The most gorgeous mountain vistas in India can be found in the Eastern Himalayas, home to some of the world’s highest snow mountains. The timeless quality of their beauty can be enjoyed in one of the most popular hill towns, north of the plains of North Bengal from the gateway town of Siliguri.This is Darjeeling, famed as the summering retreat of the Raj, when Calcutta was the bastion of British rule; Darjeeling is also world-renowned for its 140-year-old UNESCO-acclaimed small gauge steam engine toy train–now officially known as the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Here’s an invitation this winter to Darjeeling for coffee, conversations and Mt Khangchendzonga.
The mystique of the eastern Himalayas has long drawn adventurers, scientists, scholars who have been amply rewarded, so wide is the spectrum of the allurements that wait to be explored. While the rich nuances of Darjeeling’s colonial vibe are undeniable, there are plenty of native components to remind you of the age-old appeal of its historical, spiritual, and cultural importance in this picturesque setting. Though long admired as a summer hill retreat, its winter days offer another vibe altogether. It’s also the best time to get those grandstand views of the world famous snow peaks.
Gather around with friends over coffee, cakes and conversations on The Mall at the iconic Glenary’s with its picture windows to get those fantastic, untrammelled views of Mt. Khangchendzonga, the world’s third highest peak. In the summer months, the lack of clear snow peak views from town itself can send you home disappointed, but it’s on those chilly winter days, with those blue skies and perky breezes, you get the best views of the mountain. Another pleasant spot is Tiger Hill at sunrise, when the sharp morning rays of the sunset the snow on Mt. Khangchendzonga are on fire! Leave town while it’s still dark to get the best place to watch when the sun comes up as it can get pretty crowded.
Gear up for warmth if you feel like a light trek or a wander in the snow in Darjeeling’s surrounding hills. There’s always some tiny stall along the way hawking hot tea and samosas and local gossip to keep you warm and cheery.
Back in town, you’ll find many spots to catch those peek-a-boo-views of the mighty Khangchendzonga. It’s a real treat, because most of the year round the peaks are hidden behind gauzy veils. So make the most of your winter days chumming up with your lens with the mountain. This is also a lovely time to tuck into Darjeeling amazing culinary diversions, driven by the multi-ethnic populace of the town. From cheery restaurants to street stalls, there’s an epic journey of culinary delights that will just blow you away. Chat up vendors and the jostling patrons rubbing shoulders with you to discover what fun it is to eat like a local.
Get your thrills riding the Darjeeling Ropeway cable car. The 45-min ride offers a superb view of the hill town, the snow peaks and the winter wonderland of the surrounding hills. On the ride on the toy train to Ghoom, the highest railway station in India, soak up the gorgeous views along the way.
The intense pull of Darjeeling’s Himalayan vistas in winter time can come as a shock for some travelers, who might think that only the locals would hang about in the cold. Not so! It’s as crowded and fun-filled as the summer days and you would do well to abandon yourself to its charms again.