5 reasons to visit Darjeeling

Journey to Darjeeling, the land of endless tea fields, sunrises on the highest peaks of the world, and colorful Buddhist temples.

What amazes me the most is the diversity of the country I have been living in for the last two months. Only a train ride away from the colonial Kolkata, the faces and the landscapes are completely different from the India I thought I was starting to grasp.

Darjeeling Darjeeling monk

Welcome to Darjeeling. Here, the air is clear, clouds weave above the valleys and the deep red of the robes of the monks is here to remind you that Tibet is just a few summits away.

The contrast with the wet heat of the rest of West Bengal and the hustling streets of its capital is startling. The India I have witnessed so far is hot, relentless, loud and hindu. And here is a new one : hard to reach, calm, buddhist and hooked on noodles.

I want to share the highlights of this trip.

Sunrise on the Himalayas: Tiger Hill

Darjeeling Tiger Hill
Tiger Hill

Reality check : to  watch the sun rise, you have to be up before he is. So here we are, wrapped up in all the warm clothes we own and still groggy from sleeping, reaching Tiger Hill (2,590m) by 4am. One of these ice-cold mornings that make your cheeks turn pink.

The spot is widely known and hundreds of tourists surround us as we wait for obscurity to fade. After a while, the sky turns pastel and the snowy peaks start glowing.
Some say that the range of moutains we see in the distance draws Buddha lying on the horizon.
Some even say that we can see the Everest from here…That tiny pointy thing over there ? Yup. Well, it is quite far and let’s not forget that his neighbours also approach the 8000 meters.


Getaway to a tea estate

Darjeeling Tea estate
Tea Estate

This place moves me. I was expecting the vibrant green of the rice fields, not the one of the tea plantations. Nor was I expecting the smiles and the kindness of the workers whose tough working conditions are well known.

So then, the liters of tea I drink back home come from somewhere.
A place globalisation carefully hid in the clouds…

Darjeeling tea leaves
Tea leaves – credit : Saikat

Darjeeling tea estate Darjeeling tea estate Darjeeling

The Toy train

Darjeeling Toy Train
The Toy Train

I like trains.
Because you cannot go faster than it, the train forces you to reflect on the pace of your own chain of thoughts. You can either go crazy or embrace it. One day, I would like to ride one of these mythical machines like the Transsiberian, the Orient Express or the Palace on Wheels which I briefly saw in the train station back in Jaisalmer. But while I wait for wealthier days, I was excited for that Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.

I like everything about it : the dark blue of the wagons, the slow pace of the engine and the blaring sound of the locomotive.

Darjeeling Toy Train

Darjeeling Toy train

A French interlude in Kalimpong

Though it is noisy and lacking any charm, we like Kalimpong for the contrast it creates with our previous stop, Lamahatta, a.k.a no man’s land.

Finding a French boulangerie abroad is a very common thing. Although their croissants will not fool anyone,  boulangeries are trendy and all the rage. But seeing the words “French Bakery” in this 40,000-inhabitant city lost in the Himalayas arouses my curiosity.

There is a story behind this stall of breads in a place that is unlikely to welcome more than 500 tourists a year. A woman seated next to us is intrigued by my IIM Calcutta hoody and we start talking. She is French and a friend of the owners whom she came to visit. She tells me their story, their French and Indian love story that started in an NGO close to Kolkata. And she tells me a little bit about her own story, intricately bound to India for years and tears sometimes come to her eyes as she reminisces about years of friendships and hardships.

And it is only once this conversation and my last bite of quiche are finished that I realize I like being French and abroad.


Darjeeling, the middle of nowhere

We slept in remote places, stopped asking if hot water was available after two days and just wondered if water was available at all and took roads I would have hesitated to ride even with a motocross.

In the end, it was a journey to places no one goes. Time stopped and so did the sounds coming from the valley. A well-deserved week of inner self-indulgence. Only our (incredibly good) mobile connection was here to remind us of everything and everyone we left down there.


And while I am at it : I should probably see someone about that chai and momo addiction of mine. It’s getting out of control.

Darjeeling Kid Credit : Saikat


Darjeeling templeDarjeeling temple

Darjeeling Buddha


One thought on “5 reasons to visit Darjeeling

  • 3 January 2018 at 5:33 pm

    Love the way you write about nature, culture and people . Small stories together make it a big one ! ??☺️

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