There are few better places to savour a cup of tea than at a plantation, close to the land that the leaves were plucked from, overlooking hillsides rustled by the wind. India has a bounty of stays for tea lovers, from colonial estates that have been refurbished into quaint homestays to tea-pluckers who have opened up their homes to travellers. Here’s our list of estates and homestays for your next holiday. While you’re reaching out for that next cup of chai, read our columnist Biju Sukumaran’s piece on how a cup of tea can lend a sense of home anywhere in the world.
Travel back in time when you stay at this old-world boutique resort, situated about 25km/40min out of Tezpur. Built by British planters in the 1800s, the property comprises a three-bedroom heritage bungalow and three smaller bungalows. After a round of tea-tasting and visiting the plantations, take a cooking class at the property. Wild Mahseer is on the north bank of the mighty Brahmaputra river, so take some time out to go river rafting and dolphin-watching. Doubles from ₹25,400. www.wildmahseer.com.
Go back in time at the Talayar Valley Bungalow in Munnar. Photo courtesy Briar Tea Bungalows
The best part about this property, aside from the plush accommodation, is that you get to pluck your own tea leaves, and wither, cut, tear, ferment and dry them for your own cup of chai. The colonial structure is part of a 2,500-acre property owned by the Woodbriar Group, and is located about 18km/40min out of Munnar. It shares borders with Eravikulam National Park, so keep an eye out for animal sightings too. Doubles from ₹9,000. www.teabungalows.com/talayar-valley-bungalow-munnar.
Kurseong, Darjeeling, West Bengal
Stay at the homes of tea pluckers at the Makaibari Tea Estate, which produces some of India’s most expensive teas. Sample organic produce, pluck tea leaves, attend tea-tasting sessions and see how factories contribute to the production of tea. It’s a wonderful way of connecting with and giving back to the locals. Kurseong is about 32km/1hr out of Darjeeling. Go here for other budget options in the Northeast. ₹800 per head. www.makaibari.com/en/sustainable-tourism/homestay-makaibari.aspx.
Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu
This charming homestay, at the top of the Hadathorai Hill, enjoys gorgeous views of the tea gardens in the Nilgiris. The property, run by a French couple, dishes out Indo-French food with vegetables plucked from their garden. Daily bonfires and an open-air Jacuzzi by the tea plantation make this one extra special. Drive out from Coimbatore (66km/2hr). Doubles from ₹8,000. www.lamaison.in.
Darjeeling, West Bengal
Sip on a cup of chai while looking out at Mount Kanchenjunga. Photo courtesy Glenburn Tea Estate
This estate was formed in 1859 by a Scottish tea company and is now home to a cosy boutique hotel located about 36km/1hr out of Darjeeling. Rooms are available in two colonial-style bungalows. Take a cooking class, go on a day trip to Kalimpong (if it’s a Wednesday or Saturday, visit the Haat Bazaar) or opt for the “Tea Experience,” which gives an introduction to the estate along with a visit to the tea factory and the plantation. Doubles from ₹33,000. www.glenburnteaestate.com.
Ooty, Tamil Nadu
Situated slightly out of Ooty, the Red Hill Nature Resort is a short drive (110km/3hr) from Coimbatore. Immerse yourself in breathtaking views of the Avalanche and Emerald Lakes from the verandas and garden, or choose more active options such as trekking, fishing, birdwatching, and mountain biking. For more fun ways to explore the area, use our guide to the Nilgiris. Doubles from ₹10,000. www.redhillnatureresort.com.
Coonoor, Tamil Nadu
Tranquilitea’s farm stay makes for a cosy pit stop. Photo: Sandeep Subramani
Tranquilitea’s top-notch farm stay comes with splendid views of the Nilgiris and cosy nooks—perfect for curling up with a fat novel and a fine cup of chai. It’s clear the emphasis is on exclusivity here: The bungalow hosts only one family at a time, and each bedroom opens out to its own garden. The property, situated about 22km/50min from Ooty, is great for unwinding over a long weekend, or as a pit stop if you’re road-tripping through south India. Doubles from ₹6,000. www.tranquilitea.in.
The Banasura Hill Resort features naturally cooled huts and cottages, with elephant-grass thatched roofs and bamboo furnishings—and it’s on our list of eco-sensitive stays in India. It’s situated on a 35-acre farm, covered in tea, coffee, pepper, and cashew plantations, about 140km/3hr out of Mysore and 270km/7.5hr out of Kochi. Go on a short hike to visit waterfalls and streams, or opt for birdwatching trips and jungle trails. Doubles from ₹28,999. www.banasura.com.
Valparai, Tamil Nadu
The Sinna Dorai’s Bungalow was constructed a century ago. Photo courtesy Sinna Dorai’s Bungalow
Situated in the Anaimalai Hills about 105km/3hr from Coimbatore, this bungalow goes back about a century, to when the British first started cultivating tea in the area. Sinna Dorai, or “the assistant manager’s house”, stands on the property formerly run by GA Carver Marsh, one of the Englishmen who first cultivated tea on these ranges. Picnic in the hills, go on a tea trail to see how the beverage is manufactured, and go for a moonlit walk under starry skies. Read more about staying at the colonial-era property here. Doubles from ₹9,500. www.sinnadorai.com.
Jalpaiguri, West Bengal
Situated 110km/3hr out of Darjeeling, the city of Jalpaiguri is home to this charming resort. Built in 1890, the renovated yet quaint property used to be the Director’s Bungalow, and looks out on sprawling plantations. The region teems with forests and wildlife, so plan a visit to the Neora Valley National Park, home to the red panda and about a 45-minute drive away, or the Gorumara National Park, about a half-hour drive, for a chance to spot rhinos. Doubles from ₹6,350. www.zurrantee.com.
was formerly a member of National Geographic Traveller India's web team. She loves beaches, blue skies, and baking, and is most centred while trying a new cake recipe. She tweets as @thefabmonteiro.
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