I started this off-beat walking tour to showcase Darjeeling’s extraordinary diversity…
People used to see Darjeeling as a small, clustered town but in fact it’s a widespread hill district lying on both the Indo-Nepal border and the northerly Sikkim border. It contains lofty national parks and stunning wildlife sanctuaries, rich in flora and fauna, including some exquisite bird species. When you walk through the tea forests on a clear day, you can see the towering Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain, and even a bit of Mount Everest.
When I first came here, I couldn’t believe that these kinds of places existed. The same wonder I think Mark Twain felt when he arrived in town via the old Darjeeling Himalayan Railway which still runs today. That’s why I started this off-beat walking tour, to showcase Darjeeling’s extraordinary diversity while preserving the sanity of the forest.
If you’re a nature lover, it’s a splendid day. It’s an hour drive in an open-top jeep into the cloud-brushing Darjeeling hills where we get out and stroll. Some of the forests we explore act as breeding reserves for the area’s beloved red pandas which we sometimes spot in the treetops. Along the way we might bump into local folk musicians who will sometimes give you a performance if you ask nicely. We stop to spot birds, walk to hidden reservoirs and pause in the meadows with a bonfire.
Nestled in the forest lie beautiful Tibetan villages whose members are descendants of communities that arrived in 1959 during the Tibetan uprising. These hamlets are made up of around ten households and a monastery that, unlike the ones in town, remain completely untainted by commercialism. The people here speak purely Tibetan as they’re simply not exposed to other languages. They don’t get many visitors at all and are so happy to welcome you. Lunch is usually a delicious Tibetan meal or perhaps some Newari food renown for being elaborately prepared and rich in flavour. There are stories behind each dish but there’s a choila thali which is my favourite that incorporates several dishes including dal and tender meat cooked in raw mustard oil.
My favourite memory on this excursion? Seeing the fireflies at sunset. It was magical seeing the green meadows completely lit in bright yellow specks. I had three travellers with me at the time and we all just stood there silent and in awe.
Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Malcolm, who's travelled extensively in India. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember.
Freephone an expert 01306 744 656