Delightful Darjeeling, the “Queen of Himalayas” perched at an altitude of 2,134 meters is said to be named after a Tibetan word, ‘Dorje Ling’ or ‘Place of the Thunderbolt’. It is endowed with exceptional scenic beauty and offers a magnificent view of the grandeur and beauty of the mighty Himalayas. The beautiful town is indeed a paradise for holiday and adventure seekers as well as botanies, photographers and artists. The lovely lush woods around Darjeeling are full of conifers like pine, fir, and birch and they are known for exotic orchids and are home to rich animal and birdlife. Well, the name Darjeeling is also synonymous with the most beautiful tea in the world.
Darjeeling Tea is something that nobody wants to miss. Darjeeling produces the world’s best premium teas and is popularly referred to as the “Champagne of the East”. There are about 86 tea gardens, which produce around 25% of India’s total output of tea. The Happy Valley Tea Estate, just 3 km from the town is said to produce the world’s most expensive and exotically flavored tea. One can witness the famous ‘Orthodox Tea Manufacture’ method of tea processing here.
The famous Toy train of Darjeeling is listed among World Heritage sites of UNESCO and is a living reminder of the 19th century Darjeeling. It runs between Shiliguri and Darjeeling, covering a distance of somewhat 83 km on a 610 mm gauge. The mini train is a marvel of rail engineering and weaves a magical spell as it passes through the beautiful landscape teeming with tea gardens, serpentine streams, and excellent viewpoints. The Ghoom railway station on this track is located at the highest altitude in the country. One should at least take a joy ride on this magnificent train from Darjeeling to Ghoom.
The adventurous can arrange a trek to Singalila Ridge or ride a mountain bike around the hills. Meanwhile, the steep and winding bazaars at the foot of the town bustle with an array of Himalayan products and faces from across Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet. And when energies start to flag, a good, steaming Darjeeling brew is never far away.
Festivals form an integral part of the people’s lives in Darjeeling. With the beginning of New Year in the month of January this district experiences festivity in each month due to the cultural blend of various religions, tribes, and immigrants from neighboring states.
Batasia Loop (5 kms.)
It lies just below Ghoom and is an engineering marvel where the railway line negotiates a graceful circle and descends 1000 ft. The site affords a spectacular view of Darjiling, with the majestic Kanchenjungha in the background. There is also a War Memorial.
Bhutia Basti Monastery
This small monastery with beautifully painted facade belongs to the Bhutias, a people of Tibetan origin.
Chowrasta or Crossroad
It is the ‘heart of Victorian Darjiling’ and a hub of commercial activity. The famous Mall Road originates and culminates here and is studded with hotels, restaurants, shops, and stalls. The attractive promenade affords a fine view of the Himalayas. One can also enjoy a leisurely ride on a horse-back.
Natural History Museum
A rich collection of local fauna is exhibited here.
It resembles the famous Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu.
The hill held sacred by Hindus and Buddhists affords a panoramic view of Kanchenjunga. There is a 19th-century Mahakaal Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and a Buddhist Monastery. It had an observatory, which no longer exists.
Lloyd Botanical Garden
This well laid out terraced garden has a fine collection of plant specimens from the sub-temperate and temperate Himalayas. There is also a representative collection of plants from all over the world. The Orchidarium here has over 2.500 plants. An annual flower show is held here during the summer months.
Tenzing Norgay Mountaineering Institute
It lies on Jawahar Parbat and is the first mountaineering training center of the country. The HMI museum depicts the history of mountaineering, while the Everest Museum displays memorabilia of 1953. Everest expedition of Tenzing and Hillary. Another attraction is the huge ‘Hitler’s Telescope’ which provides a fine view of Kanchenjunga.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Garden
It is located near the Tenzing Norgay Mountaineering Institute and is home to some rare Himalayan fauna like snow leopard, yak, Siberian tiger, Himalayan black bear, red panda, Tibetan wolf, Himalayan pheasant, etc.
This charming garden at Jawahar Parbat, behind Raj Bhawan, provides a breath-taking view of Kanchenjunga range and Single Valley.
There are two ropeway systems at Darjiling. The first one is 1,408-m. long, connecting Darjiling with Bijanbari at the little Rangeet Valley. While the second one is a bi-cable passenger ropeway that connects Darjiling’s North Point and Singla, covering an aerial distance of 8 kms. It is the first bi-cable passenger-carrying ropeway in India and the longest of its kind in Asia.
Japanese Peace Pagoda
It was inaugurated in 1993 and affords an excellent view of the town and majestic mountains. On the way is Lalkothi, the DGHC Council House, which can be viewed from outside.
Ghoom (8 kms.)
It is well known for the railway station at the highest altitude in the country. The Tibetan Buddhist Monastery here enshrines a 4.8-m. statue of the Maitreya Buddha and is famous for the Tibetan New Year celebrations (Feb.-Mar.). The 30.5-m. high Ghoom Rock offers a fine view and is a popular tourist site.
Kalingpang (52 kms.)
This charming hill resort has some of the best flower and orchid producing nurseries in the country. There are also three Buddhist monasteries, Mangal Dhaam, a recently St. constructed temple in the memory of late Guru Shree 108 Mangal Dasji and Theresa’s Church. Kalimpong is also a shopper’s paradise, Tibetan craft items can be picked up as souvenirs.
Kurseong (32 kms.)
The picturesque town located between Darjiling and Siliguri is referred to as the ‘Land of the White Orchid’. It is dotted with several churches and good schools. There is also a Forest Museum, Deer Park, mini amusement park and a lovely water reservoir. The Eagle’s Crag, commands a panoramic view of the undulating plains below.
Mirik (49 kms.)
The beautiful hill resort surrounded by tea estates, orange orchards, cardamom the plantations and lush woods full of oak, maple and chestnut trees is famous for n Sumendu lake. Boating and angling facilities are available here.
Senchal (10 kms.)
The three artificial lakes on a 2,487 m. high hill supply water to Darjiling and popular picnic spot. The golf course here is one of the highest in the world. 1herc the Senchal sanctuary, the home to barking deer, wild boar, and black bear, etc.
Scenic Shiliguri set amidst tea gardens and sal forests are the main transit point for Darjiling, Kalimpong and the exotic north-eastern states. It is indeed a center of commercial and communication networks of north-eastern India. The famous Jaldapadra Sanctuary is located 121 kms. from here.
Tiger Hill (13 kms.)
The 2.585 m. high hill affords the best view of Kanchenjunga, especially at sunrise. One can enjoy an awe-inspiring view of the Himalayas from a viewing tower here.