Darjeeling the dream land of the East, it has been a popular hill station since the British period. The tourist flow to this place has been increasing day by day. Due to the proximity with three international borders, this place is strategically very important.
Darjeeling is surrounded by lofty mountains. Except for the monsoon months and if weather is clear then the Kanchenjunga peak can be seen. Down below in the valley flow the rivers swollen by rain water or melting snow. Darjeeling is a fascinating place rich in natural beauty and surrounded by the Buddhist monasteries. Its beauty surpasses any other hill station.
Darjeeling has some of the lovely tea plantations (estates) in the country. One can visit these plantations and watch tea being processed. Darjeeling is a place where one feels as if being in the lap of mother nature.Due to the vast and abundance of natural splendour Darjeeling is called queens of hill stations. Darjeeling is also a trekkers paradise and the Gorkha hill council has provided ample trekking facilities for the adventure loving people.
The toy train coming from Siliguri is some thing which is liked by the elders and the children equally. The real fun in coming to Darjeeling is on the toy train. It takes six to seven hours to cover a distance of 82 kms and the slow speed gives you enough time to watch and appreciate the beauty which nature has provided it. This train passes through the Forests, waterfalls, over deep valleys and through the mountains and tunnels.
CLIMATE: The best season to visit Darjeeling is between April and June. The weather during this period is generally clear and the chilling biting cold gets subsided. But one can also go to Darjeeling between September and November. During these months the mountains are clearly visible and one can enjoy the golden sunrise over the Himalayan peaks. Being a mountain city Darjeeling experiences rains throughout the year. Often heavy down pours wash away the roads and the place is totally cut off from rest of the country. The temperature range is not very large here with the maximum in summers being 15 degrees and 1.5 degrees in winters. This place requires warm cloths any time of the year and do not forget to carry a umbrella to this place.
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GETTING THERE: The nearest airport to Darjeeling is the Bagdogra airport. Bagdogra is 10 kms from Darjeeling and is an important military installation. From Bagdogra one can take a bus or taxi to Darjeeling. Darjeeling has a railway station but only the toy train from Jalpaiguri and New Jalpaiguri comes here. The major trains connecting the place with all the major places in India come to Jalpaiguri or New Jalpaiguri. From here again you have to take the toy train or a bus or taxi to Darjeeling. The place is well connected by roads. The state transports run buses from Calcutta and other nearby places. The private operators also have their buses and the fair does not vary much in the state or in the private buses.
Tiger Hill - Tiger hills is the highest point in the area which provides the most exotic view of the Kanchenjunga peaks. From this place the other peaks of the Eastern Himalayas can be seen. On a clear day the sight of Mt.Everest is just enthralling.
Dhoom Gompa - About 8 kms from Darjeeling is the Dhoom Gompa. Here a very beautiful statue of the Maitrayie Buddha ( prospective Buddha) is established. The Monastery has also preserved some of the rare handwritten Buddhist manuscripts.
Batasia Loop - This railway loop is an interesting example of engineering. At this loop the toy train takes a very unique turn. This loop is just five kilometer from the main town of Darjeeling. This place also has a very good market where you can buy the purses, bags and other decorative items made by the local women at very reasonable price.
Happy Valley Estate - Here the tea from the gardens is processed. One can spent a few hours here. Entry is only allowed to persons who have permission from any officer of the estate.
Natural History Museum - The museum has a collection of over 4300 specimen . Established in 1903, this natural history museum packs in its folds a rich collection of fauna found in the Himalayas and in Bengal. Among the attractions are included the estuarine crocodiles. This unique museum also has a good collection of butterflies. The mineral forms of various stones are displayed in a very attractive manner in the museum.
Senchal Lake - A scenic place near the tiger hills. This place has popularly come up as a picnic spot among the tourists. The lake supplies drinking water to the town of Darjeeling.
Kanchenjunga View - From Darjeeling one can have the best, uninterrupted view of the worlds third highest peak. Bhan Bhakta Sarani provides one of the enthralling views of these snow capped peaks. The Chowrasta also gives you a good sight to the Kanchenjunga peak.
Zoological Gardens - The zoo is situated two kms form the main town. This zoological garden houses some of the rare species of animals and birds. This is only zoo in India having the Siberian Tigers. Apart from these the rare Red Panda is also there. The Snow Leopards, Great Grey Birds, Snow Yaks are some the animals which are attracting tourist in great numbers. The entry in the zoo is by tickets which are also valid for the natural history museum and the mountaineering institute & museum.
Observatory Hills - This point provides one of the breathtaking views of Kanchenjunga peaks. This place is also very sacred for the Hindus and the Buddhists as there are temples and the monasteries at this place. The Kali temple is decorated with the colourful flags. Be aware of the monkey groups as some these are very aggressive.
Bhutia Busty Gompa - With the back drop of the Kanchenjunga range stands a monastery called the Bhutia Busty Gompa. This monastery was shifted from the observatory hills to the present place. The Gompa is a branch of the Nyingmapa sect's Phodang Monastery in Sikkim. The monastery is not far from the chowrasta and is very tastefully decorated. It also has a library which has a copy of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Snow Leopard Breeding Programme - Nowadays the zoologists and the environmental scientists are trying to protect the endangered species by breeding them in captivity. Following this trend is Kiran Moktan who has devoted his life in breeding program of snow leopards. The snow leopards are not known to have bred in captivity but in this center thanks to the efforts of Kiran Maktan these animals have given birth in captivity. Snow leopards are animals who have to be kept in large enclosures. Visitors are allowed in the center but they have to watch the animals in utter silence.
Botanical Gardens - This place is worth a visit for its exotic and exclusive collection of a variety of Himalayan plants, flowers and orchids. This place is near the taxi stand. The gardens also has a green house.
Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Center - In 1959 was established a center for the refuges who had fled Tibet with the Dalai Lama after the Chinese invasion. This self help center has been developed as workshop for the manufacture of handicrafts. The fine and superb carpets, woollens, woodcarvings and leather work form this center has been very popular among the tourists. The money collected after the sale of the products goes to the Tibetans who work here. The variety Tibetan Curios on sale are also attracting the visitors in a big way. This center has established it self in the International scenario as place for hard work, self esteem and truth.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute & Museums - The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is on the West Jawahar road. The institute runs courses for training mountaineers as well as has the very good collection of mountaineering equipments which have been used in various mountaineering expeditions and other wise. Specimens of Himalayan flora and fauna are also kept here. The record of attempts made to conquer Mt. Everest has been kept in the Mt.Everest Museum. The institute also screens short films on mountaineering. You can also view the Himalayan peaks through the Zeiss Telescope given to the Nepalese Maharaja by Hitler. Sherpa Tenzing Norgay was the Director of this institute for many years and he was cremated near the institute after his death in 1986. Near the institute is Srabri which gives a very good view of the Single valley and the Kanchenjunga range. One can sit at Srabri and feel the cool breeze from the valley.
Passenger Ropeway - Another tourist attraction in Darjeeling has been the ropeway. This was the first ropeway in India. It connects the North point (7000 ft) to the Singla Bazaar (800 ft). The rope covers a distance of 8 kms in 45 minutes. The seats in the rope way is limited and it is better to get the tickets in advance. The ropeway is exciting and unique for any one visiting Darjeeling.
Chowrasta - This one of the important shopping places in Darjeeling . Here the Nehru Road and the Mall Road Intersect each other. The snow capped peaks of Kanchenjunga are visible from this place. Near Chowrata are several Hindu and Buddhists temples. This place is over flowing with foreign tourists. You can also enjoy a pony ride form this place.
Kurseong : Kurseong is mid way between Siliguri and Darjeeling. The way from Darjeeling to Kurseong is generally open through out the year. So, the toy train is not coming to Siliguri then you can come up to Kurseong. This place is equally beautiful and is full of natural splendour.
Mirik : Mirik is 52 kms from Siliguri and 55 kms from the nearest Airfield of Bagdogra. Mirik is being developed as a new hill station in the mountains. Mirik is surrounded by tea estates, orange orchards and cardamom plantations. It has all the facilities to fulfill the needs of a tourist.
Siliguri / New Jalpaiguri : The twin Cities of Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri are the departure point to Darjeeling, Sikkim and the North Eastern States. Being the nodal point this place has become very busy and crowded. This area has got population over 2.5 lakh people. Siliguri also acts as a transit point for Nepal. This place is not very pleasant to stay as there are always long lines of buses and trucks. These trucks and vehicles might be good for business but they provide very ugly sight. Tourists come to Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri mainly to change bus or catch trains. If you have time then visit the almost forgotten wild life sanctuary of Jaldhapara. The best season to visit this park is between October and May. This the time when the new grass has come up and animals are out there. The sanctuary has elephants, dears, tigers and other animals but the main attraction is the Rhinos which are threatened by the poachers. Elephant Safari can be taken from Hollong.
Kalimpong : Kalimpong is within Darjeeling province and is a sub-division of Darjeeling. It is a small but bustling town in the Himalaya foothills of West Bengal- Kalimpong is at an altitude of 1250 meters. This bazaar town was originally a part of Bhutan but later it was taken over by the British and finally it settled down with West Bengal.
SHOPPING: Darjeeling has been famous for its Tea with a particular aroma. Throughout the world tea drinkers love having the special Darjeeling tea. So, how can some one miss getting some Darjeeling tea if he comes to this place. Packed small bags tea from this place make good souvenirs. But avoid tea in tastefully decorated boxes as these are mostly blended tea from Calcutta.
Apart from tea there are many items which Darjeeling offers in its shopping malls. Tourists love taking home the curios and carpets from here. The shops for curios and carpets are on Chowrasta and Nehru road. These shops also sell thangkas, brass statues, religious objects, jewellery, wood carvings, woven fabrics and many other items from the Himalayan region. The Bronze items and wooden carvings give you good value for your money. Thangkas are impressive at the first sight but the require a closer look if you want to buy them. The West Bengal's Manjusha Emporium has a good collection Himalayan handicraft, silk and handloom products. The woollen garments can be bought from the markets on Hill Cart road. The bamboo items are collectors delight from the region. Hayden Hall is a place to look for the exclusive Tibetan Carpets. The women's cooperative is also a place worth checking out.
TREKKING: One of the famous trekking route taken by the trekkers is that of the Darjeeling-Sandakphu / Phalut trek. This trekking route is best during the months of April, May, October and November. As during these seasons the visibility is clear and the weather is also hospitable. For trekking on this route one does not have to carry much luggage as the Gorkha Hill Council has provided trekkers hut and other facilities all along the route. But it is advisable to carry your own sleeping bags. On this route the trekker must be prepared for all kinds of weather and high altitude mountain sickness. The trek passes through low areas and very high ridges so temperature varies a lot be prepared for all types of weather. There surroundings may be very attractive but there are some areas which have long stretches without any water, so carry water with yourself. Regular meals are available. Guides and porters can also be arranged.
Phalut is also called the view point of the Himalayas and is one of the most important & famous treks in the region. The trek starts with a small bus trip to Manaybhanjang. From here the trek passes through the mountains to Sandakphu. From here you can proceed further up or you can return via Rimbik then to Darjeeling by Bus. One can also take a short cut and not go to Ohalut. From Sandakphu backtrek to Bikhay Bhanjang and cut across to Rimbik. But keep in mind that this trek is a difficult one with no water or food in between.
POPULATION: About one lakh people live in this area.
MAIN LANGUAGES: Gorkhali, Hindi, Nepali, Bhutani, Bengali, Assamese and English
NEAR BY CITIES:
Siliguri- 82 kms.
Calcutta - 654 kms.
Guwahati - 513 kms.
Bagdogra - 10 kms.
Kalimpong - 150 kms.
Mirik - 134 kms.
TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRES:
-Gorkha Hill Council Tourism Office - Silver Fir Building, Opposite Hotel Alice Villa, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India. Tel. - +(91)-0354-54214
-West Bengal Tourist Office - Bellevue Hotel, Chowrasta, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India . Tel. - +(91)-0354-54050.
-Indian Tourism Office - 'Embassy', 4 Shakespeare Sarani, Calcutta, West Bengal, India Tel. - +(91)-033-2421402, 2421475, 2425813; Fax - +(91)-033-2423521
-Indian Tourism Office - 88, Janpath, New Delhi - 110 001 India Tel. - +(91)-011-3320342, 3320005, 3320109, 3320008, 3320266; Fax. - +(91)-011-3320342