A trip to Darjeeling : When you look at the distant sun gazing at the sky..do you feel nostalgic?
Summer vacation planning is always tough, considering in a place like India, where the choices are abundant in nature. Amidst all these, I would say Darjeeling stands out of the list in a huge margin. If you are fancying to look upon the town from the peak spot of Kanchenjunga, or you are planning for some great candid pictures in the tea garden, this should be one of the trips you should look up to.
Darjeeling is a unique place where you get to shop, hike, embrace nature and get the best vibes to have a refreshed mindset. There are a lot of things that my words cannot express my personal viewpoint towards Darjeeling. But for sure, like me, you are also going to get mesmerized with its charm.
History Of Darjeeling
The entire place of Darjeeling was used to be moderated by the kingdom of Sikkim. It consisted of village tribes of Lepcha and Kirati and continued to be the same till the dawn of 19th century. The Gorkhas from Nepal has made several attempts to take over Darjeeling. At this point of time, the British rule was at its peak and the East India Company has branched out to the northeast region of India as well.
Darjeeling being located at the west end of West Bengal was fascinated by the EIC for being an ideal spot for being a sanatorium for the soldiers. Under the British rule, Darjeeling was termed to be a non-regulation district was not as advanced as compared to others. But needless to say, it served as a great place to build the best of soldier camps.
After the Indian Independence act and over the due course of time, the north-east Indians realized the value of the land and treated it with what it deserved. Right now, it is an economically stable place with a lot of wanderers like me to cherish it as a tourist spot.
The Tea Garden
Even before I had made a successful travel to Darjeeling, I was well aware of the essence of the tea cultivated there. It as good as it is popular, for the fragrance and flavor it produces. Now, the tea garden came from cultivation state during the British rule as well. This is yet another good initiative taken by the British. It was started by Arthur Campbell in the year 1841.
He was earlier posted in Nepal and he carried seeds of the Chinese origin tea plant called Camellia Sinensis. It is believed to be originated from Kumaun and progressed with the experimentation on the cultivation. The commercial cultivation of the tea plants was originally carried out in small scale until the British realized that it can be a valuable source of commerce to the government.
Finally, in the year 1956, the popular tea garden of Alubari was set to open for cultivation and tagged as the finest tea of Darjeeling. It was then developed further by a lot of other groups. Currently, it is one of the major sources of income of locals.
I actually did not face any kind of trouble in the transport facility. If you are boarding a train, you can get off at the New Jalpaiguri Station (NJP) and catch a bus early in the morning. The bus ride for me lasted for about 6 Hours which is usual, considering all the landslides and road view issues. The view was absolutely amazing and something to loathe for.
If I had to rate it, I would definitely give it a 5/5. People who have never been to Darjeeling have also heard about the mesmerizing view at this place. I needed to catch my breath while experiencing the sunrise at tiger hill. It was an amazing experience and I have never seen the sun being so beautiful. The trail blaze left by the sun’s image were fascinating to watch as they were forming patterns around it.
Sure, though, I had to wake up early in the morning as the sunrise is noted to be at an average of 6 AM. I had to take a shared SUV to reach this point which takes about an hour from the central Darjeeling.
Considering all the pain I had to sustain, I loved how the serene view paid me back. There is a cluster of smaller hills which are visible far away, covered in snow. The very moment, when the sun starts to rise, they act like dim lights slowly glistening due to the sun’s presence. I have had people asking me to take a note of the weather as the fog can ruin your moment there.
Although, I did not face any unlucky instance and I loved getting soaked in the charm of nature. It is a matter of probability of what kind of view you are going to get, but going with the flow, I would suggest you keep an open mind to all possibilities to come.
- Mesmerizing Sunrise at Tiger Hill
- Taken several shots on my phone and just then, sun came-up wishing me a great day
The National Park
Singalila National Park is located as high as 12,000ft above sea level which covers a massive area of 78.6 Sq. Km. The entire place is filled with greenery that includes plantations like silver firs, rhododendrons, magnolias, oaks etc.
Other than the flora I was lucky enough to spot a Red Panda and came across a lot of interesting animals in my course of time. The views are amazing and I would suggest you go for a safari, consulting with your coordinator.
The Toy Train Experience
As a tourist, the first thing to strike out from my bucket list was to board the toy train. The toy train has been awarded a heritage status by UNESCO and it means a lot to get a ride. The working of the train with steam/diesel engines is a state of the art engineering. Produced in the British era, it is now commercially used and maintained by the government as a heritage property. There are a lot of ways in which you can get an experience but the best one would be taking a 2 hour round trip to Ghum and return.
I chose the same as well and boarded the toy train in the morning. You would notice some memorials at every major stop like the Batasia loop where it buffers for 10 minutes. It covered the Himalayan Railway Museum which was again one of the finest and non-generic experiences I have ever had. Keeping the time factor in check, you can have a wonderful time enjoying the toy train in Darjeeling.
Alternatively, I missed out on the return trips from Darjeeling to NJP using the toy train as I had to hang around more. But you can try the return trip for a memorable experience. The road back covers some of the best tea gardens and valleys. Like me, if you are into gazing into nature, this one is a must.
Flora and Fauna
The flora and fauna are widely categorized in Darjeeling because of its delightful and pleasant atmosphere. It enables the growth of a lot of rare species of plant life and is a home to the family of interesting mammals.
You would surely notice the presence of rhododendrons with oak trees everywhere you go. There is a set of Mongolian Flower gardens that would easily come into notice when you are out. In the animal kingdom, there are wild cats, monkeys, and foxes in abundance while you can easily spot leopards, Sambars, barking deer in the wild if you are lucky enough.
I found it extremely convenient to explore the flora and fauna in the safari trips.
Did you see that? The enchanting snow-covered mountains probably the one I embrace more. What happens when suddenly you stuck by whirl of clouds soothes you utmost and disappears.
Mountaineering in Darjeeling
I have read a lot about the quest of Mount Everest by Edmund Hillary who was accompanied by Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. There have been a lot of developments in the mountaineering department ever since the achievements of people like Tenzing have been engraved. The very popular Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is made in the memory of Tenzing Norgay.
It offers various courses which include a 28 day basic and advanced training on mountaineering course. After the completion, you can practice mountaineering, camping etc.
The courses are offered by other mountaineering institutes which educate regarding the theory of rock climbing and trekking and trains the people for practical application of all the theories. However, you can practice pro level mount climbing if you are already certified as a mountaineer from a recognized institute.
How I managed to try out Biking on Hills
Now, this segment had got me all fancied and it has two major divisions in it. You can choose among motorbiking and mountain biking. For the love of mountain bikes, I got up with a group of 5 people and rented a mountain bike which is easily available at Conondale.
The motorbiking segment is also pretty adventurous. You can rent cruisers of Royal Enfield and drive around the beautiful roads of Darjeeling.
The first thing that came into my notice upon exploring the amazing structure of the monasteries were, that they were mostly based upon the influence of Tibet’s culture. It was probably because of the presence of Tibetan refugees who settled in most of the parts of Darjeeling.
The best of the monasteries still had the Buddhist culture and it was surprising for me to see that none of them were commercialized even today.
I had a good time exploring and gathering knowledge about the Buddhist monasteries and out of which some of them were absolutely breathtaking.
I loved the Bhutia Busti Monastery, because of the ongoing practices of the monks. The monastery was built in the year 1761 and the traveling to the place is worthwhile as well. Then the Aloobari and Samten Monastery were the closest ones from the Darjeeling town, being located at 3 Km and 7 km respectively. The locals love to spend their weekends here to attain all the spiritual and physical rejuvenation.
It is often regarded as the best place in entire Darjeeling for trekking. The altitude of this place is about 12,000ft which is one of the highest peaks of the Singalila range. The riders can hire or rent a good quality SUV for the travel which is a less adventurous alternative for what is in the store.
I chose to trek all the way up for 3 days for my personal satisfaction. However, this is highly stressful and I would only recommend this for the people who have past experiences in long distance trekking.
The trekking although paid me back with an amazing view of nature which cleared out all the stress I have had. It is a worthwhile achievement which would require you to charge up your camera for the best photos.
Food and Stay
One thing that I would strongly recommend for the people planning a trip to Darjeeling would be trying out the street food. You would not find them in abundance but there are some markets which have a cluster of local food stalls, which serve some of the most amazing dishes.
Although, the stay was pretty comfortable as there are a lot of decent hotels at affordable rates. You can also hire yourself a vehicle to move around and drop it off when you are done with it.
The local food consists of Thukpa, Nepali Thali, Momos and Naga Cuisine along with a lot of other dishes to look out for. I would also recommend the Kunga restaurant, Keventers and Sonam’s kitchen to be among the best restaurants around. All of the information which you can get from local guides and maps.
What I found there is truly amazing, I can keep on writing about my venture. But I feel it’s good to end here.
The most energetic and bountiful scenic view ever watched by sky watchers. Starting from the time of August, you would be noticing regular downfall at Darjeeling which can be pretty difficult to spend a vacation till September.
The time from October to January and February is the time when you would experience Darjeeling in its coldest. With my experience, the best time to visit Darjeeling would be between June and July as the climate is very pleasant at this time of the year.
You can also cover more areas and experience the best of Darjeeling in this manner. Although the climate at Darjeeling is pretty unpredictable so I would suggest packing some rain and winter wear as well.