Darjeeling means “The Land of Thunderbolt”. The district of Darjeeling lies in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas. It is the northernmost district in the state of West Bengal in the eastern part of India. The Kanchenjunga can be seen from this queen of hill resorts.
Darjeeling is situated at an altitude of 2,134 metres and occupies an area of 11.44 sq. km. summer is the best time to visit it. As winters are creepy with temperatures falling down and there is snowfall too. The people here are friendly by nature.
Darjeeling is well connected by air. The nearest airport is at Bagdora (Siliguri). It’s a 3 hour drive from here. The nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri (87km), which is well connected to all major cities in India. To go up to Darjeeling take the famous ‘Toy Train’. Roads well connect Darjeeling with New Jalpaiguri. A number of buses, taxis and private vehicles are available.
Darjeeling gives the tourist a relief from the hot plains. If you have travelled by the train up to this beautiful hill station or not let me tell you a little about it. The ‘Toy Train’ was opened to traffic in July 1881. Its name appears in the UNESCO World Heritage list. The train covers a distance of 51 miles and reaches up to 7400 ft. above sea level. There are no tunnels only thrills at every curve. It passes through the Batasia Loop.
1. The Tiger Hill tour where all tourist go to witness the sunrise is a once in a lifetime experience. Viewing oak, magnolia and ferns with myriad colours one reaches Tiger Hill through Ghoom. Now one is at an elevation of 8482 ft. Your journey up the hill gives one a view of “Khang-Chen-Dzod-Nag” the majestic mountain of Kanchenjunga. At a distance of 125 km a beautiful peak lies known as Tibet’s Chomol Hari Mountain. One waits with chattering teeth sipping cups of hot tea to see the sun slowly peep over the horizon lighting the dark sky. If one is lucky, then only one sees this spectacular moment. Clouds many a times play spoilsport as they drift by. From here the tourist get the best view of Mt. Everest and the Kanchenjunga range.
2. Happy Valley Tea Estate produces world class tea and the tea estates never seem to end. After independence, the estates played a major role in the economy of the area and so also of the country. Witness the tender tea leaves plucking by labourers with cane baskets on their backs. Then visit the manufacturing and processing of tea. Before leaving do pick up a packet fresh smelling tea. These estates are 3 km from Darjeeling. There are about 70 tea gardens. It looks as if Mother Nature has spread a green carpet.
3. Lebong Race Course is about 8 km from the mall of Darjeeling. This is the highest and smallest racecourse in the world.
4. Lloyds Botanical Garden is a plant lover’s delight. Many a tourist try to identify the trees like the oak, magnolia, bamboo, rhododendron and wild geranium. This garden was laid out in 1871 occupying an area of 40 acres, just below the market motor stand. A large number of visitors visit this garden.
5. Himalayan Mountaineering Institute if like a pilgrim place for the climbing enthusiasts of not only India but the world. In 1953, this prestigious institute was established in honour of Tenzin Norgay after he and Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest. It is well stocked with all mountaineering gears. It also has a boarding school with in house restaurant and a shop and more. It is on the Birch Hill. One can reach there from Mall Road or Lebong Cart Road.
6. Padmaji Naidu Park is situated with the backdrop of the majestic Kanchenjunga. It is in the town of Darjeeling. It is the largest high altitude zoo in India. It is at an elevation of 7000 ft. The zoo was opened in 1958. It was formerly known as Himalayan Zoological Park. It has an exchange programme Okinawa Kid’s Foundation Japan and the Govt. of West Bengal. Japan sent two pairs of blue sheep in exchange of a pair of elephants. The breeding of ‘Snow Leopard’ takes place here. It is across an area of 67.5 acres. The zoo has conservation programmes for the endangered species like the Tibetan Wolf, Red Panda, Snow Leopard, etc. which all dwell in their natural habitat. There is also an Aviary as you enter. Birds of a different kind can be seen at close quarters namely the Rose Ring Parakeets, Hill Mynas, Blue Gold Macaw and others. As you walk around to see the Himalayan Black Bears gaily roaming around. It’s so good to be amidst nature and its folks.
Open daily from 8am to 4pm. Entry fee and addition charges for taking cameras inside. Parking is allowed below the zoo at the Lebong Cart Road. Then you just walk uphill at your own pace. Directions about the path are well displayed.
7. Rock Garden is well maintained with fountains and beautiful flower beds all around. It was developed by the Gorkha Hill Tourism. A lovely picnic spot where one can do boating or witness the Nepali folk dance during tourist season. It is 10 km from Darjeeling town.
8. Nightingale or Shrubbery Park is at walkable distance from the Chowrasta is Darjeeling. It looks like a fairyland decorated with colourful flowers and lights. In the backdrop are pine trees. There is also a temple of Lord Shiva. Enjoy the fresh, cool mountain breeze and be lost in a dream with sweet chirping of birds.
9. Japanese Temple and Peace Pagoda was constructed by a Japanese Buddhist Nipponzan-Myohoji-Order. The Buddhist monks go for a walk in the wee hours of the morning, beating drums. This pagoda is one of the other pagodas across the globe.
10. Darjeeling Mall is in the centre of the town. Four roads meet here and hence it is nicknamed Chowrasta. The land here is flat. The tourist sits around relaxing on the benches and viewing the mountain ranges. On one side there are pine trees and the other side is lined with shops. Tourist enjoys shopping here.
11. Mirik is at an altitude of 5800 ft. It is a scenic picnic spot. A natural lake fed by perennial springs and rain. On the western side of the lake are lush green Crypto Maria Japonica trees. Walk through the forest ridges and view the sunrise or sunset. It is 49 km from Darjeeling. A day at Mirik with food and rest at the ‘Day Centre’ which is on the eastern bank. Boating and fishing too can be of fun. If one wants to stay overnight then book at the Youth Hostel or Tourist Cottages.
Besides these local sight-seeing places the tourist can book for excursions to Senchel Lake, Orchid Culture Centre (110 varieties of orchids) Majitar etc.
Sporting Activities for the Adventurous
1. The Teesta River Waters offer the thrilling adventure of ‘White Water Rafting’. It’s a fantastic experience with memories not to be forgotten for a long time. One goes rafting in the foamy waters of Teesta flowing down a valley. It’s completely forested and is a visual delight to witness the flora and fauna around.
2. Hot Air Balloon takes one high and then one looks down to view Darjeeling and the snow clad peaks of the Himalayas. It’s an aerial view which the visitors capture on their lens. A 300ft. above the ground with a trained guide.
3. Singalila National Park Jeep Safari offers its enthusiastic tourists a trip to a high altitude. One sees Himalayan animals like Red Pandas, Pangolins, Yellow-throated Marten, etc. The park has a number of plants like silver fir, primula, orchids ferns, rhododendrons etc. the park looks ablaze with colours. With peaks of Kanchenjunga in the backdrop.
4. Rope Way Ride to the Rangit Valley is a 5 km cable car ride. It is the oldest ropeway that connects Darjeeling to the North point with Singla Bazaar. One gets a spectacular view of the Ranjit River below and beautiful scenery of all the hills in surrounding Darjeeling.
5. Chattakpur Eco Village offers spellbound trekking. It is situated in the northern part of the state. Trekkers can reach Chattakpur via a 20 km trek route from Darjeeling. One treks through gorgeous and hidden beauty of nature. The forest Department of West Bengal takes care of this village. One comes across rare Himalayan birds whose melodious chirpings relaxes the trekker.
6. Srikhola is a village known for its beauty but other than that it is a trekker’s delight. The trekkers have to follow the route from Sadakpur and Phalut that go through Srikhola taking one towards Manebhanjan and then to Darjeeling. While you stop to relax and to take a quick bite, the tempting waters of the Srikhola River will give one a refreshing splash. There are huts and a lodge.
There are two trekking seasons in Darjeeling. One begins in March and ends before the monsoons strike in June. The second one starts in October and ends in December before the biting cold and snowfall. Sporting activities requires one to be healthy and fit.
Contact Tour Operators for all your sightseeing and sporting activities in Darjeeling.
Hotels in Darjeeling
To name a few like:
Main Olde Bellevue Heritage Hotel
Hotel Seven Seventeen
Hotel Sinclairs Darjeeling
Snow Lion Homestay
Tibet Home and many others