„Would you like to come to some villages around Chamba?“ a friend asked. I happily said yes. He wanted to visit the kin of former servants of his family and bring them gifts before Diwali. After buying boxes of sweets and drawing money from an ATM, three of us set off from Mussoorie.
The air was crystal clear and the snow peaks shone in great splendour. How beautiful to be out in the open at the height of 2000 metres! What wonderful surroundings the villagers live in. Blue mountain ranges were rolling one after the other like waves of the ocean. Kids in school uniform walked on the road. Their school may be much simpler than those in cities, yet the location is enviable and the openness of space may be conducive for an open mind.
Our first stop was in a tiny village near the old road to Tehri…
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Recently, when I went through a news item that said that the Mamata Banerjee Government was planning to amend rules to enable tea companies to use their surplus land for horticulture, power generation and tea-tourism projects in West Bengal, I was caught in the dark on what does “tea tourism” mean. Of course, the picture that appeared in my mind was a group of foreigners roaming through a tea plantation! But that was it. So instead of having a blind belief in the 100% accuracy of my assumption, I researched a bit on the Net on this topic. And here’s what I found out (sources mentioned at the end of the post):-
Tea Tourism is a relatively new concept in the world and Darjeeling is a taking a lead in this area. And why not? Darjeeling is after all the Mecca of tea and sprawling estates producing what we know as the “Champagne of Teas” to the delight of the world.
A refreshing sea of green on the rolling hill-slopes. Peace everywhere, broken only by chirping of birds and gurgling of streams. The colorfully clad tea workers gently plucking the famous two leaves and a bud, humming many a merry tunes. And finally, colonial comfort in fabulous Bungalows with a hot cuppa – finest blend of aromatic… its Tea all about!!
Tea-tourism is a fast growing travel concept in the Eastern Himalayas, mainly in the Darjeeling hills and Dooars foothills. A retreat in tea gardens set amidst serene landscape is perhaps the most exotic and innovative way to enjoy nature.
India has developed a few unique Tea Circuits in the Darjeeling-Dooars belt, and to this end, selected some of the best located gardens in the area. The accommodation is in the original Managers’ Bungalows, which are, usually, well-preserved old colonial structures.
There are 80 odd operational tea gardens in Darjeeling that span across thousands of acres of land area on open hill slopes. High on the hills with cool breeze and misty weather, planters and workers come together to form a wonderland where tea grows in the finest form like nowhere else in the world.
Imagine you are spending a few days in a sprawling tea garden. You will stay in a Bungalow that was typically the residence of a British tea planter built during the old colonial time. The bungalow retains the antique furnishing & aura of the colonial days, and setup amidst lush garden setting within the estate. Food served is made of fresh organic produce from the backyard garden.
You wake up and sip a cup of finest flavored tea that was harvested from the gardens the previous day, a brand that has made a great name for itself in the world. You take a stroll through the garden, talk to the garden workers and see how they deftly pluck the two leaves with a bud, and learn about their lives. You are also invited to take a look and learn about the tea processing in the factories where some of the best teas in the world are withered, rolled, dried, sorted and packaged.
A jeep takes you to the nearby attractions and places of interest for you to soak in the nature. Later you take a walk through the villages and nature trails, and get deeper insight into the lives of the people living in the mountains. In the evening, you are entertained with local cultural dance and music specially performed for you as you drink a glass of wine. Ultimate, isn’t it? That’s tea tourism.
And where else will you get best of all the elements of a garden tour other than in Darjeeling? Several tea estates in Darjeeling area offer vacation packages to tourists to experience life in the gardens along with stays in heritage bungalows, plus activities and entertainment that are rarely found anywhere else in the world.
In most cases, there are all inclusive packages available including transfers, meals and garden activities. And in some estates, you get options for room only rates and additional charges for food and other activities offered by the estate.
Remember, staying in plantation estates is not like staying in a five star luxury hotel. You cannot compare the amenities one to one. Tea garden stays are meant to bring you closer to the nature and the tea garden life, organic food etc. In most tea gardens, the properties are managed and services provided by those who are picked up from the estate workers community and not by professionals as in the five star hotels.
Sprawling rooms with attached bath and fireplace are ideally designed to give you the desired warmth and comfort with delicious local and oriental cuisines.
- Accommodation in Tea Bungalow with garden fresh bio-organic food
- Tea Garden Walk
- Tea Processing observation
- Tea Testing
- Picnic day out with birding or fishing
- Interaction with the Garden workers
- Ethnic cultural program with bon fire
- Nature tours, forest safaris and excursions
- Hill toy train ride (Darjeeling Himalayan Railways)
- Miscellaneous entertainment with golf, tennis and indoor games