Darjeeling India - Darjeeling Holiday Travel Guide India
Affectionately known as the “Queen of the Hills”, Darjeeling, as its name depicts, extends over a steep mountain ridge, sprawled with narrow streets. With the spectacular white Himalayan peaks nestled in the background and the famous tea plantations covering the rolling hills, it is no wonder Darjeeling is West Bengal’s leading attraction.
Translated, Darjeeling means ‘The Land of Thunderbolt’, however 'Land in the Clouds' would often be more accurate. Discovered by the British when intervening in border disputes between Nepal and Sikkim, Darjeeling transformed from an area of scattered villages to a prime holiday destination. It was under British hands that the now multi-million dollar tea industry was founded. You can travel to these tea plantations and most certainly enjoy a cup at the local tea/coffee houses.
For an escape from the bustling city life, just 665km from Kolcuta, you can make the journey to Darjeeling. Take the train to New Jalpaiguri then further to Darjeeling by road. The overnight Darjeeling Mail train is a good choice of transportation to New Jalpaiguri as it runs from Kolkata’s Sealdah Station nightly at 10.05pm, and will arrive at a reasonable 10.05am to give you the rest of the day to get up to Darjeeling and start exploring.
From New Jalpaiguri you can either take the ‘Toy Train’ or go by car or bus. The ‘Toy Train’ is very popular with tourists as it makes its seven to eight hour journey through beautiful scenery, however takes much longer than taking the road. This train is a World Heritage Site so for history buffs, rail enthusiasts and those wanting to experience the worlds highest track railway, the miniature steam train is the way to go.
Driving up to Darjeeling also gives you a good look at the picturesque mountain surrounds as it often meets the railroad en route so you don’t miss out on much of the landscape while enjoying a faster journey. The only downfall is you will often be squished in with many others, with no air conditioning and a bumpy ride, though the faster journey can leave you with more time in Darjeeling and less time travelling. Remember to haggle the price of the jeeps, there will be many competing for your business so do not settle for the first offer. Rs100 - Rs200 is common, though leaning more toward the lower margin.
Darjeeling is packed full of accommodation from inns to hotels for all types of travellers and because Darjeeling attracts heavy tourist traffic in the cooler months, it is ideal to book in advance. Also keep in mind that Darjeeling festivals are abundant, mainly because of the diversity of its people, therefore coinciding your stay with these cultural fests can be quite easy.
Renowned for the artists (from writers to revolutionaries) it spawned, Darjeeling is dubbed a cultural heartland of India. Amid the numerous colonial buildings, Buddhist, and Hindu temples plastering the steep streets are souvenir shops and stalls offering hand-crafted Himalayan artefacts. Try strolling down Nehru Road or The Mall to find some market gems, head to the zoo, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the Tibetan Centre for a full Darjeeling experience.
Make sure you try the delicious Tibetan Bread if you can!
Your stay in Darjeeling will be one that stays with you as you will encounter a unique oriental charm and peaceful attitude from the locals.