Crisp air, ample rainfall, and pleasant weather not only make Darjeeling in West Bengal home to one of the finest tea varieties in the world, but also spoil every visitor who sets foot in the hill station. Here’s how you can make the most of a day-long stopover. By Rashima Nagpal
CATCH THE FIRST LIGHT
Tiger Hill, located 11 kilometres from Darjeeling town, should be a part of every tourist’s itinerary. It offers views of Kanchenjunga, the third-highest peak in the world. There’s an observation tower atop the 2,500-metre-high Tiger Hill; it’s a great spot to catch a panoramic sunrise.
BREAKFAST AT GLENARY’S
The colonial heritage of Darjeeling is hard to miss. One iconic example is Glenary’s. Situated on Nehru Road, it is a two-storey building that houses a bakery cum cafe on the ground floor, a restaurant on the floor above, and a bar in the basement. Its selection of pies, breads, and desserts is perfect for a hearty breakfast in the hills.
GO MONASTERY HOPPING
Buddhism is integral to Darjeeling, as is its tea culture. Ancient monasteries, big and small, are testament to the town’s shared traditions with neighbouring Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, and Tibet. Within a 10-kilometre radius are the Bhutia Busty Monastery that houses a huge library, the Mak Dhog Gompa, the Yiga Choeling Monastery that dates back to 1850, and the Dali Monastery.
BOARD THE JOY EXPRESS
A trip to Darjeeling is incomplete without the city’s most sought-after ‘Toy Train’ experience. A narrow-gauge railway network operating since the 1880s, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) was bestowed with the UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999. The two-hour round-trip from Darjeeling railway station to Ghum—which is the highest station (2,225 metres) on the network and also houses the DHR Museum—makes for a fun acitivity.
LUNCH AT ICONIC JOINTS
Thanks to its eclectic cultural influences, Darjeeling has a delightful food scene. Make the most of it by hopping from one iconic eatery to another, all within a three-kilometre radius. Start with the best of momos (dumplings) at Kunga’s, a humble eatery on Gandhi Road. For mains, try a Nepali thali at Revolver, 10 minutes away. Round it off with a warm cup of hot chocolate at the century-old Keventer’s.
SHOP FOR SOUVENIRS
Find Bhotia sellers selling handmade woollens on Nehru Road. A five-minute walk from here, on Mall Road, is Habeeb Mullick & Son, which offers a wide and intriguing range of curios. Buddhist souvenirs such as thangkas, painted scrolls, and figurines make for thoughtful local gifts for friends and family back home.
HAVE A TEA BREAK
Surrounded by over 80 tea estates, Darjeeling is a mecca for tea enthusiasts. A full-day tour of one of the tea production units is the ideal immersive experience. But if you’re short on time, a tea-tasting session, like the one offered at Sunset Lounge on Mall Road, can round off your day nicely. Experience the full range of Darjeeling teas—from muscatel and autumn flush to oolong and more.
The nearest airport is in Bagdogra, 95 kilometres away. It is well connected to Delhi, Kolkata, and Guwahati.
The Glenburn Tea Estate—set on a 1,600-acre working tea plantation—is a great option. It features two bungalows with four suites each (starts from INR 46,376/USD 630)
While summer (April to June) is a popular time for tourists, a winter holiday (October to March) in Darjeeling has its own charms.
Mountain lovers and tea enthusiasts.
The Singalila National Park, around 40 kilometres from the city, is a playground for trekkers, birdwatchers, and nature enthusiasts.