Darjeeling, a Hidden Gem in India’s Crown

27 Apr 2016

India has some amazing sights to offer the modern day traveller, with landscapes and cultures of vast contrast, from the idyllic golden beaches of Goa to the lush green Ghats of Kerala the many temples and palaces of "The Desert State" Rajasthan to the hustle and bustle of modern day life in the major cities India is a planet in its own right, but for those seeking a bit of adventure and romance "head to the hills!" we say, the many hill stations of India offer an experience that many a traveller miss out on as they are often a little further than the regular tourist hot spots, one, in particular, is Darjeeling.

How to get to Darjeeling

With the ever growing network of low-cost carriers in India these off the beaten track areas are now becoming more and more accessible to the average tourist, book yourself a cheap flight to Delhi or Kolkata (Calcutta for us old schoolers) and then an internal flight to Bagdogra on the outskirts of Siliguri, from there it is a 2 ½ hour drive up into the mountains, but by far the best way of travelling up to the tea plantation covered mountain top is to jump aboard the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway or "Toy Train" as its more commonly known, from New Jalpaiguri Railway Station.

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Timing is essential

If you are considering the toy train it is best to stop overnight in Siliguri and catch one of the morning trains, there are plenty of cheap hotels in Siliguri that offer excellent service and amenities and will arrange transfers to the train station.

Although the train service is over one hundred years old (completed in 1881) it has only recently resumed, having been closed for repair for over five years due to the track being damaged from landslides, it is a 7 hour corkscrew ride up to Darjeeling, zig-zagging the road and twisting and turning through tea plantations and jaw-dropping scenery as you get higher up in the mountains, the muggy Indian air is replaced with fresh mountain air and the fragrant smell of the plantations. It is easy to see why the area was chosen as a sanatorium and health resort for the British Army back in the early 1800's the area was developed further during the days of the Raj and colonial Britain can be seen in many buildings in the town.

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So what is there to do in Darjeeling?

Of course, the first thing you do is have a cup of tea, Darjeeling is the perfect base for exploring the Himalayas, sandwiched in between Nepal and Bhutan day trips to either are easily arranged and a great way of experiencing different cultures. A must see sight is the sunrise over Mount Everest and Kanchenjunga if you get a clear cloud free day set off at the crack of dawn to Tiger Hill and wait for the magnificence to overwhelm you.

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