One of the recommended activities to do in Darjeeling as per the guidebooks was to watch the sunrise at the Tiger Hill (this is different from the Tiger Hill in Drass), and so we decided to give it a shot. At the right time and spot, one can see the sun rising from the mountains on one side, following by a panoramic view of the Kanchenjunga in the morning light.
The sun rises earlier in the eastern parts and to us it meant waking up at 3:00 am and getting ready in chilling cold, since the driver was coming to pick us up at 3:30 am. Apart from the routine of the sun, going early also means one will get a chance to park the vehicle closer to the summit and get a good place on the watching platform.
Tiger Hill is around 11 km from Darjeeling and is perched above Ghum at the height of 8482 feet. The area is a natural reserve and a part of several interconnected wildlife reserves around Darjeeling. An observation deck is being built on top of it to cater to hundreds of tourists who visit every day.
We were there at the right time, beating the family tourists who take forever to get ready ;-), found a good spot on the edge and deployed the tripod there. It was freezing cold out there, standing on the top of a Himalayan hillock at 4:15 am in the month of November can be an unsettling experience, but we held on. Soon the crowd started swelling and the deck, and the area in front was totally filled by tourists and hawkers selling tea, coffee and woollen caps. I am not a big fan of crowded spaces, but this is something one cannot avoid at a tourist place in India. Thankfully, the crowd was well-behaved and waited patiently for the Sun God to show up.
After 5:00 am, the stars in the sky started fading and a blue tint started coming up in the horizon. With each moment, the rising excitement among the people kept increasing till they broke into applause when the sun finally peeked from behind the mountains. It was a beautiful sight indeed.
While the crowd was busy with the rising sun, we decided to change strategy and move to the other side of the platform where Kanchenjunga had started showing up. The glorious mountain and its neighbouring peaks were glowing in the light of the morning sun and played hide and seek with a bluish mist below. It was a sight to behold and made up for waking up early in the shivering cold !