Glistening white peaks of the Kanchenjungha, lush green slopes of tea plantations, rhododendrons swaying in the wind, mysterious woods of oak and pine, and the occasional whistle of the toy train through the rounded lanes- Darjeeling is dreamy, rustic and the wide-eyed traveler’s dream destination.
A place that exudes colonial charm in every bit of its architecture, Darjeeling also has a hip, youthful vibe that blends in just perfectly with its heritage.
Darjeeling is a part of West Bengal and the nearest airport is the Bagdogra airport. If you are planning to go by train, New Jalpaiguri (NJP) station is your best bet and is well connected from all other major cities across the country. Private or shared cabs are available from Bagdogra and NJP to take you to Darjeeling.
Where to stay in Darjeeling
Imagine waking up to a glorious morning where the Kachenjungha range is bathed in warm hues and a cup of steaming hot Darjeeling tea is enough to beat the nip in the air! Darjeeling has a mix of places for you to book your accommodation; you can choose from luxury upscale properties or go for more affordable budget options.
Windamere – This is an upscale property located on top of the Observatory hill with uninterrupted views of the Himalayan range around. The hotel is close to the Mall and cars come up right up to the hotel.
Darjeeling Tourist Lodge – This is a good option for mid-range travelers since this property is government-owned. It is very close to the main hub of Darjeeling- Chowrasta and offers good views, with a restaurant and a bar for you to grab a drink in the evenings!
Tumsong Tea Retreat – If you’re looking for a couple of days away from the hustle and bustle of city life, book your stay at this place. The tea estate in itself is massive, with gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains. There’s a bio-organic garden and a tea garden to explore. Tourists are offered accommodation in the main Tumsong bungalow which dons a colonial vibe with its architecture and antique furnishings.
There are of course other options you can choose from to suit your budget and preferences.
Where and what to eat in Darjeeling
Darjeeling has a fairly varied traveller base and has something to offer to everyone, whether you’re backpacking, travelling from overseas or are just in town for a weekend retreat. Hence, the food here is diverse with a mix of ethnicity and local flavours in most dishes. While you cannot miss an authentic Nepali thali during your stay here, there are a couple of other dishes too that are a must-try for any traveller.
Momos– The most popular snack in Darjeeling, this Tibetan dish has a number of variants. While non-vegetarians can go for chicken, pork or beef filling momos, vegetarians can go for the good old cabbage and carrot filling. Momos are served with a spicy chutney, commonly known as aachar and clear soup.
Where to eat- Look for small, vintage joints to experience the local flavours at their best, or try momos at Hasty Tasty, Kunga, Hot Stimulating Café and more.
Aloo Dum – Typically a side dish, Alu Dum is famous among locals and visitors alike. Boiled potatoes are cooked in a spicy red chilly gravy with a thick consistency and often garnished with crispy bhujia.
Where to eat- All small eateries serve this local side dish; served in leaf plates this itself is an experience. You can also try some at Beni’s Cafe.
Thukpa – Another Tibetan delicacy, Thukpa is noodle soup mixed with eggs, meat, veggies and served steaming hot in a bowl.
Where to eat- There are small eateries that serve Thukpa on Mall Road, but you can also try at Devekas and Kunga.
Places to visit in Darjeeling
Darjeeling is a traveller’s gem with its glimpses or heritage beautifully contrasted against the blue-green mountains, winding roads that lead into an eatery oh-so-quaint, small shops selling antique trinkets and Tibetan prayer flags, and the hustle-bustle of tourists from all corners of the world.
Whether you’re visiting Darjeeling for the first time or not, there are a couple of places you absolutely cannot miss.
Tiger Hill– The highest point in Darjeeling, Tiger Hill is best experienced at breaking dawn when the sun is rising, spreading its warm hues over the majestic Kanchenjungha range.
Mall or Chowrasta – Chowrasta is the meeting point of four different roads and the hip, happening hob of Darjeeling. Lined by shops that sell everything from clothes to candies to souvenirs, Chowrasta or the Mall is a hotspot for both tourists and locals. Grab a steaming cuppa as one of the cafes, or spend one of your evenings strolling around the place. The place is where you can live the local culture at its best.
Batasia Loop– This is a popular tourist haunt. One, for the sweeping vistas of the surrounding mountains on a clear, bright day; and two, this is where the toy-train takes a sharp descent. You can opt for a joy-ride on the toy train from Darjeeling to Ghoom and back.
The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park and the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute- You can cover both of these destinations at once since the entry point to both of these are the same. Spot rare animals at the zoo, including the snow leopard, the endangered red panda, various birds, and butterflies and more. Make a stop at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute while you’re there; it has a museum that displays interesting artifacts collected from various treks and expeditions.
Darjeeling Observatory Hill & Mahakal Temple – Climb to the top of the Observatory Hill for uninterrupted views of the Himalayan landscape. A visit to the Mahakal Temple here is a must whether you are religious by nature or not.
Book those tickets, pack that bag, and set off!