It’s never a bad idea to spend time amidst some greenery. It’s calming, relaxing and soothing to the eyes. When we think of greenery, we often think of forests and wildlife sanctuaries. Let us not forget the lush green tea, coffee and spice plantations that our country is so replete with. Staying at a plantation is an experience that is off the beaten track; it gives you ample, often indulgent, me time and also has you absorbing the true flavours. Guided tours include picking, processing, manufacturing, right to the moment it’s ready to eat or drink and you get to experience it all first-hand. Not to mention the breath-taking and endless rows of green expanse that is more than enough to soothe a weary mind. And there’s more; colonial villas, five-star accommodations or a local homestay, these plantations sure know to pamper you in their planter’s way.
So, we prepared a list of plantations that welcome guests with their arms open wide. Trust us, such a holiday is something that should not be brushed aside.
GATOONGA TEA ESTATE, ASSAM
Experience the quintessential plantation lifestyle at the Gatoonga Tea Estate near Jorhat in Assam. Stay at the Bungalow which is over a hundred years old; a perfect example of the luxurious lifestyle of the British planters. The ‘Banyan Grove’ bungalow is spread in an area of 2 acres and boasts of 7 elaborately furnished colonial style rooms. If you are the kind who enjoys the typical Victorian novelties; high-ceiling, fireplace, the sloping roof over the veranda, then this place is just for you. Situated in the middle of the plantation, the view from the bungalow makes you want to grab a cup of tea and soak it all in for the longest time. The estate organises tours of the tea factory if you’d like to see for yourself how tea is made. The restaurant serves a variety of cuisines along with the local north-east cuisine that one should not fail to taste.
MANCOTTA TEA ESTATE, ASSAM.
Situated on the outskirts of Dibrugarh, in the Mancotta Tea estate is the Chang bungalow which is over 150 years old. What was once the residence of the superintendent now serves as a guest accommodation. The bungalow is built in the traditional Assamese style using stilts and has a very British setting. The bungalow has 6 very spacious bedrooms each named after the tributaries of Brahmaputra. Needless to say, the view is spectacularly green due to the surrounding plantation. Unlike a typical hotel, the food is served to the guests in a proper British / Tea Gardens style, leaving you spoiled for choice. Beware! Such a life of comfort and beauty may just influence you to laze around with a book or cup of chai. Sounds like a plan, one might say! Also, apart from the detailed and guided tea tours and visits to the local villages nearby, the Mancotta Tea Estate has its own stables that organise riding tours for its visitors. Now, isn’t this exciting!
THE MAKAIBARI HOMESTAY PROGRAMME, DARJEELING
The famous Makaibari Estate at Kurseong has a unique homestay programme wherein the plantation’s workers host tourists at their homes. A perfect way to experience the local lifestyle and the tea plantation way of life, this set up also provides an extra source of income to these families. The rooms are neat and clean with basic requirements and have clean attached bathrooms. They also arrange for the guests to be taken for the tours of the tea gardens and the tea factory. You get to learn about the tea growing and manufacturing process straight from the horse’s mouth.
COCHRANE PLACE, DARJEELING
A bungalow from the British times which was once the residence of the magistrate of Kurseong, the Cochrane Place is walking distance from the Makaibari tea estate on one side and the Castleton tea estate on the other side. The regal bungalow is situated at the foothills of the Himalayas and has a breath-taking view of the Kanchenjunga. The colonial architecture of the Bungalow with its ivy-covered façade at the entrance, the toy train engine that is also the entrance to the café, the Victorian wooden panelling and décor, the fireplace and antiques; give a semblance of the life that once was. The Cochran Place is known for its authentic Anglo-Indian and colonial cuisine apart from the local Nepali and Tibetan food. It also organises tea-tours and walks to the Makaibari tea estate & factory and Castleton Tea estate.
AANAVILASAM LUXURY RESORT, KERALA
This resort spells pure and unadulterated luxury amidst verdant spice plantations. The property is a private estate spread over an area of 7 acres in the middle of cardamom and pepper plantations. There are 6 rooms in the property with pool villas, presidential villa, deluxe rooms and suites. The rooms and villas have been designed keeping luxury in mind and have all the modern facilities. Every room has a beautiful view of the plantation and makes for an ideal escape into a silent and relaxed environment. The wellness centre at the resort offers a holistic approach to ayurveda combined with yoga and meditation. When you are done relaxing and lazing around, the resort offers guided tours through the growing, harvesting and processing of the spices. Trips to neighbouring villages and many outdoor activities are organized for adventure enthusiasts as well.
PLANTATION TRAILS BY TATA COFFEE, COORG
A 2000 acres coffee plantation that knows how to keep its guests entertained. Nature walks, bird watching tours, a guided jeep drive through the plantation, the various nuances of coffee making from the ‘bean to cup’ and a private 9-holes golf course; we couldn’t have asked for more. Spread in and around Polibetta coffee estate, which also grows vanilla, cardamom and pepper along with coffee, this is a perfect place to be lost in the greenery and freshness of the plantation environs. There are heritage bungalows and villas for accommodation with great facilities. The ‘Cottabetta Bungalow’, with its sweeping view of Kodagu hills, is one of the most sought-after places to stay in Coorg and is as majestic as it is grand. More than 100 years old, this bungalow was once home to the director of Tata Coffee and now serves as a luxury guest accommodation. The ‘Surgi Bungalow’ which is idyllically situated under Silver Oak/ Surgi trees, hence the name. This 35 years old bungalow also has a 9 holes golf course right in its backyard. The ‘Thaneerhulla Bungalow’, another colonial bungalow built near a pristine lake oozes with the old-world charms with its wooden flooring and a comfy fireplace. The nearby ‘Thaneerhulla’ cottages are budget friendly and have spacious rooms and all the basic facilities.
All the bungalows have a personal cook and a 24 hours room service that take care of culinary and other needs of their guests.
GRASSROOTS, WAYANAD, KERALA
Imagine living in a luxury Swiss tent amidst the greenery of hilly coffee and spice plantations, wet paddy fields and a river flowing through the property; if that’s not divine then what is? The Grassroots is the place where you surround yourself with all the peace and bliss that mother nature has to offer. Experience the essence of camping with the luxury of having benefits of a good hotel. Yes, we are talking about lavish Swiss tents with attached bathrooms and amenities like TV, AC, Fridge etc. There are approximately 5 tents on the property with the view to provide a more private and customized experience to the guests. The common dining area is a perfect place to interact with your fellow travellers and enjoy the freshly cooked local food. Grassroots encourages activities like treks, trips to the local tribal villages, plantation tours and other outdoor activities for its guests for an overall camping experience.
So, tea-lovers and coffee lovers don’t you think you should give it a go? There’s something more intimate about hanging out at the place where your very favourite drink grows. Not just that, all the greenery and quiet, just seems like a perfect place to unwind and relax for every soul.