Darjeeling – A Comprehensive Travel Guide
Darjeeling – the Queen of Hills has been one of our favourite destinations of all times. The eternal beauty and the quaint Victorian charm of the place can lure all. With the magnificent view of the Kanchenjunga ranges overlooking the beautiful tea gardens, Darjeeling is simply breathtaking. And the cherry on the top is the adorable Darjeeling toy train that whistles its way through the mountains. Which other hill station have so many beauties rolled in one!
We have travelled and explored Darjeeling ever since we started travelling. We have also blogged about this place for long. So we decided to give you a comprehensive guide of Darjeeling which might help you when you visit the “Queen of Hills” and make you plan a perfect trip to Darjeeling.
10 Places to visit in Darjeeling:
The Darjeeling Zoo and HMI
Darjeeling Zoo or Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park is one of the major attractions. Covering a vast area of 27 hectares, the zoo is the only specialised zoo for the conservation breeding programmes of rare Himalayan species like the red panda, snow leopards, Tibetan wolf, Himalayan Black bear and other endangered species.
The Himalayan Mountain Institute or the HMI is a must visit place for all the mountain lovers. It is a sort of pilgrimage for all the trekking and climbing enthusiasts. It has a museum with mountaineering displays and many expedition artefacts. HMI is located in the same complex as the zoo and both of these can be visited together.
Timings: Everyday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM in the summer and 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM in the winters.
Sunrise at the Tiger Hill
Your Darjeeling visit will never be completed without visiting the Tiger Hill. You can view one of the best sunrises of your life from here. the view of the first rays of sun on the peaks of Mt Kanchenjunga and Everest ranges is bound to make you spell bound.
Batasia Loop is located on the Hill Cart Road and is about 5 km from Darjeeling town. The place as the name suggests is a loop of narrow gauge railway track where the toy train takes a sharp turn just after Ghum. You can get a panoramic view of the entire landscape from here. There is a well maintained eco-garden at Batasia Loop. Also at the centre of the Batasia Loop is the War Memorial built to pay homage to the Gorkha soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the nation.
Timings: Everyday 5:00 AM to 8:00 PM
The Darjeeling Mall or Chowrasta
The Darjeeling Mall or Chowrasta is perhaps the best place in Darjeeling to roam about leisurely. It is the town centre and a flat area where four roads meet. No traffic is allowed at this place. You can take a stroll, sit on the benches and enjoy the surroundings. There are many beautiful boutique stalls around the mall. Eating places both restaurants and roadside stalls are there to satiate your taste buds.
Rock Garden and Ganga Maya Park
The Rock Garden and Ganga Maya Park are two beautiful parks located close to each other. Rock garden is a terraced garden that has been cut through the rock and seating arrangements are made in between. The major attraction here is the cascading waterfall.
Ganga Maya Park is about 3 km from Rock Garden and is more spread having beautiful flower garden and fountains.
Japanese Temple and Peace Pagoda
The Japanese Temple is the symbol of peace and a place of tranquillity. It is located in the Jalapahar Hills and is built in the traditional Japanese style. The view from here is simply wonderful. You can see the Kanchenjunga peak from here.
Timings: Everyday from 4:30 AM to 7 PM
Happy Valley Tea Estate
How can your trip to Darjeeling be complete without visiting a tea garden? Happy Valley Tea Estate is the best place where you can get a first-hand experience of tea gardens as well as how the tea leaves actually make way to your cup. The tea estate was established in 1854 and covers an area of about 110 hectares. Most of the tea bushes here are more than a century old!
Timings: The Tea estate and factory are open from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM from Tuesday to Saturday.
Observatory Hill and the Mahakal Temple
The Observatory Hill is located just behind the Mall and Mahakal Temple is located just there. The temple is the central temple of the town and people irrespective of their faiths respect this place.
Timings: From sunrise to sunset
Old Ghum Monastery
One of the most magnificent monasteries near Darjeeling is the old Ghum Monastery or Samten Choling Monastery. The monastery has one of the oldest statue of Lord Buddha.
Timings: Everyday from sunrise to sunset
Tenzing and Gombu Rocks
The Tenzing Rock is a naturally formed huge rock in Darjeeling and is named after the famous Tenzing Norgay. The Gombu Rocks are just opposite to Tenzing Rocks and are named after Nawang Gombu, the nephew of Tenzing Norgay who had scaled Mt Everest twice in 1963 and 1965. These rocks are used by the HMI for rock climbing training. The right face of Tenzing Rock is used for amateur climbers, so you can also give a try at rock climbing.
Apart from these 10 fabulous places, you can visit the Shrubbery near the zoo, the Botanical garden near the Chowk Bazar, the Tibetan refugee centre near the Lebong Cart Road.
Darjeeling was once the summer capital of Bengal during the British era, so naturally, you will find some wonderful eateries serving English breakfasts. Keventers and Glenary’s serve very good English breakfast. Glenarys also serve continental, India and Chinese cuisines. Sonam;s Kitchen serves Nepali food. There is also the Shangri-La and the Lunar restaurant.
Best time to visit Darjeeling:
I have always maintained that weather at the mountains cannot be predicted. Darjeeling can be moody with her weather. Summer season is the best time to visit Darjeeling. Winters are also a good time if you can adjust the cold. Monsoons can be a bit tricky. Though monsoons in Darjeeling are utterly romantic. But road conditions can be treacherous during the monsoon season.
Where to stay:
Many budgets as well as expensive hotels are present in Darjeeling. You can also stay at the heritage hotels.
Places to shop:
There are many old shops and boutique shops at the Nehru Road that leads up to the Mall and around the Mall. There are stores selling fashion items, woollens, books, handicrafts, curio Darjeeling tea and much more.
The Chowk Bazar area is located downhill and has stores for household products, the daily market and food and bakery products. This is also the local market of Darjeeling.
There are many street shops where you can buy anything from dresses, woollens to trinkets. Bargain hard while buying from here.
Take a joy ride on the Darjeeling toy train
All Feluda fans like me must visit the Nepal Curio shop.
Photography enthusiasts should pay a visit to the Das Studio.
Visit the Oxford book Stores at the Mall
Buy and taste Darjeeling tea from Golden Tips or Nathmulls.
Darjeeling is also nearest town to Maneybhanjan, the base camp of Sandakphu trek.
So what are you waiting for? Come, visit Darjeeling, the jewel of Bengal. Feel free to contact us for more information on Darjeeling.