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Friday, October 29, 2010; 3:28 PM

Tea tasting in Darjeeling

Makaibari Tea Estates

Kurseong (Darjeeling)

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West Bengal

011-91-97-3300-4577

www.makaibari.com/stay.html

Most of the home-stay bungalows charge $25 a night, which includes three homemade meals plus lots of tea, snacks and sweets.

You can also tour the 677-acre estate and finish up with a tasting session (about $45) to sample Makaibari's nine tea varieties, including the Silver Tips Imperial, one of the world's most expensive teas at about $800 a pound. The estate's owner and Darjeeling's unofficial poet laureate of tea, Rajah Banerjee, is often on hand to lead the tastings.

Sikkim heritage home-stays

www.himalayan-homestays.com/sikkpages/sikkimbook.htm

Hook up with Lepcha homeowners who have small home-stays. Prices are about $30 a night including meals.

Or book a home-stay in a protected area known as the Dzongu (or Zongri) territory in northwest Sikkim. The area offers panoramic views of Mount Kanchenjunga, the third-highest summit in the world, as well as rich fauna and flora and lots of hot springs. About 10 home-stays vary in price from $24 to $70 a night.

In addition to an Indian visa, travelers need an inner line permit to visit Sikkim. Cost is $30 for two weeks. More-restricted areas require a restricted-area permit. Permits can be obtained from any Indian consulate. Or get them on the spot in New Delhi at the office of the resident commissioner, New Sikkim House, 14 Panchseel Marg, Chanakyapuri. Bring your passport, visa details and two passport-size photos.

For more info, visit the Sikkim Government Home Department Web site: sikkim.nic.in/homedept/ilpfaqs.htm.

Organic farm home-stays

Teen Taley Eco Garden Resort

Rumtek, Sikkim

www.sikkimresort.com

The resort sprawls across more than six hilly acres, some set aside for organic farming and goat grazing. Prices range from $60 to $135, depending on the size of your room and your meal plan.

While there, visit a 16th-century Tibetan Buddhist monastery near Sikkim's bustling mountain capital of Gangtok.

More info

To arrange home-stays in other parts of India:

www.heritagestay.com

www.keralahomestaysonline.com

- E.W.


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