Welcome to Bagdogra, the gateway to the beautiful north Bengal and Sikkim. You may have had a sneak peek of the mighty Himalayas on your way here. Now prepare to treat yourself to everything that they offer: from the misty forests of the Dooars to the lush tea slopes of Darjeeling to the mountain lakes of Sikkim.
Best time to visit: The best time to be in Bagdogra, Darjeeling or Sikkim are the summer months of March-June and later, from September to early December.
How to reach
By Air: Bagdogra Airport lies about 9km (20minutes drive) from west of Siliguri, 45km (90minutes drive) away from Jalpaiguri and 65km (4hours drive) from Darjeeling. IndiGo operates 55 weekly flights between Bagdogra and Bengaluru, Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Guwahati.
By Train: Jalpaiguri is the nearest railway station to Bagdogra, well-connected with the major cities of India through various trains.
By Bus: Bagdogra has frequent bus services, connecting various cities of North-East India and Northern region of West Bengal.
That rava upma (or was it the sandwich) you had on the flight was a long time ago and you likely have a long journey ahead. Stop at this Siliguri favourite and feast on some authentic Bengali fare. From chingri malai curry to mutton daakbangla curry to the nolen gurer ice-cream (seasonal), this one is more than your average highway food stop. Brace yourself for a food coma.
This family-run restaurant serves soul-warming Tibetan food. A simple hole-in-the-wall joint, this is where you head if you want the best momos and thukpas in town. Prepare to wait for a table.
How can you come to a colonial-era hill station and not have a classic English breakfast. Eggs, meat, and hot chocolate, you cannot ask for a better start to the day.
Arguably the best Tibetan restaurant in Gangtok, this one pair a great location with delicious food. The thenthuk is a speciality, but the momos aren’t bad either.
From Bagdogra to Gangtok, many itsy-bitsy markets will tempt you. In Makaibari, you must return with a box of tea as it makes for an excellent gift. Darjeeling’s street markets around Chowrasta can bedazzle you with their knick-knacks. If you want authentic Tibetan artefacts (and want to aid a good cause), try the Tibetan Refugee Self-help Centre, where you can pick bags, clothes and home décor pieces. Further up in Gangtok, while the New Market on MG Road has your regular touristy fare, it is the Sunday fair at Lal Bazaar that you should aim to visit. Offering everything from cheese to handcrafted chessboards, it is a shopper’s delight.
Cedar Inn Darjeeling This hotel has all the trappings of a romantic hill-station stay: good food, warm and courteous service and most of all, cosy rooms with fireplaces and views of the mighty Kanchenjunga. The hotel will arrange transfers from the airport, on request.
Mount Himalayan Resort Bagdogra This resort is one of those Bagdogra hotels which puts you close to all the action on Mall Road. The rooms are well-appointed with the all-wood interiors giving a warm and cosy feel. You may find yourself spending more time at the sun deck though, waiting for the Kanchenjunga to provide you with a peek. Tip: the access to the hotel involves a short but steep climb.
Cochrane Place Hotel Kurseong What makes this one special is its location, you get all the charms of a hill station, and you are nearly half-way down the road between Darjeeling and Bagdogra. That’s a considerable saving in time when you have to catch your flight the next morning. It helps that this restored colonial home is elegant and cosy.
The Golden Crest Gangtok This elegant, modern hotel in the center of Gangtok is perfect for those looking for simple luxuries. Inside the wallpapered rooms, you have tea/coffee makers and Wi-fi. Outside the window, you have the mountains, birds and trees. A single restaurant that serves Indian, Continental and local food completes the package.
If you’re going towards the Dooars, Kalimpong or Sikkim, you will most likely see the brilliant blue Teesta river. Head to Teesta Bazaar (1.5hours from Darjeeling) from where you can go white-water rafting down the Teesta river. If you want to waste no time getting to Gangtok, hop into a heli-taxi from Bagdogra airport. The helicopter will get you to Gangtok in 35 minutes flat, Services and seats are limited, so do plan ahead. But the views from the chopper are worth all the effort.
Feeling lucky? Sikkim is among the few states in India where gambling is legal. Head to one of the casinos in Gangtok and test your skills.
Feeling even more adventurous? Darjeeling has a range of tattoo parlours you can pick from to give yourself a permanent travel souvenir.