The Glenburn Tea Estate, located in Darjeeling, India, is a boutique property with a rich history and an unrivalled setting. There, you can get involved with all manner of outdoor pursuits, or simply spend your days sipping on cup after cup of house-grown tea. Product Manager, Kate, visits this hotel, falling for its endless charm and incredible locale.
A far cry from your traditional colonial hotel in India, Glenburn, located near the town of Darjeeling, is wonderfully whimsical. In fact, it is one of the prettiest hotels I have ever stayed in and with such an incredible choice of immersive experiences on offer there, it really is one of a kind in India. Combine with Calcutta, Gangtok, Kalimpong or Shaki Sikkim to see the best of India’s Northeast.
With only 8 rooms, Glenburn is not really a hotel, it’s a private tea planters’ bungalow that you can stay in for a few days – and what a privilege that is. Glenburn has been restored to far more than its former glory as a tea picker’s home; huge wooden verandas are decked out with antique furniture; custom designed Indian cushions and table cloths pop with colour; ornate parasols provide shade for tiny tables dotted around the garden; hidden corners are abuzz with the hum of bees and flutter of butterflies and dining spots are surrounded with bright pink bougainvillea – it is an interior lover’s dream. It is bright and cheerful and not at all dated. This is a contemporary take on colonial décor and it works brilliantly.
As far as the eye can see, there’s hill after hill carpeted in tea and the Himalayan peaks of the Kachenjunga mountain range form a majestic backdrop. These incredible landscapes really make this region stand out above the rest – you won’t find views quite like this is southern India or Sri Lanka. The high altitude of Darjeeling not only makes the views better, but it makes the tea better too. This is one of the world’s premier regions for tea. A morning spent with the estate manager, going through the process of tea production in the factory and visiting the tea pickers at work reveals the sheer passion for tea and wealth of knowledge at home in this area. There is no doubt why Glenburn’s tea can be found in the finest shops globally.
Started in 1859 by a Scottish tea company, the plantation is now run by the Prakashes, and it has been there for more than 100 years. It was Husna-Tara, who married into the family that decided to turn the humble Glenburn Bungalow into one of India’s most revered and majestic little boutique properties. With her interior designer, Bronwyn, and her team of dedicated staff, they’ve turned it into a huge success.
Things to do
Glenburn still manages 1600 acres of land and you can visit the factory, located just down the road from the hotel, to learn all about life as a tea picker, how tea is processed and how it is picked. Locale aside, during a stay you can choose from a seemingly endless selection of activities, from village walks to longer treks, picnic lunches to spa treatments. I particularly enjoyed the walk to the hotel’s river camp, a 2-3 hour downhill hike which is rewarded with a wonderful picnic overlooking the river. You can even stay there for the night. Alternatively, you can venture into Darjeeling town, ride on the UNESCO protected Toy Train, head to Kalimpong, all without ever being too far from the signature Glenburn treatment, fresh lemonade and a delicious picnic.
Glenburn also gives a huge amount back to the community by sponsoring children’s education and supporting local schools. This is a poor and remote region so every bit counts. During your stay, you can visit one of the schools that Glenburn supports and even sponsor a pupil after you leave.
If you have visited the Indian subcontinent before and you are looking to get a little further afield, combine Glenburn with nearby Calcutta for a truly incredible stay. It really is one of a kind.