Hi Raj, I have been reading your responses, and it's quite an information. I have a question to you which I think you are the best person to clarify.
I want to visit Darjeeling countryside and be close to nature for 3-4 days. I would like to visit with my entire family (10-12 members), I don't want to spend much on Hotel, rather I would prefer if I can rent a bungalow for these days with a cook? do you suggest me anything suiting my need?
Debasish Karmakar (May 2013)
Hi, you won't find cottage or bungalow rentals in or around Darjeeling and that too cheap. The closest would be Sterling Resorts in Ghoom which has cottages where you can cook on your own and stay with large families. They have enough cottages. But that would be an expensive proposition for so many people unless you have membership reference. While the resort offers great views and peace, it's a modern establishment and nowhere close to a rustic traditional cottage or bungalow nestled in the nature.
Another option is to rent out the property Rhododendron Dell located about 3kms from Darjeeling town on a hill slope and surrounded by lush greenery. The property's landscape, gardens, natural water streams and views are all wonderful and can amaze any nature lover for few days. You can not cook since they run their own kitchen. But you can negotiate the rate with the owner if you take up all accommodations. It won't be cheap though.
A third option would be Tathagata Farm, located in Lebong area (about 45 minutes drive from Darjeeling town). Here you can stay at huts and tents, get immersed with the nature, walk on nature trail and see organic farming and have organic food. But none of these options are workable with 10-12 members unless you have a heavy pocket.
For a relatively cheaper option you can also consider Homestays in Makaibari Tea Estate. It's located in Kurseong about midway between NJP and Darjeeling town (37kms from Darjeeling). Here the garden workers and villagers have extended their homes offering nice homestays. This is one way they make an additional earning to sustain a better living and it has full support from the estate owner Rajah Bannerji. Most accommodations for guests are nice and have all the basic amenities including attached western style toilet & bath.
While you can not bring your cook there, you can always give a helping hand to the lady owner who prepares nice homemade food with great passion, dine with the family, and get a glimpse of their culture and life. You will virtually stay with the family, chat with them, play with their children and be just one of them.
There are several such accommodations that are part of the larger estate area and they are all nestled in the nature with sweeping garden and mountain views. The host will organize tea garden tours, village walks and local ethnic cultural programs if you so like.
Sounds interesting? Good luck!
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com, May 2013)