Where the Glory of the Raj Lingers
Guarded by the awe-inspiring Himalayan peaks that rise out of the mist, the 7,000-foot summer resort of Darjeeling was founded by the British as a scenic escape from the searing heat of Calcutta and the low-lying Bengali plains. During British rule, it became an exotic outpost that lured socialites, diplomats, and explorers bound for the Himalayas, just 30 miles to the north.
From here, the thrill of watching the sun’s first rays gild the snowy peak of Mount Everest is second only to the more reliable appearance of nearby Mount Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest peak, and considered sacred by Buddhists. The British established Darjeeling as a major tea-growing center, and dozens of plantations can still be seen on all sides. Every afternoon a proper English tea is served at the cozy, old-fashioned Windamere Hotel, a gem left over from the days of the viceroys.
The Windamere’s profusely flowering gardens, mountain views, and simple, rustic rooms lure connoisseurs of classic comfort and excellent service, who warm to the idea of hot-water bottles tucked between the sheets and an after-dinner brandy in front of the fire that crackles in the salon in lieu of central heating.