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It is “One of the three Jewels of the Raj“, said a celebrated travel writer of The Windamere Hotel. Established in the 19th century as a cozy boarding house for bachelor English and Scottish tea planters, it was converted into a hotel just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Well known to sophisticated travellers the world over, the Windamere is famous for its unique ambience and charm, and has been the subject of many leading stories in the international media.
During the first National Awards Ceremony for outstanding hotels in India, the Prime Minister presented Windamere Hotel with a coveted award for its excellence as a Heritage Hotel of India.
Windamere is the original “Heritage House of the Himalayas“. It is situated on Observatory Hill, a Darjeeling landmark, believed to be the focus and repository of life-enhancing cosmic energies.
In elegant surroundings, is an ideal location for Board, and senior management meetings. It offers a setting that is private and intimate, where camaraderie comes easily, and people speak as friends. In recent times, the Centre has provided a meeting place for notable organizations, including blue-chip Indian conglomerates (Board Meetings and Sr. Management Conferences), Foreign Banks (Board Meetings and Regional Conferences), and major International Airlines (Regional Conferences of Sr. Management).
The Centre’s Fred Pinn Lecture Room seats 40 people; The Henry Carpenter Conference Room seats 20; the Pinnell Board Room seats 10 to 16 people; the Rhodes Hall seats 60; and the Directors’ Lounge is for 10 to 12 senior executives.
The Windamere sponsors The DHR Club, which is located on its Snuggery grounds. Although founded by and for railway enthusiasts, visitors with varying interests outside railways have sought admission in recent years to the club’s amenities. The club now welcomes to its fellowship, and provides a congenial meeting place, to the following: railway enthusiasts; explorers; mountaineers; geographers; naturalists; botanists; and zoologists.
Just to give you a head start about the place, Darjeeling hill town is located at an altitude of 6,710ft in north east India and is part of the state of West Bengal. The nearest airport is Bagdogra and the nearest major railway junction is New Jalpaiguri (NJP).
Although the area of Darjeeling hill town itself is small (about 10 square kilometers), Darjeeling is also a district and spans over a large area of about 2,100 square kilometers. The district has subdivisions like Kurseong, Siliguri etc as well as the hill resort town of Mirik. So there are many lovely places to visit within Darjeeling hills itself. Kalimpong which was earlier a subdivision of Darjeeling district has become a separate district of West Bengal effective 14th Feb 2017 with an area of 1,056 square kilometers of its own. It is no longer a subdivision of Darjeeling district. But that makes no difference to the tourists. In fact, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseon and a large part of Sikkim including Gangtok remains as the loved tourist destinations since over a century and several of them can be combined on a single trip.
Within Darjeeling town area, you can walk to visit several tourist attractions. Plenty of taxis (which are private commercial vehicles of various types – small & large) are available at the stands. They offer both local sightseeing tours as well as point-to-point transfers. You can also get shared taxis (mainly Jeep type vehicles) at the stands, but they are mostly available for transfers and seldom for tours.
Gangtok (the Capital of Sikkim) which is only 4-hour drive from Darjeeling along with several other parts of Sikkim offer great destinations to easily combine with Darjeeling. And many even plan for combined visits to places like nearby Bhutan to make the diversity of experience even richer.
Darjeeling hill town was originally set up as a sanitarium or health resort by the British in mid 1800s. But over the years, it earned its name for its world famous aromatic tea and then with opening up of roads and Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, for tourism.
Over the past few decades Darjeeling lacked proper developmental support and had seen random and thoughtless constructions & overcrowding which it hardly deserved. Despite that the charming, sincere and friendly people of the place have continued to strive hard and successfully preserved pride of ‘Queen of the Hills’ as one of the best places for tourism even today.
The town center of Darjeeling is known as Mall or Chowrasta, which is a flat open public square, a pedestrian only zone free of vehicular traffic and surrounded by colorful stores with backdrop of mountains and valleys. Mall or Chowrasta is the main town center.
Most tourists try to stay near the Mall area to be close to hub of all activities, restaurants and shops. So due to high demand, numerous hotels of all types have mushroomed near the Mall area. Alternatively you can stay a bit away, enjoy nature & views, and a location relatively free of crowd.
During spring, summer and autumn, the weather in Darjeeling is pleasantly cool and perfect for city dwellers who flock in volumes during such time. Many come to enjoy the rains in monsoon and chill in the winter as well. And when such visits are combined with wonderful views of snow peaks and valleys, tea gardens, forests & flowering plantations, amazing sightseeing tours & activities, great food & stays, and all at affordable prices …. won’t you love a vacation like that?
The foaming waters of the mountain rivers Teesta and Rangeet attract large number of enthusiasts for white water rafting every year. Sandakphu and Phalut treks are already well established trekking routes in the region and very popular to trekkers from all over the world.
Rafting and Camping Packages are offered by operators that combine white water rafting with river bank camping. You will camp in natural surrounding of forests and hear the sounds of the river flowing at night just next to you, and wake up to the chirping of the birds. Cliff Jumping and Body Surfing are also offered along with Camping and Rafting activities. Get Operator Info...
Mountain biking in Darjeeling
Although it depends on the destination and the tour, a typical group size in a guided cycling tour can be between 2 to 12 and the tour duration about 7-8 hours. You get excellent quality mountain bikes in Darjeeling like the Trek, Conandale etc.
Motor Bike Tours and Rentals If you want to see Darjeeling and surrounding areas on a motor bike, there are two options. Either you can take a guided organized tour or take a motor bike on rent. You will get motorbikes like Royal Enfield in good condition. There are plenty of amazing terrain to explore in and around Darjeeling including tea gardens, villages, mountain landscapes and sanctuaries.
Take a leisure ride at your own pace, have a map (given by the operator) to chalk out your route through the mountain landscape or just get lost, stop at any place you want and have a cup of tea while chatting with a local ... the opportunities are plenty.
This old hill town with its old colonial charm has adapted itself over time and offers nighttime entertainment in its own unique way.
But that doesn't mean you too need to shut your day off for the night. Whenever I feel like extending my evening in Darjeeling to remain immersed in its magic, I pick up one of the following nightlife choices:
There are several tables with comfortable cushioned seats, and you can even enjoy watching a sports channel on LCD TV. As the night trickles through and if Puran is in great mood, you can request him to play his favorite guitar - he is a master. But he may not if there are many other guests around.
The culture of Darjeeling, India, is quite diverse and unique. The two predominant religions are Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism. Dashain, Tihar, Buddha Jayanti, Christmas, Holi, Ram Navami, etc. are the main festivals. Besides, the diverse ethnic populace of the town also celebrates several local festivals.
The History of Darjeeling covers the history of Darjeeling town and its adjoining hill areas belonging to Sikkim, but eventually part of British India so now in the Indian state of West Bengal, which is intertwined with the history of Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Bengal and Great Britain, i.e. the East India Company.
English, Hindi & Nepali
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