Unless one has been to Darjeeling himself, it is quite hard to imagine that such a grand town can actually exist in the busy state of West Bengal. Nonetheless, the charm of Darjeeling tour has attracted tourists to this idyllic small town for centuries and yet, it remains one of the best places in the country for a getaway from the hustles of the daily life.
Onwards to the city
The primary route to Darjeeling tour is via train to Siliguri and then a bus or a private car. True, that during the first hour of the trip you would not have much to see, considering the fact that Siliguri is just like any other city. But if you are patient, you will be rewarded with lush greenery wherever you look at, before long. On the way to Darjeeling you can catch glimpses of the toy train, Darjeeling Express rail track snaking along with you at intervals. At one time this used to run directly from Darjeeling to Siliguri, which used to be a delightful ride, but sadly, it now runs only in the suburbs of the hill station. Nonetheless, if you have the time to spare, it is still advisable to catch a ride on the train once. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed.
We reach Darjeeling and…..
If you are a brisk walker, I dare say you will run out of places to see in the town of Darjeeling within two hours. But the town is not about hurry. Wherever you look, you will see the personification of relaxation. Darjeeling is a place best savored slowly. Make your way to the mall. The town is quite busy during the day, so the best time for shopping is during the late afternoon. Visit the quaint little shops to satisfy your shopping craze, and while at it, do visit Keventer’s Café. They make one of the best sandwiches around and the view from the Café is an added bonus.
If you are like me, you would probably be wanting to visit the surrounding places of interest after one day, and Darjeeling has plenty to offer. Let’s begin with Tiger Hill. It is the place to watch a sunrise. You will have to forego your sleep and start at 4am to watch this feast. The gold capped mountain peaks of the Kanchenjunga are a beauty. If you can weather the cold a bit, it is advisable to stay outside rather than go into the viewing platforms that have now been made. While coming back, have a stop at Ghum. It has the highest train station of India for the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Visit the rock gardens and tea factory which will relax you. Next is Mirik. It is about 2.5 hours by car from Darjeeling. There is the Indreni (Rainbow) Lake where you can enjoy a boat ride watching lush greenery. Also on the list is Kalimpong, yet another small hilly town. It is a serene place surrounded by hills and has several cottages. Plan a stay here if you want to see the clouds float by lazily. It is a wonderful experience. Coming back, there is Sandakphu if you enjoy trekking- it has beautiful hills of different colored Rhododendrons. It is one of the windiest places I have ever been to and after 5 pm, boulders fly!!. As for rock climbing, there is the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute if you want to take a course. The Tenzing & Gombu Rock, named after Tenzing Norgay and his nephew, which provides an excellent leeway to the amateur enthusiast as well.
Darjeeling tour is the shopper’s delight. If you are going to Darjeeling, you have no doubt been told how cheap everything is. Well, that part is not wrong, except that you have to have an eye for these things unless you want to get duped. The bazaar in Darjeeling is beautiful. But if you want good deals, head down to the lower market- it has better deals on almost everything. Whatever you do, don’t forget to bargain!! Next comes the Pashupati Market. Now, this is one place you have to be extra careful about buying. The general rule is, if you are not sure about something and can not test it in front of the shopkeeper, don’t buy it. As for the famous Darjeeling tea, you can get it in the tea estates when you visit them or in the town itself. Keventer’s is always a safe bet. If you have one more day to spare you can visit the shopping mall near Indo-Nepal border which is a shopper’s heaven. You can find anything and everything starting from Velvet cloth to electronic gadgets to decorative items here.
Staying and time to visit
The best time to visit : Although Darjeeling is beautiful throughout the year, it would be advisable not to visit during the monsoon. As for a stay, look around the mall area. There are very decent lodgings available for cheap. There are also the usual luxury hotel chains like Mayfair, Windamere and Elgin among others, if you prefer to pay the extra amount.