Travel Destination Review: Darjeeling – India’s Queen of the Hills
When I first heard of Darjeeling, my first instinct was to get there as soon as possible. This seemed a bit illogical, given I had only a week left of my holiday in Delhi. Nonetheless, I booked the Rajdani Express (Foreign Quota) to New Jalpaiguri (NJP) and followed it up with the Darjeeling Toy Train from NJP to Darjeeling immediately! And I must say, that train journey was one of the best experiences in my life!
Rugged mountain scenery, kaleidoscopic sunset, chugging through the woods, taking photos of waterfalls and enjoying a bit of a stop at Rungtong station: it was all part and parcel of the wonderful Darjeeling Toy Train experience. In fact, I would suggest you forget the Jeep and enhance your trip to Darjeeling via this amazing train ride! Let’s take a look at Darjeeling and all it has to offer!
What to See and Do in Darjeeling
Darjeeling in the one hill station that doesn’t let you run out of options on what to see and do. Let’s check out the highlights!
- Take a toy train ride to Ghoom and back. If you missed out on the train ride from NJP to Darjeeling, you can make up for it with this one hour experience. The train crosses the Batasia Loop and offers amazing views of Mount Kanchenjunga!
- Visit the Tea Gardens! I had some of the best tea I’ve ever had in my life there. I bought a pack, but it doesn’t taste the same. Must have something to do with the scents of the gardens and the natural beauty around me!
- Check out the Peace Pagoda. This spot is truly serene, and ideal if you’re looking to relax for a bit!
- Sunrise on Tiger Hill – You’ll have to wake up at four and jostle with the hundreds of people to get space to check out the kaleidoscopic multi-hued sunrise, but it’s totally worth it! Keep a firm hand on your camera!
- Whitewater Rafting on River Teesta. If you’re heading out of Darjeeling towards Sikkim, don’t miss out on the whitewater rafting experience. Eleven kilometers in twenty minutes: Not too bad!
- Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park. I went to check out the tigers, snow leopards, red panda and Himalayan Bear. The variety of bird species is astounding too!
- Boating on Mirik Lake. This serene spot a few miles out of Darjeeling surrounded by tea estates and rugged mountain scenery is a must-visit!
Where to Eat in Darjeeling
Darjeeling, close to Nepal and China, offers a wide variety of dishes that you may not have heard of elsewhere. What I loved: the omelet noodles and the Momos! If you’re in Darjeeling, visit some of these restaurants:
- Petrichor – The best, little chilled-out café in Darjeeling! Petrichor is run by a couple of music lovers who have tried to make the perfect ambiance where you can meet up with friends, have good food, enjoy the music and play board games!
- The Cake Lady – Ideal for high teas. The cakes this lady makes are simply scrumptious! However, The Cake Lady is not exactly a restaurant but a lady who makes cakes to order. So if you’re in Darjeeling for more than a day, call and try out the Lemon Cake, Chocolate Cake or the Mocha! You’ll find yourself eating cake every day!
- Sonam’s Kitchen – If you’re hungry, you probably want to be in the vicinity of Sonam’s Kitchen. A tiny restaurant, Sonam’s Kitchen offers simple but filling fare. The coffee is excellent, as are the pancakes. What I had: the omelet noodles!
Where to Stay in Darjeeling
Darjeeling has its fair share of hotels and other accommodation arrangements! However, if you’re out to have a lovely time at this beautiful hill station, you may want to either have a grand view of Mount Kanchenjunga or the rolling green tea estates!
- Completely, breathtakingly beautiful! From awe-inspiring views of Mount Kanchenjunga at the Batasia Loop to glorious sunrises at Tiger Hill, it’s all about being at one with nature!
- Darjeeling is economical in all ways: the distances are short, the food is cheap and plentiful and the people are friendly! Bargaining is allowed at most markets!
- The roads are a bit run-down with pot-holes, but I suppose you can expect this in many places in India.