The word Darjeeling has a very interesting connotation as per Tibetan lingo. It can be split into two Tibetan words ‘Dorje’ and ‘Ling’ which translate into ‘thunderbolt’ and ‘place’. So Darjeeling literally stands for ‘the land of the thunderbolt’.
This vacation season, ditch foreign plans and spend your lazy days immersed in the many wondrous sights, tastes and smells of the mesmerising city of Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal. Darjeeling is the perfect travel destination in India. Situated among the peaks of the lesser Himalayas at an elevation of 6,700 feet, Darjeeling has gained worldwide popularity for its delicious and fragrant Darjeeling Tea. This prime hill station of India is surrounded by the snow-capped mountains of Kanchenjunga and sees a regular inrush of tourists all year round. The beauty of Darjeeling is truly unparalleled with its vast, heavenly tea gardens spread across the slopes of the hills and the picture perfect orchids, pines and rhododendrons that heighten its beauty to a thousand fold. There are also plenty of man-made wonders to look at like British-era architecture and peaceful Buddhist monasteries. Darjeeling Tourism is the most searched for and most talked about Indian holiday itinerary. You can also opt for the Darjeeling-Gangtok vacation since Gangtok is only 108 kilometres away from Darjeeling and is also abundant in sightseeing places. Several travel companies offer reasonable and amazing Darjeeling tour packages to choose from. Go ahead and find the one that best suits your budget.
Places to visit in Darjeeling
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute:
The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is more of a destination and a pilgrimage for mountain climbing aspirants than an Institution. It is a residential school cum Swiss style Sherpa accommodation and also a well curated mountaineering museum. All in all, this is one of the best rated and must visit tourist places in Darjeeling.
Another one among must-visit Darjeeling tourist places, The Tiger Hill of Darjeeling seems to personify the beauty of the rising sun and the majestic Kanchenjunga Mountain by a thousand folds every morning. It also offers stunning views of meadows and of the Senchal Lake below.
Darjeeling Tea is immensely popular worldwide. Darjeeling is now leveraging its tea sales to promote what is known as Tea Tourism. Tea Tourism involves a lovely stay at a British Tea Planter bungalow from the colonial era overlooking the sprawling tea estates. You will also be going on a tour around the tea gardens and indulging yourself in some hot, strong, piping, aromatic and splendid Darjeeling Tea.
A subdivision of Darjiling district, Kalimpong is a little town and hill station in itself. Kalimpong is a cluster of many different cultures and traditions. The Deo Hills are a major attraction here together with a large number of monasteries, temples and parks.
Batasia Loop as the name suggests, is a loop or a spiral of a narrow gauge railway track where the Toy Train negotiates a sudden sharp descent from Ghoom. It is 5Km from Darjeeling city. This location gives great 360 degree view of Darjeeling’s landscape, and Perfect view of Kanchenjunga and the other Eastern Himalayan peaks
Darjeeling is home to the largest ropeway of Asia. The Darjeeling-Ranjit Valley Ropeway will give any rider the jitters as he/she sails through the clouds and is offered a mind-blowing view of the wide, lush green tea gardens below. Darjeeling ropeway is also known as the Rangeet Valley Passenger Cable Car.
Rock Garden & Ganga Maya Park
Rock Garden is also known as Barbotey Rock Garden. The garden is about 10 kilometres from Darjeeling & Ganga Maya Park are scenic parks in wonderful settings located a few miles away from the Darjeeling town. Ganga Maya is 3km from rock garden. Rock Garden is all about terraced gardens at different levels that have been cut through the rocks having a waterfalls with nice seating arrangements. Ganga Maya is more spread out and has a beautiful stream flowing through it on a valley, has flower gardens, fountains and more.
Japanese Temple & Peace Pagoda
Japanese Temple & Peace Pagoda is symbolic of peace and tranquillity. Located in the Jalapahar hill, the Japanese Temple is built in traditional Japanese style where you can join the prayers and feel the spiritual peace amongst humming and chants. From here You can also see the snow peak Mountain range.
Observatory Hill and Mahakal Temple
Observatory Hill is an ideal place to get a 360 degree view of Darjeeling and the peaks surrounding it. The Mahakal Temple, the central temple of Darjeeling of all faiths is located on top of the hill where the original Dorjeling Buddhist Monastery once stood.
Darjeeling “Toy Train”
‘Toy Train’ is the most famous attraction in Darjeeling, which runs on a 2 feet narrow railway gauge. This vintage British B-class steam locomotive carries daily tourists between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Toy Train was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, This makes Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Second railway in the world to have such an honour after Semmering Railway, Austria.
Darjeeling Weather/Best Time to Visit:
Darjeeling sees a decent amount of tourists even during the monsoons. A few thunderstorms and rain showers don’t seem to deter them. Yes, that is how much people are in love with this place. Monsoons see Darjeeling temperature variations between 15 to 20 degrees.
Autumn, winter, spring and summer are the four best seasons for a trip to Darjeeling and this entire period i.e. the best time to visit Darjeeling would be between September and June.
Where to stay in Darjeeling
There are a large number of 2-star, 3-star hotels in Darjeeling and also many cosy homestays that are sure to elevate your hill station experience. If you prefer world class luxury stay, choose from a list of deluxe, 5-star Darjeeling hotels of which Windamere, Cedar Inn, Viceroy, Sinclairs, Fortune Nirvana and Sterlings are the most popular. Budget stays include The Aliment Hotel at Dr. Zakir Khan Road, Swiss Hotel at Gandhi Road which is a one-of-a-kind stay and also Hotel Zodiac at Gandhi Road.
What to do:
Singalila National Park:
The Singalila National Park offers an excellent view of the Himalayas and you can trek from Sandakphu to the Phalut passes through the Singalila at Rupees 800 per day. You can hire a private guide either at the GTA Tourist Reception Centre, at Travel Agencies or at the starting point of the trek in Mane Bhanjhang, about 26 km away from Darjeeling.
Pony Rides at Chowrastra:
Let your kids enjoy a good pony ride from Chowrastra around Observatory Hill or across tea estates to a monastery. Although this activity is safe and the Ponies are accompanied by horsemen at all times, keep an eye out for your precious kids and don’t let them out of your sight even for a minute.
Lloyd Botanical Gardens:
Starting from the Chowk Bazaar Bus and Jeep station, follow the signs along Lochnager Road until you reach the main entrance where the honking of jeeps is replaced by the pleasant buzz of cicadas. These gardens are strikingly beautiful and pleasant to walk through. They have an amazing collection of Himalayan plants like the Orchids and Rhododendrons.
Where to Shop :
Your Darjeeling trip is incomplete if you don’t haul some exquisite handmade souvenirs home. Tibetan Masks, beautiful handmade jewellery, traditional boots, shawls and Pashminas must be top of your shopping priority list. Chowk Bazaar area has a large collection of interesting artefacts and curios. Ghoom Monastery Market boasts of exclusive Tibetan prayer items like Prayer wheels, Prayer flags and singing bowls. Browse through an amazing collection of books on the Himalayas and Mountaineering at the Oxford Book and Stationery Company located at Chowrastra.
Where to Eat in Darjeeling:
Darjeeling is a food paradise with not just many different dishes but many different cuisines to choose from. A majority of eateries provide Bengali, Tibetan, South Indian, Naga, Nepali, Continental, Chinese and Tandoori delicacies at pocket friendly prices. The Park Restaurant at Laden La Road offers a mixture of Thai, Chinese and Indian food. To enjoy some authentic Tibetan food, visit the Kunga restaurant at Gandhi Road. Hop into Glenary’s Restaurant at Nehru road. This 100 year old British style eatery offers Continental/Chinese/Indian and has an amazing bakery full of sweet treats.
How to reach Darjeeling:
Worry not, there are train, air as well as bus routes to the beautiful city of Darjeeling. Train tickets need to be reserved on the Darjeeling Himalayan Narrow Gauge. The New Jalpaiguri Railway station is the one and only broad gauge railway station that is the nearest railway station to Darjeeling and fortunately connects to most major cities of India. New Jalpaiguri is also immensely popular for the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway which is a 2 feet narrow railway gauge that runs the alluring Darjeeling Toy Train. This vintage British B-class steam locomotive carries daily tourists between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling.
If you would like to travel in style and land in Darjeeling Airport, take a direct plane from Kolkata, Delhi or Guwahati to Bagdogra Airport which is the nearest airport to Darjeeling, located at Putimari, 65 km away from the city of Darjeeling.
By Bus or Car:
Take a regular, rocket or Volvo bus from Kolkata to Siliguri Main Bus Terminal at Hill Cart Road. Once you get there, you can hire a bus, shared jeep or a private taxi to Darjeeling which is 80 kilometers away.