Darjeeling is in a small city in West Bengal, India. Darjeeling grew in prominence during the mid 19th century when, because of its climate, the British first established a hill station there after leasing it from the Chogyal of Sikkim and later discovered that the area was particularly well suited for tea plantations.
Because it was a popular hill station during the days of the Raj, a lovely Victorian town was built among the Himalayan foothills, the remnants of which are still visible around the Chowrasta and Darjeeling remains a popular summer and fall resort for the natives of Kolkata today. For tourists, the main attractions are the cultural diversity, the beautiful views (including the wonderful vista view of Kanchenjunga), a variety of trekking options, and the opportunity to cool down after a stint in the plains. The town is also a jumping off point for travelers heading to Sikkim.
The nearest airport is Bagdogra, near Siliguri, 96 km from Darjeeling.
By taxi/share jeep
Siliguri is the nearest town. Ample transport is available to Darjeeling from here. The most popular modes of transport are taxi (usually shared by three to four passengers), share jeep (ten passengers).
However a Taxi from Siliguri will not take you out for sight seeing once on the hills/or in the Darjeeling town ship. It is advisable to take a one way taxi from Siliguri into Darjeeling, and book a Taxi within Darjeeling for sight seeing and your journey back to Siliguri. Taxi-fares are standard, and are generally affixed on the rear wind shield of the vehicle.
Share jeeps depart regularly, from several locations around town. They leave when full, and are a cheap, fast and reasonably comfortable way to get to Darjeeling.
There is a regular bus service from Silguri to Darjeeling. However, they are quite slow due to the steep, twisty climb up to Darjeeling. Share jeeps are almost as cheap, and faster.
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.
Darjeeling is a small town and the salubrious climate means walks around town are an extremely enjoyable means of getting around. For longer trips, taxis are available in stands near the entrance to the Mall.
- Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI)
- Himalayan Zoo – Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park (shares the premises of HMI)
- Buddhist monasteries
- Japanese Peace pagoda
- The Kanchenjunga – best seen at dawn from Tiger Hills (check out the weather as best you can though, a cloudy day can ruin the effort of getting up at 0300 hrs. Also for traffic jams, can take hours in the morning rush when almost all the taxis here are at the Tiger hills)
- The Darjeeling Rungeet Valley Ropeway
- Deolo Hill, Kalimpong 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. You will find yourself in a garden on the top of the hill. You’ll be surrounded on all sides by tea gardens going thousands of feet deep, and the entire picturesque landscape guarded well on all sides by high rise mountains. Kalimpong is a little warmer than Darjeeling. On your way from Darjeeling to Kalimpong, you will come across many hill points and a picturesque view of river Teesta. You can enjoy rafting on the river, if you have enough number of enthusiasts in the group.
- Mirik – The lake of Mirik is a nice stretch of water where you can enjoy horse riding and boating. You will be chased by a number of horse riders who will offer you an affordable ride on the horse, even if you dont want one. The best way to avoid them quickly is to tell them that you will take a ride after boating and lunch. Some riverside restaurants can offer average quality meals.
- Tiger Hill – Ideal to visit early morning when the first rays of Sun kiss the Mt Kunchenjunga and give it a golden color. To visit the hill, one needs to get up at 3:00 am in the morning. You can taste some excellent tea on your way to the hill, which will provide much needed warmth on cold Darjeeling mornings. When getting into a taxi at 4 AM keep in mind that they are shared taxis and your driver might wait around in vain for others to join your taxi causing you to miss the sunrise! Those travelling alone or as a couple might want to squeeze into an already occupied jeep to insure full viewing pleasure.
Darjeeling is one of the oldest hill stations in India, and has plenty of options, both for those seeking a lazy getaway from the hot plains, as well as nature enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies. Apart from sights within the town, there are plenty of trek options along the Himalayan ridges on the Indo-Nepal border near Darjeeling. The most popular one being the Singhalia Ridge Trail. Bookings for guides, porters and accommodation on the trail can be made in Darjeeling or in the nearby town of Manebhanjang, which serves as the trail-head.
- Tea. Darjeeling is famous the world over for its teas, which are very aromatic and have a delicate taste. Shops selling teas (usually owned by local tea gardens), dot the area in and around the Mall. Nathmulls is especially known for their tea and also ship worldwide. Stop by to smell the numerous varieties they have to offer.
- Curio items pertaining to Tibetan and Himalayan cultures, such as thangkas, miniature monasteries and garments made from yak wool.
- Books, Oxford Bookshop, Chowrashtra. Excellent selection of titles.
- Posters and picture postcards, Das photo, the Mall. Excellent selection of posters and cards depicting scenes of the Himalayas.
‘Momos’ – a steamed delicacy are a staple food offered by almost every eating joint. Several eateries which dish out North Indian, Nepali, Tibetan, and continental fare dot the area around the Mall.
- Glenary’s Bakery and Cafe. A good place for pastries, the ubiquitous Darjeeling cuppa, sizzerlers and North Indian fare. Offers nice views of the Kanchendzonga on clear days.
- Hot Stimulating Cafe. On the way to Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, on Hooker Road, is this lovely little cozy place. The Momos here are awesome! They even offer a Momo-cooking course! The guy who owns it can double up as your local guide, trekking along with you to some adventurous outings from Darjeeling.
- Kunga. An excellent Tibetan place, situated just above the clocktower. It serves superb tibetan food, including hearty tibetan soups (the Thentuk is recommended). It is, however, tiny, so is often full.
One major problem is everything closes pretty early in the night (8 PM). So do keep something in stock to eat, if you are planning to stay up late.