Darjeeling Quick Information

Summarise the city : Sanitarium of erstwhile employees of British Raj in India
Best time to visit (High & peak months) : Mid March - May & October - December
Experiences : Himalayas, Toy Train & Tea
City calling code : +91- 354
Recommended no. of days for a tourist : 2-3 days
Best buys : Tibetan curios, such as thangkas, garments made from yak wool, Tibetan rugs, Bhutanese artifacts, Kalimpong candies and cheese, wooden carvings and, of course, excellent tea
Essentials to be carried along : Light woollens and tropicals in summer (umbrellas and raincoats are useful) and heavy woollen in winter
All about the city :
On your way to Darjeeling notice the long ferns drooping from the hill side, the tea gardens, the dense & dark scented forests of pine, swirling mist, the much talked about toy train chugging uphill and so often criss-crossing the motor road; and your heart instantly fills up with immense freshness. No wonder you are on your way to the ‘Queen of hills’ that lies nestled in the Himalayan region of West Bengal. It is perhaps the oldest hill town to be stationed and explored by the British.
Till the 19th century, Darjeeling (originally ‘Dorje Ling’ meaning place of the thunderbolt) was a part of the kingdom of Sikkim. The amazing view of Mount Khangchendzonga and the salubrious clime of the place kindled in the British a desire to develop it as a sanitarium for their employees to escape the heat of the plains. And they made a deal with the King of Sikkim acquiring it on lease in lieu of their support to him against Nepal. Impressed with the delights of Darjeeling, the British went on to annex it and the signs of them are still evident here in the form of Churches, mansions, tea gardens,  and most importantly the World Heritage toy train.
Many may complain of it being an overcrowded destination, but then the reason is obvious. It simply corroborates the unique appeal of the place that is rendered to it by the eye captivating sunrise at the Tiger hill, joy ride in a century old steam engine toy train, one of the world’s highest narrow gauge railway stations at Ghum and the muscatel flavoured Darjeeling tea that is revered by connoisseurs across the globe.

Darjeeling Tourist attractions

Name (Suggested Time Required To See The Place) Description Entrance Charges (If Any) For Foreigner Close Day (If Any) Open / Close Time
Toy Train The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) was the first in 1881, and still is the most outstanding, example of a hill passenger railway. The fact that the train is still in operation vouches for this engineering feat. It has also been accorded the UNESCO’s World Heritage status in 1999. It climbs 1, 750 m from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling. At an unhurried pace of about 10 km/hr, the toy train (called so because of its small size) covers a journey of 88 km in about 8 hrs allowing the passengers to relish every bit of scenery they pass through. The train mostly moves along the hill cart motor road on a narrow guage and criss-crosses it more than 150 times. Unlike the tunnels of the Shimla toy train, this one works on a unique system of loops and Zs (a technique employed to climb up the side of a steep hill). Joy Ride Train: If you do not want to spend 8 hrs in the toy train you can still have a taste of it by going for a ride on one of the two-hour joy-ride trains. This is running from Darjeeling to Ghum or Ghoom (world’s highest narrow gauge railway station at 7,407 ft) and back to Darjeeling with 10 minutes stoppage at Batasia loop and 30 minutes stoppage at Ghoom Museum. The fare includes entry fee of the Ghoom Museum. Grab a window seat on the right side of the train facing Ghoom. At Batasia loop you get a chance to click excellent photographs of Khangchendzonga. For more information please check http://www.dhr.in/ It costs around INR 250 from Darjeeling to New Jalpaiguri and vice versa. No close days Toy train leaves Darjeeling every day at 0915 hrs, stopping at Ghoom after one hour and continuing to New Jalpaiguri. From New Jalpaiguri it leaves daily at 0900 hrs Joy Ride trains depart daily at 1040 hrs and 1320 hrs. Buy the ticket in advance because during tourist seasons tickets sometimes sell out.
Tea Plantations The Darjeeling Tea is fondly called ‘The Champagne of Teas’ Way back in 1839, when Dr Campbell (a civil surgeon of Indian Medical services) planted, in his backyard at Darjeeling, the tea seeds he had brought from China, little could he have imagined that one day the tea of this area would become one of the most sought after varieties in the world. Darjeeling logo has come to represent high quality muscatel flavoured tea with the unmistakable class that only Darjeeling can offer. It has traditionally been priced above all other black teas in United Kingdom and other commonwealth countries. Although Darjeeling is traditionally renowned for its black tea but of late the green and white teas are also gaining ground. There are a total of 78 tea estates in the hills. These estates cover over 17,500 hectares producing over 9 million kg of tea engaging about 50 percent people of the district. Darjeeling still employs the original methods of tea manufacture i.e. Orthodox method as against the "C.T.C." type of manufacture adopted in the plains. The tourists can stay in tea garden Bungalows with all amenities. Apart from enjoying serene atmosphere of tea gardens they can also see the process of tea manufacturing.
Batasia Loop and War Memorial It is 5 km from Darjeeling, below Ghum. This railway loop is an engineering marvel, which was constructed to allow the toy train to negotiate, with ease, the sharp drop in altitude between Ghoom and Darjeeling. Here the narrow gauge rail makes a beautiful double loop. The toy train stops here for 10 minutes so that the travelers can soak in the views that include the sight of Khangchendzonga. At this point there is also a memorial to the Gorkha soldiers who sacrificed their lives after the Indian Independence in 1947. The site can also be accessed by road. A small entry fee applies for those visiting independently or is included in the DHR Joy Ride fees. INR 5 No close Days
Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park Developed on the slopes of Birch Hill (or Jawahar Parbat), at an altitude of approx. 7,000 ft, the zoo of Darjeeling is the largest high altitude of zoo in the country. It has been named after Late Padmaja Naidu, the Governor of West Bengal and the daughter of legendary nationalist leader, poet and orator Sarojini Naidu. This zoo was established in 1958 with the objectives of study, conservation and preservation of Himalayan fauna as well as educating, motivating and initiating awareness campaign among the local people and the visitors on the importance of conservation of Himalayan eco-system. Being a high altitude zoo, the choice of animal species for display and breeding is very limited. It concentrates mainly on animals of Eastern Himalayan region. It is perhaps the only zoo in the country that specializes in breeding animals adapted to alpine conditions, and has successful captive breeding programes for the Snow leopard, the critically endangered Himalayan wolf and the Red panda. March to June and September to January is the best time to visit this park. INR 100 For zoo and HMI (Himalayan Mountaineering Institute) The ticket available here is for both Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park and HMI. Optional ticket of either place is not allowed. Thursdays Summers 8:30 am – 4:30 pm Winters 8:30 am – 4:00 pm
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute This is the oldest mountaineering institute in the country. It was established in 1954 by India’s first Prime Minister Late Shri Jawahar Lal Nehru to commemorate the successful ascent of the Mount Everest (highest peak of the world) by the local hero Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edumund Hillary on 28 May 1953. The legendary Tenzing Norgay Sherpa was the first Director of Field Training at HMI. His grave is also located here. The institute carries out various mountaineering courses every year and  is presently under the purview of the Minstry of Defence, Government of India. The entry to HMI is via Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park . HMI has a mountaineering museum with a collection of mountaineering equipments, Himalayan flora and fauna, a model of the Himalayan range with various peaks, photographs of famous mountaineers and various other things. Close to the institute, don’t get surprised if you find some children in full gear trying to make to the top of a small rock on the road side. It is the Tenzing rock. This is an interesting and safe place for the kids to try their hands at rock climbing under the safe guidance of the instructors. INR 100 For zoo and HMI (Himalayan Mountaineering Institute) The ticket available here is for both Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park and HMI. Optional ticket of either place is not allowed. Thursdays Summers 8:30 am – 4:30 pm Winters 8:30 am – 4:00 pm
Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre In order to re establish the unfortunate Tibetans who were driven out of their homeland after the dramatic escape of Dalai Lama, this self help centre was established on October 1, 1959. The number of workers has swollen from 4 in the beginning to about 750 refugees. It is now a registered charitable organization that receives exemption from Income Tax on all gifts and donations made to it. The main activity of the centre is to produce handicrafts ranging from carpets, wooden and metal items, hand woven textiles, pencil cases, and paintings etc. that are exported to over 36 countries worldwide. On your visit to the centre you can find artisans engaged in producing these handicrafts items. There is a small exhibition hall where the items are on display for sale. In another hall the story of the centre up to this time has been narrated by means of photographs of various events that it has seen in the course of time. Besides from its beginning, the Centre has undertaken the task of helping orphans, the aged, the infirm and the needy among the refugees. No entrance fees Sundays The exhibition hall is open on all days 9 am - 4 pm
Monasteries In Some of the oldest and most charming monasteries in India can be found in and around Darjeeling. Very close to town, the Ghoom Monastery (also known as Samten Choling) is The monastery has a rich collection of rare books on Buddhism. Situated at an altitude of 8,000 ft, the Ghoom monastery (also known as Samten Choling monastery), is one of the better known monasteries of Darjeeling. Said to have been built in 1875 by Lama Sherab Gyatso, it is famous for its 15 ft tall statue of Maitreya Buddha (future Buddha). The monastery also has a laudable collection of Buddhist text. Another important monastery of the area is the Bhutia Busty Monastery (Karma Dorjee Choling Monastery) that belongs to the Red Sect (Kagyu) of Buddhist Lamas. It is just 15 minutes walk from the Mall. Mount Khangchendzonga forms the scenic backdrop of it. This colorful monastery was originally built in 1879 on the Observatory Hill. It was damaged in an earthquake in 1934, and was rebuilt with the assistance of the Chogyal (king) of Sikkim. The monastery still belongs to the government of Sikkim and receives a maintenance grant from it. It houses the original copy of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Besides there are many other monasteries viz. Yig Choling Gompa, Druk Sangak Choling Gompa, Mak Drong Gompa (also known as Aloobari Gompa).
Chowrasta and Mall Chowrasta is a broad open area that is said to be the origin and culmination point of the mall road. Like most of the other hill stations of India, Darjeeling too has its Mall road - a vehicle free promenade lined by shops and restaurants. One can buy anything from shawls and sweaters by Tibetan and Bhutani people to  their antique jewellery items, beautiful umbrellas and footwears. At a short distance from the Chowrasta is the Observatory Hill, a place that is equally dear to and venerated by both Hindus and Buddhists. It was the site of Dorje Ling monastery that gave the town its name Darjeeling. The place has abundance of fluttering prayer flags and marauding monkeys. The Mahakal temple here is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Botanical Garden The botanical garden of Darjeeling was laid out by Mr. W. Lloyd in 1878 and hence is named after him. Come here to feast your eyes on a vast collection of rare Himalayan plants, flowers, orchids, living fossil plants and much more. The floral varieties are mostly native to Darjeeling Himalayan region, Sikkim and other neighboring areas. A herbarium, which is a stone building built in Elizabethan style, is also present here. No Entrance Fees Sundays 6 am – 5 pm
Nightingale Park/Shrubbery Park At a walking distance from the Chowrasta, it’s a recently developed park with a package of cultural programmes performed daily during the tourist season. The park has a giant Statue of Lord Shiva, a temple, and provisions for live-interactive entertainment. The best time to visit the park is in the evenings. 4 pm - 8 pm
Japanese Peace Pagoda and the temple The Japanese peace pagoda and the temple nearby are of recent origin. The pagoda stands as a symbol of peace. It flaunts four statues of Lord Buddha that are polished in gold color. The other eight figures of him carved out in sandstone adorning the walls there depict various phases of his life.  It was built under the guidance of Nichidatsu Fujii, a Buddhist monk from Japan and founder of the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order. The Japanese Temple is also known as the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple. It is built in a pure Japanese architectural style. The place commands excellent view of Mount Kanchenjunga and the Darjeeling city. See if you can be there during the prayer time. The humming sound that reverberates in the atmosphere when the mantras are chanted fill the air with spirituality. Puja timings are 4:30 am – 6 am
Dirdham temple It is the most famous temple of Darjeeling, especially popular because it is a replica of the famous Pashupatinath temple of Kathmandu, Nepal. The idol of Lord Shiva represents him in five different moods or facial expressions.
White Water Rafting n order to tap the potential of the mighty rivers Teesta and Rangeet, the Department of Tourism has made efforts to arrange for White Water Rafting in this area. It has acquired well trained members and quality equipment to ensure safe trips for the tourists. Though the river is really strong, the novices and non swimmers need not get disappointed for there are stretches where they can enjoy and experience the taste of river rafting. One needs to spare a day during their stay in Darjeeling and take a one and half hour drive down to Teesta Bazar to enjoy this Hill Sport. "Assumption of Risk and Release" bond has to be signed before undertaking the trip. The foreigners are required to present their passport also. There are trips ranging from 1.5 – 3 hrs.

Getting There

Air Rail Road
The nearest airport is the Bagdogra Airport that is at a distance of  90km (3 hours) from Darjeeling. Indian Airlines, Jet Airways operate regular services to Kolkata, Delhi & Guwahati & Patna. Apart from Darjeeling Railway Station the two closest railway stations are Siliguri (80 kms; 3 hrs) and New Jalpaiguri (88 kms). These railway stations have direct railway connections with Kolkata, Delhi, Guwahati, Varanasi and other major cities of India. Darjeeling is 51 km west of Kalimpong, 115 km south of Gangtok, 80 km north west of Siliguri, 88 km north west of New Jalpaiguri, 90 km north west of Baghdogra and 490 km north of Kolkata.

Darjeeling Excursions

Excursion (Distance In Kms) Description
Tiger Hill (11 km south of Darjeeling/45 min as it has to be early morning i.e. before sunrise) Watching the first rays of the sun kissing the majestic Himalayas, from Tiger Hill, is a moment that will remain etched in your memory for ever. The main peaks visible are Mount Khangchendzonga (8, 598 m), Makalu (8475 m), Janu (7,710 m). Mount Everest (8, 848 m) is also visible, though from a distance, on clear days. But to savor this phenomenal scene one has to leave very early in the morning from Darjeeling. You can observe all vehicles moving to the same spot so the traffic obviously gets slow. The earlier you reach there nearer the sunrise point you can take your vehicle. It becomes congested with every passing minute. You have the option to view the sunrise from the heated lounges or from an open area for which you have to purchase a ticket accordingly. There you will find many ladies with vacuum flasks and disposable glasses persuading the visitors to buy a cup of tea from them. Close to Tiger Hill is Senchal Lake, which supplies Darjeeling with its domestic water. It's a scenic place and is popular as a picnic spot particularly with Indian holiday-makers.
Rock Garden and Ganga Maiyya Park (10 km from the town/30 minutes) This has been recently developed as an enchanting picnic place for the tourists. It is a multi level garden that encompasses a natural waterfall. There is small lake in which one can enjoy boating. Food stalls inside serve variety of snacks. Ganga Maiyya Park is further 3 km from the rock garden.
Mirik (50 km from both Darjeeling and Siliguri/2-2.5 hrs) With an artificial lake (named Sumendu), manicured tea gardens, orange orchards, cardamom groves and Pine knolls Mirik is a complete relaxation and rejuvenation package. It’s a quaint little town with the lake and nearby Pashputpati market being its main attraction. Beautiful cottages around the lake, which is regularly swept by the moving clouds, and on the hilltop with a helipad on the topmost summit, make it a surreal destination for honeymooners.

Suggested Holidays Including Darjeeling

Holiday Name No. Of Days Destinations Covered & Highlights
Golden Triangle of the East 7 days Gangtok -Kalimpong -Darjeeling

North East India

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