The Indulgence of Tea Bungalows

Sourenee Tea Garden. Photo by SB Veda

The Indulgence of Tea Bungalows

The lush seas of green tea gardens near Darjeeling, the legacy of the British Raj, increasingly look to tourists to promote their teas. Tourism is a source of side revenue and employment, particularly during the off-season, and offers a secondary use for the vast lands that cover Darjeeling’s 87 tea estates.

The local tea industry has still not fully recovered from a violent 104-day strike by tea workers in 2017. Protests halted the harvest and paralyzed the region, allowing Nepal to gain a strong foothold in the Himalayan tea market. Darjeeling gardens, which rely on overseas buyers, were hurt financially as retailers purchased premium teas from competing tea-growing regions. Two years later, the COVID-19 shutdown stopped what was shaping into a stellar year in tea production in 2020. Yields continue to decline.

The pandemic also prompted vacationing tourists to look for the safety of large open spaces and smaller crowds. So, economic need and the changing perspectives of what a holiday should be make tea tourism especially attractive at a time when tea companies are more than enthusiastic to welcome tourists.

I first traveled to Darjeeling long before such troubles and rarely stayed in Darjeeling town. The natural beauty and peaceful nature of the tea gardens and nature resorts draw me back year after year.

For city dwellers, just breathing clean air, oxygenated by greenery, is a privilege worth paying for. One is more energetic; sleep is more restful. And there is no better way to wake up than to rise to the sound of animals stirring. For me, there is nothing like a Darjeeling sunrise: watching that gold or orange-colored globe slowly climb the horizon to illuminate wave-like hills. Mornings transport visitors from the ambit of one’s urban frame of reference to one which ebbs and flows with nature. And if you are lucky to catch a view of the Himalayas, dawn is better yet. Mount Kanchenjunga, the range’s third-highest peak, hides behind clouds during the day, but in the early mornings, its presence in the distance is nothing less than heart-stopping.

Then there is the mist. It rolls in like a cotton ball snowslide, cool, moist clouds surrounding one’s being. Wispy apparitional limbs curve around and surround one as though beckoning one dance. The mist is responsible for Darjeeling tea’s flavor, so when it rolls in, it is welcome. One might not be able to travel when the white feathery clouds present themselves in every pocket of air. But lie back, breathe it in, and enjoy the feeling. It is the closest thing to touching the sky. And when the memories of it fade, come back, as I do, and let the mist carry you away from urban tedium.

Having visited several tea resorts and nature resorts, I can attest to spectacular views with the sweet fragrance of tea bushes, ripe for the plucking, wafting up to windows; the pleasing scent of the tea factory during tours, tastings, and interaction with leaf-pluckers. Gardens arrange nature walks and prepare fantastic food amid ornate colonial decor – all in ample supply.

Here’s a selection of tea resorts that offer travelers an indulgence that only Darjeeling and her tea gardens provide.

The Mayfair Tea Resort, Siliguri, photo by Mayfair Hotels and Resorts


When you go

Contact the resort (Phone/ Email): +91 92375 00101;

How to get there: Fly to Bagdogra Airport and by road about 30 minutes

Best time to visit: Autumn and Winter for beautiful foliage and clear views

Known for: Being a luxury wedding destination

With 160 rooms and a helipad, Mayfair Tea Resort, Siliguri, is the largest and most opulent of the tea resorts we profiled. Marketed as a destination wedding venue, it is a marquee site for nuptials in Eastern India, not to be rivaled by similar venues elsewhere in India. Here, the original bungalow has been converted into a large seven-star hotel.

What the Mayfair Tea Resort, Siliguri, has beyond the standard luxury hotels is this: Charm. The appeal of this property is that it is all things tea. From large decorative books hanging on the hallway walls that tell the story of tea from leaf to cup, explaining the difference in the harvests, the processing, and profiling of tea-growing nations, to views of verdant tea bushes that can be sighted from terraces that are almost like rooms in themselves; the motif of tea is ubiquitous in this property.

Among the bars and restaurants on the property is the Planters’ Club, which is a tea room where one can enjoy tea from various gardens, including Mayfair’s own Jungpana. The décor of the club is colonial in keeping with the hotel’s overall aesthetic. Tea makes its way into the cosmetic products used in the in-house spa, which is a full-service spa. (Tip: These products are available for purchase if you want interesting tea-themed gifts.)

An exclusive wing with larger suites offers butler service for those who want an additional layer of exclusivity in their luxury experience. It harkens back to when footmen and butlers served nobles who would come and stay at such places to seek respite from the punishing heat of Calcutta, then the colonial capital, during summers. The royal service is especially popular with wedding parties. These rooms are grand, with old-style gramophones decorating the sitting room, typewriters with the hotel details slipped into the rollers, decorative chests for the luggage of yesteryear, and even private wading pools. This is a way to experience colonial India in a fashion that spares no extravagance.

The meals are buffet-style, featuring Indian and international cuisine and an eclectic breakfast spread. Swimming pools surrounded by ornamental tea plants offer privacy while separating the hospitality section from the cultivation area. The tea garden is Chumta, once the largest tea garden in the Terai region adjacent to Darjeeling District.

It’s perfect to immerse in nature and enjoy the long, winding trails that take people into the gardens while keeping them off the main cultivar areas, protecting the tea. Visitors will be interested in the elephant crossings on the property, and at times, bears can be sighted by jeep when riding around the grounds. Refreshments are provided along the trail for those who walk or jog in the morning. Adding a touch of urban indulgence are gaming rooms and a private movie theatre.

Dining area overlooking Sourenee Tea Garden – photo by SB Veda


When you go

Contact the resort (Phone/ Email): +91 85848 48554;

How to get there: Follow NH 27 Panighata Main Road for 30 minutes, continue to Dudhia (14 minutes), and turn left at Mini HIll Stop on to Mirik Rd./Rishi Rd. Another 40 minutes on the road will bring you to Sourenee Tea Estate.

Best time to visit: Spring and summer to sample first-flush and second-flush teas and for the mild weather and verdant views

Known for: As a scenic and luxurious respite from city life, music programs, and great food

Located close to one of the highest altitude lakes in India, Mirik Lake or Sumendu Lake as it is also known, Sourenee Tea Estate is situated in a verdant pocket of an already scenic site.

With a history of over a century, this relatively small garden encompassing an area of 137 hectares has developed some fine teas over the years, some of which are exported to Europe and North America at premium prices.

Sourenee is considered a medium-altitude garden from 700-1300 m above sea level. However, the teas produced are typical of a much higher elevation bloom (height generally relates positively with quality). The garden’s success lies in the care taken of the tea plants by the Garden Manager, Dhillon Das, who lives, breathes, and talks tea from the moment he wakes until he manages to lay himself down for a few short hours after a full day of duties. Das does not allow himself to sleep for more than two hours at a time. Rising before dawn, he is present when plucking takes place in the dark when it is cool outside as the sometimes punishing sun seeps flavor. Moonlight plucking is done as is popular in other gardens, but according to Das, a moonlight harvest is no guarantee of a spectacular batch. It doesn’t prevent tea companies from commanding a premium for their moon leaves. Das is more pragmatic. “For me, it’s entirely about the tasting,” he says. “And my sense of how the leaves will mature while in the package.”

That’s right: tea will taste differently at the time of first processing and tasting compared to a package being opened some months later. “The taste often gets stronger,” says Das. “What you’ve chosen,” he tells me with a smile. “…will mature very nicely.” He was right.

Tea tastings and tours are a featured aspect of the property. However, the resort can be enjoyed by families and couples both as an adventure tourism location and a relaxing place to get away from city life. It’s a place where families can spend time together.

A boutique hotel property with colonial décor has been developed from the original “Burra Saheb’s” bungalow. With redone flooring, walls, and decorations reflecting the time of the British, this luxury facility marries some of the old with some of the new. The bathroom fittings are modern, and the rooms are spacious. Courtyard-facing rooms offer views of the well-landscaped frontage, while rear-facing rooms overlook the leafy tea gardens.

Walks around the property reveal the dynamic ecosystem that typifies Darjeeling: birds, rabbits, and even small Himalayan leopards. Short automotive trips can be arranged to Mirik town and the lake, where a steaming cup of tea can be enjoyed while overlooking a pristine waterbody. Boating is a key feature of this location.

Tea tastings generally occur in the afternoon, after the plucking. Das arranges the tastings and a factory tour (now done with COVID precautions). A variety of teas that have been recently plucked can be sampled. Das enthusiastically advises guests on what to take: silky texture, fruity notes, etc. His excitement is like a child’s even as Darjeeling, grappling with climate change, becomes ever more hostile to tea cultivation.

The resort is owned by a gentleman whose family originally hailed from Rajastan’s Marwar region and features sumptuous vegetarian delights from well-prepared Indian fare to spicy Chinese dishes. Still, even if one is an omnivore, one doesn’t miss the meat as the plant-based dishes are so splendidly done that it would almost taint the experience when meat is introduced into the mix. (Recently, in the private dining areas, non-veg dishes can be arranged from outside caterers, but the food is not up to the stellar quality of Sourenee’s veg dishes.)

One area in which the resort could improve is in its staff. Drawn from garden labor, language can be an issue – and not everyone is trained in hospitality. However, resort manager Deepak Kumar has taken up this charge with verve. A near-omniscient presence in the resort throughout one’s stay, except for when he has to go to Kurseong to procure supplies, Deepak is easy to reach and very responsive. High marks in this area! They even arranged special dishes for our stay to make us feel more comfortable, as my wife had been ill before our arrival here.

One activity that I would advise the property to discontinue is the lighting of bonfires. It’s not that I’m against having fun – but being a tea enthusiast, I can’t help but think that the smoke so close to the gardens would adversely affect the taste of the tea. Tea leaves absorb ambient smells, which is why orchards can be found close to tea gardens. It’s important to note that in Tea Tourism, it’s the tea that should come first; else, why bother with cultivating this temperamental crop in Darjeeling when one can build a nature resort on grounds other than those at which tea is cultivated?

Nirvana Tea Resort


When you go

Contact the resort (Phone/ Email):+91 8538059116;

How to get there: Fly to Bagdogra airport. From here, Nirvana can be accessed by road. It’s about 2 hours from the airport.

Best time to visit: Spring/summer for mild weather and verdant foliage; October/November after monsoons for a clear view of Mt. Kanchenjunga

Known for: A range of eclectic teas which is available at their tea house, nature walks, and a clear view of Kanchenjunga peak.

The crème de la crème of tea resorts in Kurseong and elsewhere in the district is aptly called the Nirvana Retreat, about a twenty-minute drive from Kurseong town. (A note: Google Maps incorrectly positioned the resort, so if you are going to navigate using this app, be prepared to end up on a precarious dirt road angled steeply up a hill leading to nowhere! It is better to ask the locals or phone the resort for navigation details.)

Strategically placed on a hill that backs into the forest close to three famous tea gardens, Makaibari, Castleton, and Ambootia estates, guests may feel that they, too, have happened upon Nirvana itself! With views of lush and thick forest majestic grassy hills painted on the horizon – at times wrapped in nebulous, rolling, or even frail projections of mist – the resort is unmatched in its whereabouts for sheer visual enjoyment.

Indeed, when the mist rolls in like ethereal appendages accumulating into a wispy ball-like apparition as it rolls downhill, one can be overcome by the feeling of being carried away by it. These angelic fragments of clouds reach out and have their own grasp. For the mist, perpetually in motion, very much feels alive and, for the guest, invigorating. In the early morning, when it’s clear, the third-highest Himalayan peak, Kanchenjunga, juts out from the arched terrain into the skyline – and what a monumental view it is! It is important to catch the mighty peak early, for clouds are envious of its stature and quickly glide to hide its glory.

Nirvana Retreat is one of the few places near Kurseong where the popular peak can be seen unobstructed. Hence, it is worth emphasizing that the resort is utterly well situated for breathtaking views that can contribute to an unmatched salubrious experience if one desires it.

Now to the practical: the establishment’s rooms are spacious and suite-like in their design, with very modern fittings and soothing shower facilities. There are some nice touches for the seasoned traveler, such as a Nirvana sticker on the toilet tissue. Such things, I must say, I do appreciate. The art is stylish and influenced by the owners’ experiences in the Far East. The windows and balconies are large, letting in much light during the day (as does the skylight) and maximizing one’s view.

Bring your appetite as the food is exquisite, featuring North Indian fare, traditional English snacks, and local delicacies. Meals can be taken both in the room and in the dining room. The dining room has a stunning view, and the staff are very cooperative in catering to guests’ needs. We had taken Rex, our pup dog, and the resort prepared special meals for him. When the dining room was vacant, Rex was allowed to eat with us, which he greatly appreciated. He took to the staff right away, and they to him. “We love animals here,” they said, and that showed.

Nature walks constitute a scenic attraction at the resort. One can walk deep into the forest where animals such as rabbits, deer, buffalo, and even small bears and small leopards can be seen. Indeed, the retreat conducts guided jeep tours to properly view and study the flora and fauna. The staff assured us that the leopards were harmless – they are so used to seeing guests that they act like domesticated cats. Still, precautions should be taken as these are wild animals and are best seen under the supervision of resort employees.

Perhaps the pièce de resistance of this property is its tea house, where tea tastings are done. From regular Darjeeling to Jasmine to Chamomile white blend to Blueberry and Rose tea – even a chocolate dessert tea can be tasted. It’s quite a unique culinary experience.

For those with children, games can be enjoyed. I had to pry my son away from the table tennis table each night; he was having so much fun.

Nirvana was initially a getaway property for owner Arijit Ghose and his wife. They were nature enthusiasts and enjoyed visiting cottages and the like, only to have to pack up and go once the vacations were winding up. Hence, they decided to buy a place to visit when the urge to escape Calcutta came over them. With their own property in wait, it offered the ideal refuge from city life.

Finding that the original plan for the property, bought in 2012 and painstakingly renovated by Ghose and his brother, could accommodate others, they opened it up to like-minded people craving exactly the kind of experience the place might offer. “We wanted a view of the mountains but, at the same time, had to be close to Calcutta, and we wanted to be just off the road so we wouldn’t have to trudge uphill with luggage.” As one might imagine, finding an area with all these elements in place upon which the resort could be built proved quite challenging. “When we found the optimum position, we had to flatten the incline and then build the house over eleven levels on the incline,” says Ghose. “Indeed, our architect was very particular about using the natural incline in the construction of the building.” Ghose describes a process of making the topography work for them rather than working against nature.

The project has been a labor of love for Ghose. “Some of the staff actually helped build our place, so they have much labor already invested into our project; hence, their dedication is much higher than those hired in the hospitality industry. They really see it as their resort, so they do their utmost to look after guests warmly.”

The Tea House was later bought from a Nepalese gentleman who lived on the land. Offerings of teas fit with the location, being close to three of Darjeeling’s prime tea estates. But Ghose wanted the small bistro to offer more than that available in the region, an eclectic selection that includes their own blends with locally sourced flowers and berries.

Ghose sees tea tourism as evolving to something more boutique, experiential, niche, and experimental in flavor and arrangements. A tourist location that can offer such variety, he says, is likely to be more attractive to the largest segment of the market compared to tea estates themselves, which are likely to draw more hard-core Darjeeling drinkers.

This boutique property is complete in every way – both in its tea experience and as a nature and fun resort at which peaceful relaxation can be an emphasis for any guest. The expansive property is ideal for those wanting to escape crowds and belies the pretentious and corporate nature of five-star hotels while offering a parallel experience in comfort and service. Ghose’s description of the place as something between a homestay and a hotel is accurate but doesn’t do it justice. This is simply the best place to stay near Kurseong; it is classes above a homestay and far more cozy and homely than an impersonal hotel! If visiting Kurseong, I implore one and all not to deny themselves this singular experience, for it is not to be missed!

Tumsong Tea Retreat - a colonial bungalow in the style of the original planter owners, the Wernicke family
Tumsong Tea Retreat – a colonial bungalow in the style of the original planter owners, the Wernicke family – photo by SB Veda


When you go

Contact the resort (Phone/ Email):+91 9903136498;

How to get there: Fly to Bagdogra Airport and then by road for about 3 hours

Best time to visit: Spring and summer to sample first-flush and second-flush teas and for the mild weather. October/November after monsoon for clear view of Kanchenjunga Peak

Known for: Excellent tea, old-world luxury stay, and clear view of Kanchenjunga Peak from front rooms.

Tumsong Tea Retreat – a colonial bungalow in the style of the original planter owners, the Wernicke family

If one wants to stay at a large garden owned by a big tea company, Tumsong Tea Retreat, located in the Ghoom area and approximately 10 km from Darjeeling town, offers a fine experience.

Named for the local Hindu goddess Tamsa Devi, the lush pocket in which the garden sits is simply divine. Indeed, it is just one garden in a tea-growing area consisting of Mim, Lingia, and Marybong Gardens, to name just a few – all of which, along with Tumsong, have stellar reputations for producing some of the world’s premium teas.

Guests are housed in the ‘Burra Saheb’s’ bungalow, which features four spacious suite-style rooms. Upper-floor rooms can glimpse the third largest Himalayan peak, Kanchenjunga, from the window. A better view can be seen from the edge of the property’s frontage.

The original owners of the estate, the German Wernicke family, used to stay in this mansion of a house – and not much has changed in the 150 years since the plantation was established.

Indeed, only the furniture has been changed – with colonial furniture from other tea estates; the remaining parts of the house are as they were. It’s a testament to how well this property was built that such little fit-up was required to keep it in habitable condition. The spacious bathrooms are old-style and could use an upgrade. However, for many, this will add to the charm of the stay.

While renovations may be in order and cleaning staff need to be better trained, the opportunity to stay in a colonial property with furniture and fittings from that era offers a charming experience, building a bridge to the past that is fragile in our modern world.

Management has changed since we stayed there, and a distinct shift to a more corporate attitude has been observed. For the most part, this was negative because one of the property’s positive aspects was the homely nature of the erstwhile manager, who was keen to survey the guests’ needs and arrange meals accordingly.

But the show’s star is the tea: Garden manager Vinod Gupta offers a complete tea tasting, even going into vintage batches for comparison. Vintage Darjeeling tea, housed pristinely in vacuum-sealed packaging, is becoming increasingly popular as the taste of tea has been ravaged by recent unfriendly weather conditions and climate change.

Tumsong tea is light and bright, typical of a first flush tea but with the quality of its altitude (the estate runs from 2700 ft. to 5500 ft in height). Its texture is silky and contains some fruity, woody notes that nicely contrast each other to provide a fulsome tea-tasting experience on one’s palate. Steeping for five minutes yields a nice astringency of the kind I like in Darjeeling tea.

For kids, there is ample room to walk and run around on this sprawling estate comprising an area of 186 hectares on which tea plants populate 100 hectares. Swings are set up, and one can play badminton and chess (even simultaneously).

Again, activities such as bonfires, which are arranged at the request of some guests by the new resort manager, may well affect tea cultivation. This certainly signifies an emphasis on tourism at the expense of tea, typifying this property’s changed ethos.

The Windamere Hotel is the only colonial villa in the area – photo by SB Veda


When you go

Contact the resort (Phone and email): +91 96473 83349;

How to get there: Fly to Bagdogra airport and by road, about 3 hours

Best time to visit: Christmas season for an old-world Christmas celebration

Known for: Old world charm, British colonial design, hospitality and service, cozy fireplaces, and excellent food. Convenient proximity to Darjeeling town without being inside the cacophony of the city itself. Scenic view of the city.

If one wants to stay in Darjeeling town and visit tea gardens close to the city, among the many hotels and groups of hotels that offer accommodation at an optimal distance from this busy and hilly city, one stands out: The Windamere.

A colonial property, it offers the pinnacle of luxury but with its own charm contrasting with that of a modern five-star hotel. The colonial experience, including fine dining served by butlers, high tea, and in-room fireplaces, is singular.

The property’s layout and positioning offer a retreat from Darjeeling town’s busy nature while overlooking both the town and hills to provide a scenic vantage point. The property is spread across several cottages and villas and has a central house – a country home known as Ada Villa, which was built in the 1880s. This is the main building on the property, and it is most impressive.

Indeed, the location can be used as a base to see many gardens, such as Happy Valley, Margaret’s Hope, Castleton, Makaibari, Longview, Goomtee, and Puttabong, to name just a few. Day trips planned in advance usually enable the garden manager to arrange lunch, which can be made at the estate or brought in from outside.

For those wanting to explore Darjeeling town, it is a short stroll downhill from the hotel grounds, complete with its toy steam train, manifold hole-in-the-wall tea shops, local restaurants, and historic colonial buildings. A Tibetan monastery complex is situated a short uphill hike from the hotel. And the popular Kanchenjunga Viewpoint is just three minutes from Observatory Hill.

Of course, nothing beats the meals at the Windamere, which are served on silver trays by immaculately adorned wait staff.  Windamere’s own Castleton Garden blend is offered in the mornings and evenings, and it is simply splendid – as is the meal service. Served in the dining room, where the gauche buffet is ne’er to be seen, personal service – something from a bygone era is alive and well at the Windamere. One needn’t worry about quantity. The Windamere’s five-course meals served with polished silver offer ample food for the hungry traveler.

Offerings are both Western and Indian – and both are delightful. Be sure to save room for dessert because. Windamere sweet dishes are to die for.

Dinner is served by candlelight, with the shadows on the walls from the flickering flames representing the experience of a bygone era. Dishes, again, are always served by impeccably dressed footmen, silver platters in hand. The menus are printed on souvenir cards in the center of the tables. Starters vary from spinach or tomato soup, followed by a plate of fish and chips, then entrees of boneless chicken makhana or some other curry with rice and various preparations of vegetables could be served, followed by trifle for dessert. On other days, you may see Western fare like Salmon Wellington or Irish Stew.

Meals are the sole purview of the menu and are never announced in advance; whatever choices are given, the combinations are well thought out, and with old-world tunes playing in the background, a colonial ambiance is aptly maintained.

Each suite in the building is named after a famous lodger, such as the Chogyal of Sikkim, Prince Peter of Greece & Denmark, Princess of Siam, Viscount Knebworth (our room), and the Begum Agha Khan. The royal suites are adorned with period oak wardrobes, cabinets, sofas, and beds, mahogany well on display. One is warmed by an old-world coal fire that leaves a smoldering aroma in the rooms.

While the place could use something of an overhaul from the inside (the plumbing system being unchanged since its inception causes the occasional unpleasant odor to waft up to a few rooms), the Windamere Hotel is a singular experience not to be missed.

Sitting atop a sacred hill, also known as Observatory Hill, deemed so by a Buddhist lama named Dorje Rinzing, where he laid his holy artifacts, It is the finest location in Darjeeling, overlooking the town. The property was built in 1841. Its official history states, “Kings, Queens, Aristocrats, and top Raj diplomats all stayed here and were waited on hand and foot.” A former boarding house for planters and the British military, it evolved into being called “one of the Three Jewels of the Raj.”

CEO Elizabeth Clarke goes into more detail: Windamare has had several incarnations as it evolved into the hotel that stands today. Named Ada Villa by the family of Princess Aishwarya Rana Shah Chakrabarti, it was leased to Tenduf-La, a Sikkimese of Tibetan descent, who turned it into a boarding house for British tea planters. It was this establishment that evolved into the hotel with the name Windamere.

Clarke is encyclopedic about the history of the property: “In 1939, some enterprising friends like Gertrude Bearbark, whose late tea planter husband had left her something of a fortune, a famous Austrian baker named Pleaver, and W.C. Patton who was a Brit – all invested in buying the property. Mrs. Bearbark had hailed from the Lake District in England – a place called Lake Windermere – and the hotel was named after it but lost the ‘er’ to an ‘a’, becoming the Windamere Hotel under a private limited company in March of 1939.”

The Windamere hosted the Americans who stopped in before fighting in Japan. It also has a storied history of accommodating the most elite members of high society. “One only needs read the walls and see,” says Clarke. “Princes of Denmark and Greece – of course, many of these were converted planter’s suites; the Chogyal (raj-ruler) of Sikkim; the Princess of Siam; Princess of Thailand; the Begum of Agha Khan; Count Nebworth; Viceroy Edward Robert Lytton; and, of course the famous French Lady and writer, Alexandra David-Néel who dressed up as a monk was able to enter the forbidden city of Lhasa in Tibet – she stayed here.”

“Staying here is a bit like Downtown Abbey in that the ambiance of an old English country manor is on display – unlike that of a standard five-star hotel. In fact, even the trays and dishware are circa 1930s,” says Clarke.

Of the colonial hotels in Asia, including South East Asia, The Windamere is ranked third. So, according to Clarke, the property is the only authentic colonial hotel in the area.

“If you continue down the hill – and it’s quite a walk,” continues Clarke. “You’ll come to the Bungalow. This used to be called The Snuggery in 1841 – a very English name – and it was owned by His Royal Highness the Maharaja of Cooch Behar, who leased it to a teacher. Around that time, Mr. Chhimi Tenduf-La was pulled into the group with Patton and company, and they bought the Snuggery due mainly to Mr. Tenduf-La’s contacts. His father-in-law, you see, was the emissary of His Holiness the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, who stayed here after the Chinese genocide in the 1950s in Tibet. Chhimi Tenduf-La, as one might imagine, given his family circle, was a friend of the Maharaja of Cooch Behar, and they came to an arrangement that it is bought by the Windamere Hotel Pvt. Ltd. into which Chhimi Tenduf-La by then had bought as a shareholder.”

Later, Observatory House, built on Observatory Hill, was constructed. The Lepchas, other indigenous people, and Hindus regarded it as sacred. It’s known as the abode of the Thunderbolt – Shiva’s land for Hindus and Dorje Ling (the abode of Heaven) for the Buddhists. So, this sacred hill property accommodates more guests.

Like many British country homes, there is a walled garden at the back of the grounds, where wooden benches, innumerable local trees, and shrubs of every size and color are on display, and a peaceful aura permeates the sharp mountain air. The premises are ideal for early morning strolls as many viewpoints overlooking Darjeeling and the Himalayas are present for scenic stops.

The hotel is also pet-friendly, with domesticated animals living on the property, unlike many chain hotels.

In all, there may be rival stays in Darjeeling town in terms of modern comforts – but The Windamere has no equal for the experience of staying at a colonial property.

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