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Katra Marriott Resort & Spa: A Luxurious Escape Near Vaishno Devi Shrine

Katra Marriott Resort & Spa: The highway between Jammu and Katra plays witness to views of far away mountains, a series of tunnels, and monkeys wreaking havoc. At a point when one would expect a ‘Welcome to the holy town of Katra’ signboard, they are first greeted with ‘Domino’s Pizza: No Onion, No Garlic’, and that is how you know that you have arrived in the land of Vaishno Devi.

Katra, located at the foothills of the Trikuta mountains in Jammu, is one of the few towns in India where even fast food giants cater to the saatvik restrictions to be respectful towards the town’s traditions. Loud chants of Hail Mother Goddess on speakers, and long queues of devotees greet you as you enter the town. There is another view you just cannot miss — the whirring of a helicopter every 10 minutes or so, transporting pilgrims by the dozen to the closest point of the main temple complex.

Katra Marriott Resort & Spa

Although the mountains housing the shrine provide adequate accommodation, the town below is flooded with lodgings for every budget. The best, however, are a handful of hotels by the Front Runners of the industry. Adding to that list is the new Katra Marriott Resort & Spa located a mere six kilometres from the starting point of the journey towards the shrine. The tin roof of the walking trail zigzagging on the mountain can be well spotted from 80 of the 100 rooms at the new Marriott.

View of the swimming pool from the Three Peaks Kitchen

View of the swimming pool from the Three Peaks Kitchen | Photo Credit: Sangeeta Rajan

The temple, perched on the edge of the valley, is why most people visit this part of the State. While luxury and comfort might not be on top of the priority list when taking a pilgrimage, the Marriott caters to those who seek a slow, comfortable trip, coupled with good food, relaxing spa treatments and rooms tailor-made for a fun, family experience .

View of the cottage style rooms

View of the cottage style rooms | Photo Credit: Sangeeta Rajan

Katra Marriott Resort & Spa 24×7

The hotel has cottage-style rooms, suites, family rooms with bunk beds for children, a spa, a 24×7 wellness centre, a viewing deck under the shade of a 100-year-old banyan tree, and an outdoor pool. Sitting on an expansive land of six acres, the hotel allows you to take in the view of the mountains that follow you everywhere. But, beware of the occasional monkey visits.

The property’s general manager Satish Srinivasmurthy points at the trunk of a cedar tree that fell naturally and says that the landscape has been left as undisturbed as possible. The trunk, now part of the lawn, has sprouted flowers and moss, making it a cosy spot for your evening high-tea. “There is another huge tree going through the roof of the main banquet hall,” he says

Lobby with design elements inspired by the shrine

Lobby with design elements inspired by the shrine | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Katra Marriott Resort & Spa Architecture

The architecture of the property is inspired from the temple town and the shine. The centrepiece of the lobby is a sculpture resembling the three sacred rocks (pindis) of the Vaishno Devi temple. Shards of miniature glass leaves and flowers, suspended from the ceiling like a shower, mimic the flower decorations for the goddesses. An illuminated pyramid overhead evokes the cave interior that pilgrims at Vaishno Devi climb through for the darshan,

View of the Pir Panjal Range

View of the Pir Panjal Range | Photo Credit: Sangita Rajan

Katra Marriott Resort & Spa Itinerary

Whether your trip is a pilgrimage or a luxury holiday, or a combination of both, a visit to the shrine should be on your itinerary. A trek from the base takes approximately four to five hours, which can be cut down by a quick four-minute chopper ride and a 20-minute climb or horse ride inside the temple complex. The staff can arrange a pick-up and drop at the base or the helipad. Make sure you book the chopper ride online well in advance (for ₹2100 one way, per person). The scenic views of Katra from the chopper will end before you know it, so pay attention to catch a glimpse of the snow clad Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas even during the peak summer months.

Three Peaks Kitchen

Three Peaks Kitchen | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

And then, the food. The Three Peaks Kitchen, the all-day dining restaurant at the hotel, stands out as a 100% vegetarian establishment that does not serve any alcohol. This property might just be one of the few Marriott resorts around the world to have this restriction due to its proximity to the shrine. In fact, within a 10 km radius of the town, there is no meat, or alcohol being served anywhere, and “smoking will also be legally banned from August”, says Ashish Pal, Head of Front Office Operations at the property.

Jammu Style Rajma

Executive Chef Kamal Sen has curated the menu in a way that highlights local Jammu cuisine by offering elevated dishes like a local variation of rajma chawal that is milder and layered with spices. One of the stars of the menu at the Three Peaks Kitchen is the satvik thaali with a uniquely sweet and spicy pumpkin vegetablea cashew laden paneer gravy, and a spinach vegetable that paired perfectly well with the flavoured rice, freshly fried pooris and boondi raita. The extra-sweet gulab jamun soaked in a sugary syrup and topped with pistachios however, demands to be washed down with a piping hot cup of Kashmiri Kahwa back in your room in the comfort of your bed.

David Dass
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