Part Victorian holiday resort, part major tea-growing centre, Darjeeling (from Dorje Ling, “the place of the thunderbolt”) straddles a ridge 2200m up in the Himalayas, almost 600km north of Kolkata. Over seventy years since the British departed, the town remains as popular as ever with holiday-makers from the plains, and promenades such as the Mall and the Chowrasta still burst with life. The greatest appeal for visitors has to be its stupendous mountain vistas – with Kanchenjunga (the third-highest mountain in the world) and a vast cohort of ice-capped peaks dominating the northern horizon. However, the infrastructure created under the Raj has been unable to cope with the ever-expanding population leading to acute shortages of water and electricity, and chaos on the hopelessly inadequate roads. Still, Darjeeling remains a colourful and lively, cosmopolitan place, with good shopping and dining, plenty of walks in the surrounding hills and attractions such as the Toy Train and colourful Buddhist monasteries. The best seasons to visit – and to attempt the magnificent trek to Sandakphu to see Everest – are after the monsoons and before winter (late Sept to late Nov), and spring (mid-Feb to May).

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