Darjeeling

The view of Kanchenjunga from Darjeeling by CC user qihui on Flickr

Introduction

Once just a loose collection of villages situated high in the Himalayan foothills close to the border with Nepal, Darjeeling became known throughout India as a hill station where British colonialists went to escape the maddening heat of the lowlands.

Realizing that the constant, cool, misty climate was well adapted to the growing of tea, plantations were founded shortly after the arrival of the English, and since, the Darjeeling area has become well known producing some of the best leaves in the world that create this healthy drink.

Oh, and the tip of the highest mountain on Earth can be spotted from this region in clear weather. Just thought you should know.

Insufferable humidity getting you down?  Looking for a mountain escape? Want to drink the best tea in the world until your caffeine buzz hits insane crazy levels?  Then be sure to add Darjeeling to your itinerary during your travels through India!

Himalayan Mountaineering Inst., Darjeeling by CC user shankaronline on Flickr

Cultural Experiences

Before you head off to the higher points in the area to spot some of the most epic peaks on the planet, learn about the colourful history of mountaineering amongst those challenging heights at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. Founded by Tenzing Norgay, who rode shotgun on Sir Edmund Hillary’s first successful ascent of Mount Everest in 1953, this museum contains records of all the major expeditions in the region over the years, and if all these rich tales has you all inspired and stoked, you can book mountaineering courses here that will get you up into the hills scaling peaks safely and effectively.

The Japanese Peace Pagoda is another curious landmark worth visiting in the Darjeeling area, which is one of twenty of these shrines in the world.  Run by the Nipponzan-Myohoji Order, this and all the rest of the shrines were built to aid the globe in its search for world peace, a quest brought about by the first use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

While it is pretty standard compared to most Buddhist temples, those looking to catch a unique activity that the monks put on should wake up early (like, really early) to see them drumming in the streets around 4 to 5 AM in the morning.  Light sleepers, remember to bring earplugs to this town!

As mentioned in the introduction, Darjeeling grows some of the best tea in the world.  As such, one should make an effort to visit one of the many tea shops that can be found around town.  Check out the road near Rink Mall for some of the cheaper stores in town, and if you find a blend you’ve just love to sip at home while you commiserate about your time in India, many will ship as much as you want to your home, allowing you to take advantage of the cost disparity present here compared to what you’d pay to drink it back home.

The Darjeeling Toy Train by CC user joshuasingh on Flickr +

Other Attractions

After spending some time to take in the more cultural aspects of Darjeeling, the day will come when the skies will be clear at dawn.  When this happens, be sure to use this break in the weather to head up to Tiger Hill, where outstanding views of the main ranges of the Himalayas will greet those disciplined enough to wake up in the small hours of the morning (as early as 3 AM).

Doing so will give you the best spots to observe the sunrise over the mountainous horizon, and as alluded to in the introduction, the clearest days will allow to see none other than the upper tip of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak.

Another draw to this area is the UNESCO recognized Toy Train, a narrow gauge railway that stretches along big inclines for well over 100+ kilometres of track.  Wailing in a high pitch that helps gives this railway its nickname, the Toy Train makes a circuit at a place known as the Batasia Loop, a route that has become popular with travelers to the area. Hopping on and off will get you to many attractions in the area, from parks to craft markets rife with potential souvenirs.

Those looking to get an ever better view of the mountains in the area should take a ride of the newly renovated Darjeeling Ropeway.  Additionally, the top portion of the tram ends at a tea garden, making it an excellent place for enthusiasts for lovers of the stimulating drink.

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