"Queen of The Himalayas"
The previous summer capital of India under the British Raj, Darjeeling has come off age as one of the most sought after hill stations in India. Located in West Bengal, this scenic hill station is the perfect getaway for a romantic honeymoon. Nestled amidst acres of tea plantations, Darjeeling stands at the height of 2,050 meters above sea level, thus boasting a cool climate all year round.
The toy train established back in 1881 is conferred the title of World Heritage Status by UNESCO. The train begins its journey from the plains and rises to over 2000 metres above sea level, offering breathtaking views of the mountains as it chugs along.
Over 86 tea estates in Darjeeling are responsible for producing the worldwide famous 'Darjeeling Tea'. Have a cup of locally brewed chai at the tea estate, or get down amidst the plantations to pluck a few tea leaves yourself; you are free to take your pick!
The third highest peak in the world and the highest in India, the Kanchenjunga peak, is visible from here, and you can enjoy a panoramic view of the peak. Some of Darjeeling's most popular attractions include monasteries, botanical gardens, a zoo, and the Darjeeling-Rangeet Valley Passenger Ropeway cable car, which is the longest Asian cable car. Tiger Hill is a fantastic spot to see the sunrise over the mountains in all its fiery glory.
Places To Visit In Darjeeling
1. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
A visit to the city of Darjeeling is incomplete without a joyride at the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway toy train. Moving at a snail pace over the hilly terrain, it is an experience no one wants to miss. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway also referred to as the DHR, and lovingly called the 'Darjeeling Toy Train', is a 2 feet narrow gauge train that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling, in West Bengal, India. The construction of this 88-kilometre long railway line took place between 1879 and 1881, and a ride on this train route has been a coveted experience ever since. A journey in the Darjeeling Toy Train has amazing sights with pleasing mountain views and pass by villages and local shops on the way, with children merrily waving at them.
2. Tiger Hill
If you want to witness the first rays of sun hitting the twin peaks of Kangchenjunga, along with a panoramic view of Everest peeping through the peaks standing by its side, then Tiger Hills make for a perfect sunrise for you. You can see Kurseong to the south along with multiple rivers flowing down. Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary is another nearby attraction you could visit - the place inhabits various high-altitude animals and bird.
3. Batasia Loop
Located around 5 km from Darjeeling, Batasia loop is a spiral railway track where the toy train takes a complete 360 degree turn. The toy train descends by 1,000 ft. as it completes the loop through a large circular area.
4. Darjeeling Ropeway
Darjeeling Ropeway is a cable car circuit where one can witness a myriad of exquisite landscapes, from the glorious snow-capped mountains to the charming valley replete with verdant tea estates.
5. Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, commonly known as HMI Darjelling, was established on November 4, 1954 primarily to encourage mountaineering as an organized sport in India. HMI regularly conducts Adventure, Basic and Advanced levels of mountaineering courses which are very comprehensive courses. These courses are highly subsidised to encourage mountaineering as a sport.
6. Nightingale Park
This park was earlier called 'The Shrubbery' when it was a private courtyard. The park was closed for renovation for about four years and has reopened for public since 2011. There is a giant statue of Lord Shiva, a musical fountain along with the great scenery.
7. Rock Garden
The Rock Garden or the Barbotey Garden as its commonly known, is located a little far from the city around ~10 km away. The benches in the garden are made by cutting rocks at different levels.
8. Singalila National Park
Singalila National Park , located on the Singalila Ridge at a height of 7000 feet above sea level, is a national park of India in Darjeeling . The park is well known for the trekking and other adventure sports. The national park is similar to a paradise for the trekkers and adventure lovers.
9. Japanese Peace Pagoda
As you climb up from Clubside along Gandhi and AJC Bose roads, you see this glistening white structure standing out - that's the Peace Pagoda. The Peace Pagoda, one of the 70 odd such structures built under the guidance of Japanese monk Nichidatsu Fujii, is worth a visit during the daily pujas.
10. Sandakphu Trek
Sandakphu Peak (11,941 Feet) is the highest peak in West Bengal. The highest peak of Singalila Ridge in Darjeeling district, almost near the border of Nepal, it is located very close to Singalila National Park.
11. River Rafting in Teesta
White Water Rafting in the River Teesta is one of the most exciting things to do in Darjeeling. A favourite among the adventure junkees, the rafting has a series of rapids ranging from Grade 1 to 4. However, the difficult rapids are only allowed to the professionals or the seasonal trainers as it is risky. You should definitely try this activity when in Darjeeling.
12. Tea Plantations
With over 80 tea estates covering over 17,500 hectares of land, the tea plantations of Darjeeling are a unique aromatic experience to visitors of this hilly tourist trap.
13. City Shopping
Shop for traditional arts and crafts of Tibet and Sikkim. Also, make sure you buy Darjeeling tea from the locals - Nathmull's Tea Room is popular among most tourists. There is an Oxford bookstore as well which provide good collection of books.
14. Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
Padmaja Naidu Zoo plays host to the only collection of Siberian Tigers in India and few other exotic animal species, such as Red pandas, Snow leopards, Himalayan black bears etc.
At a distance of about 32 km from Darjeeling, Tinchuley is an offbeat hamlet situated close to the West Bengal-Sikkim border. With an altitude of 5550 ft, the name of the place derives from the words ‘tin’ and ‘chula’, which translates as ‘three ovens’ because the trio of hills constituting the hill station resemble mud ovens.
16. Happy Valley Tea Estate
At a magical altitude of 6,800 feet, the Happy Valley Tea Estate is the second oldest tea estate in the tea-rich town of Darjeeling. One can take a guided tour through the fragrant factory, learning and observing the procedure to produce the different varieties of tea.
17. Observatory Hill
Like most other hill stations in India, Darjeeling also has a Mall Road and atop the Mall is the Observatory hill. The hill hosts the famous Mahakal temple and the original shrine of Bhutia Busty monastery, making the place of religious significance for Hindus and Buddhists alike.
18. Monastries in Darjeeling
You must visit monasteries in Darjeeling to experience the essence of the place. There are lots of monasteries spread across the city, all having their own relevance.
Offering you a sweeping view of four out of the five highest peaks of the world Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Lhotse, all in a single stretch, Darjeeling offers some of the best trekking routes in the world.
20. Ghoom Monastery
At a grand elevation of 8,000 feet, the Yiga Choeling or old Ghoom Monastery is the oldest Tibetan Buddhist Monastery of Darjeeling. A 15-foot high statue of Maitreyi Buddha is seen in the central hall, made entirely of clay brought from Tibet. Rare Buddhist manuscripts like the Kangyur can be found here.
21. Bengal Natural History Museum
A testament to the indigenous flora and fauna of the region, the Bengal Natural History Museum is a fascinating plethora of more than 4000 specimens being exhibited located in the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling.
22. Lamahatta Eco Park
Lamahatta is a scenic village in West Bengal, 23km from Darjeeling. To showcase the magnificent views of peaks & rivers and the dhupi & pine forests here, the Lamahatta Eco Park was created in 2012. Lamahatta means Monk's Hermitage and so, this place promises an environment that feels as tranquil as a monk - a measure of balance between nature & man. At an altitude of 5,700 ft., this eco-park has a lot to offer.
Lepchajagat is a small village around 19km from Darjeeling. At a height of 6,956 ft, this vilage is considered a haven for nature lovers and honeymooners. Amidst dense forests of pines, oaks and rhododendrons, this village gives you tranquility. Viewing the Kanchenjunga peaks from here is a serene experience. It is now part of a reserved forest area.
How to Reach Darjeeling
The nearest rail is New Jalpaiguri. This is well connected to most of the major cities in India. The town of Darjeeling is approachable from Siliguri, nearly 80 km away, by Darjeeling Himalayan Railway also known as Toy Train. The nearest airport is Bagdodara, near Siliguri. Cabs are easily available from Bagodara to Darjeeling.
Food of Darjeeling
There are lots of options for foodies as well in Darjeeling from traditional Tibetan and Sikkimese cuisine to Thai delicacies to good old North Indian dishes, Darjeeling has plenty of options to cater to the taste buds of food lovers, spoiling them with scrumptious food and lip-smacking delicacies amidst the ambience of gorgeous views. Essentially the food here has distinct traces of Bengali, Nepali and Tibetan elements, styles and dishes, all together.
In spite of such wide choices, one of the first items on the cuisine here includes the finest and freshest qualities of tea found in the area which you must try. The popular items that you must indulge in include Momos, Thukpa, Aloo Dum, Sael Roti, Naga Platter, Nepali thali, Tongba, Channg and many more. Not to mention, tea is a popular beverage consumed by all.
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit Darjeeling is between April to June when the weather is pleasant. However, a lot of people also prefer visiting the place during the winter months from October to December. The months of July to August welcome the showers. With heavy rainfall, a lot of roadblocks are observed in the hill station and hence visiting Darjeeling during these months is not very advisable.
The months from October to March see a sudden change in the weather, as by the end of October a slight cold reigns in the area. Winter is at its peak from mid- November to January and the temperature ranges between 7 degrees to 5-degree Celcius.
April to June marks the offset of summers in the city. Darjeeling during these months is pleasant and not very hot. The temperature reaches 25 degrees at the max. The gushing bright sunlight makes it ideal for exploring the tourists' spots.
September again is an excellent time to visit as there is less rainfall and the greenery is at its best at this time of the year.