Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas

Tripoto
10th Jun 2018

The Kanchenjunga

Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas by Sinjini

Hills! which place does this word pop in your mind ? Maybe someplace in the northern part of India - Shimla .. Manali..Dalhousie.. Kashmir.. etc..etc. Well these are wonderful destinations, up in the north. But if you're someone from the eastern part of the country and want to save some traveling time, but still want to have that ' Himalayan experience', then this tiny city nestled in the foothills of Himalayas, in the northern part of West Bengal should be your next destination. Even if you're not an easterner, I would still suggest Darjeeling as your next vacation to the hills, just for that amazing view of the Mt. Kanchenjunga, which you can enjoy from practically any part of the place.

DID YOU KNOW : Mt. Kanchenjunga (height - 8586 m ) is the third highest peak of the world. It lies partly in Nepal and partly in the Indian state of Sikkim.

Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas 1/16 by Sinjini
caught a glimpse of Mt. Kanchenjunga from our hotel (Darjeeling Tourist lodge)

How to reach : You can board any train from Howrah(West Bengal) , that runs from Howrah to NJP(New Jalpaiguri) . Then, you can avail a cab (which is readily available at the NJP station), that will take you to Darjeeling.

Journey duration : it takes around 10 hrs via train from Howrah to NJP. A flight is preferable from your city directly to Bagdogra airport (Siliguri airport), for the ones not from or around Kolkata. The cab from Siliguri station to Darjeeling takes around 4-5 hrs. Generally, travelers tend to take a break for a night in Siliguri and start there journey uphill to Darjeeling the next morning.

Our journey commenced on the morning of 10th June, from Siliguri. I can't help but mention, that I was really mesmerized by the sprawling landscapes right from the beginning of our journey. You get to see the hills as soon as you reach the outskirts of Siliguri, and I found myself jiggling like an excited 5 year old, just at the sight of them. Oh and don't forget to notice the famous toy train track that runs straight from Siliguri to Darjeeling. If you're lucky enough you will get to see the toy train itself.

FYI : Journey by the toy train from Siliguri to Darjeeling is not recommended, as it runs really slow. But if you still want to have an experience of the ride, you can buy a ticket for the intervening local stations.

Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas 2/16 by Sinjini
A sight to behold !! Don't miss the toy train track

The landscape changes drastically, as you start approaching the mountains. On your way to Darjeeling from Siliguri, you will find another town named Kurseong, which is an ideal place to relax and while away, if you are not much into hectic schedules . You can book a cozy room at the Kurseong tourist lodge, and admire the beatific hills and tea gardens surrounding you, while sipping your steaming cup of Darjeeling tea.

Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas 3/16 by Sinjini
Kurseong tourist lodge: A cozy wooden lodge, just like we what we read in the fairy tales.

Well our destination was Darjeeling, and although we admired Kurseong for its British colonial architectures, and views, we had to move on.

So we reached Darjeeling at around 1 in the afternoon. We had pre-booked our rooms at the Darjeeling Tourist lodge, which would be our haven for the next four days.

FYI : Although most of the places provide a clear view of the Mt. Kanchenjunga (given that the weather is sunny), it is said that DTL(darjeeling tourist lodge), is one of those few hotels which provide a direct view of the peak from the hotel rooms. Proof: the picture above was taken from my hotel room. :)

After having our lunch, and resting for a while, we went out to the infamous Darjeeling mall road, which is kind of a gathering-shopping-horse riding-walking spot for all tourists and locals alike. Oh and the whole of Darjeeling seems to be crazy about football, and since we visited during the upcoming FIFA world cup , what we got to see is this -

Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas 4/16 by Sinjini
Darjeeling Mall road at 5 in the evening

the weather was amicable and it felt great to take an evening walk up the hilly roads, amidst nature. On our way to the mall we spotted an old church, named St.Andrew's cathedral ,which looked like a cut out version of a church from the Victorian era.

Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas 5/16 by Sinjini
St. Andrew's cathedral

by the time we completed our tour around the mall, shopped and had some tea, it was already 8 in the evening. Days in the hills are shorter than the ones in plains. The roads tend to get deserted by 9:30 at night, so we thought better and went ahead for dinner. If you want to have a complete English dining experience, then do visit Glenary's in Darjeeling, which is a combination of a bakery and restaurant, of the old English style. With soft live music in the background, semi-dim lighting and good food, you tend to have a good time at this place.

Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas 6/16 by Sinjini
Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas 7/16 by Sinjini

Day 2 started with us sipping our Darjeeling teas, and enjoying the view of Kanchenjunga from the balcony of our hotel room .. Oh What a sight that was!! You really have to be there, to know the feeling. The sun was treacherous though, it didn't promise to stay up long in the sky, and the clouds posed a threat to ruin our day ahead, so we didn't waste much time and started our journey to a nearby point named Lepchajagat, which is around 19kms away from the town of Darjeeling. We had hired a local cab, which was readily available at Darjeeling, and the driver charged us around 2000 bucks for a whole day trip to different locations around Darjeeling. Now you must be thinking, that since the distance is only 19kms, it must have taken an hour so to reach Lepchajagat, but let me tell you, when you're up there in the hills, the distance doesn't really matter, because of the steep paths and sharp turns, the drivers are extremely careful , and it took us a good 2 or 2.5 hrs to reach Lepchajagat. Oh and not to mention the early morning Darjeeling traffic (yeah !! you get traffic jams in hill stations as well !!) But the amazing landscape at Lepchajagat made us forget, all our woes regarding the traffic and bad roads. Its a photographer's paradise, and a paradise for anybody who loves nature, or maybe for you who never knew that you loved nature, because you discover your love for it when you visit this place. As for me, the minute I set foot out of the cab I felt that out of the blue somebody has made me time travel and I have landed right into a Robert frost Poem . We were walking through the woods, amidst the chirruping of unknown birds, the swooshing of winds, and clouds occasionally touching us like feathers. I remember this one spot , which reminded me of the poem " The road not taken' by Robert frost. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I .. I took the path less taken by.. and that has made all the difference..

Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas 8/16 by Sinjini
The Road not taken

I so wished, that I could climb up those stairs to go and look for the mystery that remains hidden in the forest, but alas !! I couldn't. As I had told you earlier time was of the essence to us, and we were on a tight schedule. SO for the time being I had to ignore Mr. Frost , and had to take the path more taken. But more surprises awaited us, as we moved forward, and the prime view point of the place took our breath away, with its amazing scenery. Surrounded with Coniferous forests and clouds playing hide and seek amongst the trees, the place had us mesmerized.

Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas 9/16 by Sinjini
Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas 10/16 by Sinjini

After being awestricken by Lepchajagat , we went ahead to our next stop that is known as Tinchuley. The mystery behind the nomenclature is that, you get to see three different peaks from this particular place, and these three mountain peaks are located in Sikkim. So you're basically getting a view of Sikkim while you're standing in Bengal. You also get to see the Teesta river from this place, which is a major supplier of water in the upper parts pf Northern Bengal and Sikkim.

Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas 11/16 by Sinjini
that in the distance, is River Teesta
Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas 12/16 by Sinjini
three different peaks , and the river Teesta

Teenchuley is a really beautiful place, and if you feel that you would like to admire its beauty for a longer time then you can book a homestay over there and spend a day or two in the lap of nature.

From Teenchuley we went ahead to Lamahatta forest park. Now let me give you my two cents on this place. If you are not one for hiking through steep mountainous paths, which will take around an hour or so, then it is not advisable for you to visit this place. On our parts, we really enjoyed the hike or a mini trek, we did fall a few times( well me more than the others) , and we were of two minds, once or twice whether to move ahead or not, but we did. You must be thinking by now, that why exactly should you climb uphill, well the answer to it is a lake amidst a pine forest. If the thought of a lake up in the mountains, that is surrounded by pine trees doesn't excite you, then have you heard of the phrase 'It's the journey that matters and not the destination' ?? If you have, then I'd suggest you to visit this place just for that hour long hiking experience.

Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas 13/16 by Sinjini
Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas 14/16 by Sinjini
Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas 15/16 by Sinjini
Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas 16/16 by Sinjini

With Lamahatta, our trip for the 2nd day ended, and we went back to Darjeeling exhausted but satisfied.

Day 3

Well we were not so lucky on our third day with the weather. It had been raining since the previous night, and it continued for the whole day. We were advised by the locals not to go on any excursions that day, as it could be dangerous and there were chances of landslides. As much as we were disheartened to hear this, but we were also relieved to hear this, because we had really been exhausted the previous day by that one hour climb. Well, we were a bunch of bongs, and give bongs their cup of favorite breed of tea(Darjeeling tea that is) , and a rainy day (especially when its raining in the mountains), and they just go crazy over their adda. So yeah we whiled away the whole day in our lodge, gossiping , eating, sharing pictures and roaming about in the beautiful lawn. Well I'm not much of a photographer, but everything that surrounded me was so beautiful, that I didn't much skills to click a nice picture. So there were these flowers in the lawn, which really grabbed my attention..

Photo of Darjeeling Tourist Lodge, Chauk Bazaar, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India by Sinjini
Photo of Darjeeling Tourist Lodge, Chauk Bazaar, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India by Sinjini
Photo of Darjeeling Tourist Lodge, Chauk Bazaar, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India by Sinjini

In the evening, when the rain had ceased a bit , we went out for a walk to the mall and bought some gifts for friends and family, had dinner at Glenary's and returned to the lodge.

Day 4

By the beginning of the next day, the weather was almost back to normal (as normal as it could be in the month of June). We had again booked a cab for the whole day, which had charged us a bit more than the previous day because we would be going higher up this time to a place known as Chitray. Our excursion started with us visiting the Happy valley Tea garden, which is in Darjeeling itself. It is a privatized tea estate and entry fee is 100 per person, so unless you are a tea enthusiast , you may skip this place, if you find it expensive. But we all loved tea, and for us visiting Darjeeling and not getting to visit a tea estate was like the end of the world. The 100 bucks however covers the charge of the guide and the Tea garden tour. The guide we had been assigned was really good. He explained the whole process of tea picking and processing.

Fun fact : Darjeeling tea hasn't originated from Darjeeling, it was originally planted by the British colonials in the 1800s as an experiment, and the tea leaves were brought from China. The breed that we find in Darjeeling is known as Camillia Sinensis. It is the only whole leaf tea breed sold in India.

The whole experience of visiting the sprawling tea garden was amazing, IT felt like one of those old Hindi films, where the lead pair always visited some hill station and danced in a tea garden with clouds floating around them.

Photo of Happy Valley Tea Garden, West Bengal, India by Sinjini

sprawling tea plantations

Photo of Happy Valley Tea Garden, West Bengal, India by Sinjini
Photo of Happy Valley Tea Garden, West Bengal, India by Sinjini

Next stop - Buddhist peace pagoda and Japanese temple.

Need I tell you more, because the name says it all. Peaceful it was at the peace pagoda, and we also got to visit the Japanese temple where the Guru Fujiji is venerated and worshiped. It is built atop a hill, and resembles the peace pagodas in other parts of the world.

The Buddha when he attained Nirvana

Photo of Darjeelling Peace Pagoda, West Point, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India by Sinjini
Photo of Darjeelling Peace Pagoda, West Point, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India by Sinjini

From the Peace pagoda our journey started for Chitrey, which is at a height of 2555 mts and is considered as the first stop for people traveling upwards to places like Tonglu and Sandakphu . It is a mountain forest park , and comes under the Singalila national park. Usually Chitray gives a clear view of Kanchenjunga , on clearer days, but as I already mentioned it was clouded and we didn't get to see much, and it was raining at the same time. But we did enjoy the cold and the rain there. It was an out of the world experience in Chitrey. The air was so heavy with clouds that we could barely see anything beyond a distance of a meter. Also it is advisable to take a Jeep if you're traveling to Chitrey or above, because the roads are really steep and after a certain point there are chances of your vehicle getting upturned, if you're in a hatchback or sedan. Chitrey also gives a clear view of Nepal, but again we didn't get to see much that day. Some travelers do take a stop at Chitrey for a night to get acclimatized to the weather and then continue further upwards. There is only one inn in Chitrey , and it literally looks like a house in the middle of nowhere (Guess what its known as hawk's nest). But the owner and his wife are really friendly and hospitable.

Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas by Sinjini
Photo of Darjeeling : Get rejuvenated at the foothill of the Himalayas by Sinjini

The hawk's nest inn

Photo of Chitrey, Mangber Forest, West Bengal, India by Sinjini

We returned from Chitrey and reached Darjeeling at around 4 pm, where we went to the Batasia loop or the Ghum station which is the highest railway station in India and is also the only one which is in the form of a spiral loop.

Batasia loop war memorial

Photo of Batasia Loop, West Point, Darjeeling, West Bengal by Sinjini

From Batasia loop we went ahead to the last destination of our Darjeeling trip that is the Ghum Monastery. As the saying goes, all's well that ends well, our trip ended on a good note with our visit to the monastery . We were lucky enough to visit, when the evening prayers were in progress, and the experience was truly divine. The music and the chants of the monks made the whole environment pious. It literally made me want to become a monk for a while ! Listening to the chants, looking at the huge golden idol of The enlightened Buddha, made me realize that peace lies in simplicity and modesty. The monks who resided there,dedicated their lives to the service of the monastery, they had one uniform, they were not allowed to go out much, neither were they allowed to engage in any sort of vanity,yet they were happy, and I can vouch for it because I saw that in their demeanor. It made me question myself, that why can't I be like them? But then, I guess, that life is easier admired than lived.. and certain things are just not meant for us. So with that bittersweet thought I left the monastery, and that marked the end of a beautiful and memorable trip.

Evening prayer at the mona

Photo of Ghum Monastry, Tamang Buddhist Monastery Road, Ghoom, West Bengal, India by Sinjini

Th next morning, we left Darjeeling and came down to Siliguri, bidding a final goodbye to the mountains.

1 Comment(s)
Sort by:
Wow. Thanks for explaining in so much detail. It'll really help me plan my trip to Darjeeling in a much better way:)
Sun 06 24 18, 09:39 · Reply · Report