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Darjeeling in Monsoon

 
So is monsoon a great time to plan a trip to Darjeeling? If you want a single line answer from me, I'd have to say... 'depends on eyes of the beholder'. It's a fact that vast majority of tourists won't even look at Darjeeling as a tourism option in Monsoon. 
 
Why? Because it rains almost incessantly during this time and you can hardly see the sky, leave alone the sun. That is not to say that the sun does not appear at all. It does, but not probably when you are prepared to take a great camera shot and by the time you are, it disappears. 
 
Monsoon in Darjeeling essentially sets in from June and continues till August and sometimes beyond. You may even encounter showers during May and October. 
 
Another reason why most tourists avoid the time is because they all come here to view the Kanchenjunga snow peaks. Unless you are strangely lucky, you won't be able to view that because the sky remains mostly cloudy or the day remains too foggy for such views. Another negative about monsoon...  
 
Sorry I'm pouring in only negatives for now, but just hold on till I finish the apparent facts and then I'll come to the sides not easily known or felt by the tourists.... So the other negative... during this time there is not much point taking local sightseeing tours. Because from most of the view points you will only see fog, rains and cloud. 
 
Sometimes there are also landslides in Darjeeling during monsoon which may cut off some road routes. But that is usually not a big problem because one can usually take alternative routes. However that may take lot more time to reach the destination due to road conditions and traffic. Very seldom there has been a disaster out of landslides. 
 
 
 
Now the Positives... 
All those negatives I mentioned so far are only for the chicken hearted persons or those who can't see a vacation beyond sunny days, tours and views, and can not accept a change. Let me tell you that I have seen Darjeeling through many different seasons and monsoon in Darjeeling is as dear to my heart as any other season. 
 
Here is why... 
 
First of all, there are no tourists. The entire hill town looks so serene, and the trees and the forests so green. The sound of the rain drops falling on the tinned roof of the cottages create such an intimate and romantic atmosphere that is so unique! Well you need to have bit of a romantic heart to appreciate that :) 
 
Watching the drizzle on a rainy day in Darjeeling 
 
 
But one of the most wonderful sights of Darjeeling during monsoon is the play of the mist or the fog. You can see the mist coming and covering the entire place with a foggy white blanket. You can't see anything even a yard away. And suddenly in no time, it's all gone. It gets bright and clear once again, leaving behind stretches of moist roads and landscapes. 
 
Mist covered Darjeeling Mall 
And in seconds, the mist is gone! 
 
I took the above two pictures in Monsoon from Windamere Hotel in Observatory Hill located just above the Mall. The scene change took place within few seconds. This is Darjeeling in Monsoon! Sun and the mist play such unbelievable hide and seek all through the day. 
 
Another great sight that I love during monsoon is of school children in their oversized raincoats and wearing gum boots (up to knee level) with colorful umbrellas, some of them trying to squeeze in with the other under the same umbrella while torrential rain almost drenching them both. 
 
 
 
When you settle in for a while and look at the locals, you realize that rainy days are just another normal day in the hill town when business is carried out as usual. All shops and establishments remain open even if there is continuous pouring. Just take an umbrella and you are all set. After all unlike in the plains, water logging does not take place in hilly terrain. If you drive down the streets like the Hill Cart Road, you will see many springs & waterfalls with roaring gush of snow white water in their full flow that you can rarely see any other time. 
 
If you like to take home one of the greatest posters of a misty morning in Darjeeling, then see the picture below. It captures a mystic Darjeeling with two men taking a stroll along the Mall road in shades and lights of a foggy morning and just after the rains. You will get this fantastic poster at Das Studio located on Nehru Road that leads to the Mall. It's one of their greatest and oldest collections. It's magical and I have it framed up on the wall of my living room. 
 
Foggy Mall Road, Darjeeling 
 
Courtesy Das Studio 
 
I myself tried to take a picture of the same place on a misty morning during a recent monsoon. You can see it below and compare. Of course I don't have the two mystical men in my picture and with time taking its toll, the trees and vegetation around do not look exactly the same. 
 
Darjeeling Mall Road in Monsoon, My Picture 
 
 
Things I love to do in Darjeeling during monsoon: 
1) Go down to Keventer's in the morning, walk upstairs and take a seat by a window-side table indoor. Order for some sandwiches, meatloaf or sausages and Darjeeling tea. There are couple of tables facing the valley and others facing the road. Take a sip, bite the sandwich and relish the misty view of the valley that takes you to a trans state. Or look at the road below and simply enjoy how so many colorful umbrellas cross each other as the rain falls from above. 
 
2) Go down to Sunset Lounge in Chowraste Mall. Again take a valley view table, order for fine Darjeeling tea, listen to some great music and read a book while enjoying the scene of rain fall on the valley. If I have my laptop with me, this is a great time to catch up with mails or be on a chat with friends. Wi-Fi internet is free in the lounge. 
 
3) Go down to a Monastery in the morning or late afternoon and join the prayers with the lamas. With the Buddhist chants, rings of the bells and a true sacred ambience, it feels heavenly as if I'm one of them and one of real Darjeeling. 
 
On this day of monsoon, 
I was on my way to Bhutia Busty Monastery 
 
 
4) Enter one of my favorite shops (could be a curio shop or a studio, or just a tea stall) and chat with the owner. Other times these locals have no time to spare due to high tourist demands. Now they have all their time and smiles to offer. The time flies as we get into discussions about life in Darjeeling, its future, the political shape it might take and lot more. 
 
5) If it's not raining heavily, I would Drive down towards Mirik and enjoy the lovely tea gardens in the mist, spend the day with the nature and come back. 
 
For me, It has always been a pure bliss to be in Darjeeling during Monsoon. 
 
 
 
Places you can visit in monsoon 
Here are some indoor places in Darjeeling which you can visit and enjoy even during monsoon. You should ideally take a reserved car and carry an umbrella. 
 
1) Bengal Natural History Museum - flora & fauna of the region. 
2) Japanese Temple & Peace Pagoda - Needs some walk from the main entrance. 
3) Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center - need to walk between various workshops. 
4) Some of the great monasteries - some will require walks. 
5) Ava Art Gallery - great collections of paintings and artwork. 
6) Hayden Hall - an institute working for the underprivileged and has a sales outlet. 
 
Some practical advantages of visiting Darjeeling in monsoon  
1) Almost all hotels offer lower rates;  
2) The service in hotels get vastly improved as there are far lesser guests to entertain; 
3) The water shortage which is so prevalent during high season is almost non-existent during monsoon as demand comes down substantially; 
4) The cab drivers also offer lower rates, again due to lack of demand; 
5) You don't need to queue up for a table in restaurants; 
5) Nature at its best ... green and lush foliage. 
 
Some facts about monsoon in Darjeeling 
June, July and August are usually the peak monsoon time in Darjeeling although it can stretch well beyond to September. The average temperature during monsoon ranges between 13°C to 19°C. However in the evening and at night, the temperature can fall and it can get quite cold. During monsoon time, the humidity in Darjeeling remains at its highest levels and can easily go past 90% of saturation. You should carry light woolens or warm clothes, particularly for the evenings and early mornings. 
 
So coming back to the original question... is it a great time to visit Darjeeling during monsoon? I would have to say again... 'It really depends on eyes of the beholder'. 
 
Related Articles 
 
1) Check out Darjeeling Weather to know more about the weather conditions in Darjeeling and neighboring areas during the various months. 
 
Visitors' Stories/Comments 
 
Anindita Das (July 2014) 
Hi Raj, First of all let me congratulate you on the amazing job you have done with this blog! Superlative, and I think I've read each article several times :) Me & my husband are scheduled to be there from 15th Aug - 18th Aug, and trust me the choice to travel in the monsoon was a lot due to your article on it! So, after a lot of research we have shortlisted and checked availability for the following 3 hotels: - Villa Everest, Golden Heights, Broadway. Now, our requirements are clean rooms, good views (as it maybe raining a lot & we might have to be indoors), hot water & good breakfast. Would love to have your views on them and any other recommendation would also be very helpful! Waiting to hear from you soon! Thanks a lot! 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) July 2014 
Hi Anindita, All the hotels you have selected are in my recommended list. Considering all your requirements, Golden Heights would be my choice. They have an excellent lounge and dining area where you can spend a lot of your time. The lounge and some rooms have good views too... but in monsoon do not expect any views of the peaks. 
 
Himesh Biswas (May 2014) 
Hi, It seems we will be going there during the unstoppable monsoon but it would be wonderful if you recommend us some outdoor activities (if any) if it rains all day long. We are prepared to go out in rain. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) May 2014 
If it keeps raining then rafting, paragliding etc are not possible. If you get a dry spell, it may be possible. When you reach Darjeeling, get in touch with the operator Off Road Adventures located by the Mall. They are one of the best in all these. You will find their details in my site. 
 
Chandra Sekhar Chatterjee (May 2014) 
I must thank you for the wonderful article about Darjeeling in monsoon. Inspired from your writing, I spent about 10 days at Darjeeling, last July & it has been one of the best experience of my life. Had a great time, deep inside the tea garden & watching the rain gradually engulfing me. I feel Darjeeling is at its best during monsoon. Also had a great time enjoying Dalle Khursani, Squash & Carrots, & nothing to beat the early morning fresh Loaves from Glenarys, with Darjeeling Tea. 
 
Siobhan Tomkinson (January 2014) 
Hi, I was wondering if you could tell me how dangerous it is to travel to and from Darjeeling by jeep during the Monsoon season? I have been to Darjeeling before and loved it - it was one of my favourite places in all of India and I would love to return and show it to my husband and son, but the only time we can be in India is between mid June and mid September. The last time I was there we traveled by jeep and the mountain road was pretty scary, I think it would be very frightening during heavy rain! Your article mentions landslides - is this common. Are there many accidents on the mountain roads during Monsoon? Does the toytrain run at this time - is it safe? safer than the roads, or less safe? I hate to sound so timid, but I will be with my 3 year old baby and want to make sure he is safe! Many thanks for any advice you can give me, 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) January 2014 
Hi, Landslides are quite common in the hills during monsoon and they cause road blocks. While most times alternative routes can be worked out, some times you may get stuck in traffic jam for hours. However accidents in monsoon or those caused due to landslides are rare. Toy train is not running from NJP/Siliguri to Darjeeling since several years, although the damaged track is scheduled for repair soon. Landslides cause similar problems to rail track as well as both the main road (highway) and toy train track run side by side for most part. 
 
Abhijay Awasthi (June 2013) 
Hi Raj, I found your 'Darjeeling in Monsoon' piece wonderful. There are very few such informative pieces on the internet. It would be good if you could post some more cool pics of the monsoon :) 
 
Shalini Mitra Roy (June 2013) 
Hi, This is an amazing site. Kudos to you. It would be of great help if you can help me with few of my queries: 
1. Though I have read your column of "Darjeeling in Monsoons" but still I would like to ask... would you suggest we go to Darjeeling during the 1st week of August - 4th Aug to 7th Aug ( I have never being to Darjeeling). We (my husband and I) mainly want to relax and celebrate our 2nd marriage anniversary... 
2. We are thinking of Central Nirvana (the hotel guy said Deluxe room will cost us 4500 rupees - MAP after discount). would you suggest that we go for it? we particularly want cleanliness and at least a 3 star property (since we might have to stay within the hotel premises if it rains too much) 
3. Can you suggest certain places to visit during that time. I understand that the view of kanchenjunga will not be clear during that time. We have accepted that. 
4. How high is the probability of landslides and us getting stuck there? Thank you in advance for your help. It means a lot. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com, June 2013) 
Hi Shalini, If you have read my article on 'Darjeeling in Monsoon' and asking me whether its worth visiting Darjeeling in monsoon or not, what do you think my answer would be? :) 
 
If you love the raindrops, lush greenery and the mist ... you must go. Check out the article 'Darjeeling in Monsoon' once again, I have recently added some more pictures of monsoon on request from other viewers. 
 
I hope you've read my detailed review of Central Nirvana ... you will know how I feel about the hotel. It's quite okay if you can take the 5-minutes downhill walk from the taxi point (and uphill on your way back). Keep in mind that after dark, this place is going to be completely desolate, although it's very close to the Mall. 
 
I think during the monsoon you should not plan much of outdoor activities and sightseeing. Make a spot plan, If the day looks good, get hold of a taxi and visit a place quickly and come back. The weather can change any time. Around this time of the year all taxi drivers are free and there wont be any dearth of taxis. However you can certainly make plans to visit some places irrespective of rains, if that are of any interest to you... 
 
1) Monasteries ... particularly Old Ghoom Monastery in Ghoom and on the way, Samten Choling Monastery. 
 
 
3) Ava Art gallery (can be covered on the way to Ghoom) 
 
 
5) Step Aside (located right next to Hotel Central Nirvana) 
 
Landslides can take place although not very common. But mostly they don't pose much problems unless it's a huge one which is rare. In most cases alternative routes are available to reach NJP/Bagdogra. So chances of you getting stranded is slim. But do take enough buffer time (at least 2-3 hours) when you return just in case there is any delay along the way. Don't forget to carry large umbrellas.... you should enjoy the rains after all. Good Luck!! 
 
Saumitra Dutta Gupta (April 2013) 
What do you say about a quiet monsoon trip to Darjeeling Hills. Is it worthwhile to stay 2 nights each at Makaibari, Selim Hill, Goomtee, and Chota Mangwa. Or 4 nights each at two places. What should our ideal Itinerary be? Do we get big discounts during monsoon period. We have limited funds, and must hire car from point to point. We are a retired middle-class couple in our late 50's. Seeking your advice. Regards. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com, April 2013) 
If you like lush wet mountainous landscapes and a quiet vacation without many tourists, you will greatly enjoy Darjeeling in monsoon. 2 nights in four places will make it too hectic. You can plan 3-nights each in a couple of Tea Gardens, and 2/3 nights in Chota Mangwa. You will need to organize the car transfers through the gardens. In Chota Mangwa, they will get a private car/taxi for you for a drop at the station/airport, but the charges will be higher than normal taxi rates. You should contact all the places and get a clear idea about the budget. Each place will offer all inclusive package including stay, food and some recreational activities. 
 
Saumitra Dutta Gupta (April 2013) 
Thanks. In this context, out of the four tea gardens, can you suggest the best and reasonable tea garden accommodation that affords the best scenery even on a rainy day. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com, April 2013) 
I have described all these tea gardens & the accommodations in details in the link below. All are beautiful and unique in their own ways: Darjeeling Tea Garden Tours 
 
Out of the tea gardens I described, Gelnburn would be most expensive but probably the best from tea tourism perspective (accommodation, natural beauty including forest & stream, food, staff, organized activities etc). Selim Hill, Goomtee and Makaibari are all in Kurseong area and offer nice views. Do ask for off season discounts. 
 
Makaibari garden workers offer homestays which are quite nice and cheap. They have extended/renovated their own homes for tourists. The rates include all meals. If you like such stays, you can even try that for a change. You will be close to local village families and learn about their lives. Some of such accommodations are in nice places with lovely views and have modern toilets etc. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
__________________________________________ 
By Raj Bhattacharya 
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