Sustainable Luxury of the Garhwali Kind | Nat Geo Traveller India

Sustainable Luxury of the Garhwali Kind

The experiences at JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa blend decadence with a healthy dose of regional traditions.  
Sustainable Luxury of the Garhwali Kind
JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa is a couple of hours’ drive away from Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun. The journey is as picturesque as the destination. Photo Courtesy: JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa

As I touch down at the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, I feel a touch of trepidation. Back home in Kolkata, the idea of experiencing monsoons in the mountains seemed mystical, romantic even. However, as rain pelts down on the windshield with a vengeance on the two-hour journey uphill to Mussoorie, the notion seems a bit foolish. 

Subhas, who is driving me to my destination—JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa—seems undeterred. “Monsoons in the mountains is an experience,” he tells me as I peer anxiously at the rising altitude and sharp bends we’re navigating. In an attempt to distract me, he nods at the generous breakfast spread the resort has sent for me—exotic wraps, fruits and assortments, and an ice box brimmed with every soda imaginable. I don’t have the heart to tell him that my motion sickness won’t even allow me a sip of water. 

Even through the blanket of cloud and smog, I see a family of monkeys lining the barriers to what would have been breathtaking views on a clear day. Nearer to the viewpoints, tourists stand determined, cameras out and willing the mist away. At the Library Chowk on the famous Mall Road, shopkeepers sip on hot tea, peering out at the downpour from behind half-shuttered stalls. 

Eight kilometres and 20 minutes later, we pull up at the JW driveway. I cast a fleeting glance at the sprawling grounds, before making a mad dash for the warm lobby, careful not to get my feet wet.

 

Sustainable Luxury of the Garhwali Kind 1

Maintained by locals from nearby villages, the greenhouse (top) is the ‘nerve centre’ of the property, with rows upon rows of vegetables that are used in-house. From nearly everywhere on the property, the views are incredible. Of course, some of the dining spaces (bottom) are positioned to offer the best sights. Photo Courtesy: JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa

Sustainable Luxury

What makes JW Marriott Mussoorie stand out is its ability to provide a luxury experience, but with an aim to promote sustainability, Pratyush Mohapatra, who looks every bit the Marketing Manager he is, tells me confidently. 

We’re dining at Wisteria Deck, a favourite among visitors to the resort, with its open-air seating, majestic mountain views and scrumptious Mediterranean fare created using local ingredients in traditional recipes. I receive a warm welcome in the form of the ‘Wisteria Breeze’, a fluorescent orange mocktail trademarked by the Stevia plant, locally spruced in the resort’s greenhouse, which acts as a natural sweetener. What follows is an eclectic fare of a mixed salad of locally sourced microgreens, walnuts and fruits; meat pizzas with bases of Himalayan ragi, fish in a homemade tomato sauce and tiramisu that my greed won’t let me skip, despite my protesting stomach. The wizards behind the feast, Chef Kalam and Chef Pradeep, who hail from the region, come out to greet me, explaining how they pair traditional Himalayan fare—passed down through generations—with exotic Mediterranean dishes. 

As I sit at the table, too full to move and in danger of falling asleep in front of all and sundry, Sachin Mylavarapu, General Manager of the resort, pops in for a quick hello. When I comment on the unique method of blending luxury with sustainability, he tells me that the aim is to combine the two for an incomparable experience. 

“We’re not here to school people on what kind of travel experience they should garner, but we are trying to promote the concept of luxury with a purpose, and to also give them a taste of the local flavour,” he says.

Other than the greenhouse, fondly referred to as the ‘nerve centre’ of the property, the JW Farms and JW Lawns also play a key role in promoting sustainability and are maintained by locals from nearby villages. 

The greenhouse feels like a different world, cut off from the rest of the property and offering sanctuary for those seeking peace amongst nature. With each row adorned by creepers and housing plants such as mint, celery and sage, and vegetables such as red and yellow peppers and aubergine, I feel a step closer, literally, to the earth’s roots. In a separate room, packets of Himalayan red rice, millets and pink salt are up for sale. 

 

Views For Days

The rooms at JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa scream luxury. I prance around my suite, replete with the softest king-size bed, two bathrooms in one and a bathtub propped against glass walls for the best of Himalayan views. To soak it all in, I kick back with a decadent cup of hot chocolate as I stand on the attached balcony and gaze out at the peaks. 

Later, when I take a walk across the property, I realise that the resort’s nomenclature rests on the firm forms of three giant walnut trees that grace its premises. Other than acting as souvenirs for visitors, the tennis-ball sized walnuts found in these trees have made their way to the eclectic dishes served at the resort’s various dining spaces—my favourite of which are Teppan (for Pan-Asian cuisine) and Trout House Grill & Bar (Indian with a touch of local Himalayan cuisine). 

Accompanying me on my discovery walk, Pratyush tells me that the property is widely sought-after as the perfect wedding destination. I get why—its infinite lush grounds with striking mountain views are an ideal setting for canopied makeshift mandaps and its numerous banquet halls can be fashioned to suit whatever event.

 

Sustainable Luxury of the Garhwali Kind 2

Held every evening on the property’s sprawling lawns, Kachdi, a local custom where folks gather to catch up on their day, treats guests to live music and Garhwali chai. Photo Courtesy: JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa

 

In fact, almost every part of the resort rewards with a beatific view of the Himalayas. And the parts that don’t—such as the game rooms in the basement (complete with bowling alleys, chess and carrom tables and of course the beloved billiards centre) and the famed spa—more than make up for it. 

A resonant theme that sticks with me through my entire stay at JW, is that almost every luxury experience is coupled with a lesson in tradition. For instance, every evening, guests are invited to the lawns for ‘Kachdi’, which, on paper, would equate to an evening high tea. But it’s actually a custom followed in Himalayan villages, where every evening post work, locals gather at a common space with chai and snacks to catch up on their day. 

At the gathering, I’m delighted to hear the faint strums of a guitar. The rest of the evening is spent sipping on the most delicious Garhwali chai and singing along with the two live musicians to old Hindi classics. Looking around, I see a little child seated atop her father’s shoulders, happily bellowing mismatched lyrics to the ongoing tunes. Elsewhere, an elderly couple exchange nostalgic smiles. I turn away from the intimate moment with a grin. It’s the magic of the mountains.

 

To read more stories on travel, cities, food, nature, and adventure, head to our web forum here or our new National Geographic Traveller India app here.

Sustainable Luxury of the Garhwali Kind 3

One of the many traditional meals that are on offer, the Pahadi thali, is made using local ingredients and provides an insight into regional cuisine. Photo Courtesy: JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa

 

Essentials

The closest airport to JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa is the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, from where it is about a one-and-a-half to two-hour drive uphill. The tariff for double occupancy for a Deluxe Room starts at Rs. 19,000 + taxes, inclusive of breakfast.

  • Sanjana Ray is a writer, and also an unwarranted tour guide that people groan about on trips. When she isn't geeking out on travel and history, she can be found walking around the streets, crying for Bengali food.

Psst. Want a weekly dose of travel inspiration in your inbox?