Nestled in a mountain about an hour and half from Darjeeling city, the Glenburn Tea estate is a sprawling 1600 acre property with about 600 acres of tea estates and 1000 acres of forested land. The original residence of the estate manager known as the “Burra Bungalow” and a new four roomed villa called the “Water Lily Bungalow” provide eight rooms of pure unadulterated experience. The rooms are all themed and though not all rooms provide views of the majestic Kanchenjunga, the views offered of the garden or the valley are just as wonderful.
The rooms are spacious, the lawns are well kept, and cute white benches are kept at strategic corners for people wishing for a bit of privacy to enjoy the views. Though the water lily bungalow can be a few steps too many for some of the guests, what it offers in views and privacy are well worth the effort for people who can manage it. Breakfasts are pretty extensive with a mix of Continental and Indian breakfast items. Lunches are a multiple course affair served in the lounging area of the water lily bungalow with a theme of white, right from the chequered floor, to the white tablecloth to the napkins wonderfully arranged as swans. If you manage to sneak in a little early and capture the table at the edge, it provides a gorgeous backdrop – or view (however you are seated) of the valley below. Dinners are a more communal affair with everyone assembled together at the dining room at the “Burra Bungalow” with places assigned meticulously with your name cards in place to ensure that you do not sit with the person you came in with and get to know someone new every night. It looks awkward, sounds awkward and feels awkward for exactly 5 minutes after which you will be exchanging stories like old friends. Whether the arrangement is random or planned is hard to tell but the results are incredible. In most places one would leave without knowing who their neighbours are, while this arrangement ensures spending atleast the dinner each night interacting with the other guests. If it’s not your cup of tea (pun intended), you can always request a personal dinner in your villa if you like, but we would wholeheartedly recommend trying this atleast once if only for the experience. It is to be mentioned here that while the arrangements are amazing, the accompanying service doesn’t really match up to it. The food portions get over pretty quickly with second helpings of a course, a very bleak possibility; a dinner with Indian menus the breads getting over can hardly be excused. The serving staff was equally lacklustre with requests needed to be placed multiple times. It is not a complete deal breaker though a little more attention here could go a long way.
There are plenty of activities to be done on the property, be it an assortment of indoor and outdoor games for the kids to enjoy, short hikes to villages on the estate, a tour of the tea factory, a longish hike/bumpy ride to the river camp where you can spend the day splashing about in the gorgeous Rangeet river or maybe if you’re feeling a bit more energetic opt instead for a two hour trek to go visit the suspension bridge connecting West Bengal & Sikkim. Though it is quite possible you won’t spend more than a few minutes on the bridge itself, the journey itself, though a little arduous, is quite worth it. Especially since you know that there will be tea and cookies or maybe cake and brownies waiting for you when you return. A special mention goes out to all the guides who will take you on the activities around the property, very knowledgeable, quick to assist, always with a smile ready and to top all of that, they take brilliant photos. A day trip to Darjeeling with their own guides can be also arranged with no extra cost, along with a booking on the toy train, with a bit of prior notice, though chances are you will opt for staying on the property itself.
This place sounds like it’s from a fairytale and with a little more attention in the food and service department, it would be exactly that. However, it is imperative we mention here that most people working on the property are locals who’ve lived in Glenburn their whole life, if not generations and are a complete joy to be with. The amazing managers, the intuitive and expert guides, the wonderful drivers who will ferry you both ways and the fabulous people in the Tea factory will ensure you have a great time. However a minor hiccup to everyone staying on the property would be the large number of insects seemingly invading this bastion of peace and serenity. Given the surroundings it is to be expected but insect repellents is something which should be carried by every guest to avoid mishaps.
Glenburn Tips: The Water Lily Bungalow is the place to stay for young couples seeking a bit of privacy. For families and aged people Burra Bungalow might be a better option. Do not miss going to the river camp; the location is fabulous albeit a bit warmer but the water is just right. So throw off your inhibitions and jump right in. The hike to the suspension bridge might be a let-down for some given the length of the excursion and the relatively lacklustre destination. However, the old wooden suspension bridge over the Rong Dong River is really gorgeous and a small hike to the bridge on your way back to the property is thoroughly recommended. The best season to visit would probably with winters or early spring with uninterrupted views of the Kanchenjunga, a chill in the air with some wonderful tea and hosts to keep you company which will have you saying Tea Amo by the time you leave.
If you loved it as much as we did and want to book the property right now, you can mail us your requirement, we might be able to arrange a special deal for you.
Glenburn is an associate member to the community of boutique hotels in Asia “Secret Retreats”