iconActivityiconArrowBackiconArrowBottomiconBasketiconBasket2iconBasketGastroPlan de travail 1iconBubbleSingleiconBubbleSpeechiconCalendarcalendar iconCalendarCheckiconCheficonConciergeiconDelete iconDestinationexpandiconFacebookiconFavoritesiconFlowersiconGifticonGooglePlusiconHelp iconHistoryiconHomeiconHoteliconHouseRCiconHouseRC2iconInstagramiconInvitationiconLabeliconLinkediniconListiconLockiconLogouticonLysRCiconLysRCLefticonLysRCRighticonMailiconMedalPlusiconMembersiconMobileiconMoodboardiconNewsletter iconNotesiconPhoneiconPieiconPinteresticonPresentationiconPressReleaseiconPrinticonQuotesiconRefreshiconResaiconRestauranticonRoute1234iconScreeniconSearchiconSettingiconShareiconTagiconToqueiconToqueDrawingiconTrashCaniconTwittericonUsericonViewListiconViewMapiconVillaiconWaiterDrawingiconWineDrawingiconXperienceicon-flag_ch icon-flag_fr icon-flag_it gift icon-gift_calendar checkmark equalizer2 Plan de travail 2Plan de travail 1icon-gift_enveloppeback-in-timeyjhjghicon-gift_help credit-card icon-gift_phone icon-gift_shop icon-gift_sphere truck user icon-gift_zoom

By continuing to use our site, you accept the placing (i) of cookies to determine the site's audience, visits, and your navigation, to provide offers adapted to your areas of interest and personalised advertising, and (ii) of third-party cookies designed to suggest videos, share buttons, and relay content from social media.
See more

Enlarge the map
My Route du Bonheur

The Tea Road: from China to India through Ceylon

Marie-Christine Clément
By Marie-Christine Clément, Writer and Maître de Maison of Grand Hôtel du Lion d’Or

Plan your personalized
itinerary with our concierge

+1 800 735 2478 * *Local charges apply
"Tea is my writing companion. I have a true passion for it. It inspires me as much as it stimulates me and quenches my thirst. Drinking tea is like going into a fantasy world, sampling foreign flavours. This route retraces the history of tea, from the original plantations in Xishuangbanna to its progress via the caravan paths of the mythic tea route of Tibet, then links its expansion on the island of Sri Lanka and its marketing in South India. Pu’erh Tea, whether fermented or not, young or vintage, the roasted tea of the caravanners, Ceylon tea with or without milk, Nilgiri Mountains tea, spiced Massala Chai, tea will be your guide, helping you to better taste all the flavours of the world."
Suggestion of itinerary
  • 5 hotels
  • from US$ 5,917.52 *
1
2800 km
2
250 km
3
610 km
4
50 km
CAR RENTAL
SERVICES

Rent a car with our partner

Hertz

To give you inspiration, Relais & Châteaux presents the Routes du Bonheur: suggestions for travel itineraries that you can fully personalise according to your wishes and the experiences you would like to discover. Our consultants are available to help customise your route and assist you in making reservations at our properties. It is up to you to reserve any recommended activities on-site or nearby that might interest you.
*Total price provided for information only, based on accommodation for two people in a double room for the number of nights per property as indicated on this page, exclusive of recommended activities, properties that cannot be reserved online and restaurants.


1 Pu’er city — 2 Nights
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant

Bolian Resort & Spa, Jingmai

Pu’er city - China

Hotel and restaurant in a park. Jingmai Brilliant Resort & Spa is located in the stunning Lancang river area, the worldwide origin of the tea tree. Ten thousand acres of Pu’er tea garden with thousands of years of history are located in the Jingmai mountains, which are inhabited by the descendants of tea plantation minority groups. The Pu’er tea from the Brilliant Pu’er Tea Estate meets the EU regulation for organic products. At the property, whose building style is perfectly in harmony with nature, guests can experience the most natural Chinese tea culture, enjoy the leisure in the resort, the healthy and delicious local food cooked by using natural ingredients, the tailor-made tea spa or discover colorful minority groups’ customs and the mysterious Pu’er green triangle zone. ... Learn moreless

TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor
Key Services
30 rooms
US$ 442.66 (from)
Choose Room
Close to the property

Tea ritual and bath at Pu’er au Bolian Resort and Spa, Jingmai

Tea ritual and bath at Pu’er au Bolian Resort and Spa, Jingmai

In a pavilion set amidst tea gardens, a bath in a pool filled with an invigorating Pu'er tea infusion is a delight. In the evening, enjoy a performance given by young women wearing dramatic headdresses who stage the tea ritual and immemorial dance of the tea gatherers. The evening often ends very happily in the company of Lahu guitarists.

Bolian tea Fazanda production facility

Bolian tea Fazanda production facility

Jingmai tea is the purest expression of tea. It is said to taste of orchids. The Bolian Pu'er tea Fazanda production facility is located next to the hotel. It is one of the only organic brands in China. Through large windows, guests can observe the tea being made and even make their own Pu'er teacake that won’t spoil. 

Jingmaï mountain

Jingmaï mountain

A few minutes away are the oldest tea trees in the world, some older than a thousand years, trees revered by the people and duly protected. Dai, Lahu, Wa and Bulong people live in the surrounding villages scattered among the bamboo and eucalyptus jungle. These people are the first tea growers and custodians of a unique expertise. You can watch them pick the precious camellia sinensis leaves; women among the shrubs, men perched in the forks of trees.

On the route

Pure Pu’er tea boutique

Pure Pu’er tea boutique

This boutique, designed by the designer of Hermès boutiques in China, is a mixture of light wood and green apple; a haven of peace and elegance. You won’t be able to resist the small teapots in white porcelain painted in blue or the wistful dishes covered in antique watercolors signed by Louis Delaporte. The most exclusive gifts from Yunnan!

The Shilin stone forest

The Shilin stone forest

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, the slender karsts are a major attraction in the region. This forest of rocky peaks dates back 270 million years and reaches up to the sky like a stone organ in flight.

The Kunming mushroom market

The Kunming mushroom market

The evolving city of Kunming is worth a visit, especially its exceptional mushroom market, the largest in the world. If you thought the world of polypores was limited to a few mushrooms and truffles, you will be surprised to discover all kinds of Tricholoma, Shiitake mushrooms, Coriolus and other cat’s ear mushrooms as well as very interesting veiled dictyophores! 

Heshun, ancient city

Heshun, ancient city

On the edge of the plain and against the mountain you will find the ancient city of Heshun, with its small turning lanes, ancient library, family temples, shrouded lake water lilies, and traditional humpback bridges where you can imagine caravans emerging with their small horses carrying heavy packages. The city is the gateway to Chinese jade and its trade is still flourishing.

Museum of the tea and horse route, Heshun

Museum of the tea and horse route, Heshun

The museum dedicated to the tea and caravan route is located in a row of courtyards arranged like a forbidden city where you can view specialists of Chinese ancestral arts: paper makers with their vats, silk weavers, calligraphers. My absolute favorite: the small tea room that open up to a stretch of the river that is overgrown with lotus and flying dragonflies, where you can enjoy a Pure Pu'er tea while lounging in a wicker chair. 

1
2800 km
2
250 km
3
610 km
4
50 km
2 Hatton — 2 Nights
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant

Ceylon Tea Trails

Hatton - Sri Lanka

Hotel and restaurant on a lake. Tea Trails is perched at an altitude of 1,250 m in Sri Lanka’s Ceylon tea region, bordering Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands World Heritage site. Stay in one of five authentic tea planters’ bungalows, each one of which has its own charm. Lakeside Castlereagh, Summerville and Dunkeld, Norwood with panoramic views, and Tientsin, the most traditionally colonial of the five; they are all decorated with period furniture. Observe life on a working tea estate, savour the gourmet cuisine, and be pampered by a personal butler. This is the ideal setting for trekking and biking against the breath-taking backdrop of mountains, lakes and waterfalls. ... Learn moreless

TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor
Key Services
27 rooms
1 villa
US$ 1,066.00 (from)
Choose Room
Close to the property

The Dunkeld Tea factory

The Dunkeld Tea factory

Do not miss the list of tea production facilities to visit in the area! Nevertheless, the latest factory restored by the Fernando family, owner of the Dilmah tea brand, is a model of its kind. Located in the Dickoya region, both a school for children and a medical center for the workers have just been installed. A room with pretty chromolithographies is devoted to the history of tea in Ceylon.

Planter bungalows in the Bogowantalawa valley

Planter bungalows in the Bogowantalawa valley

Dispersed in the Bogowantalawa valley, the bungalows of the Ceylon Tea Trails have the quaintness of an English cottage or a 1950s village. Fans purr over the pool and lounge chairs await you on the terraces. The « early bed tea » ritual is unique, the scenery breathtaking, walks enchanting and tea gatherers found at the end of the terrace.

Warleigh Church, near the hamlet of Dickoya

Warleigh Church, near the hamlet of Dickoya

You could visit the region without noticing the very English church of Warleigh hidden in the trees. The original Bible supplied by the Methodist church is still on the desk. I like to linger and walk in this church’s small cemetery and imagine the life of planters who sleep here forever beneath the contemplative crosses perched above the lake. 

On the route

Sinhgaraja reserve

Sinhgaraja reserve

Only insiders know this secret road. It runs along the Sinhgaraja reserve, a rain forest that at one time covered the whole island and today is still home to many endemic varieties of butterflies, insects, reptiles and rare amphibians. One can observe giant squirrels or one of the oldest varieties of monkeys from Asia, the purple-faced langur. This forest was the first natural area to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1
2800 km
2
250 km
3
610 km
4
50 km
3 Weligama — 2 Nights
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant

Cape Weligama

Weligama - Sri Lanka

Hotel and restaurant on the seafront. The guest rooms open onto private gardens with vistas of palm trees swaying in the breeze against an ocean backdrop. Cape Weligama’s residences and villas sit atop a promontory overlooking the Indian Ocean and enjoy stunning views of idyllic landscapes on all sides. At the seafront, the crescent-shaped infinity pool seems to float above the waves; alongside stone pathways leading to secluded coves where turtles flap about in the crystal-clear shallows. The terracotta-tiled rooftops of the accommodations, designed by renowned architect Lek Bunnag, create the illusion of a traditional Sri Lankan village with generously sized, stylishly furnished interiors. ... Learn moreless

TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor
Key Services
39 rooms
US$ 714.00 (from)
Choose Room
Close to the property

The old town of Galle

The old town of Galle

The Dutch colonial heritage still lives on the south coast of Sri Lanka. I love strolling through the streets of the old town of Galle, letting myself be seduced by the brilliance of a precious stone before going out onto the ramparts, receiving a warm slap of the Indian Ocean as if by surprise. In a few minutes, after walking through the maze of small homes pushed up alongside one another, playing hide and seek with the sea, you’ll glimpse the fishermen, perched on their bamboo canes on top of the water like one-legged herons. Cape Weligama is a wonderful breath of fresh air. 

The Hundungoda tea garden

The Hundungoda tea garden

This property is a true garden. Cinnamon, pepper and rubber crops blend with those of tea. Hundungoda garden is the lowest and most near the sea on the island of Sri Lanka, and, so it is said, the world. The home is lovely, as monkeys play above your head. The house specialty is a white tea prized by connoisseurs whose buds are cut with tiny golden sewing scissors. 

Udawalawe elephant orphanage

Udawalawe elephant orphanage

Founded in 1975, this center cares for orphaned elephants and facilitates their return to a wild life in nature. This is a unique opportunity to approach Asian elephants. Their daily life is punctuated by swimming and lunch, consisting mainly of milk and branches. The orphanage is supported by Dilmah Conservation, which works for the preservation of biodiversity on the island.

On the route

The Kothduwa Buddhist temple

The Kothduwa Buddhist temple

On the way back, you will receive the blessing of a Buddhist monk in the ancient temple of Kothduwa. The place is famous for harboring a relic of Buddha's tooth and for its giant fig tree on its step. This tree has grown from a seed of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura, the sacred tree itself grown from a graft of the tree under which Buddha received illumination. For the prediction to come true, it is advised to keep the sacred thread around your wrist for eight days.

Dilmah T’Lounge, Colombo

Dilmah T’Lounge, Colombo

Back in the capital, a stop at Dilmah T'Lounge is required. My favorite corner is hidden under the white arcades of Independance Square. This is the ideal place to enjoy afternoon tea from Ceylon and discover a single origin, such as Yata, Meda, Ran Watte or Uda, teas that can be more or less powerful depending on their altitude. The Dilmah brand also offers the first Ceylon Oolong or the first Souchong of the island, teas smoked in cinnamon wood.

Excursion on the Madhu river

Excursion on the Madhu river

There is now a highway that connects the south of the island directly to Colombo. But even if the road to the seafront is crowded, an excursion to Balapitiya on the Madhu River is worth seeing. Madu Ganga is a primitive mangrove, which preserves typical fauna and aquatic flora. On the shore, monkeys jump from one palm tree to another, the turquoise reflections of kingfisher wings shimmer in the sun and monitor lizards, casually lounging in the branches, royally ignore you.

Cinnamon Island

Cinnamon Island

The purpose of a trip on Madhu Ganga is to reach the cinnamon island. One family lives there. In a small clearing at the back of their property, a woman will demonstrate how she shells the twigs, rolls and dries the fragrant peel of the cinnamon. On the way, in the middle of the widest part of the vast expanse of water, a coconut seller basks in an unusual wooden hut perched on stilts. There are times, in Sri Lanka, where time is suspended.

Shopping in Colombo

Shopping in Colombo

Here, small rooms are interlaced with one another, making visitors immediately feel at home. Barefoot and their fabric-covered notebooks covered are a must. As you round a corner, you’ll find yourself face to face with a wooden demon or a crumbling effigy of a goddess. Visitors can also drink tea in the courtyard. It is difficult to leave without a collection of books, cushions, coats or colorful cuddly toys that are irresistible to kids.

1
2800 km
2
250 km
3
610 km
4
50 km
4 Muhamma, Alleppey — 2 Nights
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant

Purity

Muhamma, Alleppey - India

Hotel and restaurant on a big lake. Overlooking Lake Vembanad with its palm-fringed shores, the Purity offers many authentic experiences including yoga and Ayurveda. The bright and spacious rooms with their handcrafted contemporary yet vernacular design stage a dialogue between the past and the present, showcased by a curated collection of regional art and antiques. Morning yoga sessions provide a gentle introduction to the day. Then you can go to the lake-side pool, indulge in an Ayurvedic massage treatment, discover the surroundings by boat, bicycle or tuk-tuk, attend a cooking class and enjoy the sunset over a canoe ride on the lake. The Purity kitchen serves creative cuisine with authentic Keralan flavours. ... Learn moreless

TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor
Key Services
14 rooms
US$ 400.85 (from)
Choose Room
Close to the property

Cruise the Backwaters

Cruise the Backwaters

You’ll board your boat from the hotel. From there, you glide on the water towards Kuttanad and its canal lined by rice fields located below sea level before heading to the island of Pathiramanal, a small paradise of fauna and flora. On the way back you’ll have late afternoon high tea in the changing lights of the setting sun, amid the canoes of fishermen bringing up their nets, a pure delight.

On the route

The Pattumalay tea gardens

The Pattumalay tea gardens

Kerala is the fifth largest tea producer in the world. We fail to recognize the Munnar high grown tea and the Nilgiri blue mountain teas because they are mainly for the domestic Indian market. However, the tea gardens of South India offer remarkable terroirs. Located close to the Periyar Tiger Reserve, Pattumalay is renowned for its environmental friendliness. An imposing Christian church indicates the entrance of the path.

Spice Walk

Spice Walk

To become familiar with fresh cardamom and its aerial roots, marvel at glowing turmeric flower stems or amazing dill walls, there’s one place you must visit: Spice Walk! The guide will explain all of the healing properties of different spices as well as the more unusual, the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia.

Serenity Guesthouse

Serenity Guesthouse

Climbing up to Pattumalay, I like to stop at Serenity. After a delicious curry or Uppuma Coconut chutney, I'll say hello to Lakshmi the elephant. Visitors can climb onto his back or bathe him, or shall we say generously sprinkle him! This former family home is a truly immersive experience in the subtropical rainforest. The glow of small fireflies flash in the night time darkness like will-o-wisps.

1
2800 km
2
250 km
3
610 km
4
50 km
5 Fort Cochin — 2 Nights
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant
Hotel + Restaurant

The Malabar House

Fort Cochin - India

Hotel and restaurant in town. The Malabar House is more than a beautifully designed heritage hotel. It is an art hotel, home of a carefully curated collection, highlighting Kerala’s composite culture as a passage between East and West. The rooms are comfortable and the service is flawless. Malabar Junction, the hotel’s renowned restaurant and Divine, its wine lounge, combine the tradition of South India with exciting culinary innovation. Enjoy classical music or a dance performance on the patio’s stage, rejuvenate body and soul at the ayurvedic centre, step into the history and culture of Fort Cochin, and explore Kerala’s backwaters on the hotel’s own eco-friendly house boat. ... Learn moreless

TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor
Key Services
17 rooms
US$ 335.25 (from)
Choose Room
Close to the property

The Cochin Club

The Cochin Club

This place is magical! I love lying on the chairs that have welcomed several generations of brave planters whose names are still etched on the walls, while enjoying the warm currents of spicy Massala Chai tea. Before me, silhouettes walk on the quay while oversized cruise liners glide in the distance.

Shopping and offerings in Fort Cochin

Shopping and offerings in Fort Cochin

After browsing the antique shops of the Jewish Quarter, refueling at Anokhi Indian, trying on trendy dresses in Neeru Kumar or kanthas vintage at Cinnamon, I love to enjoy a ginger ice cream on the old port. On my way I leave jasmine flowers necklaces at some of the many temples found on every corner! My favorite spot? The salt offering at the Sindhura Baghavathi temple to the Kokanee community in the Mattancherry area.

The Mattancherry neighborhood, Fort Cochin

The Mattancherry neighborhood, Fort Cochin

My perfect day in Fort Cochin? Renting a Royal Enfield motorbike and getting lost in the dust of busy Mattancherry, where tea, rice and spices are traded in old warehouses with a view of the sea. If possible, find a backyard wholesale spice dealer and slide your hands in jute bags, intoxicating yourself with the smells of fresh spices.

Kathakali performance at the Kerala Kathakali Centre

Kathakali performance at the Kerala Kathakali Centre

The actors’ makeup in the Kathakali performance is fascinating. Their ancestral faces are able to express all the feelings of passion, anger, envy, jealousy, and desire in a narrative ritual that is one of the oldest theatrical performances in the world. Their every move has meaning, even the positioning of their feet! On a tiny stage, the mythical founding epics of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana come to life every evening and showcase the founding Indian myths. 

Relais & Châteaux
Discover why booking with Relais & Châteaux is a world of privileges
Texts : © Guides Gallimard