States of India
Area : 11.44sq.km.
Altitude : 2,134 meters.
Clothing : Light woolen in summer and heavy woolens in winter.
Best Season : April to mid June and mid September to November are the best months to visit this hill resort.
Foreign Tourists : Foreign tourists, if they desire to visit Sikkim as well, must obtain a special permit for it in advance.
Temperature : Winter :- 03-19 °C, Summer :-11-20 °C
Straddling a ridge at 2134m and surrounded by a tea plantations, Darjeeling has been a popular hill station since the British established it as an R & R centre for their troops in mid-1800s. People come here now, as they did then, to escape the heat, humidity and hassle of the north Indian plain. You get an indication of how popular Darjeeling is from the 70 or so hotels recognised by the tourist office and the scores of others which don't come up to its requirements. Here you will find yourself surrounded by mountain people from all over the eastern Himalaya who have come to work, to trade or - in the case of the Tibetans - as refugees. Outside of the monsoon season (June to September), the views over the mountains to the snowy peaks of Kanchenjunga and down to the swollen rivers in the valleys are magnificent.
Darjeeling is a fascinating place where you can see Buddhist monasteries, visit a tea plantation and see how the tea is processed, go for a ride on the chairlift, spend days hunting for bargains in colourful markets and handicrafts shops, or go trekking to high-altitude spots for closer views of Kanchenjunga.
Like many places in the Himalaya, half the fun is in getting there and Darjeeling has the unique attraction of its famous toy train . This miniature train loops and switchbacks its way up the steep mountainsides from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling.
Places To See :
The highest spot in the area at 2590m, Tiger Hill is near Ghoom, about 11km from Darjeeling. The hill is famous for its magnificent dawn views over Kanchenjunga and other eastern Himalayan peaks. On a clear day even Mount Everest is visible.
At 8598m, this is the world's third highest mountain. From Darjeeling, the best uninterrupted views of it are from Bhan Bhakta Sarani. The name Kanchenjunga is derived from the Tibetan Khang (snow), chen (big), dzong (fortress or treasury) nga (five) - big five peaked snow fortress, or big five peaked treasury of the snow.
Bhutia Busty Gompa
Not far from Chowrasta is this colourful monastery, with Kanchenjunga providing a spectacular backdrop. Originally a branch of the Nyingmapa sect's Phodang Monastery in Sikkim, it was transferred to Darjeeling in 1879.
More correctly known as Yogachoeling Gompa, this is probably the most famous monastery in Darjeeling and is about 8 km south of town, just below Hill Cart road and the train station near Ghoom.
There are three other gompas in Ghoom: the very large but relatively uninteresting Samdenchoeling, the nearby and smaller Sakyachoeling, and the Phin Sotholing.
Nearer Darjeeling, on Tenzing Norgay Rd, Aloobari Monastery welcomes visitors. The monks often sell Tibetan and Sikkimese handicrafts and religious objects (usually hand bells). If the monastery is closed ask at the cottage next door and they'll let you in. Halfway between Ghoom and Darjeeling is the Thupten Sangachoeling Gompa at Dali. Westerners interested in Tibetan Buddhism often study here. A little closer to Darjeeling on the same road is the opulent Sonada Gompa.
Situated above the Windamere Hotel, this viewpoint is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. There is a Kali shrine here and the multicoloured prayer flags double as trapezes for he monkeys. Watch out for them as they can be aggressive.
The most conspicuous Hindu temple in Darjeeling, this is just below the railway station and is modelled on the famous Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu.
Bengal Natural History Museum
Established in 1903, a comprehensive but dusty collection of Himalayan and Bengali fauna is packed into this interesting museum. Among the 4300 specimens is the estuarine crocodile, the animal responsible for the greatest loss of human life in Asia. The museum is open daily except Thursday, from 10am to 4pm.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
This zoo was established in 1958 with the objectives of study, conservation and preservation of Himalayan fauna. The animals are well cared for by dedicated keepers. To protect and breed the dwindling stocks of wild animals, to educate the public and instill in them a sense of the worth of these wonderful creatures, it is necessary to keep them in pseudo-natural habitats. The zoo houses India's only collection of Siberian tigers and some rare species, such as the red panda and the Tibetan wolf.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) & Museums
Entered through the zoo, on Jawahar Rd West about two km from the town, the HMI runs courses to train mountaineers, and maintains a couple of interesting museums. The Mountaineering Museum contains a collection of historic mountaineering equipment, specimens of Himalayan flora and fauna and a relief model of the Himalaya. The Everest Museum next door traces the history of attempts on the great peak.
Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who conquered Everest with Edmund Hillary in 1953, lived in Darjeeling and was the director of the institute for many years. He died in 1986 and his statue now stands beside cremation spot just above the institute.
Tibetan Refugee Centre
A 20 to 30 minutes walk from Chowrasta through leafy glades and tea plantations, brings you down to the Tibetan Refugee Centre. Established in 1959, the centre comprises a home for the aged, and orphanage, school, hospital and craft workshops that produce carpets of pure ladakhi wool, woodcarving, leather work and wool items. The weaving and dyeing shops and the wood carving shop are particularly interesting.
The word gymkhana is actually derived from the Hindi gendkhana (ball house). Games on offer include tennis, squash, badminton, roller-skating, table tennis and billiards.
At north point, about 3 km north of the town, is India's oldest passenger ropeway. It is 5 km long and connects Darjeeling with Singla bazaar on the little Ranjeet river at the bottom of the valley.
Lloyd Botanical Gardens
Below the bus and taxi stand near the market, these gardens contain a representative collection of Himalayan plants, flowers and orchids. The hothouses are well worth a visit.
Air : The nearest airport is 90km away at Bagdogra, down on the plains near Silliguri.
Bus : Most of the buses from Darjeeling leave from the Bazaar bus stand (Hill Cart Rd). Darjeeling is connected by road with Silliguri, Bagdogra, Gangtok and Kathmandu.
Rail : New Jalpaiguri/Silliguri is the railhead for all trains other than the narrow-gauge toy train. Reservation for major trains out of New Jalpaiguri can be made at the Darjeeling railway station (the toy train terminus) between 10am and 4pm daily (closed for lunch between 1 and 2 pm).
The toy train runs daily, although services during the monsoon are often disrupted due to the track being washed away. It is a slow but interesting trip, although the black soot belched out by the little steam engine soon gets annoying, and the tiny carriages are extremely cramped, especially when filled with at least dozen hefty foreigner and their backpacks.