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Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway also referred to as the DHR, and lovingly called the ‘Darjeeling Toy Train’, is a 2 feet narrow gauge train that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling, in West Bengal, India. The construction of this 88-kilometre long railway line took place between 1879 and 1881, and a ride on this train route has been a coveted experience ever since. A journey in the Darjeeling Toy Train has amazing sights with pleasing mountain views and pass by villages and local shops on the way, with children merrily waving at them.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway provides significant transport links between various parts of the Darjeeling hills and lower plains and is a piece of sheer engineering inventiveness and vision. How else can a small steam engine pull mini coaches up the steep mountains by overcoming almost unfeasible curves and gradients? This is perhaps why the Darjeeling Toy Train was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 2 December 1999. Later on, two more railway lines were added, and the site came to be known as the Mountain Railways of India. A ride on such a heritage transport is no doubt a relaxing and charming one but is also prestigious because this train is what once provided the first and most important mountain transportation link in the country.
Lying at an altitude of 2590 meters and a distance of 13 kilometres away from the Darjeeling, Tiger Hill is most famous for its splendid sights of sunrise from where you can see the peaks of Kanchenjunga illuminate before the sun is seen at lower elevations. The magnificent view of snow-capped mountains sitting amidst cotton clouds attracts tourists to Tiger Hill from all over the country. Interestingly, this is also the summit of Ghoom, which is the highest railway station in the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The starting time from Darjeeling is 3.30 AM to reach tiger hill by 4.15 AM The starting time becomes 4.15 AM in winters due to delayed sunrise time. The roads get blocked by a convoy of jeeps and cars during the peak season. To get up to the sunrise spot, it requires a short climb on foot from the parking spot. One can book a car or an Innova for INR 1200/ INR 1800 from a travel agency in the city or pay INR 200 per head.
Darjeeling is renowned across the world as one of the most picturesque hill stations, where one can witness a myriad of exquisite landscapes, from the glorious snow-capped mountains to the charming valley replete with verdant tea estates. For this reason, the Darjeeling Ropeway finds itself as a prime attraction of Darjeeling, giving its passengers an array of divine panoramic views as they travel across the magical valley.
Established in 1968, the Darjeeling Ropeway is India’s first cable car system, set up to cater to the tea gardens in the valleys which did not have easy access. Today, it serves as a coveted tourist hotspot, attracting scores of tourists all year round to experience the beauty of Darjeeling’s scenery in the best way possible. With 16 cable cars, each car accommodates 6 people as it travels from the North Point in Singamari to the Singla Bazaar, situated by the banks of the enchanting Ramman river, transporting passengers at an altitude of 7000 feet. The view of the numerous tea estates of Darjeeling, the cascading waterfalls, and the majestic Kanchenjunga makes this experience an essential to every tourist in Darjeeling. The gondola moves at a moderate speed, allowing travellers some good opportunities for some brilliant photo opportunities. At the bottom end of the trip, the cable car halts for a while, where travellers may explore the lovely tea gardens, or relax at the small mountain cafe, before proceeding back to the Singamari base station.
Perhaps one of the most picturesque train routes in all of Darjeeling, the Batasia Loop is a lush green toy train pathway that is meant to minimise the elevation of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. The unique design of this magnificent attraction allows the track to wrap around itself through a hilltop tunnel. One of the most enchanting aspects of the Batasia Loop is its unmatched natural beauty which is a wonderful sight to behold. Located on Hill Cart Road (NH 55), you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Darjeeling in all its verdant glory.
Situated in Ghoom which is about 5 kilometres from Darjeeling, the motive behind creating the magnificent pathway of the Batasia Loop was rooted in easing navigation around the terrain of Darjeeling. It rises from the midst of emerald carpets of mountain vegetation and overlooks the snowy peaks of Kanchenjungha on one side as well. Endearing flowers line the way, which makes a trip through Batasia Loop a must after you have witnessed the fascinating sunrise of Tiger Hill. The view of the train tearing past the white of the clouds and deeper into the green beauty of the terrain is a refreshing and enchanting expedition which should not be missed.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
Located in Darjeeling, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is recognized as one of the best mountaineering institutes in the world. Established on 4th November 1954, the primary purpose of this initiative was to encourage, enhance and support the interest of the people in the sport of mountaineering, and to channel the abundant energy of the youth into a productive and self-awarding sport. Aspiring mountaineers from all over the world come to this institute to develop their skills. Besides being one of the best mountaineering institutes in the world, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute has become a significant tourist attraction on account of its picturesque setting in the hill station of Darjeeling. The magnificent view of the 8586-meter high peak of Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world, from this institute is genuinely mesmerizing.
In the field of adventure, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute aims at developing mountaineering as a sport of scientific and entrepreneurial pursuit. A mountaineer doesn’t just climb mountains, he understands them. He feels the earth beneath his feet and pampers it. Mountaineering is a scientifically artful sport that needs intensive training and deliberate technique, and this is where this grand institute comes in. In the 63 years existence, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute has trained over 45000 students including 2500 aspirants from different countries of the globe. The thrill of mountaineering; of climbing snow clad mountains through the raw landscape in the midst of untouched nature is one that can’t be expressed by mere words. This is an adventure of a lifetime and for a lifetime.
Singalila National Park
Located at an altitude of more than 7000 feet above the sea in the Singalila range, the Singalila National Park is the highest national park in West Bengal. Initially, a wildlife sanctuary, the national park encompasses a beautiful, 78.60 sq km land of virgin rhododendron forests, alpine valley and rare species of animals and orchids. It is most famous for the breathtakingly mind-stirring view of the Himalayan peak that it offers, providing a panoramic view of the gigantic Himalayas from Nepal to Sikkim and up to Bhutan. Singalila is home to the very rare and exotic Red panda and the Himalayan black bear.
This amazing Singalila National Park is a haven for all the wildlife residing here as the area is strictly reserved for protection of biodiversity and activities like developmental forestry, poaching, hunting and grazing on cultivation are not permitted. The national park is also part of a trekking route and no less than a paradise for trekkers and adventure lovers. Singalila National Park derives its name from the Singalila spur, which runs through the park, descending from Mount Kanchenjunga in the north and running south to the northern fringe of the Gangetic Plains.
Darjeeling Rock Garden
Rock Garden is an exquisite picnic spot terraced with natural fall known as Chunnu summer fall, located 10 km away from Darjeeling. It is also known as Barbotey Rock Garden which is surrounded by beautiful hill stream along with the slope covered with fascinating flower gardens and sitting arrangements at various level. It is considered one of the most preferred visiting destinations for nature lovers travelling to Darjeeling.
Apart from the place itself, the route to Darjeeling Rock Garden also offers a delightful sight where one has to go through a scenic journey filled with rocky hills and greenery shared by sharp hairpins and extremely steep roads before one reaches the phenomenal sight of Rock Garden which is positioned between the clouds with the soothing sound of Chunnu Summer-fall. The tourist attraction is also surrounded by tea gardens and flower gardens terraced with a peaceful lake on the top where visitors can spend a beautiful time and relax after a long and tiring journey.
Located in the mesmerising hill station of Darjeeling, the Nightingale Park is a public park area frequented by the tourists and locals to relish gorgeous views of the Kanchenjunga ranges. It serves as an ideal place to unwind and recharge amidst lush greenery and soothing winds. This park was earlier called ‘The Shrubbery’ when it was a private courtyard of Sir Thomas Tartan’s Bungalow, during the British reign. Flanked by a covered archway, the entrance leads you to pebbled walkways around this oval-shaped park. Since the Nightingale Park is at a slighted elevated terrain, you need to climb a few steps to reach the entry to this green haven. The park was closed for renovation for about four years and has reopened for the public since 2011. There is a giant statue of Lord Shiva, a musical fountain along with the great scenery
Darjeeling Peace Pagoda
Located on the slopes of Jalapahar hills in Darjeeling, the Peace Pagoda, or the Japanese Peace Pagoda is one of the peace pagodas designed to establish unity, harmony and goodwill amongst people belonging to different sects of society. Famous for its tranquillity, it offers stunning views of snow-clad peaks including the Kanchenjunga peak making it an ideal place for peace and nature lovers.
The Peace Pagoda was built under the guidance of Nichidatsu Fujii, a Buddhist monk from Japan. The foundation stone was laid on 3 November 1972 and was inaugurated on 1 November 1992. Designed by M. Ohka, it took 36 months to complete the construction. The pagoda houses the four avatars of Buddha including Maitreya Buddha and was designed to bring together people of different caste in search of peace.
Sandakphu Peak (11,941 Feet) is the highest peak in West Bengal. The highest peak of Singalila Ridge in Darjeeling district, almost near the border of Nepal, it is located very close to Singalila National Park.
River Rafting in Teesta
White Water Rafting in the River Teesta is one of the most exciting things to do in Darjeeling. A favourite among the adventure junkees, the rafting has a series of rapids ranging from Grade 1 to 4. However, the difficult rapids are only allowed to the professionals or the seasonal trainers as it is risky. You should definitely try this activity when in Darjeeling.
Be it black, green, or oolong, tea is as synonymous with Darjeeling as a view of the majestic Kanchenjunga. With over 80 tea plantations in Darjeeling, spread across the slopes of the valleys of this tourist trap, a visit to at least one tea garden is crucial to the tourist’s agenda. If the fragrance of the well-manicured shrubs weren’t enough to draw the attention of passers-by, these lush green wonderlands also offer services like homestays and guided tours, with some even providing travellers with the chance to engage in some tea plucking. With the cultivation of tea being around Darjeeling for almost 200 years, the Darjeeling tea brand is coveted around the world, making this an exclusive experience for those visiting the region. The famous Happy Valley Tea Estate is the only garden amongst these that allows tourists to view the subtler nuances of producing and processing tea with their tea factory guided tour.
Covering over 17,500 hectares of land, tea cultivation is one of the major activities of this picturesque hill station. Some of the famous tea estates in Darjeeling are Happy Valley Tea Estate, Glenburn Tea Estate, Makaibari Tea Estate, Gomtee Tea Estate, and Chamong Tea Estate. Soak in the beautiful vistas offered with the magnificent Himalayas forming a gorgeous backdrop, and don’t forget to taste the varieties of tea offered here as you engage in the rare experience of tea tourism.
Best Places For Shopping in Darjeeling,Nehru Road
Located on the Hill Cart Road, this market has small shops which have been set up by the local population of Darjeeling. A must-visit shopping destination, Nehru Road, offers a delightful street shopping experience for shopaholics. The market stretches on an uphill road. In recent years, several branded stores have also opened their outlets. The State Government added a Handicrafts Emporium recently. For those who love arts and crafts, make sure that you pick up some stunning paintings for your home. The art specimens contributed by skilled Bengali craftsmen and artisans can also be seen at the Art Gallery in the locality. It is advisable to keep cash in handy because most of the shops do not accept cards here.
What you can buy from here: Darjeeling tea variants, exclusively designed woollen clothes, small souvenirs, exotic handicrafts, leather handbags, books, exquisite paintings, Khukree or Gorkha knives, Buddha statues and Pashmina shawls
Timings – 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center
It was established in the year 1959 to offer support to Tibetan refugees in the area. The Tibetan artisans have carved out a niche market for their products. While visiting the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center, tourists can also see the artisans at work exhibiting their artistic skills. The variety of souvenirs that you can pick from here is simply vast. If you are hunting for something different to take back home from your trip, this place is a MUST visit for shopping in Darjeeling.
What you can buy from here: Tibetan carpets, woollen clothes, opulent woodwork décor, stylish footwear, wood carved items, paintings.
Timings – 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
The Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park is a splendid enclosure in Darjeeling housing a wide variety of animals. Also known as Darjeeling Zoo, this is a haven for animals of all kinds and a huge centre of attraction for animal lovers and nature enthusiasts. The zoo is known internationally for its breeding and conservation programs and also includes an off-display breeding centre for snow leopards and red pandas. In addition to these rarer species, the zoo is also enriched with Asiatic black bear, barking deer, leopards, blue and yellow Macaw, Eastern Pangolin, Pheasant, Himalayan Monal, Himalayan Wolf, Lady Amherst, Leopard Cat, Macaw, Red Jungle Fowl, Red Panda, Royal Bengal Tiger, Sambar Deer, Temminck’s Tragopan, Yak, and many more.
This attraction was set up in 1958 and was named after the former governor of West Bengal, Padmaja Naidu, who was also the daughter of Sarojini Naidu. Witha n average elevation of a whopping 7000 feet, it is the largest high altitude zoo in India. The Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park specializes in breeding animals adapted to alpine conditions and has successful captive breeding programs for the snow leopard, the critically endangered Himalayan wolf and the red panda. The zoo serves as the central hub for Central Zoo Authority of India’s red panda program and is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Owing to its unyielding efforts to repopulate these endangered species, the Darjeeling Zoo has been awarded the prestigious honour of “The Earth Heroes” in 2014 out of over 300 zoos worldwide.
At a distance of about 32 km from Darjeeling, Tinchuley is an offbeat hamlet situated close to the West Bengal-Sikkim border. With an altitude of 5550 ft, the name of the place derives from the words ‘tin’ and ‘chula’, which translates as ‘three ovens’ because the trio of hills constituting the hill station resembles mud ovens. Amazingly, the geographical diversity of the village is not exhausted by this: the rivers Teesta and Ranjeet also intersect quite close to it. All of this contributes to Tinchuley’s abundant natural beauty.
While famous for its tea plantations and fresh fruit orchards like Darjeeling, Tinchuley is, in addition, a quieter and more obscure place – there’s a sense of peace pervading the atmosphere that’s otherwise lacking in its busier counterparts. In Tinchuley, one can engage in rock climbing, trekking, sightseeing, all against a scenic green mountainscape that seems like something out of a film set. With an economy that started thriving through the involvement of World Wildlife Federation (WWF) in modernising the place’s agriculture and branching its production off into floriculture, vermiculture, and organic products took place, Tinchuley began growing in popularity as an ideal tourist destination.
Tinchuley is the dream destination for those who are looking something spiritual out of their travel. Its gorgeous mountainscape and serene cultivated lands attest to that. So if you’re seeking something of exactly that nature, then you know where to be!
Happy Valley Tea Estate
At a magical altitude of 6,800 feet, the Happy Valley Tea Estate in Darjeeling is a fine land expanse of about 437 acres, growing some of the finest shrubs of this delightful drink in the world. It is the second oldest tea estate in the tea-rich town of Darjeeling, with its origins being closely connected to the history of cultivating and producing the world-famous Darjeeling Tea. The Happy Valley Tea Estate is a must-visit attraction for tourists visiting Darjeeling as it offers a natural scenic view with a breathtaking appearance of Himalayan foothills. Nature lovers will find it difficult to leave the place even after spending hours due to its elegant beauty surrounded with hundred and acres of Tea Gardens, mesmerizing weather, open clouds and beautiful Aroma of high-quality tea being produced.
At this verdant wonderland, respect for nature is evident through the use of organic and biodynamic methods of farming. One can take a guided tour through the fragrant factory, observing how fresh tea leaves are withered, rolled, fermented, dried, sorted and finally graded to produce the different varieties of tea we see in the market, from traditional black tea and green tea to more exquisite speciality teas like Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. Also known as Black Orthodox Tea, this is one of the finest tea blends of India which is enjoyed across the world. A tea-tasting session is also held at Happy Valley Tea Estate where first-timers are privy to experiencing the subtleties involved in distinguishing the various groups of tea. One can also buy the tea products from the shop in the estate.
Darjeeling Observatory Hill
Observatory Hill is a rising hill situated above Chowrasta Square, around 2 km from the Darjeeling Himalaya railway station, just above the Mall Road in the picturesque hill town of Darjeeling. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Darjeeling as it offers a panoramic view of the mountains along with the presence of various Hindu and Buddhist temples including Kanchenjunga Temple, Mahakal temple and Tibetian Memorial Shrine.
The tourist attraction is mainly visited by adventure seekers who want to enjoy a mesmerizing view of the mountains after trekking along with people having religious beliefs. It can take around 15 minutes for tourists to visit Observatory Hill from the Mall Road and in the narrow and steep uphill path, tourists have to go through a small cave which is revered by temples. The entire walk is filled with colourful flag and small yet noticeable shrines with the peaceful full sound of devotional belts. It is recommended for older people to take some rest on side benches while trekking to the tourist attraction as it can be extremely tiring.
Monasteries in Darjeeling
You must visit monasteries in Darjeeling to experience the essence of the place. There are lots of monasteries spread across the city, all having their own relevance.
A few that stand out in the crowd are the Ghoom monastery, Bhutia Busty monastery and Aloobari monastery. Ghoom monastery is famous for its 15 ft. high special statue of Maitreya Buddha. It is also known as the Sakya monastery. Aloobari Gompa would be a place of choice if you’re interested in both shopping as well as sightseeing. You can find lots of local stalls outside the monastery. The fact that it is one of the oldest monastries in Darjeeling adds to its magnificence. Bhutia Busty Gompa is another monastery situated about a kilometer out of Darjeeling. This one is the most scenic out of all monasteries. The shrine was originally located on Observatory Hill but was rebuilt later at its present location.
Trekking in Darjeeling
Offering you a sweeping view of four out of the five highest peaks of the world Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Lhotse, all in a single stretch, Darjeeling offers some of the best trekking routes in the world.
Singalila range is one of the most popular trekking routes while Sandakphu & Singalila Trek, Phalut Trek and Sikkim Trek – Dzongri & Goechala are some of the other trekking routes in Darjeeling.
At a grand elevation of 8,000 feet, the Yiga Choeling or old Ghoom Monastery is the oldest Tibetan Buddhist Monastery of Darjeeling. Established in 1850 by Lama Sherab Gyatso, this shrine is part of the Yellow Hat sect known as Gelupka who worship the ‘Coming Buddha’ or ‘Maitreyi Buddha’. A 15-foot high statue of Maitreyi Buddha is seen in the central hall, made entirely of clay brought from Tibet. This statue was installed during the tenure of the second head of the monastery Lama Domo Geshe Rinpoche. One can also find many rare Buddhist manuscripts within the premises. Visitors are treated to a beautiful view of the majestic Kanchenjunga outside the monastery. Prayer flags are flown by the resident monks in typical Tibetan tradition.
Within Yiga Choeling, one can view images of many Buddha deities and lamas such as the Chenrezig, Buddha of compassion, and Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelupka sect. In front of the Maitreya Buddha statue hang two huge oil lamps which keep burning throughout the year. The walls of the monastery are elaborately painted with depictions and art of Tibetan Buddhism, with different images of bodhisattvas. These beautiful paintings are placed in a symmetrical manner, facilitating the ease of understanding the basics of Buddhist philosophy to visitors of the monastery. The hilltop above the monastery holds the Ma Kali temple, where devotees come to offer prayer every full moon day and on the fifteenth of every month of the Tibetan calendar.
Bengal Natural History Museum
A testament to the indigenous flora and fauna of the region, the Bengal Natural History Museum is a fascinating plethora of more than 4000 specimens being exhibited. Located in the heart of Darjeeling at the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, this museum was originally started as a small building in the Botanical Garden meant to showcase the varieties of butterflies and birds of the hills. Today, one can find preserved remains of the bird species, reptiles, insects, fishes, and mammals displayed in a replication of their natural habitats. An attractive display of the various minerals of the region is present here as well.
There are two sections at the museum, one at the ground level and the other in the basement. This comprehensive collection of animals includes rare specimens such as the Himalayan Brown Wood Owl, Northern spotted owlet, Northern Brown Fish Owl, pelicans, pheasants, Tibetan fox, Tibetan Lynx, Toddy cat, panthers, leopards, tigers, and the Estuarine crocodile, representative of the native wildlife of the Eastern Himalayas. There is also a large collection of birds’ nests and eggs. A specialised taxidermy unit is present at the Bengal Natural History Museum to oversee the curing, stuffing and preparation of the birds and animals to be displayed as exhibits.
The insects’ exhibit has a wide assortment of butterflies, moths, dragonflies and beetles. The museum also has a small library where one might find many interesting books, including the 125 volume series titled ‘The fauna of British India’.