Never have I ever been to the Himalayas – That was the last of what I said while playing a game with my friends. But little did I know I would be riding on the UNESCO Word Heritage steam train a year after in Darjeeling.
I wanted my first visit to India be a memorable one, so I took a trip to the Himalayas. I’ve often enjoyed the sound of the mountains – the hair-pin roads, cosy cottages and colourful monasteries. I booked my Himalayan tour from GeTS Holidays and ventured on my very first trip to India. Along the dizzying roads of the mountains, the only prominent sight throughout my journey from Bagdogra Airport to Darjeeling was the third-highest Kangchenjunga Mountain at a distance. Every turn had my eyes fixed to the snow-clad peak. It was indeed a romantic journey from the plain landform to the staggering hills; I noticed how narrow the train tracks were that criss-crossed the hill roads overlooking the tea estates and dark tunnels. It was something straight from a Jane Austin’s novel.
I woke up the next day with a frenzy feeling, energized to see the sunrise from the Tiger Hill.I was received by the hotel and driven to the viewpoint. The wind was cold in the morning even on a predicted warm summer day. But all my chills soon subsided after the sun rose behind the majestic Kanchenjunga range. At that moment I realized waking up at 4 in the morning was worth it. After I treated myself with an English breakfast with hot tea, my sightseeing day began. It was refreshing to see the Old Ghoom Monastery. So colourful and beautiful, it also has a statue of the Maitreya Buddha inside. ‘If only I could show what I was seeing to my friends back home.’ I also visited the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and rode on the ropeway from Singamari all the way to Tukvar and back. One of the must-do here is riding the heritage toy train and that’s exactly what I did before leaving Darjeeling for Sikkim.
The Himalayan Toy Train started operating since 1880 but it was only in 1999 UNESCO declared it a as a heritage train. Ideally these locomotives traverse from Darjeeling to other places but if you have time constrains you can always take a tourist ride around the Batasia Loop which is a spiral railway created to lower the gradient of ascent of the train. The smell of fresh air awoke all my senses as I drove to Pelling, one of the picturesque destinations in Sikkim. Here, I did a little sightseeing of the monasteries and visited Khecheopalri Lake. Gangtok, had me going gaga over their shopping hotspots. But nothing compared to the beauty of the viewpoints, one of my favourite was the Tashi View Point from where I got a full view of Mt. Kangchenjunga. My itinerary also included a day trip to Tsomgo Lake. It is located close to Nathula Pass which is the entry point to China.
It is famously known as Silk Route and it remains frozen for most part of the year. I felt a ‘too soon’ goodbye from Sikkim but I also wanted to visit Kalimpong to rekindle with nature and just to take a step into serenity. I visited the highest point in the town, Delo Hill from where I got to see the picturesque water reservoir. This was my last leg of the tour and I don’t have any regrets coming here and taking a tour with GeTS. The hotels provided had a tradition and modern appeal with cottage vibe intact with modern facilities. Even the guide and driver provided were very friendly and gentle. The travel team at GeTS were very hospitable and professional. I look back to my stay and journey with them and long to come back again, this time with my family.
Here are a few Himalayan Tours you can take to explore Northern and Northeastern parts of India