I’ve found an afternoon game to play at Uttarakhand’s newest luxury resort: chasing the receding sunny spots on the lawn, as the scrub slopes behind me slowly swallow the sun. Evening begins to gather early at the J.W. Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove and Spa that lies in the state’s Dhanaulti region, a few kilometres ahead of Mussoorie. The Mariott is far from the bedlam of the “Queen of the Hills” thronged equally by honeymooners and children from boarding schools in the area. It is the perfect refuge for people who want to go to Mussoorie, but don’t want to experience its clamour.
With a book in my lap, I sun my legs on a cane couch in my pastel-hued room’s balcony. I am not so much reading it, as periodically sneaking a guilty look at it, between eyefuls of the Garhwal Himalayas rising around me. The spectacular vista from my cosy, temperature-controlled room’s French windows has teased me out from under the covers.
I take the short taxi ride to Mall Road, Mussoorie’s nerve centre. Walking past the antiquated Public Library and state handloom emporia, where I manage to dodge an incipient fight between troupes of belligerent monkeys, I am left with one realisation. That my time would have been better spent familiarising myself with the quiet residents of the former cantonment town of Landour (5 km west of Mall Road)—its thickets of deodar and Himalayan pine and oak, and its cemeteries. If I were staying a little longer, I’d have undertaken the three-day treks to Nag Tibba (3,022 m) and Chandrashila (4,000 m), that the resort helps organise.
Early the next morning, after breakfast at the JW Café—equally splendid for the buffet spread as the aspect of the valley—I spend a lazy hour at the hotel’s tranquil little greenhouse. It overlooks one of the two grand walnut trees on the lawns, from which the property derives its name. The little sage, rosemary, and parsley herb patch inside, serves the fragrant kitchen of the Wisteria Deck Italian restaurant. A room inside the greenhouse might soon be converted into a venue for wine-tastings, and I can think of no better place to get inebriated than in the company of wisteria, marigold, and petunia tableaux. And of course, the mighty Garhwal Himalayas.
Appeared in the January 2015 issue as “Winsome Vistas”.
Accommodation The J.W. Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove and Spa has 105 rooms and 10 suites, which offer either a view of the valley or face the sparsely green slopes that lead up to Kempty Fall. The hotel has all mod-cons, including Wi-Fi (complimentary for some rooms), a gym, and an indoor heated pool. There are several restaurants within the resort, but my favourites were Trout House Grill & Bar, that serves the freshest Himalayan trout (pity it opens only for dinner) and Perch, where you can drink in views of the valley with a cup of masala tea (Village Siya, Kempty Fall Road, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand; 0135-2635700; www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dedjw-jw-marriottmussoorie- walnut-grove-resort-and-spa; doubles from ₹14,000).
Getting there Jolly Grant is the nearest airport, located 20 km outside Uttarakhand’s capital Dehradun. From there, it’s a two-hour drive to Mussoorie, and another 20 minutes to the resort. The hotel will arrange a taxi to ferry you from the airport.
Karanjeet Kaur was formerly Chief Senior Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She likes stumbling through small towns and is the last person to board the plane. She will always pick the mountains over the beach. She tweets as @kaju_katri.