The queen of hills Darjeeling is like our second home. We have gone there some 8 times in 3 years and know each and every corner of the town. We love to go back again and again for the superb weather, homely people and awesome gastronomical spread.
People say it’s dirty, congested and not well maintained. But then hey, so are most cities in the country. Darjeeling has the perfect combination of the British architecture and the Gurkha hospitality to make you fall in love with it.
When to visit Darjeeling
November to February is the best time to go. While December & January will be crowded, February is a leaner season and extremely enjoyable. We have gone there in all seasons. It is beautiful in every season, and every season carries its own charm.
Where to stay
While plenty of hotels are available in and around the Mall road, make sure you can see the mountains from the hotel. This way, even if you don’t go for the sunrise from Tiger Hills, you can still see the breathtaking view of the white snow covered Kanchenjunga getting wrapped up in the first golden rays of the day.
If you are the Beatles lover and want a pocket friendly cosy place to rest, stay at a hotel called Revolver run by a very sweet couple. This Beatle themed hotel has only five rooms – John, Paul, George, Ringo & Brian. The rooms are cosy with the added attraction of bed warmer and unlimited Beatles videos and songs on the home channel. Do not miss the Yahako platter and the Naga pork curry cooked by the lady of the house.
Where to eat
While Darjeeling hosts innumerable hotels and restaurants, small and large, a visit to the queen of the hills is incomplete without a visit to the following places:
Spend a quiet evening over few glasses of wine with your loved one at this English styled restaurant. The beef potato steak is a must have.
Sit in the open terrace overlooking the clock tower on one side and Kanchenjungha on the other and enjoy a meat platter and a cup of steamy yummy hot chocolate.
This family run tiny restaurant serves the best Chinese and Tibetan food you’ll eat in a long long time. Don’t miss the hot lemon water with honey.
A two-minute walk from the famous Chowrasta, this small joint serves the best breakfast in town. Go ahead and enjoy the same with a smoking hot cup of homemade coffee
What’s a visit to Darjeeling tea without a cup of authentic good quality Darjeeling tea. Visit the Nathmulls located at the Mall and choose your own cup of Darjeeling tea. You can also learn how to make a good quality Darjeeling Tea from them.
Hot Stimulating Café
Take a walk from the Governor’s House towards the Zoological Garden and you will see this café on your left. This place is more about the ambience than food. Don’t forget to ask the owners about the history of egg shells hanging from the cherry tree outside the window.
Don’t miss the steaming hot Maggi or Wai Wai and momos at the small roadside stalls. If you love spice, don’t miss the Dali Mirchis. Once a dear friend’s wife made him carry 1 Kg of Dali Mirchi from Darjeeling all the way to Mumbai.
One important point to mention here, when you cross Kurseong, you have to stop at the Kurseong club and have their momo and chicken sandwich.
What to do
You can choose to take a car and see the 5 tourist points and 7 tourist points. However, we don’t do the usual. The real happiness lies in discovering the town by foot. Take a walk from the mall to the Zoo. Timed at approximately 20 mins (yes and I am talking about walking slowly and stopping after every 5 mins for breadth) the walk is very enjoyable providing a 360-degree view of the mountains. In my opinion, the Darjeeling Zoo is one of the best zoo in the country – clean, well planned and has various types of animals. We would suggest spending at least an hour there.
If you are not very tired reaching the zoo, keep walking. You will reach the Darjeeling Ropeway. On a clear day, taking the ropeway trip is worthwhile because it gives a clear view of the famous Darjeeling tea gardens.
You can also walk up from Keventer’s through the M.G Road and reach the Japanese Peace Pagoda. While the walk is uphill, the sense of accomplishment after reaching and realising that you have done by foot what others do by car is unparalleled. Don’t miss the myriad flora and fauna on the way, which you will see exclusively while others will just pass through them in a car.
Another must do is a ride in the Toy train. A quick trip to Ghoom via the Batasia Loop will take about half a day. We would suggest you to keep time for this. In case you feel hungry, the veg momos in the small stall around Ghoom Station are excellent. We are ardent non-vegetarians as well, but these veg momos are outstanding.
For the first timers, a visit to the Tiger Hills and catching the golden rays of the morning sun colour Mt Kanchenjunga is a must.
Finally, without a walk round the observatory hill, a trip to Darjeeling is incomplete. In the winter months, the Kanchenjunga peak can be seen clearly along with many small towns in Bengal and Sikkim. In the monsoon, the vision is blocked through fog, however there’s a charm in that too.
I know people who have gone to Darjeeling again and again and have never seen the Kanchenjunga. I know people who have gone there once but have seen it clearly. It all depends on what nature has in store for you. Who knows, maybe you will be the lucky one. All the best!