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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in India

Cardamom farms and strawberry soufflés at Windermere Estate

This is an experience for someone with a sense of adventure who can truly stay on a working farm…

By Dr Simon John
Owner of Windermere Estate

Windermere Estate is a 60-acre working cardamom plantation up in the highlands where you’ll find Munnar’s famous tea gardens, once owned by the British Raj. Our home and that of the guests’ lies on a little hillock with a 360-degree viewpoint of the cultivated gardens, forest and the mountainous grasslands dotted with villages.

Windermere Estate is primarily a plantation but it offers an experience for someone with a sense of adventure who truly wants to stay on a working farm. We were one of the earlier homestays in the region after friends and family asked if we could host guests who were travelling in the region. Over time we evolved from being a five room farmhouse to having 18 rooms, each one inspired by a local home (terracotta floors, exposed stone, hand crafted furniture). We have a nice little pool overlooking the tea gardens and a private vantage point that reveals some of the most stunning sunrises and sunsets.

We try and remain as intimate as possible and are always thinking of ways to stay informal and discreet. There are no door numbers, no menu cards, no signing off bills at the restaurant. There’s almost always a chance that you’ll bump into a family member while you’re out and about. In the evening we often have guests coming over for tea.

The highlight I’d have to say is the outstanding views. The mountains, the hill ranges, the manicured tea gardens will blow you away and it’s pleasant in terms of temperature – like very good summer weather in the UK. We do walks within the cardamom plantation with an expert nature guide that feel as if you’re walking through tropical evergreen forest. You’ll see cardamom plants, birdlife, a few giant squirrels and, of course, the undulating terrain.

Guests can go tea tasting, learn the art of Keralan cooking with the chef and enjoy a bonfire evening under the giant boulder. There are zero buffets at the property – we try and showcase what’s regional and local and we hardly have any food waste. One day you might have one of our family dishes like a duck roast and the next, a seasonal strawberry soufflé. Two members of the kitchen, one now in their late 50s, have been with the family for about 30 or 40 years.

My top tip? Never miss a sunrise. It’s usually at around 6am which I think is quite civilized but then again, we’re farmers who wake up before the sun even makes its appearance.

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Alfred & Dr Simon John

Dr Simon John worked as an ophthalmic surgeon before he stumbled upon the Windermere Estate. His second property, Windermere Riverhouse, is located at the foothills of the mountain ranges, in a lesser-known part of Kerala. Windermere Estate continues to be his home in the hills where he nourishes a sense of community among his team. He believes that to really experience the region, the hospitality has to be local.