About The Retreat, Bhimtal

Fred Smetacek moved to Jones Estate in 1951, where he opened the estate bungalow to guests as The Retreat, a holiday home


Jones Estate (locally called June Estate) was a property of over a thousand acres, started as the Bhimtal Estate in 1853 (which included a tea estate that still survives under the forest that has been allowed to grow over it). The Estate was bought from the Colonel Bertram Owen Jones in 1951 by Frederick Smetacek Sr, together with Major General Madan Shamsher Jung Bahadur Rana and the Rani of Balrampur.

Fred Smetacek hailed from the Sudetenland, a German-speaking enclave that was part of Czechoslovakia. After trying to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he fled the Nazis and managed to board a ship sailing to India in 1939, on the eve of the Second World War.

He established himself as a successful businessman in Calcutta during the War, where he married Shaheda Ahad, a descendant of Tipu Sultan. In 1946 Fredrick Smetacek moved with his family to the Naukuchiatal in Kumaon. He moved to Jones Estate in 1951, where he opened the estate bungalow to guests as The Retreat, a holiday home catering to diplomats from all over the world.

His hospitality and personality drew visitors on repeat visits. His wife Shaheda was always by his side. A warm, highly popular personality, she was famous for her entertaining stories of her life and experiences during and after the British Raj, and is fondly remembered by all who met her during their stays at The Retreat.

Also an avid entomologist, his extensive collection of butterflies and moths is one of the best recognised in India. His son Peter Smetacek has replenished and expanded the collection, which can be viewed at the Butterfly Research Centre next door.

The family has run The Retreat through the years, and its old-world charm and cosy atmosphere has been preserved to this day and the family’s warm hospitality has that same traditional quality.


We offer 3 bedrooms with attached bathrooms, of which:
– 2 bedrooms have annexes which can accommodate 2-3 additional adults or children
– 1 bedroom with its own sitting area, which can be used for 1-2 spare beds


We offer our visitors first-class dining, three times a day, either Indian or Continental dishes, as well as morning and afternoon tea. You can enjoy Colonial cooking, as well as Continental. You can go vegetarian, vegan or non-vegetarian, besides requesting gluten-free, Jain or diabetic meals.
Prepared with locally sourced, fresh ingredients and home-grown herbs, the food is delicious and wholesome. You’ll enjoy a delightful start to the day with a scrumptious, lavish breakfast on the verandah overlooking the garden.
One of the pleasurable effects of the pure air and surroundings, you will find, is a heightened appetite. Don’t let it go to waste – indulge yourself with gorgeous home-baked breads, buns, and rolls fresh from the old Italian oven. Hot crepes dripping cool, heavenly, syrupy fruit preserves. Fluffy pancakes with generously buttered centres. Mushroom, cheese, herb or masala omelettes. Shakshuka. Rosti. Perfectly poached eggs on hot buttered toast. Unlimited stacks of toast to devour with home-made jams and marmalades, local honey and healthy low-calorie spreads made with herbs from the garden. Seasonal fruit and berries, juices and fruit salads. Herb and cheese cutlets (also with a vegan option) and many other scrumptious discoveries are waiting for you.

We offer a wide variety of healthy menus for lunch and dinner as well – be sure to try our fresh delicious crunchy salads!