Family Hotel Review: Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, India
Started by a Scottish tea company in 1860, glorious Glenburn is a fifth-generation tea estate and one of our favourite family-friendly hotels.
Best For: Tea-tasters, walkers and fresh air fiends; kids of all ages
Reviewed by: Katja Gaskell
Why You’ll Love It
Started by a Scottish tea company in 1860, glorious Glenburn Tea Estate is a fifth-generation tea estate and is still fully functioning today. It also happens to be one of our favourite family-friendly places to stay in India. This beautiful boutique hotel is set within 1,600 acres of forest, hills, and tea plantations with picture-perfect views of the mighty Kanchenjunga.
The main house, the Burra Bungalow, has been home to generations of tea planters and today is still at the heart of the estate. It offers four beautiful bedrooms (a newer bungalow houses a further four), a cosy living room with a fireplace, and the elegant dining room where all guests eat dinner together.
This really is a luxurious getaway where your every whim is pampered. There’s plenty to do – from tea tasting to camping – or you can simply do nothing at all. And the service, under the watchful eye of your charming hosts Najma and Neilu, is impeccable. Glenburn truly is a wonderful escape for families and a fantastic place to come with grandparents too.
Why The Kids Will Love It
What is particularly special about Glenburn is that all guests are treated equal, regardless of age. That means that babies, toddlers, kids and teens are very welcome here in spite of the luxury boutique hotel tag.
What’s more, the staff absolutely love children (particularly little ones) and are happy to keep an eye on them or – as in the case when we visited – rock them to sleep while you have your breakfast. There is also plenty for children to do, particularly older children and teens. There are hikes galore ranging from one hour to a full day, you can learn how tea goes from plantation to pot, go trout fishing or white water rafting, bounce across the hanging bridge into Sikkim and camp overnight at Glenburn’s very own lodge.
There is less to occupy younger children but there is plenty of space to roam and there’s a well-loved toy cupboard with a selection of games to keep them amused.
There are two colonial-style planter’s bungalow, the original Burra Bungalow and the more recently added Water Lily Bungalow, each with four elegant bedrooms. The rooms are all individually designed and furnished with antiques, hand-embroidered sheets and carefully chosen soft furnishings. All rooms also come with baskets of fresh fruit and vases of fresh blooms and hot water bottles and/or electric blankets are provided in cooler months.
Darjeeling Green Tea toiletries by Forest Essentials, India’s leading Ayurveda beauty company, are provided in the bathrooms alongside free standing cast iron baths.
The Water Lily Bungalow sits below the Burra Bungalow and has a living room, smaller dining room, two verandas and garden areas in addition to the bedrooms. This is also where the massage and steam rooms are located. A stone staircase connects the two bungalows.
The four bedrooms in The Burra Bungalow are:
The Kanchenjunga Suite: This charming room painted in soft blue hues has wall-to-wall windows overlooking the Kanchenjunga mountain range. There’s a grand, canopied king-size bed, a Victorian teak queen-size bed and a sitting area. A small, adjoining room houses a further single bed.
The Planters’ Suite: Decorated in deep yellows and burnt orange is this regal suite that comes with oriental-inspired Toile de Jouy furnishings and old maps and prints on the walls. There is a four-poster bed made of Spanish mahogany, a fireplace, and private veranda with views over the Simbong Valley and towards Sikkim. The annexed sit-out has an extra bed.
The Rose Suite: A rose motif weaves its way through this pretty suite including the hand embroidered bed sheets. The unusual room shape means that there is an additional bedroom, completely private from the main room, and there is also a private sit-out with views of the garden.
The Simbong Butterfly Room: Facing the eastern hills of Sikkim is this very pretty suite that boasts soft pink walls and a muslin trail of butterflies over the canopied four-poster bed. This double is the smallest of the rooms within the Burra Bungalow.
The four bedrooms in The Water Lily Bungalow are:
The Camelia Suite: The greens and yellow of the Camelia plant (the leaves and leaf buds of the Camellia sinensis are used to produce tea) dominate this room. The room houses two single antique beds; this is one of only two twin bedrooms on the estate. There is room for a third bed if required. A private balcony offers awe-inspiring vies of Mount Kanchenjunga and the hills of Sikkim.
The Rangeet Suite: Taking its name from the views of the Rangeet River valley below is this comfortable twin bedded suite that offers views of snow-capped mountains and tea-fields. A private sit out houses an additional day bed, which can be transformed into an extra bed if required.
The Rung Dung Suite: A beautiful antique four-poster bed dominates this elegant suite along with rich red floral prints on the furnishings and walls. Enjoy views of Darjeeling Town and the Rung Dung River from the spacious sit-out that comes with a day bed and a desk. The day bed can be transformed into an additional bed if required.
The Singalila Suite: Another room that benefits from outstanding views is this pretty suite decorated in soft pinks and greens. From the comfort of the antique four-poster bed you can watch the sun rise over the majestic Singalila mountain range. There are also two little private balconies with views over Darjeeling town and the surrounding tea fields.
Best Rooms For Families: In the Burra Bungalow the Kanchenjunga Suite, the Planters’ Suite and the Rose Suite all have ample space for families.
The Kanchenjunga Suite is particularly suited to larger families as it features a queen-size bed in the main bedroom (in addition to the main, king-size bed) and an adjoining room with a single bed. The Planters’ Suite also enjoys an annexed sit-out with an extra bed. The Rose Suite has an additional bedroom, which would work well for families with older children requiring their own room. The Burra Bungalow is perfect for families with young children as the rooms are all near the main dining room easily within monitor distance.
The Water Lily Bungalow is better suited to families with older children, not least because of the stone steps leading down from the Burra Bungalow. The rooms also lack the additional space (or annexed rooms) of those in the Burra Bungalow. The twin-bedded Camellia Suite is ideal for older children or teenagers and can sleep three. Similarly the Rangeet Suite is a comfortable twin bedded room that can also accommodate an extra bed. The Rung Dung Suite has a day bed, which can sleep another person and both this suite and the Singalila Suite are more than large enough to accommodate a baby cot.
All meals, snacks and non-alcoholic drinks are included in the tariff.
The food at Glenburn is fantastic. Menus are planned according to guest preferences and are very varied. Local dishes, traditional Indian dishes, South-East Asian specialities and European fare all feature, and are created using herbs and salads grown in the Glenburn gardens. Snacks include family specialities such as Chocolate Brownies, Tibetan Momos, and Burmese Khow Suey. When booking, please do let Glenburn know of any particular dietary requirements.
Glenburn tea, iced tea, South Indian filter coffee, a range of herbal teas (both fresh and from teabags), nimboo pani (homemade lemonade), freshly-squeezed juice, and cold drinks are available at any time. There are also freshly baked cakes and cookies available whenever you feel like a snack. Homemade ice cream is also available, especially during the summer months.
Breakfast is served either in the bright and sunny Morning Room of the Burra Bungalow, under the Pomello Tree outside the Water Lily Bungalow or on a terrace overlooking the mountains. Morning ‘bed tea’ is served in your room at a time of your convenience.
Lunch is served either at the estate or you may choose a picnic, delivered either at a pre-planned venue such as the Glenburn Campsite, or packed for you to eat when you choose on your hike. Barbeques can also be organised down by the river or at the Simbong Garden Terrace of the Burra Bungalow.
Dinner is usually served as a sit-down meal in the candle-lit dining room with the other guests in residence. If you would prefer to dine separately then this can easily be arranged, however these communal dinners tend to be extremely convivial affairs. In the warmer months, dinner can also be served outdoors.
Afternoon tea is served on the veranda and includes homemade snacks such as the extremely tasty Tea-Leaf Pakoras. Glenburn also bakes its own bread and makes its own marmalade.
For Kids: The stellar service at Glenburn means that kids are extremely well looked-after when it comes to food. Flexible meal times, special requests and plenty of pasta dishes are easy to arrange. Simply ask for whatever it is you need, and it will be brought to you.
Activities for Parents: Relax; this truly is a peaceful place to read, write, paint or simply be. Learn all about tea on a half- or full-day tour through the estate followed by a tea-tasting session. Shorter tea tasting experiences are also possible. Set off on one of the many hikes in the beautiful countryside with a guide to show you the way and serve you a glass of nimboo pani (lemonade) when you get thirsty. Attend morning assembly at the primary school where Glenburn, and former Glenburn guests, sponsor children. Help out in the classrooms, participate in craft sessions and bring along some books in your luggage to donate to the library. Grab a rod and go fishing for Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Golden Mahseer and Carp. The season runs from October to March. Be kind to your weary feet and book a reflexology treatment followed by a pedicure. Full body massages, facials and manicures are also available.
Activities for Kids: Explore the countryside, play on the veranda, go fishing, read a book, learn how to cook and gaze at the stars. Visit the tea factory and discover how to brew the perfect cup of tea. Visit the zoo in Darjeeling town where snow leopards and red pandas roam and then drop into the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute where the Everest Museum charts the history of attempts on the world’s highest summit. Jump aboard the Darjeeling Hill Railway for a steam train ride through the hill station’s neighbouring towns. Go river rafting! Trips of varying difficulty can be organised to suit all ages led by well-trained guides. Older kids will love camping overnight in the Glenburn Lodge and Campsite, set by the banks of a river overlooking Sikkim. There’s room enough for two families in the rustic lodge and you can swim, barbeque, and enjoy sunrise with a cup of ‘bed tea’. Take some time out in the living room and watch a movie or play with the small collection of well-loved toys on the main veranda.
Babysitting, central heating, common rooms, cots, doctor on call, nearest hospital in Darjeeling town, inter-connecting rooms, laundry service, shop, spa treatments, travel desk & excursions, wheelchair access, WiFi.
At the time of writing rates were as follows:
INR 26, 500 per room for 2 persons sharing on double or twin occupancy
INR 17,000 per room for 1 person on single occupancy
INR 6,000 per extra (third) adult sharing room
INR 2,500 per child sharing parents’ room (3 to 15 years)
No charge for children below 3 years.
Off season discounts available from July to September.
Please contact the villa directly for an exact quote based on your family’s requirements.
When to go:
Glenburn can be enjoyed at any time of the year although the best time to visit is from October to March. For the best mountain views visit between October and December. Tea production runs from the end of February through to the summer but tours of the factory and tea tasting sessions are held throughout the year. Plenty of tea-related activities such as pruning take place throughout the year. Glenburn is a wonderful place to spend Christmas, situated at just 3000ft the temperatures do not drop below 7C at night and the days are bright and sunny.
Owing to the travel involved getting here, it is recommended that you stay a minimum of three nights in order to fully embrace the Glenburn experience.
Location & Travel:
Glenburn Tea Estate is located in West Bengal; the drive from the estate to Darjeeling town takes just over one hour.
Bagdogra Airport is the closest airport and is a three-hour drive away. There are daily flights to Kolkata (45mins), Guwahati (30mins), and New Delhi (2 hours). The flight from Delhi stops at Guwahati on alternate days so make sure to take the direct connection (Delhi-Bagdogra-Delhi), to avoid an unnecessarily long flight. A Glenburn chauffeur will meet you at the airport and transport you to the tea estate in an air-conditioned Scorpio four-wheel drive, complete with complimentary picnic.
The closest main railhead is New Jalpaiguri, roughly 90kms away from Darjeeling. From New Delhi the daily Rajdhani service takes about 22 hours. From Kolkata, there are daily overnight trains to New Jalpaiguri Station. trains take approximately 12 hours. Glenburn is a three-hour drive from the station; a Glenburn chauffeur will meet you at the station and transport you in an air-conditioned Scorpio four-wheel drive complete with picnic hamper.
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Contact This HotelFor more information or to make a booking enquiry, visit the hotel’s own website by following the link below:
Katja’s Top Tips!
1) Glenburn is not cheap, but is definitely worth it! This is probably one of my favourite hotels in India, splash out for a special occasion.
2) Tag on a couple of days in Darjeeling town itself before visiting Glenburn because once you get here you won’t want to leave!
3) Remember to buy some tea to take home with you.