One of my friends and I decided to visit Darjeeling and Sikkim at the beginning of May 2019. Therefore, we studied other travel posts, applied for Indian visas, and planned our route.
Initially, we decided to visit Sikkim and then Darjeeling on the last days of our tour. However, we changed our plan later on the way as we found new tour mates on the bus we took from Dhaka to the Changrabandha border.
Since this is a long post, I divided the journey into two parts. In this post, I will discuss Darjeeling more and focus on Sikkim in the next part.
Off to Siliguri
We left Dhaka at around 10:30 PM on May 26, 2019, for the border and reached it at around 10 AM the next day. Then we crossed the border, maintaining all the formalities, crossed the border, converted Bangladeshi taka (BDT) to Indian Rupees, and took a bus to reach Shiliguri.
You can also fly to Siliguri since there is a nearby airport or take a train from Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal.
We reached Siliguri around 03 PM local time and went to the Sikkim Tourism Office to obtain the Inner Line Permit (ILP). It is to be noted that all foreigners must collect an ILP alongside the visa to visit Sikkim.
Siliguri to Darjeeling
Darjeeling or Sikkim- whatever place you want to start with, you need to start from Siliguri. We chose to visit Darjeeling first and then Sikkim.
Many travel agencies in Siliguri offer accommodation and transportation inside Darjeeling. You need to be very careful while bargaining or research early to compare usual prices.
We started our journey around 04 pm local time and arrived at Darjeeling around 08 pm local time. It takes from 3-4 hours, depending on the weather conditions.
The taxi journey from Siliguri to Darjeeling is a picturesque, unique expedition that winds through the verdant hills of West Bengal. The whole journey offers travelers an enchanting experience amidst hill roads.
The journey starts with the vibrant chaos of Siliguri’s streets, full of rickshaws, bikes, and taxis jostling for space. As the vehicle leaves the urban chaos behind, the landscape transforms into lush greenery. It is all the way uphill from there, offering beautiful switchbacks and mountain views.
After we checked into our hotel, we spent the evening outside, wandering the vibrant streets of Darjeeling and enjoying local foods, especially Momo.
A Whole day at Darjeeling
We woke up early in the morning and gathered at the roadside stop where the jeep was supposed to pick us up. The panoramic view of the sun painting the snowy peaks in vibrant hues was awe-inspiring. We visited the following places throughout the day.
1. Tiger Hill: We kickstarted our day with a predawn visit to Tiger Hill to witness the breathtaking sunrise over the Eastern Himalayas. Our jeep was booked early back in Siliguri, and it is the same travel agency.
2. Ghoom Monastery (Yiga Choeling Monastery): Next, the jeep took us to visit the Ghoom Monastery, known for its magnificent statue of Maitreya Buddha and intricate Tibetan-style architecture. We spent some time there and started our journey again for the next stop.
3. Batasia Loop: The iconic Batasia Loop is a unique railway loop that offers stunning views of Darjeeling’s landscape and the toy train as it gracefully negotiates the spiraling tracks.
The place was quite vibrant, and many stalls were renting traditional Darjeeling dresses. We rented the dresses to take some nice pictures of ourselves and the delicate surroundings.
4. Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) and Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park: Then the jeep took us to discover the HMI, a renowned mountaineering institute established by Tenzing Norgay, and the adjacent zoo, home to rare Himalayan species like the snow leopard and red panda.
We saw an event taking place that time at the HMI, awarding some athletes for achieving success. It also had a museum where we enjoyed mountaineering items used by famous alpine climbers who visited the Himalayan many times.
The zoo is also beautiful and is a place to accommodate many wild species. We saw some animals live that we had never seen before.
5. Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Center: We gained insights into Tibetan culture and witnessed Tibetan artisans crafting beautiful handcrafted goods, carpets, and traditional crafts at this center, which was established to support Tibetan refugees.
6. Tea Garden Visit: It was already afternoon, and our driver took us for the tea garden visit. We immersed ourselves in the aromatic world of tea at one of Darjeeling’s renowned tea estates.
The local storekeepers enlightened us about the tea-making process, and savored a cup of exquisite Darjeeling tea amidst the lush plantations. Some of us took advantage of the opportunity to buy cheap tea powder packets.
7. Japanese Peace Pagoda: Our driver concluded our day with a visit to the Peace Pagoda, a symbol of peace and tranquility, offering panoramic vistas of Darjeeling and its surroundings.
In the evening, we again roamed around the vibrant Darjeeling and enjoyed street foods and local culture. We also bought some excellent souvenirs at a low cost.
Darjeeling to Gangtok
We spent the second day morning at Darjeeling and explored roads by walking. It was a pretty experience for early risers like me and my friend. It was totally unplanned and gave us chills for 4-5 straight hours with magnificent views and surroundings.
As planned, we need to go to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. So, we headed back to our hotel and inquired about the way of traveling to Gangtok from Darjeeling Jeep station.
It was not an easy find, and finally, my friend and I managed a jeep shared with an Indian Bengali couple. We started our Jeep journey after having lunch and have now started enjoying the surrounding views.
The journey from Darjeeling to Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim, is a mesmerizing journey that winds through captivating landscapes and breathtaking views. The scenic jeep ride offers travelers an immersive experience through the stunning Himalayan terrain.
Departing from Darjeeling, the journey takes travelers through the charming mountain road experience, unveiling awe-inspiring panoramas of the valley down below and the snow-capped Himalayan peaks peeking from the horizon.
From my research, I already knew a place to stop by. So, we asked the driver to stop at the Kalimpong-Teesta Delo Viewpoint. This vantage point unveils a grand spectacle of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Here, you can relish serene moments, capturing the awe-inspiring scenery in photographs while enjoying the chilly mountain air.
Continuing the adventure, the road trip leads through diverse landscapes, showcasing the region’s natural beauty. As the journey progressed, we saw more of the mighty river Teesta. We had to stop at the checkpoint, where we had to show our passports and the ILP that we had collected earlier at Siliguri.
It was already dark when we arrived at Gangtok. Since we had not booked a hotel earlier, it took us some time to find a hotel room at an affordable price. We had our dinner early and spent some time at the famous Gangtok Street until we returned to our hotel.
So, this is the first part where I focused mostly on how to reach Darjeeling, places to visit, and how to enjoy the most out of it. In the second part, I will unveil our exciting journey through the Sikkim mountains to explore the heavenly north.
Stay tuned! See ya!