Darjeeling is famous for its varieties of teas; the hill station has vast varieties of tea estates. The town is also quite popular for Tibetan influence in their craft, culture, and cuisine. With its vivid and serene environment, the town is a delight for all kind of tourists. Town got its toy train back in the British time (1881).UNESCO has declared Darjeeling to be one of world heritage. It houses various Colonial architecture like mansions, churches, bridges.
Darjeeling is a good example of cultural diversity. People from Tibet, Nepal, and some Indian states have migrated into this town. This town is located near the third largest peak in the world (Kanchenjunga). You can clearly spot the peak from the town. During the British Raj, it was the second summer capital after Shimla. The climatic conditions are like any other hills station, summer reign from April till June and from June till September the region receives maximum rainfall. Winter starts from the mid of November and reigns till February, Snowfall is also evident during the winters.
Best time to visit is between October to February because you’ll be able to enjoy the winter of a hill station. Many people famously call Darjeeling as the “Mecca of Tea”. Darjeeling is the leading city in India for producing tea. The town has over 80 operational tea gardens, sprawling across acres of land. This town offers wide varieties of tea. The busiest time for tea production is from the month of March to May.
For food lovers: you got plenty of choices in this town, ranging from Bengali cuisine, Tibetan cuisine, South Indian items. Naga cuisine, Nepali food to continental as well as Tandoori delicacies. Most of the cuisine are the blend of two different cuisines like you can find traces of Bengali cuisine in Nepali cuisine. But here are some delicacies that you must try: Momos, Thukpa, Aloo Dum, Sael Roti, Naga platter, Nepali thali, Tongba, Chaang and much more.
For Shoppers: Town is famous for handicraft items. Crafts, jewelry, woolen clothes, jackets, and Pashminas are worthy to look at. Darjeeling has some shops which offers collector’s items such as paintings of landscape, artifacts etc.
The toy train: The toy train has been the iconic figure of Darjeeling, it has touched everybody who has been to this hill station. The British Empire introduced the toy train in 1881. It connected Siliguri with Darjeeling with a narrow gauge. It helped the commoners to cut down traveling time to commute. Earlier people used to travel by bullock cart and horse carriages.
Darjeeling tea: The trip is incomplete without taking a sip of the world-famous Darjeeling tea. The tea is a key factor which established the town in the world map. The plantations can range from 700 INR a kg to well over 50,000 INR depending on the quality of the tea leaves. The tea estates have become a major attraction for the tourists.
Culture: The culture in Darjeeling is diverse and includes various varieties of indigenous practices and festivals. Many of the Nepali Hindus, as well as the various Buddhist and other ethnic groups such as the Lepchas, Bhutias, Kiranti Limbus, Tibetians, Yolmos, Gurungs and Tamangs have their own distinct language and culture and yet they share a hugely harmonious co-existence.
Here are few tourist attractions that you must visit in Darjeeling:
If you want to see the first rays of the sun slicing the twin peaks of Kangchenjunga, along with a wide view of the Everest, then Tiger Hills make for a perfect sunrise viewing point for you. Summit Ghoom is the highest point of Tiger Hill. It provides the astonishingly beautiful view of the Mt Everest and Mt Kanchenjunga. The sunlight during the dawn gives the snow an orange tint, which a sight not worth missing.
The Tiger Hill is situated at an altitude of 2590 meters. and just 13km away from the Darjeeling. The Hill offers us a magnificent view of the mountains and gives us the feeling of accomplishment. Ghoom is the highest railway station in Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. The hills can be easily accessible through roadways from Darjeeling. The nearest major railway station to Tiger Hill can is Siliguri JN train station which is 33km away. Tiger Hills offers one of the most beautiful views of the greater Himalayas. Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world in soothing to the eyes while watching it on the eve or dawn.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway:
Your visit to Darjeeling is incomplete if you don’t experience the joyride at the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway toy train. The train may move at snail’s pace but the journey offers the most beautiful sights to the eye and no one wants to miss. A small steam engine does the job of pulling the carriage. Yes, you heard it right they still use the steam technology in this modern age. The train slices through the vistas of nature through the journey. The people of Darjeeling famously call the train as “toy train”. The path of the journey is full of curves and bends showing us magnificent piece of engineering. It’s about a two-hour journey from Darjeeling up to Ghoom and then back covering about 14km of distance.
While on your journey, you will be able to see the War Memorial built in the honor of the Gorkha soldiers who had sacrificed their lives for the safety of their nation. The journey through the mountain also offers some unparalleled view of Darjeeling town and the snow-clad peaks of Kanchenjunga. In 1999 UNESCO had declared the toy train as a world heritage sight. The train takes four trips in one day, two in the morning half while other two in the afternoon. There’s also a small Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Museum where visitors get to visit for 30 mins. Here the key highlight is the oldest toy train engine- The baby SIvok. You can book tickets for this epic journey online through irctc.co.in.
A spiral railway created to minimize the elevation of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in Darjeeling. The tracks in the loop wrap around over itself through a tunnel and over a hilltop. Built in 1919, the loop has a length over 5km from Darjeeling below Ghoom. A memorial for the Gorkha soldiers is also present just below the loop. Through the toy train ride, one will pass by the gorgeous Batasia Loop, it is where the train tracks overlap and encircle themselves. The snowy peaks of the Kanchenjunga are also visible along the panoramic view of the Darjeeling city.
The train tracks are placed between a beautiful flower garden. This Loop is considered to be the highest railway terminal. Engineering requirement made this loop to be built. The Batasia loop was built to reduce the gradient of the slope of the mountains where the tracks are laid. There is an eco garden in Batasia which features organic farming and plantations.
Japanese peace pagoda:
Situated near the Gandhi and JC Bose roads, a glistening white structure. The pagoda is one of the 70 odd structures. Japanese Peace Pagoda was built under the guidance of Japanese monk Nichidatsu Fuji. Best time to visit is during the daily pujas.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park:
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park was established in 1958. With an average elevation of 7,000 feet makes it the largest high-altitude zoo in India. The zoo specializes in breeding animals adapted to alpine conditions. It has successful captive breeding programs for the snow leopard, the critically endangered Himalayan wolf, and the red panda. This park is named after the daughter of Sarojini Naidu. She was the former governor of West Bengal (Padmaja Naidu).
The zoo has got an international reputation for its breeding and conservation programs. It is a huge center of attraction for the animal lovers and nature enthusiasts. Captive breeding of Snow Leopard was started in 1992. The zoo is enriched with the Asiatic black bear, barking deer, leopards, blue and yellow Macaw, Eastern Pangolin, Pheasant, Himalayan Monal, Himalayan Wolf, Lady Amherst, Leopard cat, Red Jungle Fowl, Red Panda, Royal Bengal Tiger, and much more. It was established with a primary goal to study and preserve Himalayan Fauna. The zoo has got many endangered species that you might not get to see any place else. It mountains the Himalayan Flora that brings many nature lovers to the place. The zoo is a complete experience to know about the Himalayan Flora and fauna and spend some fun time with your family and kids.
Also known as the Barbotey Gardena. Rock Garden is just 10km away from the main city. The garden comprises of benches, made by cutting rocks at different levels. The garden has waterfall which flows through flower beds, which is a quite delighting sight to the eyes, especially during the monsoons. The condition of roads are not so good despite being a tourist destination
Night angle park:
Night angle park was known as “The Shrubbery”. It used to be a private courtyard. The went closed for renovation purpose for about four years, later it reopened to the public since 2011. The park houses a gigantic statue of Lord Shiva. The park organizes musical fountain shows in its premises.
Singalila National Park:
Located on the Singallia Ridge at a height of 7000 feet above sea level. Trekking and adventure sports makes this park hugely famous among the tourists. People often refer it to as a paradise for the trekkers and adventure lovers.
The park has an area of 78.6 sq. Km of the area. It was a wildlife sanctuary before 1992, but later it got developed into a national park of India. The park is popular for its flora and fauna, and for the breathtaking views of Himalayan peaks it offers. The park is full of different varieties of plants. Researchers have recorded over 150 species here. The park is often visited by migratory birds. Singallia National Park is located in the eastern part of the Himalayas. The border of Sikkim from the North and Nepal from the west falls over this park. The month of March and April are the best time to visit as flowers bloom their best during these months.
It is the highest peak in West Bengal. Located in Singalila Ridge in Darjeeling district, almost near the border of Nepal. It gives one of the most spectacular views out of five highest peaks in the world. It gives the best possible view of the famous mountain of Kanchenjunga. You can reach the peak by car or even trekking. This trek is about 51km long way up the hill. This mountain is also known as the “mountain of poisonous plants” because of the abundance of Himalayan Cobra lilies here. This trek is an extreme adventure, so make sure you are fully healthy before trekking. It is one of the most challenging treks, it passes through several distinct terrains, from challenging valleys to the lush green of the lands dotted with rhododendrons, magnolias, primulas and Vibrant wildflowers.
The place is absolute paradise for a nature lover with about 600 varieties of the orchids alone. Manebhajan is the starting point of the Sandakphu Trek. It can be reached in about 4 hours by driving from the last railway station, New Jalpaiguri and Bagdogra Airport. The climatic conditions are quite familiar with any hill station, the temperature range is Sandakphu goes from about -20 degrees Celcius in the winter mother to about 15 degrees Celsius in the summer months. The last bit of the December to early February see snowfall in Sandakphu. You will need to obtain a permit to enter the Singalila National Park if you plan to do the trek from here.