Exploring Darjeeling ” The Tea Capital of the World”
August 31, 2018
Table of Content
My 3 nights 4 days Darjeeling trip itinerary!
Darjeeling a small town located in the Himalayan foothill was created as a summer resort for the british raj elites. It still has the famous narrow gauge terminus (not to be missed on your Darjeeling trip) of the Darjeeling Himalayan railways or “Toy Train” with train running to and from the terminus daily.
Darjeeling is also famous for the tea plantations on its hill slopes. Most of the tea growing on these hills is for exporting all over the world . The price of some of the tea grown here can go up to Rs. 100,000( USD 1430) per Kg in the International market.
Another gem located in the backdrop of Darjeeling is the Mt. Kanchenjunga one of the highest peaks in the world. The peak is clearly visible from Darjeeling only on a clear day.
Darjeeling is easily accessible by almost all means of transport. You can reach Darjeeling by air through Bagdogra airport located at around 70 Kms from the city. By road transports like bus, private taxis or even other public transport options. You can also try toy train, It is a joy ride but toy train makes the journey from siliguri to Darjeeling daily and takes approximately 7 hrs. to reach.
As I was already on a trip to Guwahati, Shillong and Cherrapunjee(Sohra) . I took a detour flight on jet Airways from Guwahati to Darjeeling after completing my other trips. The price of the flight was damn cheap to be missed. It costed me only Rs 1800 per person for return ticket on a jet airways flight from Guwahati to Darjeeling.
I took the one hour flight to Darjeeling and landed at Bagdogra airport. The airport remains crowded during summer holidays.So be there well before time. I came to know from locals that Indian tourists visits during the summer months. While, Foreign tourists visit Darjeeling during October to January, the colder months.
After collecting my baggage from the baggage belt I took a personal taxi to my destination and it took me another 3 hours to reach my hotel “The Ramada” located at the city center of Darjeeling city.
How much the 3 night 4 days Darjeeling trip Costs?
The cost of your trip to Darjeeling largely depends on the type of travel you prefer. If you prefer travelling luxuriously(like me) then the travel cost is different. Costs bared by a budget traveler will be significantly different.
a) Luxury Travelers:
If you prefer to travel a bit luxuriously like me then you will be traveling in flights, staying at best hotels and eating at good fancy restaurants. Like, by flight it costed me around Rs 1800(USD 25) per person return flight from Guwahati to Bagdogra. From Bagdogra, Silliguri I took a private taxi to Darjelling, which costed Rs. 6000 ( USD 86) return fare. I took this flight because I was in Guwahati but a normal return ticket from Delhi to Bagdogra in Jet airways costs up to Rs 8000(USD 114) per person.
I stayed in Ramada, it is a good hotel situated in the middle of Darjeeling. Average cost of the rooms is Rs 11ooo( USD 157) per night during the tourist season.
The food costs around Rs.1500(USD 21) to Rs 2000(USD 28) per person, per meal considering breakfast is included in the hotel package.
So, if you prefer travelling a bit luxuriously for a 3 night 4 days. Darjeeling trip can set you back around Rs. 60,000(USD 900) per person starting from Delhi. During Off season you can bring the cost down to up to 50% but it is not worth it.
b) Budget Traveler :
Now, if you are a budget traveler and time is of no concern. Take a train to Siliguri from Delhi. The return ticket cost is only Rs. 1200(USD 18) for second sleeper class which is significantly lower than any means of transport in India. But it can take up to 24 hrs to reach your destinations.
If time is of a concern you can travel through budget airlines like Indigo, Air Asia etc. A return ticket cost of budget airlines can be as low as Rs.5000(USD 72) per person from Delhi if booked at the right time.
There are many options to stay in Darjeeling if you are travelling on a budget. I prefer using OYO rooms app for finding affordable accommodations. If you prefer hostel then per person costs can be as low as Rs 900(USD 12) per person per night in tourist seasons.
In India the food costs can be very low as there are ample types of cheap street food available almost everywhere. I will recommend only the food which is thoroughly cooked on high flames to avoid any gastronomical distress afterwards. The food for a budget outing can cost as low as Rs. 20( Cent 30) for breakfast and Rs. 80( USD 1.14) for other meals.
So, if you plan on travelling on a budget then a 3 night 4 day Darjeeling trip can set you back around Rs. 8500(USD 121) per person.
(****The above depicted costs depends highly on the times you book your ticket and your personal preferences. They can significantly go up or down depending on your choices. The prices shown above are just for reference purpose.)
3 nights 4 Days Darjeeling travel guide:
a) Day 1 of my Darjeeling trip:
Day 1 of my Darjeeling travel was largely uneventful because it was mostly travel from Guwahati to Darjeeling. I started from Guwahati at around 1:00 PM and after an hour’s flight reached Bagdogra by 2:30 PM. The taxi was already waiting for me at the airport. I was in the taxi by 3:00 PM and immediately started my journey towards Darjeeling city.
When completing half of the journey the driver stopped at this wonderful cafe named “Margaret’s Deck”. The cafe was amazing with beautiful view, lovely tea and tasty snacks.
These are some random photos of the place. I tried Darjeeling white tea, it was really flavorful and had a light soothing aroma. I spent around an hour there looking at the view and drinking tea without even realizing the time.
After the amazing snacks and tea we again started our journey towards Darjeeling. The temperature outside was just 24 C (75 F). It was such a relief from the summer time temperatures of Rajasthan my current hometown. On reaching my hotel at around 7:30 Pm I was hoping to take a walk around the bazaar after a quick checking-in. But the front office staff misplaced my reservation( Read about it here.) which was a bummer. It was around 8:30 Pm when I finally got the keys to my room and cleaned up. I set out still hoping to catch a glimpse of the whole bazaar but shops had already began to close.
I decided to call it a night and as I was also hungry I went to Glenary’s for dinner. It is an amazing place lost in time. Had an amazing view and tasty food. The place is really worth to visit and is not at all expensive. During the tourist season there are waiting lines so you might have to wait until you are allotted a table or for the service of your food order. But, it is a must visit place to have dinner in Darjeeling.
After completing dinner I went back to my room and slept quiet early as I was tired and also have to wake up at dawn the next day for the Darjeeling city tour.
b) Day 2 of my Darjeeling trip:
I woke up after a sound sleep the next day feeling refreshed and ready for my tour of Darjeeling city. Now, according to my Darjeeling itinerary I planned a whole day city tour for my second day. But, I came to know that markets and main attractions like zoo remains closed on Thursdays. So, I changed my plans and went for sightseeing of nearby places instead.
1) Simana View Point (Mirik) :
This beautiful view point is on the way to Mirik. The view point offers unobstructed view of sandakafu and its peaks. This place does not belongs to West Bengal or Nepal so it is also known as “Zero Point”.
The view is spectacular and to top that a cold breeze was blowing and light fog was encapsulating the surroundings. There are lots of vendors around this point. You can have a light snack(like wai wai) and tea before continuing on your journey.
2) Mirik Lake:
It is a 1.25 km long lake located in the Mirik district of Darjeeling. The lake is also known as Sumendu lake. It is almost 3 hours drive from Darjeeling. I did not find it worth it because I am from city of lakes and have seen much better water bodies.
The area around the lake was still under construction. Because of the rains it was all muddy around the place. If you want to do horse riding or paddle boating this is a perfect place for you but for me it was not worth the time you have to invest in getting here.
3) Tea Estate
On returning back from Mirik lake the taxi driver stopped at a tea estate. The estate was wast and open to public to roam around in the front. There was no one to explain its purpose or what type of tea was grown here. You just have to get down and can roam around in the front of the tea estate or up the crop filled hills.
Just opposite the road of the tea estate was there tea shop. I went inside the shop and ordered tea for all of us. To be frank the tea we had a day before was thousands time better. I personally did not like the place much as it was actually very commercial. I quickly finished the tea and was back on the road for the next destination.
4) Nepal Border
Yes! you head it right you can just walk into Nepal from this point. It is quiet fascinating, just show your ID card at the border and you are in Nepal. I was not able to click the picture of actual border as it was not allowed. The name of the place on the border is Pashupatinagar from Nepal’s side. Tourist mainly stop here for shopping as stuff here costs damn cheap. I cannot guarantee the authenticity of the things sold here but you can get branded stuff for mere pennies.
The main market is around four to five km from the border so you can either walk or take public taxis from the border. The return trip costs around Rs. 100 per person it is worth the money as the terrain is quiet steep at some points on the way to the market.
The market is not so large with only shops on both the sides. It is just one km walk from the drop point to the pickup point. If you like to shop and have keen eyes for products you can get quiet a bargain here. I just enjoyed the walk as it was amazing weather and had Indian snacks and tea. It takes around an hour at this point if you are not shopping and I was back at the border in no time. It surely is a must see place if you are planning a Darjeeling trip.
5) Batasia loop:
Though this attraction is included in the toy train trip, I was not able to get hold of any ticket as it was sold out during my visit. So, I decided to visit this place on my first day of touring Darjeeling
This loop was created to lower the gradient of ascent of the railway while the train is going up the hill. The track spiral around over itself and passes through a tunnel and over the hilltop. The place also houses a memorial for Gorkha soldiers who sacrificed there life during war of independence. A nice place to visit during your Darjeeling trip.
6) Dali Monastery:
Dali monastery is a beautiful monastery located near the batasia circuit. It provides access to Buddha’s teachings and guidance in a community of practitioners. The monastery is a masterpiece of art and is also really well maintained.
It is a must visit in your tour to Darjeeling. You will feel really calm and accomplished after visiting the monastery.
Thus, after the tour of monastery my day concluded and I went back to the hotel to freshen up. After this I had coffee at keventers and roamed around the bazaar. After spending a wonderful day visiting amazing places I started planning for the next day.
c) Day 3 of my Darjeeling trip
In the morning I was suppose to start from the Kanchenjunga view point at around 4:00 Am. The locals told me that it was of no use to go during monsoon time as weather will be bad and I will not be able to see anything. Turns out, they were right it rained the whole morning and there was dense fog all over the place. If you really want to catch the glimpse of Kanchenjunga mountain than best time to visit is October to January. There will be no fogs and sky will be crystal clear.
The third day started as usual, coffee in the morning then a hefty and amazing breakfast at the Ramada hotel. By the time I finished my breakfast my taxi was ready and waiting for me.
1) Zoological park and mountaineering institute
I would recommend to visit the zoo and mountaineering institute at the starting of your Darjeeling tourist spots trip. Both the attractions are inside a common area and you really have to walk a lot if you want to cover both the tourist spots in half the day. If you want to thoroughly see both the spots it will take you around 2 and a half hours to complete the whole round.
The Darjeeling zoo is really beautiful and well maintained. The zoo houses animals from all the colder regions of India. They even have a red panda in there zoo which is the main attraction of the place.
After a lot of up and down the hill you reach the mountaineering institute. The way is through the zoo only and the place is amazing as it houses a well preserved history of mountaineering in India. Photography is not allowed inside the museum so I don’t have any picture from inside. But, you must visit this place to get acquainted with the history of mountaineers in India.
The zoo also houses a museum where they keep real animals stuffed for study purpose only. Again, the place is off limit for cameras so I don’t have any pictures from inside the museum. You will just have to take my word for it that it is a worthy place to visit to gain knowledge and insights of the wildlife existing in this place.
Overall, I had an amazing experience. By the time I finished the round of the place, half of the day was over. You can even visit there website to know more here.
2) Happy valley tea estate
After completing the zoo trek, the taxi took us to happy valley tea estate. The estate is the second oldest tea garden in Darjeeling and was established in 1854. It has a area of over 440 acres and employs around 1500 people. That is a lot.
They do not allow photography and video recording inside. So I will just give you a brief of my experience inside the place. After buying the ticket I went inside. I joined a group of people and then the guide came and told us about the history of this place. It is quiet fascinating to know that quality of tea is determined by the time it is plucked from its plant and is known as flush. The tea from first flush is considered the best and most expensive of the lot.
After a brief history he took us inside the factory and showed us how tea leaves are dried and compressed into tea by various processes. They even have the old equipment which were used to make tea from tea leaves in golden days.
Overall, a great experience and a learning curve in my preparation of tea. After the tour they provided the group with different types of tea tasting. I bought some tea as souvenir and was on my way to the next destination in my Darjeeling trip.
3) Japanese peace pagoda:
This was the first time I was visiting a Japanese shrine in my life. I must say it is a very enlightening experience. I walked up the stairs and Into the Japanese temple and was in for a surprise.
The Japanese prayers were in progress at the time. You can go inside and join them and play small drums they keep around the sitting space for tourists. It was so peaceful listening to the chants that I completely forgot that there were so many people around the place. I really felt very peaceful during the chants. As always there was no camera policy so I was not able to capture the moment. But I did record the chants which I will upload in my YouTube video.
Ahead of the Japanese temple there is the peace pagoda which depicts the different avatar of Buddha. You can roam around here click pictures. The pagoda is a beautiful and peaceful place with a very important message of world peace
4) Ghum Monestary:
After completing our visit to the pagoda I insisted my taxi driver to take me to Ghum monastery. The driver told me that mostly Indian tourist do not visit this monastery. But, foreign tourist do flock around here during colder seasons. What he said was true because when I reached the monastery there was no one is sight. I really don’t know why tourists do not come to this place. It is very beautiful and has breathtaking architecture.
The Old Ghum monastery also known as Yiga Choeling was established in 1850. The monastery houses a 15 feet high statue of Maitreya Buddha or the future avatar of lord Buddha. Once inside the monastery you feel really calm and enchanted and can sit in there for hours. After taking a whole round of the monastery I left with a great feeling of accomplishment of visiting this place. I recommend all the travelers to do include this place in your itinerary of your Darjeeling trip.
After the Ghum monastery my trip was over. I tried for the tickets of the toy train. But, in vain was not able to get my hands on some. So, I had to miss the must visit toy train ride and railway museum which you can only visit if you buy ticket of toy train.
I went back to my hotel and reached at around 7 :00 PM. Quickly, changed clothes and was out again to roam around the beautiful bazaar. For dinner I went back to my hotel as I came to know they have started serving Non-veg in the buffet. Next day I needed to wake up early so I went to bend by 10:00 Pm in the night.
D) Day 4 of my Darjeeling trip (The Conclusion):
I woke up the next day feeling contempt and a bit nostalgic because it meant that holidays were over. I had to check out at 6:00 am in the morning as my flight was at 11:00 Am from Bagdogra airport. My taxi was ready by the time I reached downstairs.
I said goodbye to Darjeeling with a zest that I will be coming back again to complete my tour of this place, specially to see Kanchenjunga range in the early morning.
I hope my 3 nights 4 days Darjeeling travel guide will prove helpful to my readers for planning their own Darjeeling trip.