The sweltering summer heat was all too much for the British Raj in Calcutta and so for several months of the year the whole lot upped sticks and moved from Calcutta to Darjeeling, the ‘Land of the Celestial Thunderbolt’ . At an altitude of 2134m (7000ft) it is considerably cooler than the plains, though decidedly wet in summer.
The first tea bushes were planted in the surrounding Himalayan hills in the same year the town was established and by 1881 the railway line from Siliguri to Darjeeling meant that tea could more easily be brought to market. You can still ride the rails today, chugging through forests of rhododendrons and curving around tea plantations, though most visitors find the short trip between Darjeeling and Ghoom preferable to the seven hour journey from the plains.
Haphazard construction and congestion in Lower Darjeeling means this part of town is best avoided but The Mall, with its Victorian gothic architecture, views of the Himalaya from Obsevatory Hill, and nearby Buddhist monasteries decorated with colourful murals and fluttering prayer flags make Darjeeling worthy of a few days stay. And, of course, there’s an almost limitless supply of excellent tea to keep you refreshed along the way.