Six of the best: Tea plantation stays in India

From the ethereal beauty of Darjeeling to the regal Nilgiri Hills and enchanting valleys of Assam, each of these six exceptional tea plantation hotels invites you to immerse yourself in the intoxicating landscapes of tea – and to drink your body weight in it, too

The majestic Darjeeling gardens – Glenburn Tea Estate

Nestled amid the emerald slopes of Darjeeling, the historic Glenburn Tea Estate unfolds a timeless tale of tea heritage. Settle into its elegantly appointed colonial-era bungalows, where panoramic vistas of the majestic Kanchenjunga mountain greet you every morning. Then embark on guided tea-tasting sessions, explore the factory to witness the art of tea-making first hand, and meander through the lush tea gardens on leisurely strolls (although avid hikers will not be short of taxing mountainous routes). 

Glenburn offers an intimate experience that seamlessly blends luxury, tranquillity and the enchanting beauty of Darjeeling, all while making you feel like the year is 1918 and your profession is “person of leisure”.

Glenburn Tea Estate

The regal Nilgiri enclave – Taj Savoy Hotel

Bask in the regal grandeur of the Nilgiri Mountains at the Taj Savoy Hotel. Revered as a legendary heritage property, this famous hotel boasts a storied past dating to 1834 and has been a hotel for almost as long. We can thank one John Sullivan for its existence – he was summoned by the Madras Presidency to explore the fabled “Blue Mountains” to find an escape for British officers sweltering in the heat of the plains. He landed upon the hill station of Ooty in 1819, where a school for European children was promptly built, and this eventually became a hotel. 

If the scent of more than 150 varieties of flowers doesn’t make you swoon, then the hotel’s history surely will. The vintage teak wood beams in rooms 101 to 103 were dragged up on the back of elephants all the way from Tipu Sultan’s palace at Srirangapatna, while British filmmaker David Lean, who directed A Passage To India, was once a guest. The Taj Savoy is decadent nostalgia writ large, with croquet on the lawn post-cream tea, followed by a visit to the nearby Ootacamund Gymkhana Club where the rules of snooker were established. 

Taj Savoy Hotel

The timeless tranquillity of Assam – Wild Mahseer

In the heart of Assam’s tea country, Wild Mahseer is a meticulously restored heritage bungalow complex that narrates tales of tea pioneers and British colonial charm. Part of the Eastern Himalayan Botanic Ark, Wild Mahseer’s angle is mindful tourism, which it achieves with the help of indigenous communities and local botanists, who help preserve the biodiversity of the landscape. 

The complex stands at the gateway to the forests of Pakke, Kaziranga, Nameri and Orang, so nature lovers will be beside themselves due to the sheer volume of flora, fauna and animal life. Back at the property, rooms are adorned with antiques and period furnishings that immerse guests in a world of nostalgic elegance. Here you can join tea-tasting ceremonies that showcase the unique flavours of Assam tea, and experience the art of blending first-hand. Or perhaps explore the lush gardens, partake in river cruises and engage in wildlife safaris for an immersive retreat that’s in harmony with nature.

Wild Mahseer

The serene splendour of Munnar – Windermere Estate

Perched atop the misty hills of Munnar, down in Kerala, Windermere Estate weaves an idyllic tapestry of luxury and nature. This charming retreat, once a cardamom and coffee plantation, now showcases lush tea gardens and tastefully restored colonial cottages hewn into the rocky cliff face. Revel in the fusion of Victorian elegance and contemporary comforts before fine-tuning your tea appreciation skills during interactive sessions with tea sommeliers. Savour delectable farm-to-table cuisine and embark on spectacular guided hikes, breathing in the fragrant whispers of tea as you explore the estate’s sprawling landscapes, with literally no one else around you.

Windermere Estate

Contemporary cool and fine cuisine – Taj Chia Kutir Resort & Spa

For those not charmed by colonial design nostalgia and who like their tea plantation R & R to be more 2023 than 1923, we suggest hanging your fedora at the Taj Chia Kutir in Darjeeling. Of all on this list, it is the most Western-facing when it comes to interiors, fusing modernist pavilions with an almost Balinese flavour to the wood-and-stone composition. 

Where some other plantations delight with old-school romance, the Taj seduces you with good ol’ luxury, offering majestic views of the Kanchenjunga mountain range from the sanctity of the stunning spa, which provides an array of treatments inspired by Ayurvedic practices. We’re told that the Bengali cuisine served by fine-dining restaurant Sonargaon is reason enough to add another week to your stay.

Taj Chia Kutir Resort & Spa

In the midst of the jungle – Vythiri Resort

While the mountainous tea plantations of Darjeeling are typically cool due to their elevation, tea buffs looking for warmer climes should head to the tropical jungle setting of Kerala, where they will find the excellent Vythiri Resort in Wayanad. Set in 60 hectares of sublime tea-growing land, the complex features an on-site Ayurvedic spa and freshwater pool. But you’ll want to spend most of your time exploring the surrounding tea plantations of the Western Ghats, as well as the Neolithic Edakkal caves. Elect to stay in the treehouse, set high in the canopy of the jungle. It’s the perfect location to be wrested from your slumber by a diverse chorus of colourful birds.

Vythiri Resort

Ryan Thompson is a UK-based menswear and lifestyle writer, whose work has appeared in, among others, the Financial TimesMr PorterThe Rake and Ape to Gentleman

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