City Tour: Darjeeling, West Bengal, India

Darjeeling is a northern Indian hub of culture sitting near the borders of China, Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan. The village’s unique location, hidden up in the Himalayan mountains, provides for a cultural emersion like no other. Here, you can find international art, cuisine, and community.

The great thing about Darjeeling is that you only need a few days to experience much of what it has to offer (depending on your level of adventure.) I came with my friend and her family and four days was all the time I needed to fall in love with this little Himalayan treasure.

HOTELS

Summit Grace Resort & Spa- Located one mile from Chowrasta (Downtown Darjeeling).

  • Continental breakfast
  • Space heater
  • In-house restaurant
  • Satellite television
  • Wi-fi
  • Community entertainment
  • Himalayan view
  • Excellent customer service

Summit Grace is a kind and cozy place to stay. One of my favorite things about this resort is the view from the breakfast nook where you can see the third tallest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga. Each morning I looked forward to throwing on a few layers and heading down for a cup of coffee and toast while admiring the incredible beauty of the mountain.

Once we finished enjoying our complimentary breakfast we would head out to town or take a day trip down the mountain. Luckily, travel was easy because the resort is more than happy to schedule a cab or give easy walking directions to the mall (Chowrasta.) As someone that doesn’t speak the local language or know the lay of the land it was extremely helpful to have such an accommodating staff; the customer service at Summit Grace compels me to stay with them again if given the chance.

Honorable Mention: The Windamere Hotel- Chowrasta.

I did not stay the at Windamere, but did accidentally walk in to their holiday party (and proceeded to get kicked out- whoops.) I heard a lot about this hotel from both locals and tourists alike. The Windamere hotel is a great option for a luxury stay during the holidays. They provide formal dinners and parties for their guests which is not something you can find easily in Darjeeling.

SITES:

The Darjeeling Mall, Chowrasta- Located in the center of town.

This area is perfect if you enjoy shopping and have a few hours to spare. It is an outdoor area full of little shops and restaurants. Many of the shops sell locally made art which is perfect to take home for souvenirs; I managed to find quite a bit of jewelry, decor, and tea for a cheap price (though if you’re looking for high quality tea, buy from an estate.)

There is also a market located in Chowrasta which is key if you forgot to bring warm clothing like me… I bough a scarf, hat, and mittens for maybe $10 USD total (they’re still in my closet at home so they double as a souvenir!)

Glenburn Tea Estate- Located two hours from Darjeeling.

img_8717

This day-trip is well worth the time and money if you want to learn about Darjeeling’s legacy tea estates. Glenburn is not only home to some of the most quality tea in the world, it also doubles as a self-sufficient community.

During the day tour we were able to experience:

  • A Glenburn history lesson
  • Tour of the factory
  • Tea tastings
  • A 3 mile hike in the Himalayas
  • BBQ and beer
  • Sweets & afternoon tea

You really get a little taste of everything here at Glenburn (pun totally intended.) You are able to learn so much about the estate’s community and become educated in the delicate process of creating tea. You get all of this and the chance to experience nature.

Honestly, Glenburn is so great that it needs an entire post of it’s own, so here you go. This post provides way more details about the day trip (including pricing) as well as the history of the estate. I really encourage you to check it out!

Tiger Hill- Located one hour from Darjeeling.

MUST SEE.

I am going to keep this one short and sweet, because I don’t think you’ll need much convincing.

We got in a cab at 3:30 a.m. to arrive on location at about 4:30. The place was packed but we managed to get the last few seats in the viewing room. It was very dark and cold, we waited for about 2 hours before the sunrise in this noisy and crowded room.

Honestly, I was tired and just wanted to go back to bed, but as soon as the sun started to rise there was an excitement that I could not contain.

To the right we could see the sun rising over the Himalayas, in front of us was Kanchenjunga and China, and to our left was MOUNT EVEREST. 

We spent maybe 20 minutes here after the sunrise but it was so worth it. Seeing Mount Everest, something I never thought I’d see, gives me confidence that I can honestly go anywhere and do anything. Don’t miss this incredible opportunity.

FOOD:

Glenary’s- Located near Chowrasta.img_8768

Upstairs they have a bustling bakery full of sweet treats. We took some for take-away and ate them for breakfast one morning. We had some banana bread and cookies (ironically we fed the left over banana bread to monkeys.)

Downstairs they have a restaurant and bar. Though this place was our saving grace on NYE because it was the only restaurant open (until 10 p.m.) and served multinational cuisine, it is not the place to go if you want traditional Indian/Chinese/Nepalese food.

However, their Western food was phenomenal. I ate mac n’ cheese with BACON, and my friends had Glenary’s Shepard’s Pie. This meal definitely hit the spot on holiday.

Fiesta- Located in Chowrasta.

My favorite lunch spot in Darjeeling. It is right on the mall in Chowrasta, so it is super convenient and cheap. The items only cost $1-2 USD and are pretty good portion sizes. They serve traditional and multinational cuisine. They also serve Cafe Coffee Day (Indian coffee chain) and traditional Masala Chai which is nice to warm up with during those chilly mountain days.

Momos- Anywhere.

img_8649 Ok, so this is not a restaurant or any place specific. Momos are a traditional Nepalese dish that you have got to try.

It is probably my favorite food that I had in India.. I legitimately ate them twice a day while in Darjeeling. They are these delicious little dumplings full of goodness (veggies). They come served warm with a super hot sauce for a little extra flavor.

I suggest getting them at a little stall or at the train station.

 

Before I go…

Here are a couple of pro-tips for Darjeeling:

  1. Pack warm! (This really depends on the weather but be aware, it felt about ten degrees colder due to wind and altitude. Also, be aware that the hotels don’t have central heating. Those space heaters can only do so much.)
  2. Bring a backpack for day trips. (You can bring along toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and snacks!)
  3. Don’t settle. (There are so many shops around Darjeeling, don’t settle for something you think is priced too high. Try asking your hotel staff for bargaining advice if you know what you’re looking for.)
  4. Travel to and from Darjeeling isn’t for the faint hearted (driving up the side of the mountain) but if you’ve got a friend to hold your hand, you’ll be fine. Keep in mind most drivers have taken this route daily for years and make the trip safely.

I hope you all enjoyed my tour of Darjeeling! Please send me any questions you may have about this awesome little place. I’d also love to hear of your experiences in the Himalayas. Send them to stoutxnxabout@gmail.com

Love always,

Jess

 

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