From the desert to the mountains, igloo-inspired geodesic domes are sprouting across India as glamping’s new trend
From a distance, on a bright, sunny morning, the three “igloos” look like something on the set of a sci-fi film. The three white domes at Avalon Cottage, a luxury resort in Kanatal, Uttarakhand, stand out in the midst of all the greenery for their unusual, futuristic architecture. The interiors are luxurious—king-sized beds with ergonomic mattress, spacious bathrooms with amenities, aesthetic décor—and on the sprawling deck, one can soak in the panoramic views of the mountains.
“Most of the enquiries from potential guests are for the domes,” says Jasmeet Kochhar, co-founder, Avalon Cottage. “They’re the first to be sold out.” Spend some time inside one and it’s easy to understand why people are hankering for a stay in these igloo-inspired domes. You wake up to the view of the mountains, and sleep while gazing at the stars through the semi-transparent dome. The experience is meditative, relaxing and revitalising. That apart, as Kochhar says, “it’s a great photo-op, it’s instagrammable.”
Further west, and a few miles from Jaipur, Teela, a glamping resort, opened with nine domes last year to become a desert oasis offering views of stars and a private dinner experience, besides other adventure sports and activities.
While glamping or “glamorous camping” isn’t new. Several hospitality brands and companies have pitched luxury tents in the past, but igloo-inspired domes are the new trendsetters. Called “geodesic domes”, these hemispherical convex structures built with the support of geometrical triangular patterns are the latest attraction among tourists in India. Though the concept isn’t new in the West, in India, it’s caught on only in the last two years post the pandemic, and these otherworldly-looking pods have mushroomed in tourist spots in Kerala, Rajasthan, Bengal, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
From the deck of one of Avalon’s domes, one spots a cluster of six such pods, belonging to Keekoo Hospitality, another resort in Kanatal. “Glamping is a trend and quite possibly the future of holidays, especially for the young people who crave experience with luxury and comfort,” says Mahendra Choudhary, general manager, Keekoo Hospitality, which has properties in Kanatal, Manali (Himachal Pradesh) and Udaipur (Rajasthan). “Our domes are sold out most of the time with people willing to pay a full advance for booking,” says Choudhary, predicting that Uttarakhand will continue to see more such structures.
While Keekoo opened in December 2022, Avalon Cottage, opened in April 2023. “We had planned this since 2020 but the pandemic allowed us time to keep improving our product,” says Kochhar of the 15-room luxury property with a mix of rooms, suites, and domes.
According to Arvind Sharma, senior manager, Awning Global, a 30-year-old Delhi-based outdoor wellness company, which manufactures awnings and canopies, the sales of their geodesic domes are increasing. “From Himachal Pradesh to south India, hospitality businesses want geodesic domes,” he says. Sharma provides reasons for the surge in demand: “They’re easy to install, take lesser time compared to brick-and-mortar structures, and, if done correctly, can be placed in spots where you can’t build such as on a mountain cliff to offer unparalleled views of the nature.” The company is investing in R&D not only for futuristic designs but also to identify better ways to repair and maintain the domes they instal.
Glamp Eco, located in Hamta, a village near Manali, has domes perched at a height of over 2600m and offering splendid views of Dhauldhar ranges and Manali valley. Started in 2019, the lockdown slowed business but provided a silver lining for the four promoters of this eco-friendly luxury glamping site. “All four of us lived inside the domes for six months to keep perfecting and fine-tuning them,” says Akshat Jain, an engineer-turned-mountaineer, documentary filmmaker, and co-founder, Glamp Eco. Living inside the domes allowed the promoters to closely observe the problems. The greenhouse effect prompted them to make modifications in the ventilation system. They added a generator given the erratic electricity, identified tools and techniques to repair the domes, set up high-speed wi-fi connection for those who wanted to stay longer for ‘workations’. Most of all, the time allowed the promoters of Glamp Eco to get to know the locals to curate experiences such as foraging, making homemade pickles and experiencing local food that allowed tourists to mingle with the locals and subsequently create income streams for the village. Today, Glamp Eco, through its tie-ups and various initiatives with the local community, generates ₹5 lakh per month for the village. Having hosted over 6000 guests, including celebrities, almost 10 percent of the guests are repeat customers. “We went viral on Instagram and without any kind of marketing, purely by word of mouth and social media interest,” says Jain. “Only those who are physically fit and above 18 years are allowed.”
In Darjeeling in Bengal, Deependra Rai and Amit Chhetri have bet big on glamping with Glamp Inn, a glamping site that started earlier this year. “Farm stays and luxury tents are passé,” says Rai. “Our land offered pristine views, we just had to do something different and that’s how we got our two domes and started out.” Perched on 1.5 acres of land with spectacular views of the Himalayas, the two domes, according to Rai, are selling out fast. “We have people coming from Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, all over India,” he says, adding that they plan to add more domes in Darjeeling and Sikkim in the next three years.
While the cost of these domes varies depending on the size, typically the shell alone costs ₹6-8 lakh. Add the transport, labour, installation, and the amenities’ costs, and each geodesic dome can cost upwards of ₹15 lakh to install.
While Kocchar of Avalon Cottage predicts that these igloo-inspired domes are the future of glamping with more players sensing the opportunity, Jain of Glamp Eco cautions that licenses, safety and the eco-friendly aspect of glamping shouldn’t be compromised upon. “It’s not just the uniqueness of staying inside the dome and experiencing luxury, it’s about the overall experience of hospitality, and of mingling with the local community,’ says Jain.