: 2134 and above.
: Summer--15-23 degC.Winter--2-10 degC.
Best time to visit
: April to mid june,September toNovember.
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
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.
Until the beginning of the 18th century the whole of the area between the present borders of Sikkim and the plains of Bengal, including Darjeeling and Kalimpong, belonged to the rajas of Sikkim. In 1706 they lost Kalimpong to the Bhutanese, and control of the remainder was wrested from them by the Gurkhas who invaded Sikkim in 1780, following consolidation of the latter's rule in Nepal.
These annexations by the Gurkhas, however, brought them into conflict with the British East India Company. A series of wars were fought between the two parties, eventually leading to the defeat of the Gurkhas and the ceding of all the land they had taken from the Sikkimese to the East India Company. Part of this territory was restored to the rajas of Sikkim and the country's sovereignty guaranteed by the British in return for British control over any disputes which arose with neighbouring states.
One such dispute in 1828 led to the dispatch of two British officers to this area, and it was during their fact-finding tour that they spent some time at Darjeeling (then called Dorje Ling -
Place of the
- after the lama who founded the monastery which once stood on Observatory Hill). The officers were quick to appreciate Darjeeling's value as a site for a sanatorium and hill station, and as the key to a pass into Nepal and Tibet.
The officers' observations were reported to the authorities in Kolkata and a pretext was eventually found to pressure the raja into granting the site to the British in return for an annual stipend of Rs3000
(raised to Rs6000 in 1846).
Places to Eat
Around the TV Tower
Most of the guest houses in this area have small restaurants, which saves you the trek down into town. They all have the usual travellers menus that include pancakes and jaffles. The Tower View is popular, Triveni Guest House is very clean and the Ratna is very good value.
Laden La & Nehru Rds
There are numerous cheap restaurants along Laden La Rd all clustered together between the State Bank of India and the post office. Several of them are Tibetan-run while the remainder offer Indian cuisine of various sorts. Most of them are pretty basic and could use a good scrub down. They include the Golden Dragon, Vineet, Utsang. Potala, Lotus, Penang, Soatlee and Washington.
It is a very cheap and very basic Tibetan restaurant serving good momos and thukpa.
It has probably the best Indian cuisine in town. Tandoori items are mouthwatering - chicken sheek kebabs, chicken tikka masala.
Decor is Graeco-Roman greenhouse finished off with shower-room curtains, but the food is excellent.
Keventer's Snack Bar
Kev's (Keventer's Snack Bar), on Nehru Rd, is a popular place for breakfast and there are wonderful views from the open terrace. They have got ham, bacon, sausages and cheese, but service can be tediously slow.
Places to Eat
Glenary's, is an excellent place with a definite ghost-of-the-Raj air to it. Downstairs is the bakery; if you arrive early enough you can get very good brown bread. They also have croissants, doughnuts, garlic bread and a wonderful range of cakes. Tea time here is still a special occasion upstairs in the restaurant where you can also have full meals.
It is the place to go for a splurge. If you are not staying here, you must book in advance. Here you are served a full western meal, such as roast chicken, followed by a full-on Indian meal of curry, rice and chapatis! But it's not just food you get for your money - you are entertained by a pianist or string quartet during dinner and afterwards you can retire to the drawing room for a brandy by the fire. you can also come here for tea which includes the best Darjeeling tea, cucumber sandwiches and cakes, and the pianist tickling the ivories next door.
Hasty Tasty, further north up Nehru Rd, is a busy fast food and ice cream parlour with excellent south Indian dishes and good views over the valley.
New Embassy Chinese Restaurant, in the Hotel Valentino, is the best Chinese place in 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.
Trekking in the Darjeeling hills started almost a century back.It was one of the first hill region in India where trekking were organised .The Everest and Kanchenjunga stillalluring thousands of nature lovers from different parts of the world since it was discovered.
The best time to undertake trekking programeis April-May and Octoberan dNovember. Through Travel Agents and personal program both are acceptable here.Both low and high altitude treks are arranged over here.Some of the most popular treks are Maneybhanjang (2134 m), Meghma (2900 m), Toughu (3070 m), Gairibas (2621 m), Sandakphu (3636 m), and Phalut (3600m)etc.
Anotherattractive high altitude trek is to Kalimpong valley from Relli, Pankhasari, and to the highest point in the areas, Rochella (3,400 m).All the varietiy of Himalayan flora and faunaare widely available her to experience The mostly used and adviseable routes are from Darjeeling to Kurseong through the Old Military Road, Darjeeling to Singla, Darjeeling to Bijabbari and Darjeeling to Tiger Hill.
Air : The nearest airport is 90km away at Bagdogra, down on the plains near Silliguri.
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
Road : 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
Darjeeling has a good number of hotels around the town. The hotels offer luxurious as well as economy stay. There are some 3 and 4 star rated hotels as well.