Welcome to the world of Serai, in Chikmagalur, where you’ll be greeted by rolling hills with coffee plantations and spectacular relics of the ancient dynasties! Chikmagalur district lies in the state of Karnataka in India, and literally means ‘the town of the younger daughter’.
The story goes that this town was given as dowry to the then ruling Chief’s younger daughter. ‘The town of the elder daughter’ or Hiremanglur is about five kms away from Chikmagalur. The Hoysala Dynasty reigned in Chikmagalur during their earlier days and it was during that time that the famous Amriteshwara Temple was built in this region.
This is also known as the birthplace of Indian coffee and owes this occurrence to the saint — Baba Budan. It is said that on his way to pilgrimage in Mecca, the saint crossed Yemen where he came across coffee beans, on his way back he brought some of it with him in his robes and planted it in the hills of Chikmagalur. Therein began India’s tryst with coffee. So, while the rest of India may not be able to do without their endless cups of ‘chai’, south-Indians, especially Kannadigas, value coffee as much, if not more, as they do their Kanjivaram silks and Carnatic music!
The Serai is situated at the heart of Chikmagalur. ‘Serai’ in Turkish means ‘palace of the Sultan’, and true to its name all the Serai properties are high on grandeur, class and style. The Coffee Day Hotels and Resorts Group run the Serai Chikmagalur along with the ones at Kabini and Bandipur, which in turn is a subsidiary of the Amalgamated Bean Coffee Trading Company Limited.
With thousands of acres of land under coffee cultivation and ownership of the Café Coffee Day franchise as well as other coffee outlets that are doing so well in India and places like Pakistan, Austria and the Czech Republic, there’s absolutely no doubt about the fact that ABCTCL are the best at what they do! After having achieved immense success with their coffee outlets in and outside India, they decided to bring their customers to the coffee plantations themselves………..for a first-hand coffee experience, and that is what triggered the inspiration for the Serai Resorts.
The first step to getting here is a flight to either Mangalore or Bengaluru. Thereafter, a scenic drive through the hills and coffee plantations of Chikmagalur, with the Western Ghats on one side, will bring you to this exclusive retreat called Serai. Big silver oak trees flank the road leading to the coffee plantation. The main building houses the lobby, restaurants, lounge bars and spa whereas the accommodation is spread out in cottages. A central water feature connects all the cottages with the main edifice. Twenty-nine in all, you can choose from any of their four different kinds of villas: the Estate Villa Pool, Estate Villa Jacuzzi, Estate Terrace and the Residence.
The Estate Villa Pool is a single storey villa with a pool so tranquil and inviting that it’s simply hard to resist! The Estate Villa Jacuzzi has a private Jacuzzi besides a more than comfortable accommodation. The Estate Terrace is a double-storey villa with a magnificent view! The ground floor has a living room and a private pool, while the bedroom is on the top floor. These rooms are simply superb and make you feel like you’re in a very plush tree house as you overlook trees, plantations and paddy fields. Downstairs, you could even relax in your own gazebo!
Large windows, rosewood flooring, and elegantly decorated interiors make these villas a haven of comfort and luxury! The Residence Villas are spacious and inviting with two designer bedrooms, a living room and a dining area, along with a pool! Walled off from the outside world, these villas are ideal if you’re looking for privacy.
The Odyssey is a multi-cuisine restaurant, which offers excellent food accompanied by the best of wines. The international menu is a big draw and the restaurant’s setting is simply marvellous. The plantation provides the most spectacular backdrop for a delectable meal.
The Blue Sky is an open lounge bar with an impressive list of drinks to choose from. While you sit under the starlit sky with soft music playing in the background, you’ll be lost in the beauty of your surroundings. Although one tends to slip into the idyllic pace of the Serai very easily, guests should plan on enough days at this fabulous resort for a chance to fully explore the possibilities that Chikmagalur offers.
A Serai vacation is perfect for history buffs and adventure freaks alike; the Hoysala Dynasty that ruled this land centuries ago were great patrons of the arts and architecture, and the stunning temples of Belur and Halebid are existing proof of that fact. Pilgrims also often visit the temples in Srinegri, Horanadu and Amruthapura as well.
Adventure buffs should head to the hills of Kemmangundi (the Red Earth Valley) and Kudhremukh (the Horse Face) to try out some rock climbing or hiking. The most exciting climb of course would be the one to Mullayangiri, which is the tallest peak in Karnataka at a height of almost 2000 metres above sea level.
The trek is absolutely worth it as the view from the top is simply unparalleled. Finally, how can one miss out on a visit to the Baba Budan Giri Hills and the surrounding coffee plantations when you’re staying on a coffee estate?! The Serai’s resident bean expert, Nishant Sachania, will take you on an informative and intriguing tour of the place; you’ll see a series of Arabica and Robusta coffee bushes lined with a canopy of shade trees such as ficus, teak, oak and eucalyptus that have pepper creepers wrapped around them as pepper is used as a supplementary crop in the off-season. Can you imagine the perfumed blend of coffee and spices wafting through the entire plantation?! You’ll get a chance to witness the local womenfolk delicately pluck the coffee berries and also learn more about Indian coffee at the Coffee Museum.
Back at the resort, a visit to the Oma Spa is highly recommended especially after all the sightseeing and trekking! ‘Oma’ in Sanskrit means ‘life giver’ and the spa’s facilities are just what you need to feel refreshed and rejuvenated, besides that hot cup of coffee of course which has an ‘elixir’ status in this part of the country.
I can guarantee you that as you retire to your cottage for the night, wholly satiated with your day’s activities, you would already be planning your next trip to the Serai Resort………..a cocoon of luxury, beauty and tranquillity, right at the heart of India’s coffee county, with so many exhilarating experiences to offer!!