AN ELGIN EXCLUSIVE FEATURE
“A traditional Englishman drinks tea to the point where his blood has long-since been replaced with an infusion of Ceylon, Assam, and Darjeeling.”, writes Fennel Hudson, in his journal, A Meaningful Life.
Darjeeling, nestled in the foothills of the lesser Himalayas, besides being known for its tea, is considered to be one of India’s most popular tourist destinations. When most of India experience the sweltering heat of the Indian summer, Darjeeling offers a cool respite in the midst of nature. The month of May with smoldering 45 degrees in Delhi, Darjeeling begins with drizzles all over. The chances are less but never none for hails during this time.
Image by Natgeotraveller
The clouds take over at night in Darjeeling and gives the most spectacular view of the city while the lights peep through. Every corner has a unique view and the perfect blend of mountains behind the tea gardens.
Asia’s Largest Ropeway, Ranjit Valley Ropeway– Besides being a mystic hill station, Darjeeling has many other aspects worth knowing, one of them being the Asia’s largest ropeway. Rangit Valley Ropeway, known as Asia’s largest ropeway will literally take you to cloud nine, since you will be sailing amid clouds. The vista of the broad, rich green tea gardens below is a welcome sight on the ropeway trip. The pleasing view of the valley around the river ‘Little Rangeet’ adds to the breathtaking experience.
Image by Tze Ru Pang, Flickr
The iconic ropeway has its ways to astound. The breathtaking view of valley below, the spread of lush green tea gardens on the hill slopes, waterfalls topping up with the mesmerizing view of the Khangchendzonga mountain. The beauty of flowing streams, river Rammen and the little Ranjeet river would definitely be a delight to the eyes.
The famous Toy Train– “A steam engine toy train with continuous whistle of the engine, impelled me to reminisce my childhood.” Rachna expressed, a sole traveler. With two-foot narrow gauge track, the Darjeeling railway is colloquially known as the “Toy Train.” The train’s hoots and hisses bring you back in time, and the train’s relatively modest speed allows you to revel in the beauty of each sight. This ride is considered as “the most outstanding example of a hill passenger railway” in the world by UNESCO.
Image by orientrailjourneys
The toy train has been the romantic heart of Darjeeling and its people. If you want to soak in the joy and like to ride the train, look no further than the round-trip joyride from Darjeeling station to Ghum. The views would surely carve a remarkable experience.
Witness the hypnotic sunrise at Tiger Hill– The Hill in Darjeeling offers an awe-inspiring view of the sun’s first rays striking Kanchenjunga’s summit. As the sun rises, slurping on some Darjeeling tea with a hearty breakfast and watch the shifting hues of the snow-capped mountain could be an indelible memory.
Image by Tim Chong, Flickr
Visitors watch the sun rise from Tiger Hill near Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal. Also pictured is the majestic Mount Khangchendzonga with the rays of sun hitting the summit.
Everest Museum, the house of souvenirs– The Everest Museum is a one-of-a-kind museum that houses souvenirs and photographs of all individuals who had ever been ambitious enough to scale Mount Everest. Even the first mountain gear worn by humans when ascending the highest peak could be seen in the exhibition. This amazing exhibition will certainly pump up your adrenaline, and who knows, you could be inspired enough for a climbing training to hike Mount Everest.
Visit the legendary Tibetan Monastery– If you admire Hollywood then walking to this Tibetan monastery needs to be above all. No, not Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, but similar ballpark. Benedict Cumberbatch, who earned millions of hearts for his depiction of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Strange on television, used to teach English in a Tibetan monastery in Darjeeling. This was before he became Sherlock Holmes. How lucky the students are who can say, ‘I was taught by Sherlock himself!’
Image by Dailymail
While filming Doctor Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch got a chance to go down his memory lane while visiting a Tibetan Monastery in Nepal.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park– Very well kept, the park had a diverse wildlife yet healthy, ranging from leopards to Himalayan Black Bear. Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park is an excellent site to witness the endangered species such as red pandas and snow leopards in their native habitat. It is considered to be home to rare creatures that you might certainly never get to see otherwise.
Image by Travelspro
Project Red Panda was launched in 1986 at the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park aka Darjeeling Zoo to help protect this endangered species. The zoo is also renowned for the Red Panda breeding programme. Currently, the park protects 21 Red Pandas.
Kenventer’s and Glenary the iconic eateries– On Nehru Road, you’ll find two century-old eateries, both of which were built during the British colonialism. Keventer’s restaurant which is around a century old, is still eminent for its hefty breakfasts with bacon, sausages, and meatloaf. Glenary’s is the other restaurant, lively, full of people thronging to taste savories with corners to hang around to relish the beauty of tea plantations.
Image and caption by Lopamudra Barmen, Flickr
Eating out in Glenary’s … “I always love the over-the-terrace cafeteria at Glenary’s in Darjeeling for its openness, warm sunlight in all freezing environment and lovely view of the mighty Khangchendzonga range…. just enjoy a life shot there”
Visit the historic Das Studio- On the way to the mall, Das Studio cannot be missed. One of Darjeeling’s oldest studios, you’ll notice several immemorial here, like Habeeb Mullick & Sons, which is known for a diverse range of curios and exquisite jewelry.
Image by Sudipta De, Flickr
Das studio, soon to be call a century old. Established at 1927 by Mr. Thakur Das was not only a great photographer but also an explorer. The large store which has grown much beyond just a photo studio, is a family run business.
The Mahakal Temple– The vantage point on the hilltop, the Mahakal Temple offers a panoramic view of the lowlands and snow-covered mountain summits. The oldest Hindu temple in the region, dedicated to Lord Shiva, claimed to have self-manifested in the 1700s. The temple has considerable monkeys around which warns to be cautious.
Image by Rajib Das, Flickr
Hundreds of Buddhist prayer flags flutter and hang from trees all over the Mahakal Temple. The monks believe that prayers are sent to the heavens via flags. The color of the flags and the prayers fades as the seasons change, signifying those sins will be wiped away with time.
Slurp on a cup of authentic tea at Happy Valley Tea Estate– Surrounded by house built on terraces and tall tree, Happy Valley tea estate has to be on checklist. The path through narrow town by-lanes and meandering downhill road would unequivocally astound you with some picturesque views. The estate permits visitors to understand the process of tea production from the scratch. Learning how to pluck tea leaves could be a fun activity, albeit not a simple task. The tea is also renowned as the Champagne of teas due to its woody aroma and unique taste.
Image by Tom Hanslien, Flickr
A tapri(small shop) located in the middle of Happy Valley tea serves the best blend of Darjeeling tea with scenic views of the valley. Grab a tea and enjoy the plucking of tea leaves.
Darjeeling surrounds itself with splendid greenery with extreme lengths. The roadway out couldn’t be more serene than the green blankets spread across. You cannot stop but to embrace and soak all the sweet-edged fragrance of living foliage and the strong smell of tea from the withering troughs.