Hill haunts for the summer

Hill haunts for the summer
Wild Mahseer in Tezpur,

Here is our hand-picked list of cosy hill retreats in India. Pack your bags...

Our Team
April 14 , 2014
14 Min Read

1. Woodbriar’s Bungalow, Meghamalai
The location is remote (a four-hour drive from the temple town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu) and all the more enchanting for it, as it often happens with lovingly kept colonial-era tea bungalows. It’s not just the history but the sweeping other-worldliness of it—tiers of tea plants enveloped in mist, deep silences broken by birdcall (behold the Malabar whistling thrush), the crunch of booted feet on moist moss, a hot cup of freshly brewed tea on the sunny verandah. Why, Meghamalai itself means ‘cloudy mountain’, and the sense of being cut off from civilisation and chaos is very strong, especially when there are only two cottages and three rooms between them on offer. The cooking includes four-course meals featuring rare Anglo-Indian recipes. Tariff: Rs 5,250. Contact: 09442204001, teabungalows.com

2. Wild Mahseer, Tezpur
In the Balipara division of the Addabarie estate in Assam, this 22-acre certified-organic sanctu­ary includes a century-old heritage bungalow plus smaller ‘tea bunga­lows’. The big wooden bungalow was originally the Visiting Agent’s residence. The smaller ones used to house the Group Accountant and the Doctor, and serve as the Agent’s office. The First Flush dining pavilion boasts 57 different types and grades of chai from the world over at teatime, and dishes up a full planter’s breakfast (full English plus puri and chana masala, with tropical fruits!) of a morning, Assamese and Anglo-Indian speciali­ties for lunch and dinner. Besides the tea gardens and farm, angling—as the name suggests—as well as river rafting and (river) dolphin watching are the big draws for nature enthusiasts. Tariff: Doubles in smaller bungalows Rs 8,500 in adventure season (Nov–April), Rs 6,700 in tea season/monsoon (May–Oct); Heritage bunga­low: Rs 25,100 in adventure season, Rs 20,000 in tea season; meals and taxes included. Contact: 9833631377, wildmahseer.com

3. Aerodene Cottage, Shillong
A 60-year-old residence in the vernacular Assamese style with framed bamboo walls stands on stone stilts by the River Umshyrpi. Next door is a more modern annexe, bringing the property to five rooms in all. Inside, the chintzy furnishings are fit for a fairy tale or an Enid Blyton holiday caravan. A charming family-style dining room with fireplace serves homestyle dinners on request at this B&B as well as sumptuous break-fasts. And all of it framed by pretty, private gar­den spaces with cosy reading nooks amidst the flora close to the heart of town. Owner and staff alike exude welcome. Tariff: Rs 3,000-4,500. Contact: 9774065366, aerodene.in

4. Norwood Green, Palampur
More B&B than homestay, these five cottages on Bundla Tea Estate each have four rooms and a lounge, dining space, front and rear gardens, a cook and a butler per cottage, TV and wi-fi. The Dhauladhars stand guard over the tea gardens. The fluffy white-linened rooms are of a standard any star hotel could be proud of and the staff as professional and efficient to match. The food is reportedly fingerpicking good too. In high season (mid-Apr–mid-Jul), cottages are rented out as a whole or a half, but single rooms may be had for the low season. Tariff: From Rs 22,500 for four people in high season, including breakfast and dinner, taxes extra. Contact: 9736031300, norwoodgreen.in

5. Devi Darshan Lodge, Auli
Want a room with a view and a place to meet fellow fans of the Himalaya? Take both together at the glass-wrapped living and dining space of the Devi Darshan Lodge staring out to Nanda Devi. It’s an affordable base for adventurers out to ski or trek in Auli, with surprisingly high standards of hygiene and hospitality for a relatively frill-free outfit. The food is good, honest Garhwali grub with added innovations like a ‘banana filter’. It helps that it puts you on first-person footing with the local commu­nity through the Mountain Shepherds initiative. Tariff: Rs 4,000-5,000, with breakfast and dinner, taxes extra. Contact: 8958588498, angwal.in

6. Chumbi Mountain Retreat, Pelling
Chumbi preserves the atmosphere of awe with an old-fash­ioned but pared down aesthetic in architecture and décor. The setting is picturesque—with the Kanchenjunga for backdrop. Inside are sizeable rooms and bathrooms, themed suites, an amphitheatre, bonfire pit, a spa with traditional dottho (stone hot tubs for a herbal bath), and a 40-seater movie theatre. Dyenkhang, the Sikkimese restaurant, serves local cuisine and produce; there is another dining area with Indian and Continental regulars. Organic Nepali coffee and Sikkimese tea are the beverage highlights. Tarifff: Doubles Rs 17,000-28,000 with meals.Contact: 03595-258241, thechumbimountainretreat.com

7. Aranyam: River Retreat, Rishikesh
They sell the yoga but this Mohan­chatti property on the River Hyule in Rajaji National Park hardly needs such enticements when nature already provides so much. Younger sibling to the popular Whispering Pines in Kanatal, this place could as well be a birder’s best friend and a trekker’s tented safari camp. There are luxurious rooms as well, if you prefer, and an al fresco sheesha lounge and a movie theatre! Aranyam strikes the elusive balance of peace and excitement too. Bungee station and golf course and Asia’s longest zipline rides are close at hand, with abseiling, body surfing, cliff jumping and white-water rafting for a start. Tariff: Rs 3,499-5,999. Contact 011-43539195, aranyam.in

8. Ivanhoe House, Darjeeling
Built in 1871 as a boarding house for British Raj families — the likes of Vivian Leigh and Julie Christie visited as schoolgirls — Ivanhoe wears its growing age with grace and courteous charm for contemporary visitors content to rest with him from the daily crusade. It is run as a B&B with other meals provided on request in the golden wood-panelled dining hall. Cast-iron fireplaces warm the bedrooms. Gingham and chintz cheer up the dining table. Tariff: doubles Rs 6,000-7,000. Contact: 0354-2255349, ivanhoehouse.info

9. Soulitude by the Riverside, Nainital
Designed as a rustic-chic seven-room ‘vacation farmhouse’ property, this addition to the also excellent Soulitude in the Himalaya sits on the river Kalsa, in Chanfi village, on a work­ing organic farm. It is truly off the beaten path, reached by a 30-minute trek and thus suited only to the fitter traveller. Accommodation is split across three cottages, one 70-odd years old with skylights, and the others furnished with red-oxide floors and fireplaces. Meals are often cooked al fresco on angeethi or chulha or in a solar cooker. No TV here, but yes, In­ternet, heated beds and towel rods and hot water are available. Tariff: Rs 8,000-12,000 in high season. Contact: 9999330379, soulitudebytheriverside.com

10. Zizina Otis Resort, Mayong/Pobitora Sanctuary
In the Neolithic archaeological site of Mayong, opposite Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, this young development in the land of the rhino is just 35km or so from Guwahati. Swiss-style luxury tents, safari tents and mud huts with beautifully appointed modern bathrooms are comple­mented by a bamboo-thatch air-cooled restaurant serving classic Assamese meals such as fish curry and joha rice in traditional platters and metal bowls. Like the food, room décor is vernacular, wholesome and simple—bamboo beds and cotton bedspreads in vibrant colours. Tariff: Rs 4,375-8,125, with breakfast and taxes. Contact: 9854020651, zizinaresorts.com

11. Citrus Chambers, Mahabaleshwar
It’s a nicely located colonial-era villa that has well-appointed rooms with balconies, and big bathrooms with ja­cuzzis. The food is good and always-smiling staff tries hard to please. There’s a spa, fitness centre, games rooms and swim-ming pool. Naturally, it’s a favourite with families. The century-old heritage property is at walking distance from Mahabaleshwar’s main market but you would never guess from the quiet that prevails once you’re inside. It’s what we might call a perfectly acceptable vacation. Tariff: From Rs 7,500 Contact: 180030014001, mahabaleshwar.citrushotels.com

12. Altus, Mt. Abu
This heritage building, certified Category I by the government, belongs to an erstwhile Rajputana royal family and retains its regal Indo-Western lineage visibly across all six suites—the interiors are lush and ornate with carved woodwork, velvet furnishing, Persian carpets, downy beds, sink-in sofas, paintings, checkered marble corridors, old-fashioned writing desks and antique-style chan­deliers. The personnel, who outnumber guests two to one, keep up all this immaculately. Outside, terraced lawns and gardens complete the picture. Tariff: Rs 8,500 including breakfast and taxes. Contact: 09772345666, altusabu.com

13. Bouganvilla, Ooty
There are only some pockets in Ooty where the Queen of the Hills retains her old grace effortlessly and Bouganvilla man­ages to be one of them, nestled as it is high above the town’s famous arboretum. Some parts of the roomy bungalow and surrounding lawn-facing cottages have wooden flooring, charming fireplaces (though they are mainly decorative—heaters are handy on request and you’ll likely need them), bay windows, baths with tubs, stepped elevation full of potted plants in various states of bloom, and wrought iron garden furniture with a handy barbecue pit. The twin suite has sepa­rate bathrooms for both rooms, and the luxury rooms have king-sized four posters though the executive rooms have smaller beds. Upkeep is immaculate, service is genuinely helpful and flexible, and the food sumptuous and tasty. Tariff: From Rs 3,800. Contact: 0423-2444456, bouganvilla.in

14. Flameback Lodges, Chikmagalur
They have lovely villas (good for families), suites and intimate cottages occupying 10 of 200 acres in an undulating coffee estate, their dark wood interiors offset by a pleasingly white paint theme. The food is multi-cuisine but they take special pride in their local dishes (superb fish!) and homemade breads. The spa features ice showers apart from two steam baths and the services are com­petitively priced; the swimming pool is temperature-controlled and comes with views of the rolling hills beyond paddy fields. There’s kayaking, cycling and a fully-equipped gym as well. Ask for rooms closer to the small lake on the property—the main building tends to get noisy. Tariff: From Rs 11,000 inclusive of all meals. Contact: 09242714197, flameback.in

15. Mount Pleasant Boutique Resort, Kodaikanal
It’s a homely cottage set in 24 acres of a fruit orchard, yet what it lacks in grandiose luxury it makes up with charm and gumption—you would have noticed the ‘boutique resort’ tag, of course, and then there’s a de­lightfully inexpensive Presidential Suite to consider. The smaller suites are spacious and kept equally clean. Service is super-friendly. You can borrow their pram and binoculars, look through the tripod-mounted telescope in the mini library, try a recipe or two in the interactive open kitchen, and pretend to play the century-old piano. Be warned, though, of the presence of a PlayStation, apart from satellite TV. Tariff: From Rs 2,400. Contact: 09655126023, kodaikanalheritage.com

16. Kudajadri Drizzle Homestay, Kalpetta
The presence of this Jain thara­vadu benefits Wayanad’s district headquarters. The low-slung, tiled-roof, red-painted abode offers clean if basic rooms, and tireless hospitality that wins the family many new friends. Many visitors swear they’ll go back because this kind of hospital­ity, which treats the guest like a BFF, can hardly be found anymore. There are four rooms in the main building and two in a quasi-outhouse, the latter being better suited for a group. The greenery and tranquillity attracts a variety of birds so keep your camera handy. Food is wholesome, likeable and purely vegetarian. Tariff: From Rs 2,000. Contact: 09946354511, kudajadridrizzle.com

17. Old Kent Estate, Coorg
Old Kent is an old estate that’s been operating as a premier coffee plantation sprawled over 200 acres in Suntikoppa, about 20km from Madikeri. The gardens are lush, the food is carefully prepared, the service is courteous and modernised, and there’s a spa in which to relax. The Old Kent Lodge is the original home of the estate’s erst­while colonial owners, lovingly maintained and offering fabulous views from its vantage. There’s a snooker room and woodsy library, and a propah English garden with hammocks. The modern chalets honour the vintage theme—850 sq ft with private gardens and se­questered bathrooms lavished with lathed marble tubs. Tariff: From Rs 11,000. Contact: 09360213034, oldkentestate.com

18. Arabidacool Bungalow, Chikmagalur
It is part of the handful of rambling planter’s bungalows that make up Tata Coffee’s Plantation Trails. This atypical stay doesn’t try to be holiday resort so much as it evokes the laidback and genteel lifestyle of the sahibs from another era. So the service is helpful and warm but not trained in the manner of corporate hotels (staff come from the families of plantation workers), the prices may feel like they are on the higher side if you’re accustomed to paying for perfec­tion, but you will have chosen right if it’s old-worldly quiet that makes your getaway. Guests can look forward to nature trails, plantation tours, thoughtfully prepared food (es­pecially if you have special needs for, say, small children), enormous rooms and bonfire barbecues. Tariff: From Rs 5,500 Contact: 080-23560761, plantationtrails.net

19. The Regent Hill Resort, Yercaud
There are just four suites and a villa in this stately mansion turned hotel, which once counted Sir Rob­ert Clive and Charles Dickens amongst its guests. Artist-chef-entrepreneur Vishu Kaliappa says he chose Regent Hill Side for its outstanding loca­tion, and sense of history and style, then personally designed its refurbishment to recreate the Brit era. He does this without neglecting any modern conve­nience, whether the concrete road that leads up to the courtyard reception or the ‘non-hotel’ interiors of the three suites. The fourth suite, Abiemore, is Mr Kaliappa’s private den, and the lone villa is pitched as a honeymooner’s paradise with an open-to-sky bathroom and exotic garden. Meals are available whenever you want them, tables can be set anywhere you like, pets are welcome, and there are no restric­tions on the number of people in a room. Tariff: From Rs 4,800. Contact: 09443700000, enjoyyercaud.com

20. Paradisa Plantation Retreat, Kumily
This plantation retreat, even though it’s set in an organic coffee and spice plantation, creates an atypical (read non-colonial) identity with accommodation styled like traditional Kerala homes. The Car­damom Cottage is, in fact, a mini-mansion of two rooms, especially suited for families, and costs nearly double the deluxe rooms. The mod cons are unstinting and the open-to-sky bathrooms are espe­cially pretty. Acupuncture, yoga, dance performances, astrology and Ayurvedic therapies are arranged. Tariff: From Rs 16,200. Contact: 0469-2701311, paradisaretreat.com 


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