Travel to Darjeeling - The Perfect City for a Change of Scenery in India

by - June 09, 2017

It is night and we are traveling to Kakarbhitta, the border with India. They are our last hours in Nepal as we head to Darjeeling. And the first thing we did when crossing the border was to wear the jacket. We drive a motorbike on a nice November afternoon to Siliguri. It is a real motorcycle, pure docile and noble iron that embellishes the road, the mountain, brightens life, existence.

It excites even granting the traveler a libidinous pleasure, almost sexual. Accelerating it is similar to the chain of continuous orgasms at a speed that allows smelling the forest in an almost forgotten route. We follow the narrow gauge route of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway between forests and precipices, tea fields and small towns. Having a tea here is like tasting a beer in Belgium or a wine in Mendoza (Argentina).

Darjeeling is a city of India in the mountains. It is at an average altitude of more than 2000 meters. It is enough to escape the radical heat of the Ganges plain, the rice fields of West Bengal and Calcutta, a real hell on earth for a few months a year, climatologically speaking.

Let no one think of a city at the bottom of a valley between mountains. The Himalayas is so young and abrupt that the bottoms of the valleys are usually narrow, confined and far to the bottom, where there is no view. Darjeeling is a city scattered on the slopes of the mountains of the Shivalik mountains. In what seems a miraculous balance and a total disorder, the houses stick to sloping slopes, managing to have the ground floor in one street and the roofs in another, much higher up.

Its colors stand out among the intense emerald green of the mountains always covered with vegetation and forests. You know when you arrive in the city because the traffic gets rougher, and becomes dense and heavy. The center of Darjeeling was never designed to support such a large number of cars. Imagine a single main street dedicated to road traffic of a ridiculous width in which hundreds of vehicles in each direction want access to its center. And in the middle of this organized chaos, only the steam toy train is missing, to give the scene even more flavor.

But that happens only in the center. The rest of the city, always up or down in this vertical world, is much quieter. We find beautiful parks where we contemplate the views of one of the highest mountains in the world. While its streets are filled with schoolboys dressed impeccably, with a tie and long, jet-black braids.

At the top, you will be right in the square called Chowrasta. This is the center of all activity in Darjeeling for the backpacker. Once there, go to the DDT Office. Here you will be informed about everything that can be done in this city. Timetables, prices, transport, hotels and practically everything. They speak English and are super attentive to the traveler. The building is made of wood and you have to go down some stairs, but is not usually crowded.

Where else can we save without a doubt in this city is in the meals. Next to the Chowrasta Mall Road and in one of its adjacent streets, we find a small market. The specialty of this area, as well as Nepal, are the momos and here they prepare some of the best we have tasted and of course, they are the cheapest. We eat at least ten of these delicious flour dumplings stuffed with vegetables and meat.

Near Chowrasta is a small Buddhist temple called Mahakal Temple. Here and in a small temple next to the exit of the bells there I meet a Buddhist monk with whom it is a delight to share a few words. He has a penetrating voice and performs spectacular mantras that make absolutely everything vibrate. Everywhere is full of colorful flags that move with the wind. Sometimes you only hear the sound of these fabrics.

If we follow the street of the DDT Office we arrive at the Darjeeling Zoo. It is not that we are lovers of the zoos and we would prefer that they did not exist. We take the opportunity to see one of the most beautiful animals on the planet, the red panda. The area of the red panda is right at the entrance backing to the right. It is worth seeing as it is a very active animal that goes up and down the trees without taking a break. It moves so fast that it's hard to take a picture.

The Passenger Ropeway is one of the best attractions that Darjeeling has. It is a cable car that takes us down to the area where the Darjeeling tea is grown. We must remember that this tea is considered the best tea in the world. An authentic delicacy for which you already deserve to go to this city of the Himalayas.
The ride on this cable car lasts no more than 15 minutes downhill and as many uphill, the show is incredible.

Once we reach the lowest part of the route we visit the Darjeeling tea cooperative factory. The visit is very cheap. At the end, they try to sell us tea. If you can take at least a kilo and take it back to your home you will not regret it.

In fact, this city grew thanks to, in addition to the plantations of its today world famous tea, to the good schools by the British that began to install Scottish missionaries. Nowadays Darjeeling schools are still bringing people from all over this part of India.

Nepali-speaking inhabitants of Darjeeling are called Gorkhas. If the Sikhs are known to be excellent drivers or pilots, the Gorkha are reputed soldiers of world fame. They form and have been part of the British elite troops. Also of the Indian army and even of the North American army, of the Malaysian army, the police of Singapore or in the private security of Hong Kong. They are famous for their resistance, self-control, and courage.

All this was told to me by the owner of one of the few cheap hostels in the city at the cost of an English breakfast. This man also says to have gone more than fifty times to the Everest base camp with hikers. But for those who think that Darjeeling is a good point from which to spot it in the distance, I have bad news. It is impossible to see from the city, even from one of its highest nearby peaks called Tiger Hill. And I think you have to do a trek through Sandakphu and be very lucky to see it.

On the other hand, outside the summer months, monsoon and fogs, it is possible to see the Kanchenjunga. It may not be as well known as Everest but is equally impressive. In fact, it is the third highest mountain in the world after Everest and K2, although little known outside the most mountainous environments that I believe may be due to its convoluted name. This mountain, the highest in India, reaches an altitude of 8586 meters and, like all the Himalayas, continues to rise. It can be seen from different parts of the city including its center, where the Himalayan Railway station is, with its steaming steam locomotives.

To the tourists in Darjeeling, each morning, a procession of jeeps climb up to the Tiger Hill to see the sunrise from there. If someone wants not to get up early but want the excursion, the crowded hill has other points within the city of Darjeeling. You can admire the Kanchenjunga, although in any case, you must get up early before the mists hide it.

Our favorite is the Shrubbery Nightingale Park. It is difficult to describe the vision of the mountains from this point without falling into clichés. But we can assure without fear of making mistakes that the peaks of the Himalayas have a particularity that hits us a lot. The more you get away from them they look bigger. Try this optical illusion in the same park while young Indian girls in tracksuits snort and play morning sports in front of these excellent views. You will see that the further you go from the viewpoint, the Kanchenjunga seems to grow.

Another good viewpoint of the Kanchenjunga in the city is the Observatory Hill. Here other than a bit of luck the seats will be occupied by old people in venerable and pleasant conversation in perfect conjunction with the view of the mountain giving a hopeful feeling of durability and tranquility.

And that's how we found ourselves in Darjeeling, walking between tea plantations and a culture to which we had already adapted. Darjeeling is a mixture of Leh (high mountains and smiling people) and Dharamsala (Buddhism always makes us feel comfortable).

Geography keeps us close to the Himalayas, now we are on its green slopes. We are close to Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan. These ancestral lands contain a logic and a mystery that fascinates us. We get more into the mysticism of the region. During our stay in Darjeeling, we did nothing but contemplate the mountains.

There was one afternoon, in particular, that stayed with us. Our last afternoon in the city. We went walking to the Japanese Pagoda. A place that we loved, for its architecture and its tranquility. We sat all afternoon in silence contemplating the sunset and the Khangchendzonga. The snowy peaks appear to us as inaccessible, but we know that there are many stories hidden there. The mountain generates respect and admiration. Not by chance, most of this trip, we spent between the peaks of the Himalayas.

In Nepal, we had lost the capacity for silence and contemplation. We missed a quiet place to think (not because of Nepal, but because of us). Coming back to Darjeeling allowed us to find ourselves with that again: tranquility, meditation and ourselves.

Far away is the center of the city where everything is histrionic. Everything is spinning, disturbed with shrill beeps and grime on the walls, and peeled chickens and heads of lambs, and screaming salesmen, and impossible slopes. The scenes of daily survival become empty at 8 o'clock in the night each day. Because Darjeeling goes to bed soon, like a Puritan and Victorian girl, at least in appearance.

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  1. I'm not partial to cold weather or winter but your description of this "amazing paradise" has certainly sparked my curiosity and imagination.

  2. Beautiful photos especially the first one!

  3. What a beautiful photograph,
    it looks amazing.

    Just popped over from Eva's blog and am glad that I did
    as your blog is lovely.

    I will read more and become your latest follower.

    Have a good Sunday


  4. What an amazing photo - so beautiful.

  5. Friend really such a nice & beautiful place in India For you & your love one.......

  6. Okay, I'm in love with your blog.

  7. What a beautiful place! Thank you for sharing!


  9. Pretty - I studied in Darj for many years so was a nice trip down memory lane seeing these pics.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Appreciate your nice comment there.

  10. I am from darjeeling so yes, very beautiful post :)

  11. A true justice to Darjeeling's beauty...admirable work with the content and photographs...

  12. Beautiful captures of Queen of hill stations in India...:)