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Darjeeling; the portrayal of this entire province is confined to not many figurative words. A blend of majestic mountains, tempting tea garden and tiny toy train, this is how we envision the mainstay of dazzling Darjeeling. Being one of the most explored hill stations in the state of West Bengal, the picturesque panorama of the Himalaya in Darjeeling woo number of visitors from all around the sphere. On a bright sunny day, you can catch a sheer glimpse of the Himalayan range and Tiger Hill, which further offers you a spectacular vista of the majestic Kanchenjunga. Based upon the magnificent sight that a bystander can experience from Darjeeling, the place has been crowned as the "Queen of the Himalayas."
Before taking you on a ride to the land of scintillating Darjeeling, let's take a look around the culture, people and custom associated with the place.
Literally, there are two words 'dorje' and 'ling' that compile the name of Darjeeling wherein, the word 'dorje' indicates 'thunderbolt' and the word 'ling' signifies a place. Thus, the word Darjeeling in particular denotes a place of thunderbolt. Nestled at an elevation of more than 2000 meters, the scenic environs of Darjeeling district is the prime means of tourism industry in the state of West Bengal.
If you plunge into the decades back history of Darjeeling, the place was taken over by the British in 1835. During that period of time, a deed was signed between the British and the Chogyal monarch of Sikkim. The then Darjeeling was merely a land full of thick bush and an abode to the tribal inhabitants. Moving ahead with time, the blend of soothing climate and serenity of this beautiful terrain was well-admired by the British. As a result of which Darjeeling was further transformed into a sanatorium and a settlement for the British troop. Further, post independence the district became a home land to various immigrants from the places like Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal and Tibet.
The original inhabitants of Darjeeling are the Lepchas, who are basically from the Mongolian source. They speak 'Rong-Ring' language. By religion the Lepchas are mostly Buddhists. In addition, you will also notice many other tribes here who have adopted Christianity and Hinduism. Thus, a rich variety of cultural and religious diversity can be observed in Darjeeling that harmonise the blend of Gorkhas, Tibetans, Christians and Hindus. Besides, the presence of multiple immigrants has added a mix of religious faiths, arts, crafts, traditional songs and dances in this undulating region. This is why you come to witness a variety of festivals that are celebrated here with equal gusto. Some of the popular festivals of Darjeeling include Buddha Jayanti, Dasain, Diwali and Loshar.
Akin to its various religions and traditional practices, different languages are also spoken here by the multiple immigrants. Hence, in Darjeeling you may find people speaking languages like Nepali, Bengali, English and Hindi.
Apart from the scenic grandeur of Darjeeling, this popular hill station of West Bengal also tempts visitors for its scrumptious ethnic foods. Due to diverse origins and cultural variations, you will get to taste here various lip-smacking Tibetan, Bengali and Nepali platters. Some of the local snacks and drinks that you can't afford to skip in Darjeeling are Tongba, Churpee, Momos, Naga Platter, Sael Roti, Thukpa and Channg. And last but not the least, the famous Darjeeling tea without which your trip to Darjeeling will remain incomplete. So, make sure you don't skip a sip of revitalizing Darjeeling tea.
The terra firma of vibrant tea estate and relaxing climate make the presence of visitor here quite delightful. Summer hits the region in the month of April and it lasts here till June. During summers the weather condition in Darjeeling is not that hot and humid. The temperature that time climbs maximum up to 250C. After summer, Darjeeling is encircled with monsoon, which lasts here from July to August. During monsoon, intense rainfall here refrain the visitors from enjoying a blissful time. Hence, monsoon is not considered as a perfect time to pay a visit to Darjeeling. Moving ahead with seasonal climate, winter enters the region in the month of late September or early October and it continues here till March. During winter the overall ambience in Darjeeling turns absolutely freezing with the mercury drops down up to the level of -2 °C.
Best time to visit:
Unlike plains, the summer is not that scorching here. So tourists can spend a relaxing vacation in Darjeeling from March to May. Another appropriate time to visit here is from October to November when the weather is quite favourable for visitors with clear sky offering an enthralled vista of Kanchenjunga snow peaks.
Places to visit in Darjeeling:
Darjeeling is laid out with galore of opportunities for sightseeing along the captivating Himalayan ranges and dotted tea gardens. Breath-taking view over the soaring Kanchenjunga gives you an absolute getaway from city's hustle-bustle. Besides its alluring nature, Darjeeling is equally a paradise for exciting trekking trails. Let's explore the worth visiting places in Darjeeling:
Stand tall at an elevation of more than 2,500 meters and situated nearly 13 kms from the main city, Tiger Hill is unquestionably one of the major tourist pullers in Darjeeling. The site is famous for its pinnacle point i.e. Ghoom from where one can witness the spectacular panorama between Mount Everest and Kanchendzonga. Tiger Hill also offers you a charismatic sunrise view amidst the mountains. On a clean sunny morning, you can capture a mesmerising vista of some adjoining peaks like Kokhtang, Rathong and Kabru. One more appealing peak near the hill is Phalut, which offers an exciting trekking trail to the adventure lovers. Following this route you get to reach another stunning location, which is Singalila National Park. Thus, Tiger Hill is an awe-inspiring destination for experiencing the prettiness of nature as well as the thrill of trekking.
Situated nearly 8Kms from the Darjeeling city centre, Ghoom Monastery is another nearby attraction for tourists. There is a 15 ft high statue of 'Maitreya Buddha' at the entrance, which grab the attentions of visitors to a large extent. Ghoom Monastery is the largest amongst three other monasteries at Ghum area. This Monastery was built way back in 1875 by Lama Sherab Gyatso. In the monastery complex, you will also come to notice a blend of religious bells, drums and ornate thanka.
Located around 5 Kms from Darjeeling, Batasia Loop is an absolute paradise for nature lovers. This place is popular for a magnificent garden that encircles the narrow gauge track for Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which is a UNESCO World Heritage rail network. The trains are operated here using the original steam engines. Your trip to Darjeeling remains incomplete unless you take a joyride from Darjeeling town to Ghoom. Kids enjoy the joyride here to the fullest.
Batasia Loop is delimited by various vibrant flora and lush environs. Spread with an area of around 50,000 square feet, the spherical track here allows the Toy Train to make a complete round loop. Apart from the circular loop, the site also boasts a blend of eco garden, eateries and Gorkha War Memorial. Visiting Batasia Loop on a bright sunny day may offer you an astounding panorama of the Kanchedzonga range.
Senchal Lake and Wildlife Sanctuary
To reach here, you need to cover nearly 11Kms distance from Darjeeling. Positioned near the Tiger Hill at an elevation of nearly 8512 feet above sea level, Senchal Lake offers you an amazing vista of soothing nature surrounded by a tranquil ambience all around.
Apart from the major Senchal Lake, this site is also popular for hosting one of the oldest wildlife sanctuaries in India. Established way back in 1915, Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary is the home to a rich verity of endangered flora and fauna. Some of the important species of animals that can be spotted here are Himalayan black bear, Assam macaque, barking deer, leopard, cat, flying squirrel, monkey and wild pig. Spread with an area of 40 square kilometres, Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary also boasts several species of birds. Senchal Lake and Wildlife Sanctuary is thus an offbeat destination in Darjeeling that can be rejoiced by the visitors of all age group.
Happy Valley Tea Garden
People who have grown up in Kolkata or any other places around the state of West Bengal must have tried a sip of famous Darjeeling Tea. Nestled around 3 Kms from the main city, Happy Valley Tea Garden is a worth exploring site in Darjeeling. Set up in 1854 with an expanse of 437 acres area, this oldest tea estate of Darjeeling offers you an interesting opportunity to witness the actual process of tea manufacturing. In order to grab this amazing opportunity, make sure to be there all days a week except Mondays. Nevertheless, the best time to reveal the plucking process of tea leaves here is from March to May. If you are a tea lover then Happy Valley Tea Garden is a must visit for you. Nothing could be as charming as witnessing the tea manufacturing process before you try a cup of refreshing Darjeeling Tea.
Darjeeling offers you several zenith of mountainous range. Observatory Hill is one such hilltop, which is one of the oldest sites in the entire district. On scaling the peaks of Observatory Hill, you will come to view the snow-clad Mount Kanchenjunga. This hill site is also known as Makal-Babu-Ko-Thaan where the Bhutia Busty monastery used to be situated once. Today, Observatory Hill is visited for catching a glimpse of Mahakal temple. This hill garbs the equal attention of both Hindu and Buddhist followers.
Positioned atop the Observatory Hill, Mahakal Temple is one more exotic site in Darjeeling, which is visited by the people of all sections of society. This place showcases a harmonious blend of Hindu and Buddhist cultures. In the temple there lie three gold plated idols of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar. According to mythical tales, it is believed that way back in 1782 the trio have manifested themselves at this site. As a result of which, the site has been transformed to a popular religious centre for tourists and Hindu devotees. Every day, plenty of Hindu worshipers step into the shrine complex to offer their deep reverence to the idols of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar. A blend of holy hymn, Buddhist scriptures, sound of bells and colourful flags takes the entire ambience of the holy shrine to a different level of serenity. While heading towards this temple, be watchful from the mischievous monkeys that roam around the temple complex.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
If you are an adventure lover and want to enrich your knowledge on mount climbing, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute could be the place for you. Established in 1954, this institute was built in the memory of Tenzing Norgay who has climbed the Everest just a year before this institute was set up. There is a boarding school here that provides training to the mountaineering students. In addition, you can also explore some other attractions here including a museum, souvenir shop and eatery. A climbing wall has also been constructed in the institute campus for training purpose. There is also an auditorium, which was setup here for exhibiting movies, lectures and workshops on mountaineering.
Are you looking for a romantic site where you can go for a soft walk holding the hand of your partner? Love Road may be the right place that you are looking for. Popular as an absolute hideout for couples, Love Road takes you through a refreshing walkway encircling the Birch Hill. If you are in Darjeeling for honeymoon purpose or seeking a perfect date with your soul-mate, visit Love Road, which is one of the best romantic places that will gift you some adorable reminiscences that you can cherish forever. So if you are mingle and still looking for a perfect hideout amidst breath-taking nature, look no further.
Rock Garden and Ganga Maya Park
Just 10 Kms away from the main city and you find one more worth exploring site in Darjeeling. Rock Garden and Ganga Maya Park are two amazing tourist pullers amidst the hill station. Rock Garden is also popular as the Barbotey Garden, which offers you a scenic beauty of vibrant plants, carving benches from the rock and Chunnu Summer Falls. The actual splendour of Rock Garden can best be revealed during monsoon when most of the flowers start blooming with their arresting appearance. Moving 3 kms ahead of Rock Garden, you come to explore Ganga Maya Park, which is another stunning nature park dotted with vibrant species of flora, greeneries and lively lake.
Japanese Peace Pagoda
When in Darjeeling, you can expect lot many pagodas and spiritual monasteries. Established way back in 1972, Japanese Peace Pagoda is one such major pilgrimage in Darjeeling for Buddhists. The white architecture of the spiritual pagoda boasts a massive prayer room, which is designed to offer the visitors an ambience of tranquillity and peace. The Peace Pagoda was constructed under the guidance of Nichidatsu Fujii, who was a famous Japanese monk. Here, you can also witness the four avatars of Lord Buddha. The sound of prayers and drums inside the temple complex set a new height of divinity. This is one of the sought destinations that you can't miss when in Darjeeling.
Well, the attractions in Darjeeling are not merely confined to the above cites locations. The beautiful hill station of Darjeeling has galore of nature parks, lakes, monasteries, pilgrimage centres, museum and cemetery. The diverse range of attractions in Darjeeling seems to be never ending. And unless you visit there individually, you run short of words to portray the actual exquisiteness of Darjeeling.
Hence, when in Darjeeling do count on some other attractions as well that include Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Rock Garden, Nightingale Park, Singalila National Park, Sandakphu Trek, Bengal Natural History Museum, Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center, Bhutia Busty Monastery, Dali Monastery, Samten Choling Monastery and Yiga Choeling Monastery, Dhirdham Temple, Aloobari Monastery, St. Andrew's Church, DHR Ghoom Museum, Tenzing and Gombu Rock, Darjeeling Old Cemetery etc.
Things to do in Darjeeling:
After exploring the natural abundance around Darjeeling, it's time now to get in to some outdoor activities. Apart from its scenic beauty, let's see what else keep you attached to this enchanted hill station.
There are several rousing sites in Darjeeling that will offer you some amazing trekking opportunities. Some of the popular trekking trails for adventure lover in Darjeeling include Singalila range, Phalut, Singalila, Sandakphu, Goechala and Dzongri. So what are you waiting for? Take your trekking kit and emerge out your daring persona amidst the steep trails.
How about crossing the miles over a Cable Car along spectacular greeneries? It gives goosebumps right away, isn't it? Darjeeling Ropeway adds more thrill to your trip by offering you an excellent opportunity to catch an elevated vista of dense forest, tea estate and blocks of tiny houses. The entire valley looks quite miniature from the ropeway. This is one of the fabulous experiences that you must try in Darjeeling.
Voyage is always incomplete without bags full of shopping. There are several shops and stores at Nehru road and Chowk Bazaar that bring smile to the faces of every shopaholic. Some of the key objects that you must purchase from the stores in Darjeeling are handicrafts, Thankas paintings, home decor, clothes, travel books and authentic tea leaves. In addition, you can also try some mouth-watering local dishes here that will meet up your gastronomic needs to a great extent.
Darjeeling is one of the favourite hill stations for honeymooners, weekenders and adventure freaks. Hence, plenty of visitors flock here from all around the globe to witness its picturesque vista. If touring Darjeeling is in your next travel plan, here comes the convenient ways to get there with ease:
By Air: For air travellers, the nearest airport is Bagdogra, which is situated nearly 94Kms from the main city. Numbers of renowned carries like Go Air, Indigo and Spice Jet regularly ply to Bagdogra from the places like Guwahati, Delhi and Kolkata, which are also well-connected to other major destinations in India and abroad. From Bagdogra airport, hire a cab or get into a shared taxi to travel further. By road the distance between Bagdogra and Darjeeling can be travelled in 3 hours.
By Train: Travellers with train as their prime means of commutation can travel till New Jalpaiguri (NJP), which is situated around 62Kms from the main city. NJP station is well-connected to many other destinations like Guwahati, Bhubaneshwar, Delhi and Kolkata. From NJP, number of jeeps and taxis can be hired to reach Darjeeling in 3 hours. In addition, toy trains are also available at NJP or Siliguri that will reach you to your destination in approximately 7 hours.
By Road: The road connectivity to reach Darjeeling from Kolkata (around 634Kms) and Siliguri (around 70kms) is quite convenient for travellers. There are regular buses, shared taxis and jeeps that you can avail to reach your holiday destination from the proximate locations. Apart from Kolkata and Siliguri, Darjeeling is easily accessible from its adjoining places Kalimpong (around 50 Kms) and Kurseong (around 31Kms). From these locations you will find several Darjeeling bound private vehicles. People planning to reach Darjeeling by road from Gangtok can get into the bus, which runs regularly from Gangtok to Darjeeling. The picturesque panorama and mountainous roadways make the road journey more happening for travellers.