To escape the heat and take advantage of that odd extended weekend, a visit to Darjeeling is generally a ritual and a pilgrimage. Summers are never over unless we go to the hills, lounge around at the Mall, breakfast at Glenary’s and point out to the clock tower where Barfi hung precariously. But have you actually tried visiting the many tea estates dotting the hills? On the r\trail to Darjeeling, we pass them, but often overlook them. take for example the Selim Hill Tea Estate. This quaint little retreat is around 35 km from Siliguri, near Kurseong, off the Hill Cart Road enroute Darjeeeling. Or if you are taking a Toy Train uphill, it is a walking distance from Gayabari Station. SCENIC SELIM
The 150-year-old colonial bungalow with its cosy and comfortable European or American style rooms and antique furniture, along with a common lounge, takes you back in time. This rickety planter’s bungalow is made of wood and stone. And This rickety planter’s bungalow is a live example of experiencing living in the colonial era. The windows also offer beautiful vistas of the mountains and gorges below. SCENIC SELIM
The lush estate was set up by a Mr Henry, a British planter, in the late 1800s. Folklore says that after Mr Henry, a local took over the estate, who was fondly known as Selim saab, and after whom the Hill got its name.
Others quip that the scenic sailing hills surrounding the estate came to be called ‘selim’ hills over time, and that is why the name!
Not only are the views to the estate breathtaking, the wooden path surrounded by Himalayan cedars and firs, but also the retreat itself. Look out for rabbits and even deer en-route. Keep and eye out for birds you have never seen before and their calls you have never heard before! Two gazebos in the gardens of the bungalow offer beautiful views of the surrounding hills and the Siliguri plains. If you are lucky, you can also see Kanchenjunga peeping from the distance. Sipping hot tea in the late afternoons perched at the gazebo, hearing the constant hum of the Mahanda River flowing somewhere in the distance. It raises the ear to the odd hoot of the Toy Train, and dreaming among the clouds floating by is an experience unmatched in this surreal set-up. SCENIC SELIM
The estate is not only a quiet getaway, but also offers many fun and intriguing activities. Foremost is a trek along the hills, where the flora and fauna on the way will fascinate you. The hills are not very steep, and floating among the clouds is literally an unreal experience! At the end of the trek, you can visit the tea garden. Here you can see the locals plucking tea and deliver it for processing at the organic factory. Once here, the manager will often personally guide you across the processes right from plucking to dehydrating to crushing to tasting and packageing. Don’t forget to buy some green tea on the spot! You can then take a guided tour of the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary located close by. It is home to many species of bisons, leopards, deer and elephants. Locals claim that many-a-times you can hear the majestic roar of a Royal Bengal Tiger! Taking a pony ride to the highest point in Selim Hill also offers beautiful views of the Mahananda and Balasun river valleys. Visiting the Agony Point Loop in nearby Tindharia is a fascinating experience. It is one of the fourth loops in the original Darjeeling Himalayan Railways and the tightest among the rest; from where its name originates.
If you want to enjoy a quiet time at the bungalow, among the sun and scenes, you can order snacks, sip a hot cuppa. Then, you can lounge around at the verandah and read a book from the library. It is well stocked with tomes on travel and history. There are facilities for table tennis and badminton too, to have some fun.
All in all, visiting the Selim Hill Tea Estate is a fascinating experience. The scenes, ambiance and hospitality will not disappoint you. Your first visit here will surely not be your last! SCENIC SELIM Selim
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