One of the three ‘Jewels of the Raj’ The Windamere Hotel was originally a cosy English Boarding House for British Raj types on contract in the Darjeeling Hills Later on, when tea arrived in Darjeeling, British tea planters also stayed here. Later on, it was converted into a hotel just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Famous for its unique ambience and charm, Windamere is the only truly authentic ‘Colonial Hotel of India – in the Himalayas’. It is situated on Observatory Hill, a Darjeeling landmark, believed to be the centre of life-enhancing cosmic energies. Overlooking The Chowrasta, the town’s exclusive promenade, you can glimpse Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and Sikkim against a stupendous backdrop of twenty of the highest mountain peaks in the world.
An intimate affair, the rooms and suites at Windamere Hotel are all lovingly cared for, draped in rugs from Kashmir, warmed mainly by open fires and interconnecting with separate sitting rooms, extra bedrooms and bathrooms.
Ada Villa houses 6 suites, 4 of which offer second bedrooms. All rooms and suites are named after famous guests who have stayed there: Knebworth, Alexandra David Neal, Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark, Begum Aga Khan, Chogyal of Sikkim, Princess of Siam. Four of these suites are appropriately named ‘The Royal Suites’.
The Snuggery at the Windamere Hotel – Two houses (each with lovely suite rooms) and two cottages surrounded by flowering gardens and overlooking The Chowrasta.
Hill Charm Cottage is a comfortable double bedroom cottage with living room, changing room and beautifully designed bathroom. A conversation area with armchairs, TV and telephone looks out over the gardens to the mountains. Mary-la Cottage is named after Windamere’s beloved BurraMemsahib, Mrs P L Tenduf-la, and is not far from the main house. The bathroom has recently been upgraded with a cosy changing area.
Annandale House and Observatory House sit within their own gardens and offer an exclusive experience at Windamere Hotel. Rooms are names after the family’s teachers, Girl Guide friends and close family friends. All rooms have fireplaces, television and Victorian bathtubs. A cosy, colonial break in the privacy of your own home.
There are three cottages dotted around the hill which accommodate varying set ups depending on number of guests. Little Peppers is a delightful cottage on The Terrace which has an interconnecting suite – Peppers. Tinkerbelle’s Cottage is further up Observation Hill and is popular with honeymoon couples and families looking for some privacy. King sized bed, 2 bathrooms, 2 sitting rooms, kitchen and verandah opening onto a manicured garden with children’s play area. All meals, butler and maid service are included in the tarif. The Annexe contains various Colonial suites, with conversation area, living room, change area and in most suites – the old Victorian tubs, with claw feet.
The accommodation, rounded off by Forget-me-Not is known as the Honeymoon Suite, a semi-circular suite with double bed, sitting area, television and bathroom. There are two Single Colonial Rooms, both of which have a small sitting area and bathroom.
Both Continental and Indian menus are available in the main dining room. In the evening, the whole room is transformed by lovely candlelight and white-gloved waiters attending to your every need. The old Colonial traditions and culture are key around Windamere with remnants of the old Raj such as “Roly Poly Pudding”, “authentically prepared porridge for breakfast” and “cheese & onion pie”. Windamere also serves Tibetan, Sikkimese, South Indian and Nepali food, catering to all dietary needs.
The Windamere Bar has been serving drinks since 1939, Daisy’s Music Room and Bearpark’s Parlour offer comfortable surroundings for afternoon tea and reading. At Christmas time, there is international entertainment from London’s West End Stage District.
Darjeeling Tea has been served and savoured in the same way for decades – brew for 3-5 minutes, no milk, no sugar! Similarly, the coffee is locally sourced from the Baba Budan Hills of Mysore in Southern India and is hand-roasted in a rotating drum over a very slow charcoal fire. Due to traditional methods there may be small variations in the tea and coffee brewed for you at meals.
The itati Institutes – Centres for well-being of Mind & Body. The goal of itati is to mend the wounded human spirit by creating psychic healing space for fragmented minds and emotions. In touch again with core human values, people see life in true perspective, and discover their own personal path to inner harmony and joy.
‘itati’ is an explanation of what gives meaning to life; about how human life can be enhanced and enriched. It is a path to well being, inner contentment, wisdom and personal fulfilment. By regulating the flow of energy within the human body, by reconciling and harmonizing conflicting energy impulses, itati brings the inner being into equilibrium, and relieves physical and mental stress. It was well sung by Peggy Lee – “it this all there is”.
Local access to Darjeeling is via Bagdogra Airport or New Jalpaiguri Railway Station. Most international visitors arrive at these destinations via Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai or Mumbai.
Bagdogra Airport to Darjeeling is a 3 hour drive. Alternatively, take the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway which takes around 7.5 hours.
‘Must do’ Activities
Christmas Week at Windamere, which runs from 20th December to January 1st, every year, has been celebrated at the hotel in the same way since 1939. It has been a tradition for well-known entertainers from London’s famous West End Theatre District, to entertain through theatrical performances, music, poetry and dance. In recent years, the words and music of headline entertainers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, America and France have also enthralled Windamere audiences.
Hang out in The DHR Club. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Club is a two-room bungalow in The Snuggery. The Lowell Thomas Reading Room and Heinrich Harrer room are used for private dinners and meetings of railway enthusiasts; explorers; mountaineers; geographers; naturalists; botanists; and zoologists.
Windamere’s elegant surroundings provide an ideal location for conferences, whether Board or senior management meetings. It offers a setting that is private and intimate, where camaraderie comes easily, and people speak as friends. The Centre’s Laden-La Romm seats 40 people; The Henry Carpenter Conference Room seats 20; the Pinnell Board Room seats 10 to 16 people; the Rhodes Hall seats 60; and the Directors’ Lounge is for 10 to 12 senior executives.