I always had this sense of excitement and urge to visit the northeastern part of India. But to explore them at one stretch, one should have a plenty of time. So, I narrowed down to Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim, and since Darjeeling was also nearby I choose to visit that place too.
I was bitten by the travel bug at a very early stage of my life. But I experienced the true essence and meaning of travel by exploring solo. Since this trip was planned suddenly it again had to be solo and my first destination was Darjeeling.
How to Reach Darjeeling
Although Darjeeling itself doesn’t have a long distance railway station, but there are many trains from various parts of India passing through New Jalpaiguri and Siliguri, which are the two cities closest to Darjeeling.
The nearest airport is the Bagdogra airport. You can further make your onward journey through these towns by shared or private taxis, buses or even toy train.
It takes the minimum of 3-4hrs to reach Darjeeling from these towns. The rate of private taxis may vary but the rate of shared taxis should not be more than 200 INR.
Since my trip was started from Hyderabad, I choose to go to Kolkata first and then to New Jalpaiguri (NJP). I had to exchange two trains to reach NJP. There are trains running from Hyderabad to New Jalpaiguri but the frequency is less and it takes a lot of time to reach the destination.
Things to do at Darjeeling
Darjeeling is quite famous for its tea garden, toy train, and monasteries. But it is recommended to be a traveler rather than the just tourist. Since renting a bike or exploring these places through taxis is a costly affair; it’s advisable to walk down.
You can also take shared taxis but they go only to limited places. Walking down will help you to communicate with the local people and you get to see the real beauty of Darjeeling.
The people of Darjeeling are sweet and helpful; they have lots of stories to tell. You can have a cup of coffee or tea with them and spend some quality time.
I would strongly recommend in visiting a shop named Golden Tips Tea, at the mall road. Here you can have a cup of various teas at a very affordable price. Further, the Mahakal temple will enchant the devotees with its silence and beauty.
In the evening, you can just walk down to the mall road and shop. Next morning, it is advisable to witness the sunrise from the mall road.
I feel that Tiger hill is a crowded and overrated place in Darjeeling; no doubt you will get the best view of Kanchenjunga in Darjeeling, but if you want to have a peaceful and less crowded place to witness the sunrise then mall road is the perfect location. It looks surreal when the clouds clear up and the mighty showing up.
On the top, the sun rays falling on the peak of the mountain is just breathtaking. Spend some time at Happy valley tea estate in Darjeeling, and get to know how the tea leaves are selected, how the processing is done by visiting the factory.
The view of Kanchenjunga from the Keventer’s café is stupendous. Enjoy the view by sitting on the terrace of the café with hot chocolate.
There is a round trip of the toy train from Darjeeling to Ghum which stops at Batasia Loop for few minutes. But it is advisable to not take that as it’s quite expensive, you can enjoy the toy train experience from Darjeeling to Ghum and return back in shared taxis.
Also, you can visit the famous Ghum monastery and spend some time with the students over there. It is highly recommended to walk down to the Japanese temple as it is peaceful and you get closer to nature. A Japanese temple is a perfect place for meditation and one can hear the silence over there.
How to reach Gangtok
Shared and private taxis are available from the taxi stand which takes you to Gangtok. If you are planning to visit Gangtok first, then taxis are available at NJP and Bagdogra.
The shared taxis will cost you in between 200-300 INR whereas the private taxis will cost you around 2500 INR. The journey is beautiful as we will get to see the Teesta River.
Things to do in Gangtok
I was traveling during that time when the demonetization news was spread. I didn’t have sufficient cash to explore the places which left my experience at Gangtok half-hearted. But I was determined, I didn’t lose hope and I hadn’t come so far just to be sad.
Just like Darjeeling, Gangtok is mesmerizing. It has beautiful monasteries, Hanuman Tok and Ganesh Tok is a must visit place in Gangtok for its serenity. One place which is real special about Gangtok is the M G Road.
This road is posh; the vehicles are not allowed to travel on this road. On this road, you will find café, restaurants and it looks amazing in the night. People can just come and sit down on the benches and have a chat with strangers.
A trip to Gangtok is incomplete without visiting Nathula Pass and Tsomgo Lake. You need a Permit to visit Nathula Pass, Shared taxis are available from the city which will cost Rs 800 including the permit.
Nathula is open for Indians on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; 5 days a week, Foreigners are not allowed to visit Nathula.
It is required to carry necessary documents like ID card and some photocopies for the permit. The journey to Nathula pass is surreal. As you ascend, you can see only clouds all over and the temperature drops. When I reached Nathula then the temperature was -5.
You can witness the Indo- China border at Nathula Pass. While returning back, do visit Baba Mandir and the beautiful Tsomgo Lake. Tsomgo Lake is situated at an altitude of 12000ft and is surrounded by majestic mountains which make it perfect picturesque.
These were the places which enchanted me and made my trip special and memorable. Before deciding to go to Darjeeling and Gangtok, I had searched for the Attractive places in Darjeeling and Gangtok and made a list of it.
But I always follow this principle that ‘The best plan is that there is no plan’ I never followed any plan, which place to visit first and which place to not visit.
I just went with the flow and explored the places. In the process of exploration, I met and got connected with strangers; I got to know about their lifestyle and culture too. Probably, that is why traveling is so special.
It gives you a lot of memories and builds up an eagerness to again pack your bags and travel.