Darjeeling is a great place to experience real colonial coziness, with several charming heritage hotels. In this category our preference is for Mayfair Hill, but Windamere Hotel (tel. 0354/225-4041 or -4042; www.windamerehotel.com; doubles from Rs 8,550), originally a Victorian boardinghouse for English tea-planters on Observatory Hill, has atmospheric public spaces (though the list of do's and don'ts put a slight damper on the holiday). Its huge heritage rooms come with immense charm, but the hotel is showing signs of wear and tear (as you'd expect from a place built in 1889), as does the service. Another heritage property (and better bet) is The Elgin Hotel (tel. 0354/225-7226 or -7227; www.elginhotels.com; doubles from Rs 5,800; includes all meals). With the air of a country manor, the hotel is frequented by an upmarket foreign crowd looking to relive the splendor of the British Raj. Like that of Windamere, its public spaces are filled with old-world charm -- old-fashioned sofas, deep armchairs, fireplaces, and beautiful rugs -- but some of the rooms aren't quite as grand (some odd color combinations, too), and the bathrooms are small. The best views are from room nos. 21 to 23, 31 to 33, and 51 to 53.
If daily walks are what you're looking for, then Kurseong (an hour below Darjeeling) offers some nice hikes. The town is ramshackle but fortunately the best place to stay is tucked away from it. Choc-a-bloc with quirky antiques, wooden floors, frayed rugs, inexplicable teddy bears, a few dusty corners and a lot of atmosphere what with a Volkswagen perched on the awning, Cochrane Place (tel. 99-3203-5660; www.imperialchai.com) is great to stay at but not for more than 2 days because the food is below average and given that the restaurant is the best the town has, you should be on your way pretty soon -- walk a lot, stick to the momos and enjoy our favorite Batasia suite which comes with an attic or take a pick from the deluxe rooms (Rs 4,380-Rs 5,870; all meals included). Finally, if you want to be assured of absolute peace and quiet, head for the nearby hill station of Kalimpong.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.