Incredible India offers unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for you to experience. India is a vast land that has everything from the Himalayan Mountain ranges, dense forests, rustic villages, dense, modern cities and long stretches of white beaches. In India, there is something for everybody, and in recent years it has exploded in the number of tourists visiting. When you wish to avoid the usual tourist traps, that every place has, you need to look for something on the map. Darjeeling is the perfect combination of tourist-friendly attractions and non-mainstream appeal, just waiting for you to discover!
1. Sunset and sunrise in the Himalayan
Spirituality is tied closely to India and its citizens. From the moment you first step into India, you will feel a difference and that something special is present here. Mystical Himalayans are a majestic sight to behold, one that can’t be written into words. Darjeeling is adjacent to its famous Tiger Hill, where you can experience the daily cycle and its unique reflection on Earth’s tallest mountain. Simply being there, sitting down, and observing the site, as your eyes gaze at Nature’s wonders, will offer that special something that will always bring you back.
2. Teesta River rafting
India is not all meditation and zen, but also a place for adrenaline junkies. For visitors that wish to get their heart racing, you can always opt for some speedy Teesta River rafting, as the river is also close to Darjeeling. You don’t need to have experience for some parts as experts have divided the course into segments, ranging from absolute beginners, where you can even go solo, to places where it’s best to hire seasoned guides. When you wish to try something new and experience the other side of India’s delights, a quick raft down a speedy river is just the right choice!
3. The Darjeeling Toy Train
British rule has left a mark on India’s history, but some of it was positive. The Darjeeling train bears the prestige title of UNESCO World Heritage asset and is still running, even though it was established in 1880. You can pick between the diesel or steam variant which goes from Siliguri up to Darjeeling in a seven-hour scenic ride. When you want to explore and experience a different country and culture, it is always best to do what the locals do.
India’s history is gigantic, and this part of it can be experienced first-hand and be a great blast from the past. You can also contribute to your stay in India by offering to teach english abroad, which can also pay for your stay there. Giving back to the community is a reward in itself, but rest assured that the Indian people will respond in kind. Whatever you give to them, will be returned tenfold.
4. Darjeeling Tea Plantations
Tea is an important part of Indian culture. The source of great Indian pride is their famous Indian tea, and most of it is grown in the plantations around Darjeeling. Sampling the authentic taste directly from the source does not come any more personal than this. The Happy Valley Tea Estate is so close you can walk to it. Or you can sign up for one of many guided tours where you will see intricate procedures of picking, drying and serving proper Indian tea. You can also go solo and take an abundance of pictures from this green haven and breath in all the incredible smells of the plantation around you.
5. Mahakal Temple
One more attraction which you can reach by foot from the centre of Darjeeling is the Mahkal Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. You can find many prayer wheels you can spin for good fortune and learn a lot about Indian folklore and spiritual traditions. The monks are very welcoming to anyone, regardless if it’s a commoner or a tourist.
What sets this site apart from others is that inside the monastery, there’s a hidden cave that leads up to Ghum Monastery, so the Mahkal Temple can be considered a gateway top. This adventure that can last you an entire day will lead you to the top, where you will soon realise why monks come here to mediate. Like the Himalayans, such places offer spiritual relief, and places where you can be at peace with yourself.
6. Local handcrafts
Tradition, culture and heart wisdom are all interwoven in intricate patterns that locals create daily. When the Tibetans fled from the Chinese invasion, they settled here and with them they brought their culture and special ways. You can watch rugs being hand woven in front of your eyes or dine on Momos and tumba (local wheat beer), and all the while listening to ingenious tales these seasoned and weathered people can tell you. Listening to their stories, you will always notice a smile on their face, as nothing can dampen their spirits. With such energy all around you, dressed in hand-crafted local clothes and a belly full of Indian cuisine, you will never want to leave Darjeeling.
Adventure and excitement don’t come to those who sit idly in the comfort of their homes. New and exotic opportunities are out there in the wild, waiting for you to explore and experience them first-hand. By stepping out of your comfort zone, you can explore new lands and parts you didn’t know existed. Volunteering or visiting Darjeeling in India will cement it as a vocal point in your life. One that you will always return to with a smile.