A guide to falling in love with Darjeeling
The majestic Kangchenjunga in the backdrop of a bustling small town, the echoing sound of the old steam engine train running through its streets, the captivating smell of momos and warm tea. Welcome to Darjeeling.
People who grew up listening to Anjan Dutt and reading Satyajit Ray have an irresistible fascination for Darjeeling. Even if you’re not into any of those, the appeal of a small town lifestyle in the backdrop of the mighty mountains, the Tibetan culture, the sound of prayer bells and the colourful prayer flags is sure to call you back to Darjeeling over and over again.
Also, a trip to Darjeeling would probably cost you less than your usual trip to Cox’s Bazar. Did I get you hooked yet?
Is winter in Darjeeling a good idea?
Some people have an extremely low tolerance to cold. So, if you sleep with heavy blankets in 25 degrees, you probably should not go to Darjeeling in December. But winter in Darjeeling is beautiful. The temperature usually stays between 12 to 13 degrees, so with enough warm clothes, you will be set. Don’t forget to take multiple pairs of socks, gloves, and winter caps. Load up on moisturizers and dry shampoos. Also, make sure your hotel has a constant supply of warm water and a proper heating system. Checking on these before your trip will help you get the full winter experience in Darjeeling.
The route to Darjeeling is fairly simple. Want to go by road? Take a train to Panchagarh. The border is about an hour away from the rail station. Cross it and you will be able to enter through the Phulbari port. Make sure you apply for Phulbari while applying for the Visa. The immigration will not be too hectic, and you can reach Shiliguri in about another hour. From there, it is a two hour drive to your destination.
Another way to go to Darjeeling is by air. You will be dropped off at Bagdogra airport, and from there it will take a little more than an hour to Darjeeling. Pay attention to the fare, though. Everything in Darjeeling is a rip off if you are not careful.
Everything that Darjeeling has to offer
As tempted as I am to recommend that in Darjeeling, the best thing to do is just find higher ground and keep staring at the majestic Kangchenjunga, there are a lot of other things to see in Darjeeling.
When going to Darjeeling, take the long way through Mirik, and you will be amazed how organized and colourful everything is. It almost feels like someone handcrafted this entire place, and the creator put a lot of thought into the design.
You’ll see colourful little cottages decorated with flowerpots. You will see a billion types of flower bushes. The air will make you feel as if you haven’t breathed in years. The spiral roads, the echoes of the toy train, the colourful temples, the valley with a million tiny lights, and people with the friendliest smiles- everything about Darjeeling is heartwarming and perfect. Once you get there, hire a car with a package. The car will take you to all the tourist spots in Darjeeling. You can go paragliding/river rafting in Kalimpong too- so there will be plenty of food for your adventurous soul! But these sports are not always open. Ask around before you head out to Kalimpong.
Beauty and culture
Darjeeling has a beautiful Tibetan culture to show off. You’ll see colourful prayer flags hanging around from almost every other establishment in Darjeeling. Contrary to popular belief, the Tibetan prayer flags do not carry actual prayers or mantras to particular deities or Gods.
It is believed in the Tibetan culture that the mountain wind will carry the messages of peace, compassion and wisdom that’s written on the flags and bring peace to the world.
And the best part? On every turn you take in the mountainous roads of Darjeeling, Kangchenjunga will peek out and welcome you. And that is a sight unforgettable.
Pro tip- Do not miss out sunrise on Tiger hill, as the first ray of the sun touch the peak of Kangchenjunga before dawn breaks upon the city. Visit Ghoom Monastery, Mahakal Temple, Rock Garden, and the zoological park. If you are into history, check out the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute Museum. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes because there will be a lot of uphill walking.
Eat like there’s no tomorrow
Darjeeling is a heaven for food lovers. From fancy English breakfast to street style Maggie- you will have way too many options and not enough space in your stomach.
Start your day with mouthwatering breakfast from Sonam’s Kitchen, a small cafe run by a lovely couple who’ll fire up a conversation with you. Treat yourself with momos, pakoras and other street food at Batasia Loop. Warm your stone-cold heart with a bowl of steaming Thukpa at Kunga restaurant. Lose yourself in the live music at Glenary’s while munching on delicious food and enjoy a scenic mountain view from their wooden deck. For such a small place, Darjeeling has a lot to offer. It’s your job to take full advantage of it.
Shopping in Darjeeling?
Darjeeling has a lot of souvenir shops and old Tibetan art shops. You can buy beautiful winter clothes, breathtaking silver jewelry, and simple trinkets as gifts. Go to mall road and take your pick. If you want branded stuff, go to Big Bazaar. But if you’re shopping from the streets, make sure to bargain. Otherwise, you will be ripped off, and you won’t even realize it until it’s too late.
The night life!
Darjeeling at night is exquisite. But unfortunately, everything usually closes down by 9 because of the cold. This is the reason why, you will not get to dance your night away at clubs. However, you can still enjoy your evenings at a number of cafes, pubs and restaurants.
But that’s not it. You’ll experience an unworldly sight at night if you’re looking out of your hotel window, balcony or rooftop. You’ll see a sky full of a billion stars. And the entire Darjeeling city on the hills with its flickering white and yellow lights in the dark offer an illusion that the stars have come down on the dark hills.
In the distant, the white snowy peak of the Kangchenjunga will still be visible in the dark.
Is it safe to roam around alone?
The thing I loved about Darjeeling was how safe it was. The people are helpful, and they will be kind to you as you are a tourist. As a result, travelling alone is not gonna be as hard as you might think. But even if you are alone, chances are that a kind stranger will help you find your way. Again, it’s India. It doesn’t hurt to stay on your guard.
Go easy on the ol’ wallet
Last but not the least, do not worry much about the money. As long as you have around 15,000 BDT in your hand, you can have a comfortable, three day tour (minus the shopping, of course).
What are you waiting for? Go explore this piece of heaven on Earth! And don’t forget to let us know about your experience!