Once, travelers seeking nirvana were drawn to India’s palaces and temples. In the 21st century, there is also Tamara Coorg. The luxury resort’s heavenly location atop a mountain in the Western Ghat range includes lush forest sliced by waterfalls and cocooned in morning fog.
Opened in 2012, the resort is a mammoth delight of pleasure. Set on a 184-acre coffee plantation that has been operating since 1864, Tamara Coorg will wake you to India’s modern glory.
The lodge features 56 cottages, ranging from 608 to 1,670 square feet with the largest including two bedrooms and a private Jacuzzi. All of the cottages face onto the stunning landscape reminiscent of a rainforest on the west coast of North America. Tall deciduous trees, giant copses of plants, dozens of bird species, and thoughtfully designed wood buildings that incorporate the environment are what guests will immediately notice. The quality of the service is next.
Staff members are hospitable in that charming manner Indians in the tourism industry exhibit so well, and the workforce is a sizeable and largely local with more than 60 percent of the employees coming from neighboring towns. The workers use golf carts to drive guests around the property, shuttling them to dinner or the spa or the conference halls or the coffee shop where seminars on the drink take place.
Tamara is in Coorg, renowned for its coffee, including organic and fair-trade varieties. The best coffee beans at Tamara stay on the property, occupying stations in the guest rooms that include personal French press and South Indian press canisters. The ground version of Tamara’s coffee — made with a combination of AA and A grade beans, and peaberries — is so tasty you’ll refill your cup multiple times in a day.
If you didn’t know how good India’s coffee is, it’s not the only surprise you will receive.
An Unexpected Gem in the Mountains Near Mysore
At 4,500 feet above sea level, Tamara challenges stereotypes of India as a destination. It’s not oppressively hot. It’s not in a place teeming with people. Its water, which comes gushing down from the mountain behind it, isn’t a risk to drink (it’s actually clear, clean, and tasty). The air is pure and won’t cause your throat to scratch or eyes to water. The food in the resort’s exceptional restaurant will not leave you doubled over in anxiety.
On the contrary, I found the cuisine to be the best I tried in the state of Karnataka. The spice in the curries was layered, touching the back of your palate, allowing you to taste the other flavors in a dish rather than having pepper stick on the tip of your tongue to ruin your taste buds for an hour. Ask the chefs to prepare the Coorg specialty — pork pepper curry. It’s made with pork belly that is ganache soft, and with a sweetness that complements the tamarind and red pepper in the sauce. Also request the wild-rice roti, made with harvested grains that have been boiled, rolled, and cooked on a traditional flat-iron plate called a tawa. Being a coffee plantation, Tamara’s restaurant also features java-inspired creations, particularly with the desserts.
The restaurant itself is an attraction. Large, open, and inviting, it has a waterfall cascading from its rear. The water ambles beneath the building, which, like others at Tamara, stands on stilts. Those stilts allow for a brilliant architectural touch: A glass floor in the heart of the restaurant. Look down past your toes and you will see a pool collecting water amid leafy plants and thorny brush.
Like so much else about Tamara, the glass floor and the lush landscape are not what you expect in this part of India. But a world-class resort should captivate you with awe and sense of fun. Tamara does that. It pampers its guests as well as demonstrates the breadth of what India provides to visitors.
The domestic market is Tamara’s main customer base, sales manager Sarath Sankar says, but the property is hoping to draw more international guests through marketing campaigns. Its offerings include products that would appeal to western travelers, including a four-hour hike of the resort’s mountain and daily yoga sessions.
Ironically, though, the biggest drawback for Tamara is the location that makes it extraordinary. Reaching the lodge requires effort and patience. It’s 168 miles (270 kilometres) west of Bangalore, the gateway city for the majority of travelers visiting Karnataka. The roads leading to the mountain destination are narrow and winding. Guests can book an airport transfer through Tamara Coorg that will cost a reasonable 40,000 Indian rupees (about $70 USD) and be driven five hours from Bangalore. Or they can tack on a stay at Tamara from Mysore, a popular destination known for its palaces and temples. Compared to Bangalore, Mysore is about half the distance from Tamara.
If the journey still sounds long and unappealing, the destination will more than make you feel it was worth undertaking. Tamara Coorg is that kind of place, one certain to awe all who seek it out.
MORE ABOUT TAMARA COORG RESORT
Location: Kabbinakad Estate, Karnataka, India (see map below)
Nightly Rates: The starting price is 14,000 Indian rupees (about $200 USD) for a stay in one of the property’s 42 luxury cottages, which each include more than 600 square feet of space, private sundecks, elegant bathrooms, and a beverage station with coffee from the plantation. Breakfast for two can be added for an additional 4,000 INR ($55 USD) or you can opt to have all meals covered for an additional 7,227 INR ($100 USD) on top of the room rate. Larger cottages with added amenities are also offered.
Planation Tours: On-site tours and coffee demonstrations are complimentary and occur daily.