A charming private plantation
There is something about Munnar and the mists. One literally walks in the clouds with views of the mists layering the mountains like a truffle cake. Munnar so called because here merged three rivers (Moonar) is South India's largest tea-growing region. Miles of rolling hills are covered in emerald green tea plantations, contoured, clipped and sculpted like never ending ornamental hedges. There is always a whiff of spices mostly cardamom, from the spice plantations which hug the road sides as you drive along on the hill toward Windermere. Once known as the High Range of Travancore, Munnar today is the commercial centre of some of the world’s highest tea-growing estates. Most of the plantations are now operated by Kannan Devan Hills Plantation Company (KDHP), a local cooperative which succeeded the corporate giant Tata Tea in 2005. It takes just over three hours to reach Windermere from Cochin airport.
Windermere Estate oozes charm with a quietness that soothes. The genuine hospitality that begins at the top and continues all the way down adds to the allure. Add beautiful vistas especially at sunrise and sunset and languid days sipping jungle tea are the perfect antidote to slow down.
Know Your Host
The resort was conceptualized by Dr. Simon and run with the help of his son John; a member of the family is always in residence. They have a team of people trained over the years who bring to the property a geniality and warmth that is endearing. The service is attentive yet subtle, the service staff...
The resort was conceptualized by Dr. Simon and run with the help of his son John; a member of the family is always in residence. They have a team of people trained over the years who bring to the property a geniality and warmth that is endearing. The service is attentive yet subtle, the service staff are cheerful and take great care to see ensure your comfort.
The Estate is surrounded by large acres of private plantations of coffee and cardamom with beautiful vistas of high mountains, tea estates and forests. Within the Estate are meticulously tended gardens and a collection of indigenous trees and plants typical to the area, should you be here in spring there would be creepers of orange trumpet and bougainvillea in excessive bloom, spreading colour and rending the air with the chirping and song of hundreds of birds.
Dr. Simon’s Windermere Estate in Munnar is a story to enliven campfire chit-chat in the hills over a glass of heart-warming ‘jungle tea’. Rooms are set in bungalows built like the plantation homes of yore with high gabled roofs, terracotta and wooden floors, sturdy teak furniture and hand embroidered linen. There is a sense of uncluttered style to the rooms of Windermere Estate, spacious and lit by natural light. Cottages, garden rooms and plantation villas open out to vistas of the beautiful hills and vales of Munnar, the cool moving mists rendering air-conditioning obsolete in this beautiful hill station of Munnar just about three hours’ drive from Cochin.
Eighteen rooms at the resort use three different layouts to include a large bedroom with ensuite bathroom and a sit-out to take in the extraordinary views of Munnar. The cottages and villas are spread out over four acres of private estate to maximize on the views and yet grouped together in a fashion that does not compromise on privacy. Configured as top end plantation villas, mid-range cottages and garden rooms, the resort runs with an easy efficiency, a perfect mix of concept and hospitality perfected over fifteen years. In the cottages or villas, you enter large, warm and friendly spaces that spell uncluttered comfort – water at your side, tea/coffee station, mats to place your feet on, flash lights to assist you and intercom facilities to keep you connected. Super comfortable beds, plump marshmallow white pillows smelling of the sun, pristine duvets and cushions – just the perfect resting place after a day of exploring the Munnar hills. Attached baths with quality toiletries, hot and cold running water, rain shower, luggage rack, they have thought about everything! One can spend hours sitting out on the terrace or balcony reading, watching the dramatic Munnar sunsets and sublime sunrise, or watch out for birds if they are an interest. They flock in hundreds within the resort – minivets, oriental white eyes, Malabar whistling thrush, red-cheeked bulbul etc.
The cuisine in Windermere is one of the highlights and is served in ‘The Barn’. From traditional state cuisine like hoppers, dishes from North India to sandwiches, soups and pastas, the kitchen serves up a multi-course dinner; a simple lunch and a hearty breakfast that includes many locally grown fruits. There is always an array of delicious tea or the promise of aromatic coffee after.
A lounge in the reception block and a library in the same building as The Barn are WiFi enabled and serve as recreational space where guests sit down to read, check their emails or enjoy a drink together. Centrally out in the garden is the ‘the hut’ that serves you tea and snacks in the evening from their collection of Munnar tea. Somewhere in the middle of the resort is a high, rocky cliff which has been barricaded as a vantage point to view the Munnar’s spectacular sunsets. Windermere has an organized plantation walk every afternoon which takes you out to explore the area, the plantations around and also watch out for the birds of the region.
Venture out to visit the Tea Museum which has painstakingly documented the history of the hills and its tea growing traditions along with equipment used back then is just a short drive from Windermere. TATA company established a community project for the benefit of their tea estate workers – DARE has a school, Arana - a natural dyeing unit, a paper making unit, a deli and coffee shop. The western ghats are home to a variety of birds and Munnar offers a vantage to upgrade your bird list. The high mountains of Munnar are ideal for treks and mountain biking which can be organized by the resort on request. There are treks to be made to Top station and valley, Lakshmi hills and Chokkanadu hills. Among the day long treks is the one to the Meespulliamala peak, which is the second highest peak in the Western Ghats. A couple of interesting drives around Munnar include trips to Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary , Teliyar and Kolugumali tea estate.
Windermere Estate is ideal for those looking to get away amidst mists and the charm of a mountain. Ideal for families, couples, getaways with friends, groups and even those looking for a long stay, there is plenty to keep one occupied for all age groups. Connoisseurs of tea would particularly enjoy the tea museum.
Windermere Estate is open all year.
Although coffee came in to India in the 17th century, cardamom is indigenous to the Western Ghats. The Estate is a working cardamom and coffee estate and unlike tea, both are grown under large tall tree covers, creating an almost tropical evergreen forest-like setting. Thus the 60 acres of Windermere Estate’s plantation is home to many endemic birds, frogs and even the Malabar giant squirrel; along with native trees some believed to be over 200 years old. The trees are protected by both Windermere and the Forest Department. The Estate is also guided by regulatory uses of pest control for the plantation. Windermere Estate had partnered with an organisation as part of a four year study that conducted conservation and habitation studies related to frogs in the region that ended in 2018. The association continues as the Estate continues to be a venue for short term studies on the same.
Windermere Estate lies atop a hillock where the accommodation is. Construction was done with little disturbance to the rock formations and trees ensuring plenty of open grounds, rock formations and the woods for guests to enjoy. The materials used for building were with government auctioned wood, earthy tiles and fabrics from handlooms – all sourced locally. Vernacular architecture has been used allowing the buildings built airy and bright and the location ensures there is no need for air conditioners or fans.
The staff employed is from the local community and nearby villages, with mostly women employees. Some of the staff have been there from the beginning and have been trained in hospitality as they have had no prior experience. Awareness and training programs are regularly held especially for young adults with the hope of inculcating the responsibility to preserve nature. There is a gentle push toward creating a community between the Estate, the staff and the village to facilitate each to look after the other.
The ingredients for the meals are sourced locally, seasonally and are based on what is available in their own organic kitchen garden and the market. There is no buffet service and the cuisine served is local, authentic and as it is prepared fresh every day, there is reduction in purchase, storage and wastage of food. Food waste is sent to the inhouse bio-digester and is converted to biogas and manure for the garden and plantation.
Water is sourced from a natural spring within the property and is used cautiously. A sewage treatment plant treats soiled water which is then used to water the coffee plants. While safe filtered drinking water is provided, for when bottled water is used, the bottles are sent for recycling.
by Thisisanubhav on 05/16/2022
We had last visited Windermere in 2010 and loved it so visited again and this time it was even better than before! All the staff from Suraj at the front desk, to Raja, Tony and the team at the...
by Lisa15621 on 04/30/2022
This is a very special hotel. It has an old world feel about it and a lot of heritage. The rooms are charming and fit the plantation and grounds very well - they would look out of place if they were...
by africandream1964 on 04/18/2022
We have to thank Kalypso Adventures for booking our stay here. The most amazing peak place, surrounded by peace, coffee and cardamom plantations. The staff has been so welcoming and of great, kind...