It is a well-known fact that the British smuggled varieties of Chinese tea into India and set up plantations all over the country. Aided by burgeoning global trade, the “Indian” teas soon became one of the favourite beverages in the world.
Tea is a delicate shrub that requires a pleasant climate to grow and is therefore found typically in regions with a cooler climate, intermittent rain and a few hours of sunshine. The towns which have come up around tea plantations are therefore lush green, shrouded in mist, and ideal destinations for a relaxing holiday. When thinking of these towns Darjeeling and Ooty instantly pop into our heads; however, there are various other little towns where the same landscape can be enjoyed in tranquility.
Photo Credits: Thangaraj Kumaravel
If you're craving a break right now, this tiny hamlet in the Annamalai mountain range of Tamil Nadu awaits you. Drive through the serpentine roads - mind you, there are 40 hairpin loops - to reach this retreat.
A walk in the verdure tea estates in the pleasant weather of Valparai is indispensable. Be prepared to find a bison or a long-tailed macaque meandering far away in the gardens. The nearby Manompally forest offers a good base for those with an adventurous. However, the Grass Hills National Park is the jewel in the crown here: this protected reserve is a remnant of the Shola grasslands, which is unique to the Western Ghats and found nowhere else.
With dozens of temples, waterfalls, and scenic viewpoints, Valparai deserves more than a weekend.
Peermade is a the perfect place for people who love long walks, without the pressure of sightseeing. Your aimless wandering will take you to the top of Eagle Rock from where you can witness the panoramic views of tea gardens or to Thrissanku Hills for a breathtaking sunset.
You can smell the earthiness of cardamom in the air. The story behind its spice cultivation goes that a Sufi saint Peer Mohammad, who was also the first spice trader in the region, spent his last days here. Take some time to visit the Summer Palace, the summer retreat of the Travancore royal family, and Panchalimedu, the fabled pond which is believed to have been used by Draupadi from the Mahabharata.
Peermade in the Idukki district of Kerala is a deserving alternative to Wayanad when planning a relaxing holiday.
Photo Credits: Jon Connell
Palampur in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh would never cross your mind when thinking of tea belts in India. During the British rule, Kangra tea was regarded as one of the finest in the world for its flavour and quality, but the tea industry here died a slow death. Lately, the state government has been taking initiatives to revive the industry once again.
Palampur is easy to reach but still a sequestered spot, exactly the kind of retirement paradise you’ve dreamed of. While walking through the rolling tea gardens of Palampur, you can also savour the unique backdrop of the snow-capped Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas. Sitting at the foothills, you can explore several treks that lead out of Palampur.
Just 13 km away from Palampur is Andretta, famous for its handicrafts. Many well-known artists call this village their home, giving you a great opportunity to try your hand at pottery.
Unlike Ooty which is overrun by tourists, Kotagiri is a small idyllic town in the Nilgiris where you can seek solitude. You can visit the memorial of a British governor John Sullivan, who set out to explore the fabled “Blue Mountains” of the south, got smitten by its temperate climate and settled for good.
Hold your breath as you watch the sun rising over the Mysore Plateau from the famous Kodanad Hill. Spend rest of your day in the evergreen Longwood Forest which is home to rare species such as the Flying fox and the Malabar giant squirrel. Trek through thick tea gardens to reach the double cascaded Catherine waterfall or swim in the Uyilatty Falls, which is located just 7 km from the town.
Whatever you choose to indulge in, Kotagiri will not disappoint you in any aspect.
Relish the good old Darjeeling tea in this picturesque town of Kurseong, which makes a fabulous alternative to the bustling Darjeeling. The town gets its name from Kurson-rip, the small white orchids that grow prolifically here.
Relive your childhood on the toy train as it chugs down the Hill Card Road through the captivating landscape. Climb to the Eagle Craig to get a bird’s eye view of the town or spend some time at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Museum where the veteran freedom fighter was kept under house arrest by British.
If you are in the mood for doing nothing, then a walk in the expansive tea gardens should do the trick.
Samsing is a picturesque hamlet in Dooars region in West Bengal. A slow paced three hours’ journey on the narrow roads from Siliguri to Samsing is a feast for the eyes.
Wake up to the chirping of birds, gurgling of streams and the reverberation of silence. Samsing is the gateway to the Neora Valley National Park, which is known for its rich biodiversity – you may just spot the elegant red panda here! Explore the unknown terrains of this park which offers some great trekking routes to keep an outdoorsy person busy for days. Take a dip in the crystal-clear water of the Murti River, which crisscrosses through the heart of Dooar plains, or try fishing if you like. Acquaint yourself with the local culture at Faribasti, an eco-village next to Samsing, which boasts of pristine landscape and homestays.
A bit of an offbeat destination, Koppa is surrounded by dense jungles and misty mountains and is endearingly known as the ‘Kashmir of Karnataka’ for its scenic beauty. Originally, Koppa has been famous for its coffee production, but lately, several tea processing centres have sprung up, slowly making it popular for its tea gardens.
If you are yearning for divine weather and some quiet time then, Koppa is where you should be right now. Trek to Kote Gudda Fort, the ruins of which are covered by trees, reminding of the famous Ta Prohm temple of Angkor in Cambodia. Visit Hariharapura and Shakatapuram temples located on the banks of the Tunga River. Do not forget to pay homage to Kuvempu, the famous Kannada poet whose ancestral house is now open to visitors.
A 7-hour scenic drive from Bangalore, Koppa makes a splendid weekend getaway.
Whether you prefer adventure or solitude, walks or treks, the restorative potential of a great getaway is unparalleled.
Let’s sip to that!