Darjeeling the dream land of the East, it has been a popular hill station since the British period. The tourist flow to this place has been increasing day by day. Due to the proximity with three international borders, this place is strategically very important.
Darjeeling is surrounded by lofty mountains. Except for the monsoon months and if weather is clear then the Kanchenjunga peak can be seen. Down below in the valley flow the rivers swollen by rain water or melting snow. Darjeeling is a fascinating place rich in natural beauty and surrounded by the Buddhist monasteries. Its beauty surpasses any other hill station.
The toy train coming from Siliguri is some thing which is liked by the elders and the children equally. The real fun in coming to Darjeeling is on the toy train. It takes six to seven hours to cover a distance of 82 kms and the slow speed gives you enough time to watch and appreciate the beauty which nature has provided it. This train passes through the Forests, waterfalls, over deep valleys and through the mountains and tunnels.
Darjeeling has been famous for its Tea with a particular aroma. Throughout the world tea drinkers love having the special Darjeeling tea. So, how can some one miss getting some Darjeeling tea if he comes to this place. Packed small bags tea from this place make good souvenirs. But avoid tea in tastefully decorated boxes as these are mostly blended tea from Calcutta.
Apart from tea there are many items which Darjeeling offers in its shopping malls. Tourists love taking home the curios and carpets from here. The shops for curios and carpets are on Chowrasta and Nehru road. These shops also sell thangkas, brass statues, religious objects, jewellery, wood carvings, woven fabrics and many other items from the Himalayan region. The Bronze items and wooden carvings give you good value for your money. Thangkas are impressive at the first sight but the require a closer look if you want to buy them. The West Bengal’s Manjusha Emporium has a good collection Himalayan handicraft, silk and handloom products. The woollen garments can be bought from the markets on Hill Cart road. The bamboo items are collectors delight from the region. Hayden Hall is a place to look for the exclusive Tibetan Carpets. The women’s cooperative is also a place worth checking out.
The best season to visit Darjeeling is between April and June. The weather during this period is generally clear and the chilling biting cold gets subsided. But one can also go to Darjeeling between September and November. During these months the mountains are clearly visible and one can enjoy the golden sunrise over the Himalayan peaks. Being a mountain city Darjeeling experiences rains throughout the year. Often heavy down pours wash away the roads and the place is totally cut off from rest of the country. The temperature range is not very large here with the maximum in summers being 15 degrees and 1.5 degrees in winters. This place requires warm cloths any time of the year and do not forget to carry a umbrella to this place.
Tiger hills is the highest point in the area which provides the most exotic view of the Kanchenjunga peaks. From this place the other peaks of the Eastern Himalayas can be seen. On a clear day the sight of Mt.Everest is just enthralling.
- About 8 kms from Darjeeling is the Dhoom Gompa. Here a very beautiful statue of the Maitrayie Buddha ( prospective Buddha) is established. The Monastery has also preserved some of the rare handwritten Buddhist manuscripts.
Batasia Loop -
This railway loop is an interesting example of engineering. At this loop the toy train takes a very unique turn. This loop is just five kilometer from the main town of Darjeeling. This place also has a very good market where you can buy the purses, bags and other decorative items made by the local women at very reasonable price.
Happy Valley Estate
- Here the tea from the gardens is processed. One can spent a few hours here. Entry is only allowed to persons who have permission from any officer of the estate.
- A scenic place near the tiger hills. This place has popularly come up as a picnic spot among the tourists. The lake supplies drinking water to the town of Darjeeling.
- From Darjeeling one can have the best, uninterrupted view of the worlds third highest peak. Bhan Bhakta Sarani provides one of the enthralling views of these snow capped peaks. The Chowrasta also gives you a good sight to the Kanchenjunga peak.
- The zoo is situated two kms form the main town. This zoological garden houses some of the rare species of animals and birds. This is only zoo in India having the Siberian Tigers. Apart from these the rare Red Panda is also there. The Snow Leopards, Great Grey Birds, Snow Yaks are some the animals which are attracting tourist in great numbers. The entry in the zoo is by tickets which are also valid for the natural history museum and the mountaineering institute & museum.
- This point provides one of the breathtaking views of Kanchenjunga peaks. This place is also very sacred for the Hindus and the Buddhists as there are temples and the monasteries at this place. The Kali temple is decorated with the colourful flags. Be aware of the monkey groups as some these are very aggressive.
Bhutia Busty Gompa
- With the back drop of the Kanchenjunga range stands a monastery called the Bhutia Busty Gompa. This monastery was shifted from the observatory hills to the present place. The Gompa is a branch of the Nyingmapa sect’s Phodang Monastery in Sikkim. The monastery is not far from the chowrasta and is very tastefully decorated. It also has a library which has a copy of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Snow Leopard Breeding Programme
- Nowadays the zoologists and the environmental scientists are trying to protect the endangered species by breeding them in captivity. Following this trend is Kiran Moktan who has devoted his life in breeding program of snow leopards. The snow leopards are not known to have bred in captivity but in this center thanks to the efforts of Kiran Maktan these animals have given birth in captivity. Snow leopards are animals who have to be kept in large enclosures. Visitors are allowed in the center but they have to watch the animals in utter silence.
- This place is worth a visit for its exotic and exclusive collection of a variety of Himalayan plants, flowers and orchids. This place is near the taxi stand. The gardens also has a green house.
- Another tourist attraction in Darjeeling has been the ropeway. This was the first ropeway in India. It connects the North point (7000 ft) to the Singla Bazaar (800 ft). The rope covers a distance of 8 kms in 45 minutes. The seats in the rope way is limited and it is better to get the tickets in advance. The ropeway is exciting and unique for any one visiting Darjeeling.
- This one of the important shopping places in Darjeeling . Here the Nehru Road and the Mall Road Intersect each other. The snow capped peaks of Kanchenjunga are visible from this place. Near Chowrata are several Hindu and Buddhists temples. This place is over flowing with foreign tourists. You can also enjoy a pony ride form this place.
Kurseong is mid way between Siliguri and Darjeeling. The way from Darjeeling to Kurseong is generally open through out the year. So, the toy train is not coming to Siliguri then you can come up to Kurseong. This place is equally beautiful and is full of natural splendour.
Mirik is 52 kms from Siliguri and 55 kms from the nearest Airfield of Bagdogra. Mirik is being developed as a new hill station in the mountains. Mirik is surrounded by tea estates, orange orchards and cardamom plantations. It has all the facilities to fulfill the needs of a tourist.
Siliguri / New Jalpaiguri :
The twin Cities of Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri are the departure point to Darjeeling, Sikkim and the North Eastern States. Being the nodal point this place has become very busy and crowded. This area has got population over 2.5 lakh people. Siliguri also acts as a transit point for Nepal. This place is not very pleasant to stay as there are always long lines of buses and trucks. These trucks and vehicles might be good for business but they provide very ugly sight. Tourists come to Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri mainly to change bus or catch trains. If you have time then visit the almost forgotten wild life sanctuary of Jaldhapara. The best season to visit this park is between October and May. This the time when the new grass has come up and animals are out there. The sanctuary has elephants, dears, tigers and other animals but the main attraction is the Rhinos which are threatened by the poachers. Elephant Safari can be taken from Hollong.
Kalimpong is within Darjeeling province and is a sub-division of Darjeeling. It is a small but bustling town in the Himalaya foothills of West Bengal- Kalimpong is at an altitude of 1250 meters. 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.