Darjeeling (6500+ ft asl) is a renowned colonial era hill station in what is considered as North Bengal i.e. Northern tip of the State of West Bengal.
Darjeeling is blessed with stunning views of the Kanchenjunga range of Himalayas and tea plantations that grow the world renowned Darjeeling Tea, considered the finest tea in the world by the tea connoisseurs.
Darjeeling town suffers the same fate of overcrowding and haphazard development as many others such as Shimla, Nainital, Mussoorie etc. However the real experience in Darjeeling lies in its tea estates. These estates offer colonial style heritage bungalow stay, old world style cuisine and wide ranging experiences around the tea estate to collectively offer what is termed as “Darjeeling Tea Experience”.
Let me elaborate on what makes this Darjeeling Tea Experience so compelling for heritage and experiential travellers.
The Colonial Bungalow Stay
Stay in Tea estates captures every imagination of a Colonial bungalow stay would be. The stay typically offers Colonial style exteriors, Oversized rooms, wooden flooring / ceiling, large four poster beds, heritage interiors, fireplace and highly personalised services / cuisine experience, much like stylish lifestyle of colonial planters.
Meals are freshly made from locally sourced ingredients. The recipes here have a mix of colonial delicacies blended with local flavors. The Nepalese influence, Colonial history and Indian cuisine all combine to offer a unique experience. The dining experience is an elaborate affair and a meal can extend for couple of hours. .
Darjeeling Tea plantations offer stunning views of the Himalayas, tea plantations and reserve forests around. Tea plucking is where one learns how to safely move around tea plantations set on slopes, identify tea leaves to be plucked, techniques of plucking and depositing plucked leaves for further processing.
Tea tasting offers you an opportunity understand different types of tea grown In Darjeeling and centuries old tea tasting methods.
Tea Factory Visit
Tea factory visit offers an insight into how tea is withered, rolled, fermented, dried and sorted.
There are number of view points within half an hour of Darjeeling that offer 360 degree views of more than 50 Himalayan peaks in India and Nepal, Darjeeling town, valleys, tea estates, waterfalls, and wide ranging birdlife / wildlife. You may choose to take a short hike here with a picnic hamper and enjoy a day around most pristine surroundings.
The entire Walking experience in Darjeeling can be extended to a full day guided 20+ kms trek ( low to medium difficulty) around 1000s of acres of plantations and superb Himalayan views.
River Rangeet nearby is a Snow fed river that is good for Trouts, Catfish, Carp and even Mahseeer. Fishing is possible all through the year except peak Winter months when the river narrows down and water slows down.
Season for Darjeeling Tea Experience
Tea plucking starts from end March to early November. This is when the plantations are at their busiest and tea factories are working overtime. Dec-Feb is when its cold in Darjeeling and Himalayan views are at their best, especially on a clear day. Therefore Nov-Feb is best for Himalayan experience.
Note: It is not a must to stay in a tea plantation bungalow for the tea experiences. Day visitors staying elsewhere in Darjeeling are encouraged to arrive for Lunch and some experiences