Darjeeling - a Himalayan Queen

At an elevation of 6812 ft., this West Bengal hill-station, with its monastries and tea gardens set against the snow-capped vistas of the world's third-highest mountain, Mount Kanchenjunga (27,400 ft.), is just the perfect retreat if the mention of a cozy vacation peppered with adventure escapades ticks you on. Just as the flight of your imagination begins to take off, a quaint whistle of a century old little train penetrates the vista and you are reminded once again - it is Darjeeling!

Area (in miles): 1, 200 sq.miles.
Height (in meters): 2, 134 mts.

Summers - Summer The summer months are the best time for visiting Darjeeling when the climate remains in a pleasant mood. Summers arrive in the month of April and lasts till June with a maximum temperature of 25°C.

Winters - The winter months creep in during December and is over by February. temperatures drop to 1°C along with heavy mist and rains toward end of December. The month of December is ocassionally accompanied by heavy snow fall.

Best Seasons: ( May - June ) & ( September - November).

Clothing: In summer: Light woolens and In winter: Heavy woolens.

Languages: Gorkha, Nepali, Hindi, Bengali, Tibetan and English.

Religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity.


Well connected by Air from all parts of the country to Bagdogra(Siliguri), which is the nearest Airport and is a mere 3 hours drive from Darjeeling.

The famous Darjeeling Mail from Sealdah (Calcutta) besides other express trains from all over the country operate on daily basis to the nearest railhead at New Jalpaiguri(NJP/Siliguri). Change over at New Jalpaiguri to the world reknowned Toy Train which winds its way up the hills to Darjeeling.

Very well connected to Siliguri which is a terminal city. A fleet of luxury State/Private buses run overnight to Siliguri from Calcutta.From Siliguri, a 2 hour scenic drive through tea gardens and forsets either by taxi or luxury bus which operate throughout the day, takes you to Darjeeling.


The Toy train:
"The most enjoyable day I've spent on earth is of mixed ecstacy of deadly fright and unimaginable joy."
Mark Twain (after his ride on the Toy Train in 1895)

Trains came to India in the early part of the last century. Among the very first and the most novel is the famous Darjeeling Toy Train which made its maiden trip in September 1881.
It is a pioneering work of achievement projecting not only its engineering ingenuity but it also marks the historic development of 19th century British Health Resort or convalescent centre in the remote North Eastern Himalayas.
In 1870, Franklyn Prestage came up with the brilliant idea - ' The Toy Train'. But it was only eight years later that he submitted the scheme to Lt. Governor Sir Astley Eden, who gave immediate sanction to it. The construction of the railway began under the name of "Darjeeling Tramway Co.", which was renamed the "Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Co." and has ever since retained this name officially.

Tiger Hill: 
Roosted at 8482 ft. near the Ghoom Monastery and about 13 km from the town, the magnificient views of the sunrise over the Kanchenjunga makes it a photographer's dream-come-true. On a sunny day, the world's highest peak, the Mount Everest, can be spotted in the distant horizon. Flanking the Tiger hill is the Senchal lake with a 9-hole golf course (one of the highest in the world), a clubhouse and an exotic tourist lodge - that is a popular weekend escape.

The Monastery at Ghoom, about 6 km south of the city has a 4.57-m high statue of a seated Maitreya Buddha (the coming Buddha) that attracts adherents from far and wide. Aloobari Gompa, about 3 km from the city centre, is a good place to drop by for some interesting Tibetan and Sikkimese religious accessories you can also buy as souvenirs. About 11 km from the city, with the backdrop of Kanchenjunga, is the colorful Bhutia Busty Gompa, whose library has the original Tibetan Book of the Dead, amongst thousand other Buddhist texts.

The Observatory Hill: 
For a good visual sweep of the entire purlieu climb up the Observatory Hill or the Mahakal Baba ko Sthan, held sacred by Hindus and Buddhists. The Kali shrine and the colorful fluttering Buddhist prayer flags strung between the pine trees make a beatific spectacle.

Himalayan Mountaineering Institute: 
Perched on the Jawarhar Parbat, about 2 km from Chowrasta, is an institute for training the adventure mongers. Why you should go there for is the institute's collection of historic mountaineering equipment, specimens of Himalayan flora and fauna, a relief model of the Himalayas and a record of all attempts to scale the Mount Everest.

Zoological Park: 
Neighboring the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park that houses the Siberian tigers, Himalayan Black bear and the Red Panda. Not to be missed is the Snow Leopard breeding centre here.
Dhirdham Temple: Located just below the Darjeeling railway station, the temple is a replica of the famous Pashupatinath Temple of Kathmandu (Nepal).

Passenger Ropeway: 
Situated at 3 km from the city center at the North Point is the 5-km long India's first passenger ropeway that connects Darjeeling with Singla Bazaar on the Ranjit River at the bottom of the valley. A ride on this cable-car repletes the theme of adventure so typical of this roof-top city.

Adventure escapades
Trekking begins in Darjeeling and proceeds through Maneybhanjyang, Tonglu, Sandakphu and ends in Phalut. Teesta river is ideal for whitewater rafting.

The Beni Mela is held on the banks of the River Teesta in January, the New Year for the Bhutias and the Lepchas. Tibetan New Year is celebrated in February and is marked by great festivities, religious ceremonies and colourful folk dances in monasteries. Every 14-20 November, the Teesta Tea and Tourism Festival is held here with cultural performances, tea estate visits and organised tours, treks and walks around the region.

Shop for Himalayan curios like thangkas (Tibetan paintings), brass statues, Nepali khukris and masks, jewelery, woodcarvings, woven fabrics and bamboo baskets, carpets and of course, the famous Darjeeling tea. Chowrasta and The Mall are the shopping spots. For Tibetan souvenirs visit Habib Mullick and for local handicrafts go down to Hayden Hall.

Darjeeling momos (a steamed dough dumpling stuffed with pork, beef or vegetables) and thukpas (noodles in soup) are famous. Wai-Wai is a packaged snack comprising of noodles which can be munched dry or boiled. Churpee, a kind of cheese made from cow's or yak's milk. For the freezing evenings try Chhang, a local beer made from millet or the royal Darjeeling tea.

For Indian and Chinese food, check out Park (Laden La Road) and for wholesome vegetarian thalis and Indian snacks head to Hasty Tasty (the Mall).


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