I am not a tea lover and I naively didn’t imagine how much tea I would consume during our stay at Glenburn Tea Estate! This place is a delight in the hills near Darjeeling, West Bengal. We were collected from the Nepali border, following a flight from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur, south east Nepal. We were welcomed with cold face towels, chilled homemade lemonade and cookies; feeling totally incongruous on a hot, dry, dusty roadside at the start of our Indian adventure. We set off in luxury style to the tea estate through a varied landscape of lowland farmland, rural and urban areas, and then gradually ascended to dramatic valleys with precipitous drops, through forests with glimpses of the rivers far below, looking across into the remote land of Sikkim. Soon we were driving though plantations of one of the most popular crops in the world.
Three hours later we arrived at our destination the Glenburn Tea Estate. The sun was setting and the distant lights of settlements on the surrounding hills gave a taste of what the views would reveal the following morning. The buildings are colonial and beautifully preserved. We were shown to our room, in a separate ‘bungalow’, a spacious, cool, huge room with old style furnishings and charm. We had cakes and tea awaiting our attention whilst we freshened up for dinner, and tried to contain our glee!
Activities available during your stay include the essential excursion to Darjeeling town, with a trip on the infamous Darjeeling toy steam train. Pottering though the city and its temples and markets, and eateries, with or without a guide makes for a wonderful day and insight into this really unique hill city. Day trips to the interesting local town on Kalimpong are also available.
Tours of the estate itself – hills and factory – give an inside perspective to the industry and the beautiful environment in which you are staying, with impressive birdlife and flora. Picnic lunches are available for trips to the Rung Dung River, where you can swim and refresh after being driven or walking at your own pace. Fishing, white water rafting, hiking further afield or relaxing at the estate are also options.
Evening meals present a range of options. The general arrangement is communal with the other guests, fairly formal dining with a three course feast and wine flowing. Places were set to try to mix the groups, which in our case worked well. There were options to dine with just your party if preferred, or in private in your room. One evening we started with a fire and pre prandial drinks al fresco. Food options were varied and delicious, and the company was warm and interesting.
My lasting memories of Glenburn are of tremendous mountain views (although these views can be seasonal: clearest October to March, can be hazy in the summer months), a slower pace to our days than anywhere else, a plentiful supply of delicious tea on tap, fabulous food from breakfast, snacks, to lunch and evening dinner, wonderful, personable hospitality; an experience of India a million miles away from what I expected. We left Glenburn, reluctantly but with a hope to return one day, but also with a sense of excitement as we headed off by road, to the Bhutanese border town of Phuentsholing and further adventures there.
Incorporating a stay at Glenburn into a regional tour of India would add a touch of luxury and indulgence, which would instill longlasting memories of a special boutique hotel in a stunning area of the country, at a totally different pace than one may expect from this often frantic country. . Our Platation and Hill-Station tour focuses on the north east region of India for an experience of a range of towns and hillstations, culminating in a relaxing stay at Glenburn.