Here is our handpicked list of nine sustainable hotels in India for your next conscious travel trip. By Team T+L India & SA
Experience Guilt-free Luxury at ITC Grand Chola | Tamil Nadu
Accredited by USGBC (United States Green Building Council), ITC Grand Chola is the world’s largest hotel and commercial building to achieve the LEED Zero Carbon Certification.
Drawing from ITC Hotels’ Responsible Luxury philosophy, this Chennai- based sustainable hotel utilises self-owned wind farms and solar energy; and conserves and recycles water with water-harvesting structures, treating effluents, and increasing green cover to reduce evaporation. A programmable heating ventilation and air conditioning control has been installed to increase electrical efficiency by approximately 10 per cent—a first in India. The hotel has also achieved Drinking Water Positive Status with Sunya Aqua V 2.0 by utilising in-house wind farms to produce water locally.
Celebrate Trees at Lchang Nang Retreat | Ladakh
Literally meaning ‘the house of trees’, Lchang Nang Retreat lives up to its name. The 25-acre retreat sits in the famed Nubra Valley of Ladakh, draping the otherwise barren lands in abundant greens. Picture bright yellow marigolds, dainty pink apricot flowers, soaring Siberian elm trees, and many more.
However, it’s not just the landscaping that pays ode to nature. A canopied path lined with solar lamps leads you to an outdoor
tea station, a herb garden, and 17 cottages—each of which is built in the local architectural style. This means concrete is given a miss; instead, river rocks, mud, and poplar wood make up the structures. While the rooms come with private sit-outs—some of which have hammocks tied to centuries-old elm trees—solar-powered grids provide electricity and LED lights illumination. Up to 95 per cent of the energy at this sustainable hotel in India is generated through solar panels and battery banks.
The retreat’s crowning glory is its hydration facilities. Here, potable water sourced directly from glaciers is available on tap. The same snowmelt is also used to irrigate the retreat’s expansive lands. Use of plastic has been kept to a minimum, as is the resort’s overall carbon footprint. All the garbage is segregated, and almost all the waste generated is recycled. Moreover, the vegetables and herbs used in the kitchens are grown organically at the in-house farms.
Besides the architecture, many of the experiences organised by the property also facilitate a union with nature. Take the Farm Table, for instance. The experience begins with a walk through a local village, a tour of the in-house Tsas-Spang farms coupled with a lowdown on the region’s many sustainable practices, and ends with a community lunch table with views of the Karakoram range. Lessons in conscious travel can also be found on a guided walk to the Old House Museum, which is maintained by a local women’s group.
Spot the Leopard at Bera Safari Lodge | Rajasthan
Nestled in the Aravallis, Bera Safari Lodge has long cemented its position as one of India’s most popular leopard-sighting destinations, making it an ideal spot to enjoy a sustainable hotel stay amid nature. The five cottages spread over 10 acres open to a 360° view of the nearby Liloda Hill, where leopards roam freely and about 30 bird species can also be seen. Tracker Shatrunjay Pratap defies the elusive reputation of the big cat. The passionate photographer and ardent conservationist tracks the movements and records the life stories of these animals. Pratap and his team have worked towards eliminating mining in the region, allowing the animals to thrive. The resort also organises the Green Munia Bird Photography Tour, focussed on a small bird listed as ‘vulnerable’ in the IUCN red list of threatened species; Rural Village Excursions, to learn more about the local Rabari herdsmen and their relationship with leopards; and Bird Watching at Jawai Dam, where over 150 species of birds offer incredible sightings.
Find Your Paradise at Nadis | Jammu & Kashmir
Nadis is a modern Kashmiri home inspired by the picturesque alpine landscape of the Zabarwan hills and the rich cultural heritage of Kashmir. The floor tiles of this three-tiered building are made by local artisans, while the ceiling is made using the traditional khatamband technique of interlocking pieces of wood. Large sun- facing windows help conserve energy; rainwater helps in garden upkeep; locally grown and sourced organic produce is used in the kitchens; and underground pipes ferry water from the boilers and double as floor heaters. While cloth bags and bamboo straws help reduce trash, all wet waste from the property is turned into manure. Yaser Shaw, Nadis’s owner and a textile designer, works closely with local weavers and artisans, allowing guests a sneak peek into the local textile industry.
Get High on Heritage at Jai Mahal Palace | Rajasthan
Built in 1745, the recently restored and refurbished Jai Mahal Palace celebrates the Pink City’s history and culture. Its Indo-Saracenic architecture is set amid 18 acres of Mughal gardens, the stories of which are best explored on a guided heritage walk organised by the staff. Lessons in history aside, Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL)—of which Jai Mahal Palace is a part—has also announced a framework to drive its sustainability and social-impact measures. Under this framework called Paathya, IHCL has partnered with UNESCO to preserve and promote the intangible cultural heritage of India. Jai Mahal Palace promotes crafts unique to Jaipur like Bagru handblock printing, blue pottery, and Kal Belia.
Go Back to the Basics at Rakkh Resort | Himachal Pradesh
Rakkh Resort in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, advocates a holiday that is rich in learning and bonding experiences. The activities range from village walks to pottery classes, adventure hikes, a pluck-to-cup tea experience, mountain biking, regional culinary feast, Himachali shawl weaving, and much more. A natural spring on the premises brings mineral-rich Himalayan waters directly to the property. The same is sand-purified, UV filtered, and stored in traditional matkas, and glass and copper containers, eliminating plastic bottles. The resort thrives on local elements—from its workforce to architecture and construction materials. The produce used in the kitchens at this sustainable hotel in India is sourced from an organic farm, while the wheat flour is processed at a watermill nearby.
Stay Rooted to Earth at The Mudhouse Marayoor | Kerala
Just an hour away from Munnar, on the eastern side of the Western Ghats of India, perches a hotel experimenting with sustainable eco-living. Encircled by the jaw-dropping panorama of the Marayoor valley and the Sahyadris, The Mudhouse Marayoor is an escape to the rural life for those who’ve had their fill of urban hotel suites. It’s an apt retreat for nature lovers and birdwatchers. The Mudhouse offers four traditionally structured earth houses and a treehouse set before meadowed patios offering gorgeous mountain views. All the major materials involved in construction and maintenance—including mud, wood, bamboo, coconut palm leaves, and grass—are sourced from within a 10-kilometre radius, which helps in minimising the property’s carbon footprint. Set amid gardens blooming with local flowers, mini terrace farms, and numerous lounging areas, the sustainable structures give a taste of the simple, barefoot way of life. Each clay cottage features a living room, a bedroom, and an open- roofed bathroom—all adorned with Warli paintings and homely decor. The solitary treehouse has been made using wood from Eucalyptus grandis tree —a non- native species that uses up a lot of water—while the landscaping of the property has been done with all native plants, transplanted from the wild. Several species of flora and fauna keep your senses engaged at all times while you soak in the ethnicity of this stay, built by the local tribal community. The Mudhouse stays rooted to earth by running on solar energy and employing non-plastic products. Similarly, all the ingredients used in the kitchen are either grown organically or sourced from local organic shops. The property also favours employment, and hence empowerment, of local women. Take a cycle out for a ride to explore the village and wilderness of the forests around, or lace up your shoes for a soft hike to the river for breathtaking views.
Immerse Yourself in Nature at Shivgarh House of Sustainable Living | Rajasthan
Dotted with three private lakes that are visited by hundreds of migratory birds, over one lakh trees, and various crops, the 200- acre Shivgarh House of Sustainable Living takes nature immersion and privacy to a whole new level. All of this is underscored by an underlying love for the planet.
The five cottage-style accommodations—with more in the works—are designed to bring guests closer to nature with personal tree pads, al fresco dining, and panoramic views of the lakes. The room’s names—inspired by elements of the cosmos, such as Sirius, Eclipse, Luna, and Vega—are aligned with host Pushpender Singh Rajawat’s love for the universe. The fact that 80 per cent of the heritage homestay boasts of being solar-powered speaks volumes about the sustainability credentials of the property. Locally made and sustainable furnishings—down to the wooden clocks and combs in the rooms and organically-made colours for the building’s exteriors— reassert the eco-conscious claims. A circular platform-style swing outside the lake-view cottages overlooks a tranquil lake where chirruping bulbuls keep one company. As the sun sets, the melodious birdsongs make way for howling jackals seemingly breaking into a night-time concert. Through the day, locals trained in hospitality cater to all guest needs.
Housed within a 450-year-old heritage haveli, the eco farm stay has snippets of yesteryear peeking out from every corner. A grand 450-year-old arched doorway, believed to be a gift to Maharaja Sawai Man Singh of Jaipur, looks out to the Sawai lake. Restored chhatris perch on historic spots; repurposed chhatri columns make up a fire pit; ancestral paintings double up as decor; and a vintage chair-and-table set graces the al fresco restaurant.
Embodying the concept of slow travel, the hosts organise a range of experiences: a traditional Rajasthani thali brought to life
with locally grown or hyper-locally sourced ingredients, a visit to an ancient Jain temple, birdwatching at dawn, meals on a tree deck, boating on a private lake, and hikes and bike rides through the wilderness. One can also enjoy high tea and snacks on a sunset cruise of the lakes.
Celebrate the Slow Life at Ahilya Fort Hotel | Madhya Pradesh
Sitting high above the Narmada river in India, this royal residence-turned-hotel is all about celebrating the slow life and sustainable travelling. The meals are made with organic produce from the in-house gardens and 15-acre farms. As the home of Prince Richard Holkar, a descendant of Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar, the hotel dabbles in conscious tourism activities. Visit the not- for-profit Rehwa Society, where traditional wooden handlooms and a dye house are run by local women. Surplus revenue from the sale of these textiles support the adjoining Ahilya School, which was started to educate the local weavers’ children. Or consider a walk through two local villages, Naodatodi and Bothu, for a lesson in slow tourism.
This is part three of our five-part series —TL Conscious Travel List (compiled by Rashima Nagpal, Bayar Jain, Srushti Kulkarni, Shibani Bawa, Adila Matra, Sumeet Keswani) which lists 50 sustainable experiences and destinations around the world.