Darjeeling Tourism and Travel Guide

A land of breathtaking beauty surrounded by rolling green tea plantations along with the majestic Kanchenjunga ranges towering above, Darjeeling is definitely one of the premier attractions of West Bengal. Darjeeling is arguably one of the most beautiful hill stations of India and is fondly known as the Queen of Hills. Darjeeling tourism is thriving and this hill station is visited by a lot of tourists round the year. The height of Darjeeling is about 6,710 feet. It is a place where the cool mountain air scented with the fragrance of the flowers gently caresses your face. The flaming red rhododendrons, sparkling white magnolias, miles of emerald green hillsides sear your senses and the brilliant blue sky is gently draped by specks of clouds against the austere grandeur of the mighty Kanchenjunga. All this beauty has greatly enhanced Darjeeling tourism, making it one of the most coveted destinations of eastern India. Darjeeling literally means ‘the land of thunderbolt’. In 1829, two British officers landed in Darjeeling and fell in such deep love with the place that they transformed it into a British settlement for the British in 1835. Today Darjeeling tourism beckons all types of tourists and travellers for a leisurely respite from the heat and dust of the plains. If you are not gaping at the beauty of the Kanchenjunga, then you can stroll around the picturesque town and admire its colonial architecture. You can cover the Darjeeling tourist spots, visit the Buddhist monasteries or head out to spot the unique red panda at the Darjeeling Zoo. Adventure enthusiasts can trek the Sandakphu peak and also indulge in some rock climbing in Darjeeling. In fact the holy grail for mountaineering, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, is also located in Darjeeling. The Mall or Chowrasta is the centre of the town. It is a pedestrian-only zone where no vehicles are allowed. All the major shops are found in this area and it is one of the best places for shopping in Darjeeling and collecting souvenirs for home. It is a place for relaxing after you are tired of exploring the winding roads of Darjeeling. On a clear day, you can even see the Kanchenjunga range clearly from Chowrasta. The bustling bazaars of Darjeeling are full of colourful masks and local knick-knacks from Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet, making it a must visit place A visit to Darjeeling will also be incomplete without a ride on the famous toy train, a major highlight of Darjeeling tourism. Whether you are a tourist, trekker, traveller or lone backpacker, Darjeeling tourism welcomes you with open arms and shows you the best of the eastern Himalayas.
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Travel Guides For Darjeeling

Best Time To Visit Darjeeling

There are two main seasons when Darjeeling tourism is at its peak. The summer months between March to May and the autumn months between October to November are considered to be the best time to visit Darjeeling. During these months, Darjeeling weather remains cool and usually bright and you can get a great view of the mountain ranges.

The monsoon season usually starts in June and lasts upto September. During this time the hills receive a lot of rain and Darjeeling tourism hits a low. But during the monsoon, Darjeeling looks immensely beautiful and romantic, though  you won’t get any mountain views as the weather remains cloudy most of the time.

Winter is the best season to visit Darjeeling as the weather remains clear and you can get a better view of the snow-clad mountain ranges. Infact, this is also one of the best times to visit Darjeeling and view the sunrise from the famous Tiger Hill in Darjeeling. However, winters are quite cold and you need to be prepared for cold days and chilly nights. January happens to be the coldest here and Darjeeling tourism hits a low during this time as well.

Like most hill stations, you cannot really predict Darjeeling weather. At one time, it is sunny and bright and in the next moment, it can become cloudy and foggy.

Top Places to Visit in Darjeeling

Darjeeling is a small town, but there are a number of places in Darjeeling tourism that you can access by travelling a short distance. Darjeeling district, however, spans across 3,000 sq km and has many places to visit near Darjeeling town. Kurseong and Kalimpong are two other hill stations that can be visited along with the Darjeeling tourist places. Here is a list of places to visit in Darjeeling:

 

Tiger Hill

Tiger Hill happens to be one of the major attractions of Darjeeling Tourism. Located at the highest point in Darjeeling at an altitude of 2,590m, Tiger Hill is known for its spectacular sunrise view. Located at a distance of 11km from Darjeeling town, the place is now internationally famous for its magnificent sunrise view above the Kanchenjunga and other eastern Himalayan ranges.

There is a watchtower at Tiger Hill from where you will get a sweeping view of the mountain ranges. It is indeed a rewarding experience to see the first rays of the sun falling on the snow-clad mountain ranges. The sky changes its colour from golden yellow to orange as the sun rises up the horizon. On a clear day, you can also see the Everest ranges from Tiger Hill.

The best time to get clear views of sunrise is during the winter months. But Darjeeling weather is highly unpredictable and a sudden cloud can totally obstruct the sunrise view. Even otherwise, Tiger Hill is a great place to visit in Darjeeling to soak in the Himalayan beauty.

 

Batasia Loop and War Memorial 

Batasia Loop is located 5km from Darjeeling town and is a highlight of Darjeeling tourism. As the name suggests, the place is actually a loop or a spiral of narrow gauge railway tracks where the famous Darjeeling toy drain negotiates a sudden sharp bend from Ghoom.

Batasia Loop is the best Darjeeling tourist spot from where you can get a 360 degree view of the entire Darjeeling town along with the Eastern Himalayan ranges. The garden here is well maintained with proper seating arrangements. You can sit here in peace and enjoy the views of the mountains. All these are maintained well to boost Darjeeling tourism.

At the centre of the Batasia Loop is the War Memorial. The memorial was opened in 1995 to commemorate the Gorkha soldiers of the Darjeeling Hills who sacrificed their lives in various wars after Indian independence. Just in the middle, there is a 3 metre tall bronze statue of a Gorkha soldier paying homage. Both the Batasia Loop and War Memorial make up an important part of Darjeeling tourism.

 

Darjeeling Mall or Chowrasta

The Darjeeling Mall or Chowrasta is one of the best places that you will encounter in Darjeeling tourism. Located in the heart of the town, it is a flat piece of land converted into a pedestrian-only zone for the sake of Darjeeling tourism. There are benches all around the mall where you can sit down, relax and have a cup of steaming hot Darjeeling tea. Most shops are also located in this area, including tea shops, curio shops and many more. If you want to feel the real vibe of the place, then you should spend some time at this  historical public square. You can also go on pony rides here. There is a stable just beside the mall and the horse owners offer a pony ride to take you across the Chowrasta. There is also an open-air auditorium and stage where many functions and cultural programmes take place. And if you want some information about Darjeeling, the Darjeeling Tourism Office is just behind the Mall at Bhanu Sarani.

 

Darjeeling Zoo

Darjeeling Zoo is one of the most interesting Darjeeling tourist places and a major attraction of Darjeeling tourism. Also known as the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park, the zoo was established in 1958 to study and conserve the Himalayan fauna. The Darjeeling Zoo is the largest high altitude zoo in India and covers an area of 67.5 acres at an average altitude of 7,000ft. 

Different types of birds such as  rose ring parakeets, hill mynas, pheasants, blue gold macaw are found in the zoo. In animals, you will see the exotic and very cute looking red panda along with Himalayan black bear, yaks, sambar deer, blue sheep, Himalayan tahr, barking deer, goral and musk deer. The upper part of the zoo houses the Indian tigers in open space as well as snow leopards, black leopards and clouded leopards.

The zoo remains open from 8.30am to 4.30pm in the summer season, 8.30am to 4pm in the winter season. The zoo is an important part of Darjeeling tourism and a great place to visit with children.

 

Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI)

The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is said to be a pilgrimage for mountaineers and climbing enthusiasts. It was established in honour of Tenzing Norgay after he climbed Mt. Everest along with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. The place has now become one of the major attractions of Darjeeling tourism.

The entrance of the Darjeeling Zoo and HMI are through the same gate. A mountaineering institute was built so that Tenzing Norgay could impart his mountaineering knowledge to all those who wish to pursue mountaineering. Infact, he was the first director of field training in HMI.

Today HMI is a complex of various activities. It has a residential school for mountaineering students, residences for trainers and a museum with mountaineering displays and other artefacts. There are 16 scheduled courses that take place every year other than special courses that are organized on demand. HMI and Darjeeling Zoo are located on Jawahar Parvat and can be reached by walking down the Mall Road and then taking the Jawahar Road. Both these places are boosting Darjeeling tourism to a great extent.

 

Rock Garden and Ganga Maya Park

Rock Garden and Ganga Maya Park are two beautiful gardens located about 10km from Darjeeling town and is the latest addition to Darjeeling tourism. The Rock Garden has been created by cutting rocks at different levels and making terraces. There is a beautiful waterfall flowing over the rocks. The Rock Garden, also known as Barbotey Rock Garden, was created by Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council for boosting Darjeeling tourism and it has been successful in doing so.

Ganga Maya Park is located another 3km down the valley. This is a beautiful place surrounded by hills and water streaming around it. There is a small lake in the park where tourists can enjoy boating. The garden is well maintained by Darjeeling tourism. Both the Ganga Maya Park and Rock Garden are recent additions in Darjeeling tourism and are enjoyed by people of all ages.

 

Japanese Temple and Peace Pagoda

The Japanese Temple and Peace Pagoda are located at a 10-minute driving distance from Darjeeling town in the Jalapahar area. Also known as the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple, it was built in 1972 under Nichidatsu Fujii, a Buddhist Monk from Japan. The temple is built in traditional Japanese style and has two storeys. he peace pagoda is located just beside the temple. It showcases the four avatars of Lord Buddha. The Japanese Peace Pagoda was built to bring people together from all castes and creeds for the purpose of world peace. Today it is a major attraction of Darjeeling tourism.

You can hear occasional chants and prayer at the temple. This is indeed a place of peace and tranquillity and you can find immense spiritual peace here. From the top of the pagoda, beautiful views of the Kanchenjunga ranges can be seen. The temple remains open from 4.30am to 7.00pm daily. There is no admission fee. Prayer timings are from 4.30am to 6.00am, and 4.30pm to 6.30pm.

 

Happy Valley Tea Estate

Happy Valley Tea Estate is one of the highest tea estates in West Bengal and also one of the most important places for Darjeeling tourism. It was established in 1854 and was known as the Wilson Tea Estate. Later it was named as the Happy Valley Tea Estate. Tea gardens have always played a major part in Darjeeling tourism. Walking through the gentle slopes of the vast green tea gardens and experiencing tea processing is a special treat offered by Darjeeling tourism.

Happy Valley Tea Estate is located below the Hill Cart Road and is an excellent place to visit especially during the plucking and processing season between March and October. During this time, an employee with take you around the tea factory and explain the process of withering, rolling, fermenting and drying and also explain how black, green and white tea are extracted from the same tea leaves. At the end of the tour, tea tasting is also offered. There is a tea boutique from where you can buy Darjeeling tea for yourself or take as souvenirs of Darjeeling tourism for family and friends.

The approach to Happy Valley Tea Estate is through a narrow and steep winding road. A visit to the tea estate is usually covered in the Darjeeling sightseeing trips. The tea estate and the factory are open from 8am to 4pm from Tuesday to Saturday. The factory usually remains closed from November to February as tea plucking does not take place at that time.

 

Observatory Hill and Mahakaal Temple 

Located just behind the Mall, the Observatory Hill and Mahakaal Temple stands as one of the major attractions of Darjeeling tourism. The place is on a hilltop and is one of the best places in Darjeeling to get a panoramic view of the mountains. The temple at the summit is known as the Mahakaal Temple. As you walk around the Mall road, you will see the stairs leading up to the hill and the temple. It is around a 15 minute uphill walk to reach the top of the hill.The place is a perfect union of Buddhist and Hindu cultures. It is said that the place where the Mahakal Temple stands, a Buddhist monastery named 'Dorje Ling' once stood. It is also believed that Darjeeling gets its name from this monastery. So you can well understand that the Observatory Hill and the Mahakaal Temple has immense importance in Darjeeling tourism.

Mahakaal Temple is revered by the locals and you can always see the place full of devotees. It is one place where you can hear the temple bells ringing as well as see the fluttering of the colourful Buddhist flags. The place really gives an aura of peace and tranquillity. However, there are a lot of monkeys in the area. Just be careful of them.

 

Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre

The Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre was established in 1959 for the rehabilitation of the Tibetans who had migrated to India. In order to sustain here, they adopted the principle of self-help. Here the Tibetans make beautiful handicrafts, shawls, carpets, carved wooden items and others. A monastery is also located there and is now a lovely attraction for Darjeeling tourism.

 

Ghoom Monastery

Ghoom Monastery, also known as the Yiga Choeling Monastery, is another important attraction of Darjeeling tourism and is located at Ghoom, about 8km from Darjeeling. This is the first monastery to be built in the Darjeeling region. The major attraction of the monastery is the15ft high statue of Maitreya Buddha or future Buddha. This is one of the largest statues of Lord Buddha in the Darjeeling area. It is said that the clay to make the statue was brought all the way from Tibet. From the premises of the monastery, you will get a magnificent view of the surroundings and the Kanchenjunga ranges.

 

Activities And Things To Do In Darjeeling

Once you have enjoyed the cool mountain weather and viewed the magnificent Kanchenjunga ranges, Darjeeling tourism offers a plethora of activities. In fact, the first thing that you should do in Darjeeling is to enjoy a toy train ride in Darjeeling Himalayan railways. You can also enjoy rock climbing, trekking and other activities in Darjeeling. And do not forget to sip a cup of hot Darjeeling tea.

 

Take a joy ride aboard the Darjeeling toy train

Darjeeling toy train ride is the major attraction of Darjeeling tourism. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) is the first mountain railway in the country that opened in 1881. No doubt it is one of the most outstanding examples of mountain railways and is definitely an engineering feat. It provided an important link between the hills and the plains and was of immense social and cultural importance. Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) has been accorded the UNESCO World Heritage site status.

Riding a Darjeeling toy train is one of the most coveted experiences that Darjeeling tourism can offer. There are several ways in which you can enjoy a toy train ride. The best way to enjoy Darjeeling tourism is by taking the joy ride. It is a 2-hour ride starting from Darjeeling Station going all the way to Ghoom and back before stopping at Batasia Loop. It covers a total distance of 14km. There is also a toy train that runs from New Jalpaiguri (NJP) station to Darjeeling. It is a day-long journey from the plains to the hills.

 

Trekking in Darjeeling 

Manebhanjan, the base camp of Sandakphu trek, is located only 21km from Darjeeling. Sandakphu is the highest range in West Bengal. Many trekkers keep Darjeeling as their basecamp for the Sandakphu trek. From Sandakphu, you get a panoramic view of the Kanchenjunga family, famously known as the Sleeping Buddha for its unique appearance. Mt. Kumbhakarna forms the head and face of Buddha, while Kanchenjunga forms the upper body. The other peaks that make up the Sleeping Buddha are Kokthang, Rathong, Frey, Kabru South, Kabru North, Simovo, Mt. Pandim, Narsing. World’s highest peak, Mt Everest can also be seen from Sandakphu along with Lhotse and Makalu. Nowadays you can also visit Sandakphu by a four-wheel car. This initiative by Darjeeling tourism has made Sandakphu accessible to all.

Sandakphu trek is one of the most beautiful treks in the Eastern Himalayan region. Singalila trek can also be done from here.

 

Stay in the oldest tea estate of Darjeeling

While you are enjoying Darjeeling tourism, you can also enjoy the experience of staying at a heritage tea bungalow. Singtom Tea Estate is the oldest tea estate in Darjeeling area established in 1862. The place gives you are sense of nostalgia and takes you back to the colonial days. Located only at a 20 minute drive away from Darjeeling, Singtom provides the best hospitality in terms of tea tourism in Darjeeling.

There are a few of the tea bushes of 1852 still surviving and you can see them if you are at Singtom. The Singtom Tea Estate produces some of the finest organic tea – black, green and white under different brands representing different flavours and grades. The Singtom Resort is located inside the tea gardens and is surrounded by tea gardens in all directions. The resort is a beautiful British bungalow having a lovely garden in front. The rooms are tastefully done with a touch of heritage and comfort of modern amenities.

You can visit the tea gardens, the tea factory and also taste the finest Darjeeling tea sitting at the verandah of the bungalow. This is Darjeeling tourism at its best.

 

Shopping in Darjeeling

Darjeeling is a shoppers’ paradise. You will find beautiful antique handicrafts, jewellery, antique masks, carpets and thankas in the curio shops as you enjoy Darjeeling tourism. Most of these shops are either in the Mall area or along Nehru Road. For those who love books, the Oxford Book Store at the Mall has a variety of books on Darjeeling tourism, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.

Finally, you would definitely want to buy Darjeeling tea to take back home. The Golden Tips and Nathmulls are the two main shops selling authentic Darjeeling tea at the Mall. You can sip a cup of hot tea at the tea bars while reminiscing about Darjeeling tourism.

The area behind the Mall also has roadside shops selling woollen garments. If you can bargain well, then these are the best places for shopping in Darjeeling and you might get a good bargain on stoles, shawls and sweaters.

 

Cuisine & Best Places to Eat In Darjeeling

Darjeeling has a unique mixture of Bengali, Nepali and Tibetan population and this reflects in its cuisine. The place was also a British sanatorium one, and so there is an influence of British cuisine as well. The mixture of all the cuisines makes it an important part of Darjeeling tourism. Some of the best places to eat in Darjeeling are:

Keventers

Serves authentic English breakfast platter. 

Glenarys

In the morning, it serves English breakfast. In the evening, Glenarys opens up its multi-cuisine restaurant. The cakes, bakery products and chocolates in Glenarys are worth dying for. One of the major eateries recommended by Darjeeling tourism.

Frank Ross Restaurant

For vegetarians, the Frank Ross Restaurant is the best place. It serves both North Indian and  South Indian dishes.

Golden Tips and Nathmulls Tea Bar

For authentic Darjeeling tea, these tea bars are major attractions of Darjeeling tourism by themselves.

Shangrila Bar and Restaurant.

This multi-cuisine restaurant serves drinks as well.

Sonam’s Kitchen

For authentic Nepali cuisine, Sonam’s Kitchen is the best.

Roadside momo counters

Yes, these are small counters beside the road, but they serve some of the best tasting momos in Darjeeling. 

 

Typical Costs In Darjeeling

Darjeeling tourism is not going to hit hard on your pockets. Your accommodation and food will account for the budget in Darjeeling. Darjeeling tourism offers hotels catering to all types of budget. You will get hotels from Rs 800 per day to as high as Rs 30,000.

 

Places to stay in Darjeeling

Luxury resorts in Darjeeling

These resorts in Darjeeling give the best facilities and comfort for the guests. A few of them are heritage hotels and are also attractions of Darjeeling tourism.

  •     Windamere
  •     Mayfair Darjeeling
  •     Singtom Tea Estate
  •     Central Heritage
  •     Cedar Inn

 Mid-range hotels 

  •     Central Nirvana
  •     Shangrila
  •     Broadway
  •     Pineridge
  •     Main Olde Bellevue

Budget Hotels

  •     Classic Guesthouse
  •     Broadway Annexe
  •     Revolver
  •     Hotel Capital
  •     Seven Seas

Food is also quite reasonable in Darjeeling, starting from Rs 500 per day per person for all  three meals.

For Darjeeling sightseeing, it is better to hire a car. Darjeeling Tourism has 3-point, 7-point and mixed point sightseeing tours offered by car operators. A sightseeing tour in Darjeeling typically costs between Rs 1200 to Rs 3500 depending on the car and the number of places you visit. If you want to take a Darjeeling toy train joy ride, it is priced at Rs 1,065 per head.

 

Frequently Asked Questions about Darjeeling Tourism

How to reach Darjeeling?

The airport nearest to Darjeeling is in Bagdogra. From Bagdogra, you will have to book a car to Darjeeling. Budget travellers can come to Siliguri and then take a shared sumo to Darjeeling from the Siliguri Bus Stand.

The nearest railway station is in New Jalpaiguri. From NJP, you will get shared sumos as well as private cars to Darjeeling. There is a car booth at both Bagdogra and NJP from where you can book cars for Darjeeling tourism.

How far is Bagdogra from Darjeeling?

Bagdogra is the nearest airport to Darjeeling. It is around 68km and takes about 3 to 3.5 hours to reach Darjeeling.

 Is it safe to travel in Darjeeling?

Yes, Darjeeling is a safe place for tourists. In the last few years, there had been a few agitations when Darjeeling tourism had hit a low. But now, Darjeeling is quite safe to travel.

How is the weather in Darjeeling?

Darjeeling is a hill station and has pleasant weather during the summer months. Winters are quite cold and for the last two years, Darjeeling has witnessed mild snowfall in the months of December.

Should I carry woollens during the summer?

Yes, it is advised to carry woollen clothes even during the summer. At least a windproof jacket should be taken. The weather is highly unpredictable in Darjeeling. If it rains, the weather suddenly becomes very chilly.

How is the nightlife in Darjeeling?

Darjeeling is a sleepy little hill town. While there are bars and pubs in Darjeeling, but the town usually sleeps by 11pm.

Are there ATMs in Darjeeling?

Yes, there are sufficient ATMs in Darjeeling. There is an SBI ATM at the Mall. Also, most of the shops accept debit and credit cards these days.

 Where can I buy the best Darjeeling tea?

Golden Tips and Nathmulls are the best places to buy authentic Darjeeling tea. Both shops are located at the Mall. 


Written by Amrita