightful flavors. You can pick from a range of cuisines, which can be found on the scannable menus – menu cards have been ditched for safety reasons.
Mornings at the Shillim were wonderful. You wake up to chirping birds and call for breakfast and enjoy it with piping hot coffee or tea. In the evenings you can settle down at the Valley Bar for high tea. The resort is known for its amazing spa and treatments but these were all shut until further notice. However, you can indulge in the meditation and yoga sessions held at the Dhyana Center, which is literally a cave within the resort.
To break the monotony of luxury and to truly experience nature in its pristine form, you can walk around the property, wet your feet in the cool waters of the streams, and interact with the staff along the way as they zip by in their Tata Nanos. They are always cordial and kind enough to interact with you and answer all your questions. The size of the estate doesn’t require you to leave the premises, which is a great advantage, especially given the intense hygiene regime that the hotel ensures to follow for your safety.
What makes the Hilton Shillim special as compared to other hotels of the chain I have visited is its natural ability to blend into its surrounding. Given how hospitality is evolving as an industry, the Shillim can pride itself on the way they have understood the space they can operate in, without making it seem too cumbersome for their guests. Some would argue that these are the best times to experience such properties because of less crowding and the excellent service that you can enjoy – an argument that’s hard to counter, especially during peak tourist seasons.
Visit the Hilton Shillim if you want to break away from the city and plunge into nature, without becoming mosquito fodder. Visit it if you have a refined taste that shies away from monotony because this resort truly earns its accolade of being the only one of its kind among all Hilton properties. With most of the general areas including the infinity pool, spa, and other restaurants shut due to the pandemic we cannot wait to experience the property to the fullest once the lockdown restrictions ease.
Note – The Dharna pool villa starts from Rs 26,000\-++ per night.
We were invited to the Hilton Shillim but all the opinions expressed herewith are my own.
Where – Hilton Shillim, Pavana Nagar, Maval, Shilimb, Maharashtra 410406