Darjeeling, also fondly known as the “Queen of hill stations”, is nestled in the Himalayas and is famous for its tea production and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This hill town was developed in the mid 19th century, when the British set up a sanatorium and a military depot in Darjeeling. Before this, Darjeeling was the ancient Gorkha capital. Later, the Maharajah of Sikkim gifted Darjeeling to the British. Darjeeling continues to be a popular holiday destination in India, owing to its scenic beauty and pleasant climate. Apart from tourism, Darjeeling is also popular for its many British style public schools, which attract students from across India and even neighboring countries.
Located in the Indian state of West Bengal, Darjeeling is known for its tea industry. The city is located amidst the lower Himalayas that are also known as the Mahabharata Range. The town was developed in the mid-19th century by the British and soon the town came to be known for its vast tea estates that produce the best Tea in the country. The city was controlled by the kingdom of Sikkim till it was taken by the Gorkhas and subsequently the British. The town is located at an average elevation of 2050 meters and comes under the eastern Himalayan Zoo-geographic zone. The town is endowed with a rich cultural history and natural resources and due to its pleasant climate all year round, is a popular tourist spot. Below is a list of the best places one can visit in Darjeeling.
1. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
The most famous attraction in Darjeeling, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) is also known as the ‘Toy Train’. It is a narrow gauge rail that is 2ft in width and runs between Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri and was built in the years between 1879 and 1881. In 1999, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, making DHR, the Second railway in the world to have such an honor after Semmering Railway, Austria.
2. Singalila National Park
Located at an altitude of approximately 2134 meters above sea level the Singalila National Park is situated in the highest regions of West Bengal. The park is known for its amazing peaks and the panoramic views of the lesser Himalayas. The National Park is famous as a trekker’s paradise with a large verity of mountainous vegetation, fauna, and birds. The wildlife includes rare and endangered species like the Red Panda, Black Bear, Leopard, Tigers, Clouded Leopard, Serow, Leopard Cat, Barking Deer, Yellow-throated Marten, Wild Boar, Pangolin and Takin.
3. Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
Known for its famous Red Panda and Snow Leopard breeding program, the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park is spread in an area of 67.56 acres. The zoo is located at an average elevation of 2,134 meters above sea level and is the largest high altitude zoos in India. Some of the rare and endangered species in the zoo are snow leopards, red pandas, Himalayan Salamanders, Tibetan wolf, Himalayan mountain goat and Siberian tigers.
4. Tiger Hill
One of the most famous peaks in Darjeeling can be reached either by jeep or by foot which transverses through some of the oldest tea plantations in Darjeeling. The place is best known as a trekking destination and its peaks offer some of the most marvelous views of the Kanchendzonga and the monolithic Mt. Everest.
5. Observatory Hill
Located near Chowrarasta square, Observatory Hill is a famous view point and tourist attraction in Darjeeling. The location is famous for its magnificent views of Kanchendzonga and the ancient temple dedicated to Mahakaal or Lord Shiva.
6. Batasia Loop
Batasia Loop can be visited when the famous ‘Toy Train’ makes its way across a looped track that transverses through some beautiful parks. The place is famous for housing a Gorkha war memorial and while in the toy train you can witness a 360 degrees view of Darjeeling. The loop covers an area of 50,000 square feet and transverses spirally into tunnels, landscaped parks and hillocks in this 1,000 feet high descent. The local crafts market located nearby is a must visit.
7. Happy Valley Tea Estate
Spread across a massive area of 437-acres, and situated at an elevation of 2,100 meters above sea level, the Happy Valley Tea Estate is one of the major tourist attractions in Darjeeling. The place is located amidst some of the most breath taking surroundings in India. It also houses one of the highest tea factory in the world and was established in 1854 by an Englishman and was later taken over by an Indian aristocracy from Hoogly.
8. Joey’s Pub
If you want to relax after a hard day of travelling, Joey’s Pub is the place for you then. It is an English style pub built in 1948 and is a one of the prime attractions for the tourists in India. Make sure you visit the pub for some mid-priced drinks and snacks with some light classic-rock and blues playing in the background.
9. Japanese Peace Pagoda
Built during 1885-1985 by a Japanese Buddhist monk Nichidatsu Fuji, the Japanese Peace Pagoda is a part of 30 such structures across the world. The Buddhist shrine is located amidst some really enticing locations and is built in a beautiful white structure with golden colored sculptures. The structure is 23 sq meters wide and 28.5 meters high.
10. Neora Valley National Park
Spread across a massive 88 square kilometers, the Neora Valley National Park is one of the richest biological zones in the north-east. The Neora Valley National Park is famous for housing one of the largest populations of Red Panda in India. The park was established in 1986 and is a home to several endangered and rare species of flora and fauna.
With an amazing climate all year round, Darjeeling is one of the top tourist destinations in West Bengal. The culture the city has accumulated from years of its history under the various rulers, Darjeeling is a popular hill station town in India.
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How to reach Darjeeling
Bagdogra Airport is the nearest air connection which is 96 kilometres away from Darjeeling. Many carriers like Air India, Jet Airways, Spice Jet, Indigo, Go Air run direct flights from Delhi, Guwahati and Kolkata to Darjeeling. Delhi and Kolkata airports are well-connected with international cities across the globe. Now, few international cities like Bangkok and Paro also have direct flights via Druk Air airlines. Once you reach at the airport, you can hire a taxi or share a cab to get to Darjeeling, which will take you around 3 hours.
The regular bus service from Siliguri (which is approximately 70 kilometres away) to Darjeeling is quite slow but economical. Similar bus services are also available from neighbouring towns like Kurseong and Kalimpong which is 31 and 50 kilometres away respectively. Even Gangtok city runs daily buses to Darjeeling; however, we suggest taking a shared cab instead.
The Darjeeling railway station is administered by the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR). The nearest railway station in Darjeeling is at New Jalpaiguri (62 kilometres from the main town) which connects major Indian cities like Kolkata, Delhi, Guwahati, Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Bhubaneshwar and Cochin. The DHR Toy Train service starts at New Jalpaiguri and will get you to Darjeeling at a speed no faster than 30 miles per hour. It takes 7 hours and halts at Batasia Loop from where passengers can take photographic shots of Mt. Kanchenjunga.
The road network in Darjeeling is quite good and one can easily venture out to Darjeeling from nearby cities like Siliguri, Kalimpong and Kurseong. En route, you can also enjoy stunning mountain beauty as well as the green environs.