Darjeeling, West-Bengal

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North East India

  

DarjeelingDarjeeling is one of the most scenic and hugely popular hill resorts in India. Situated at a height of 2134 meters above mean sea level, Darjeeling lies 686 km from Kolkata in the Indian state of West Bengal. Nestled among the backdrop of the mighty snow clad Himalayan peaks, Darjeeling has been a popular with tourists for its beauty and salubrious climate. One can get a clear view of the world’s third highest peak, Kanchenjunga, from the town on a sunny day.

It is also home to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), a World Heritage Site. Tourists can enjoy leisurely walks through the town’s quaint streets, watching the laidback life of the local residents.

Darjeeling offers a plethora of options for those seeking an adrenalin rush. Visit the Singalila National Park to catch a glimpse of the red panda, rhodendron blooms or for some high altitude trekking. The park is a camper's delight as it is largely free of vicious animals and snakes, making it the most popular family camping destination in the eastern Himalaya. Mountain biking, outdoor camping, river rafting, canoeing and kayaking. If nothing interests you, then just hang up your boots and unwind soaking in the scenic beauty of the hill town.

Culture:

Apart from the major Hindu religious festivals like Diwali, Dussera, Holi, Ram Navami, etc., several festivals of the different ethnic communities are also celebrated. The Tibetan ethnic groups like the Lepchas, Bhutias, Gurungs, and Tamangs celebrate New Year called Lochar in January/February, Maghe Sankranti, Chotrul Duchen, Buddha Jayanti, and Tendong Lho Rumfaat.

Shopping:

Shopping in Darjeeling is a beautiful experience for any tourist. Attractive handicrafts and curios bearing Himalayan stamp, which make for gift items back home can be bought here.

The most important and valuable item of this place is the aromatic Darjeeling tea. Darjeeling tea became the first Indian product to receive a Geographical Indication (GI) tag in 2004-05. A geographical indication (GI) is a name or sign used on certain products which corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin. The use of GI may act as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods, or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin.

Some of the must-buys include the locally made Tibetan paintings known as thangka, traditional masks, Nepali khukri, wooden statues, brass objects and woolen clothing. The main shopping centers in Darjeeling are Chowk Bazar, Chowrasta, Ladenla Road, Nehru Road, Supermarket, Motor Stand and Mahakal Market.

Where to Eat:

A popular food in Darjeeling is thupka and momos, a steamed dumpling containing meat and vegetables cooked in a doughy wrapping and served with watery soup called thupka, but one doesn't get stuck for want of multicuisine food. While there are a number of quality restaurants that serves anything from popular Chinese and Continental to hot and spicy Indian, along the bends and streets you can find plenty of eateries that sells lip-smacking local delicacies all day long.

Best time to Visit:

The best time to visit this hill station is from March to May and from September to December. The rains which start by May end are heavy downpours making living conditions cold and dreary and should be avoided as they frequently cause landslides.Accommodation is easily available at Darjeeling. There are several hotels that dot the place. Resorts and Hostels also offer a comfortable stay. You may pick the one that suits your budget.

Travel Tips:

  • While visiting Darjeeling, it is best to pack a few warm clothes since the weather is usually cool and gets a little chilly during the nights. Especially during the rainy and winter season, warm clothes are a must.
  • An umbrella also comes in handy as the place is known for its unpredictable showers.
  • For those visiting the town during peak season, it is best to book accommodation well in advance since the place remains packed with tourists

Darjeeling Festivals:

Bhumchu festival: This festival is celebrated during the first week of March. The Bhumchu takes place on the 14th and 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan lunar calendar. It comes close on the heels of Lossar, the Tibetan New year in the middle of February. The people of Darjeeling Tour Packages look at Bhumchu as a blessing and luck of the land. Bhumchu Festival in Darjeeling is very popular and is celebrated with aesthetic devotion and festivity.

Dasain Festival: Dasain Festival is celebrated on the first day of the lunar month of Aswain in the month of October. It is also known as Durga Puja. This festival symbolizes the success of the Hindu Goddess Durga over the evil Asura. The Nepali Hindus during this time decorate their houses, doors and pillars with banyan leaves and string of marigold flowers - Darjeeling Tours India. People sow barley seeds in the soil on the first day of the festival and their growth foretells good harvest. The remembrance of the dead ancestor's ceremony is also performed during this period.

Loshar Festival: Loshar Festival in Darjeeling is a colorful event that continues for about a week. It is the new year of the Tibetans and usually falls in the month of February. It is an important festival in the Tibetan calendar year and its celebration continues for a week. It is celebrated with great enthusiasm by Tibetan youth. The youths take to the streets performing the traditional Yak dance dressed in multi colored clothes.

Beni mela, the Saraswati Puja, Holi, Ram Navami, Raksha Bandhan, Tihar Festival-Darjeeling, Tendong Lho Rumfaat Festival- Darjeeling, Christmas, Easter etc. are some of the other festivals which are celebrated in Darjeeling with lots of zeal and zest.

Places to see in Darjeeling:

The Mall: The Mall is Darjeeling's popular commercial street. It is lined with Tibetans selling hand-knitted sweaters and souvenir shops chock-full of Himalayan artifacts and both real and imitation antiques. Photo shops carry turn-of-the-century photos as well as specialising in hand-painted black and white prints with glowing oil colours. The Mall leads to Chaurasta, a square, which doubles as a bandstand, a pony riding arena for children and a haven for lovers.

Chowrasta: The Chowrasta, meaning crossroad, is a hive of commercial activity. The Mall Road originates and culminates at the Chowrasta. This is the heart of Victorian Darjeeling. Here hotels, restaurants and shops brush against each other. The shops and stalls are a veritable paradise for souvenir collectors. The Bhutanese sellers display their wares. Woollen garments, tribal ornaments, Thankas, rosaries, brass statuettes and Gorkha daggers are kept on display for sale. Foreign goods are also available in some shops. Local handicrafts are much in demand.

Bengal Natural History Museum: The Bengal Natural History Museum is near Chowrasta, the heart of Darjeeling. The museum contains a representative and comprehensive, but dusty, collection of Himalayan and Bengali fauna. The museum houses more than 4300 specimens. Bird species, reptiles, and other animals of the Eastern Himalayas are displayed at true to life altitudes. The butterfly and beetle section merits special mention. Specimens of estuarine crocodile, which is responsible for the greatest loss of human life in Asia, are also seen here. Mineral forms of various stones are attractively displayed.

The museum is open on all days except Thursdays, and is open between 10 am and 4 pm.

Observatory Hill: The oldest site in Darjeeling is Observatory Hill, known locally as “Makal-Babu-Ko-Thaan”. According to legend, a Red Hat Buddhist Monastery called Dorje Ling, or 'place of the Thunderbolt', stood at this very spot. The Nepalis destroyed it in the 19th century. The Shivas and Buddhists share the temple that stands there today.

Himalayan Mountaineering Institute: A spot not to be missed is the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute created by the late Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa who conquered Mt Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary on 29 May 1953. A display of equipment used on the climb is one of the highlights. A zoological garden nearby has an assortment of wildlife such as yaks, Siberian tigers and red pandas who call the region their home.

Darjeeling Rangeet Valley Passenger Ropeway: At North Point about 3-km from the town, this is the first passenger ropeway in India.

Darjeeling Club: This is popularly known as the Planter's Club and has the best possible location in town and has a breathtaking view of the mountains and valleys. Approachable directly by car and has a parking area. Limited number of rooms and available for temporary members but permanent members have the first claim. Fully equipped kitchen, bar and other indoor game facilities are available here.

Senchal Golf Course: This 9-hole golf course is one of the highest golf courses in the world (altitude 8,150 ft). It is near the Tiger Hill and has a Club House and a Tourist Lodge.

 

Places to see around Darjeeling:

Tibetan Refuge Camp: The area in and around Darjeeling is a treasure chest of interesting destinations. The Tibetan Refugee self-help scheme produces traditional artifacts, jewellery and carpets for tourist consumption.

Lloyd's Botanical Garden: Lloyd's Botanical Garden displays a fine collection of Himalayan fauna for those with an interest, and for punters there is horseracing at Lebong, the smallest and highest racecourse in the world.

Tiger Hill: Situated at an altitude of 2,590m (8,482 ft.) and 13-km from the town, this spot has earned international fame for the magnificent view of the sunrise over "Kanchenjunga" and the great Eastern Himalayan Mountains. Even Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, is visible from here.

Phalut & Sandakphu: A small trip of Phalut and Sandakphu offers a spectacular panoramic view along with giant flowering Rhododendron trees at a height of over 3,048m.

Pashupati: Further afield, in Pashupati, on the Nepal border, one can purchase foreign goods at reasonable prices, view wildlife such as the endangered one-horned Rhino, Deer, Gaur, and wild boar while seated atop an Elephant's back at Jaldapara Game Park; learn of the Lepcha legend at the confluence of the Teesta and Ranjeet Rivers; relive Kalimpong's past glory as a trading post by visiting the market filled with traditional Tibetan medicine, spices, musk, wool and silk; or if you are truly adventurous, hire a pony and take off to the hills.

Kurseong: Kurseong is mid-way between Siliguri and Darjeeling and is equally beautiful.

Mirik: Mirik is 52 km from Siliguri and 55 km from the nearest Airfield of Bagdogra. Mirik is being developed as a new hill station in the mountains. Tea estates, orange orchards and cardamom plantations surround Mirik. The lake of Mirik is a nice stretch of water where you can enjoy horse riding and boating.

Siliguri/New Jalpaiguri: The twin Cities of Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri are the departure points to Darjeeling, Sikkim and the North Eastern States. Being the nodal point this place has become very busy and crowded. Siliguri also acts as a transit point for Nepal. Tourists come to Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri mainly to change bus or catch trains.

Kalimpong: Kalimpong is within Darjeeling province and is a sub-division of Darjeeling. It is a small but bustling town in the Himalayan foothills of West Bengal, at an altitude of 1,250m. This bazaar town was originally a part of Bhutan but later it was taken over by the British and finally it settled down with West Bengal. This is a must see for all the nature lovers visiting Darjeeling. The view of tea gardens from a park on the top of this hill will sweep you off your feet.

Lebong Race Course: About 8 km from the town, it is one of the smallest and highest Race Course in the world. Races are held during Spring & Autumn season under the management of local Gymkhana Club.

 

Getting to Darjeeling:

  • Air: Bagdogra, 96 km away, is the nearest airport, connected to Kolkata, Delhi and Guwahati. From here a bus or private taxi can get you to Darjeeling in 3 hours.
  • Rail: New Jalpaiguri (NJP) near Siliguri is the nearest station on the main inter-city line. Direct trains to NJP run from Delhi (approx 27 hours) several times a day. From there, the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, known to all as the ‘Toy Train’ completes the journey to Darjeeling. This route is very popular with tourists as it passes through some very picturesque mountain scenery and has been the subject of many romantic articles and movies. They have tourist quotas for trains to Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.
  • Road: The road distances are Kolkata 651 km, Gangtok 100 km and Kalimpong 51 km. If you plan to drive in from Kolkata you will face certain stretches where the road condition is not very favourable. But after you hit the hill stretch, it is a joy to drive. Journey time is 14 hours.