Visit Darjeeling in West Bengal and Travel Back to the Colonial Era

Known to the world as ‘Queen of Hills’ and having made its name worldwide for the very famous tea, Darjeeling is a popular hill station in the lap of Eastern Himalayas that most certainly everyone has heard of. For folks who have spent their childhood in West Bengal or any other state in the Eastern part of the country, a trip to Darjeeling in the summer holidays was the most awaited event.

Having lived half my life in the foothill town of Siliguri, it takes me a while to recall which was the very first time I visited Darjeeling. From family getaways to long drive with friends, it must have been about half a dozen of times, may be more.

The majestic town of Darjeeling, popular for its colonial charm and kindness of its people, is a perfect getaway for people who crave for serenity. Starting with a joy ride on the iconic toy train to sipping a cup of Darjeeling tea, the gorgeous town of Darjeeling will never run out of things to do to make your vacation a memorable one.

 

How to reach Darjeeling

    • Arrive at Bagdogra airport or New Jalpaiguri railway station.
    • You can reserve a vehicle from the airport/railway station to drop you at Darjeeling for INR 2000-3000 (rates depend on the season).
    • If you want to travel by a local/public transport, you’d have to head to Siliguri Junction (taxi stand next to Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminus) and hop on  a shared vehicle for INR 150-200 per person.

 

Best time to visit Darjeeling

The best time to visit Darjeeling is between months of February to May and October to November. During this time, the skies are clear making sure you do not miss out on the spectacular views of the Kanchendzonga peak.

Darjeeling expects snowfall between mid December to end of January. To experience snowfall, you’d have to plan your trip during this period.

The time between June to September should be strictly avoided as the region is prone to landslides due to excessive rainfall.

 

Where to Stay in Darjeeling

Hostels: Hideout backpackers HostelPetrichor’s Backpacker Pad

Homestays: Noella’s Pad | Armadale Homes | Joshi Homestay

Budget Hotels: Hotel Palbheu | Delight Norling Retreat 

Luxury Hotels: The ElginMayfair DarjeelingCedar Inn 

 

Design your trip – Your Own Way

Darjeeling is a place with a heart, soul and a vibe of its own. There are countless number things you can do in this pristine town nestled between vast tea gardens, pine trees and Himalayan ranges. In order to help you make a checklist of your own, a segregated list of places and activities are listed down below. Pick what interests you, and design your trip, your own way!

 

Iconic Sights and Attractions in Darjeeling 

 

Darjeeling-Himalayan Railway 

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, popularly known as the Darjeeling toy train, started in 1881 and runs on a narrow gauge railway track. It has been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is one of the most popular attractions in Darjeeling. A picture beside the steam engine will surely adorn your social media pages. So make sure you don’t miss clicking one.

  1. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is an iconic railway ride that plies between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling

 

Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) 

Being a prestigious mountaineering institute which hosts students from within the country and beyond borders, HMI is a treasure in Darjeeling. It also houses of a museum and a cafeteria within the premises. If rock climbing, trekking or the mighty Himalayas interest you, entering the museum will definitely make you skip a heartbeat. Established in 1957, the objective of HMI museum in Darjeeling is to facilitate educational activities associated with mountaineering, preserve the art and culture of Himalayas, educate people about the flora and fauna of the Himalayan regions. The museum, full of models, paintings, sculptures, photographs, manuscripts, books, monographs, artifacts and equipment related to Mountaineering, is truly a gem in the heart of Darjeeling.

  1. The entrance of Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling

 

Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park 

Located in the same complex as the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, popularly known as Darjeeling Zoo is known internationally for its conservation breeding programmes of Red Panda, Snow Leopards, Tibetan Wolf and other endangered species of Eastern Himalayas. Walking down the zoo and witnessing these endangered species will be a delight for sure.

  1. The endangered species of the Eastern Himalayan region found home in Darjeeling Zoo

 

Batasia Loop and War Memorial 

Another iconic place in Darjeeling is the Batasia Loop and War memorial, situated at a distance of about 5 kms from the central part of Darjeeling. Batasia Loop is a beautiful garden with the toy train track making a loop around it. Watching the train take a sharp bend through the loop is something that should not be missed. Batasia Loop also houses a war memorial dedicated to all the soldiers from Darjeeling who lost their lives in several wars.

  1. Batasia Loop and War Memorial in Darjeeling on a bright sunny day

 

The Mall 

The mall or chowrasta, as called by the locals, is a spot which cannot be left out at any cost while you’re in Darjeeling. Known as the heart of Darjeeling, literally and metaphorically, the mall is a flat area, free of vehicles, primarily a place of relaxation for locals and tourists. The Brabourne Park is located adjacent to the mall. You could stroll around, sit by and watch youngsters of Darjeeling jam with guitar or let your child take a horse ride. Without a visit to the mall, your trip to Darjeeling would be considered incomplete.

  1. Mall road or Chowrasta in Darjeeling, bustling with life on a regular afternoon.

 

Darjeeling Ropeway 

The Rangeet Valley Passenger Cable Car, more famous by the name Darjeeling Ropeway offers a mixed platter for the good. A ride on the Darjeeling Ropeway will let you have a look at lush green tea gardens over the valleys of Darjeeling, mountain streams and forests down below and the snow clad mountain peaks serve as the backdrop to the ride.

 

Rock Garden and Ganga Maya Park 

If you’re someone who craves for a peaceful escape in between trips, these two parks in Darjeeling would be suitable for you to spend some quiet time in. A terraced garden over rocks at different levels and a beautiful fountain is possibly the place where you’d want to sit and fill up pages of your travel journal with memories of Darjeeling.

 

Darjeeling – For the Nature Lovers

 

Tiger Hill 

A drive of less than an hour, covering a distance of roughly 13 kms from Darjeeling, will take you to Tiger Hill, from where you can witness a surreal sunrise and panoramic views of Kanchendzonga situated at an altitude of 2950 metres. The world’s highest peak, Mt. Everest is also visible from Tiger Hill provided the sky is clear. If you’ve arrived in Darjeeling, Tiger Hill is the first place you should visit on the next morning.

  1. The view of Kanchendzonga from Tiger Hill is a mesmerizing sight to witness

 

Happy Valley Tea Garden 

Situated at one of the highest elevations in Darjeeling, Happy Valley Tea Garden is a beautiful stretch of tea garden in Darjeeling. This place offers an experience on a platter; from indulging in a magnificent view of the tea garden to watching tea being plucked and produced in the factory. Established in Darjeeling by the Britishers in 1854, most of the tea from this plantation is exported to London in the present day.

  1. The lush green tea gardens of Darjeeling, which produces the world famous Darjeeling Tea

 

Lebong Tea Garden 

Another beautiful tea garden in the lap of Darjeeling is Lebong Tea Garden, situated at Lebong Cart road. Offering beautiful views and shops selling tea leaves and souvenirs, this place lets you take back home, a part of itself in a packet.

 

Lamahatta 

The word Lamahatta literally means a monk’s hermitage. Developed as a place for eco tourism in 2012, this little hamlet surrounded by Dhupi and Pine trees, offers unparalleled views of the Himalayan ranges. The landscaped garden and forests with prayer flags fluttering all over, contains an indescribable energy. A short hike would lead you to the hilltop with a tiny lake, a perfect spot to relax and soak the calmness of the surroundings.

 

Experience Spirituality in Darjeeling 

 

Japanese Temple and Peace Pagoda 

Built in the year 1972, the Japanese Temple and Peace Pagoda is located on the slopes of Jalapahar Hill and takes only about 10 minutes by drive from Darjeeling town. Do not forget to enquire about the prayer timings beforehand when you visit the temple. You could walk in to the Peace Pagoda to have a look at the four avatars of Lord Buddha. Beautiful views of the majestic mountains is an added treat at this ethereal piece of architecture.

  • Japanese Peace Pagoda, one of the most visited spiritual places in Darjeeling

 

Ghoom Monastery 

Samten Choling Monastery, more conveniently known as the Ghoom Monastery is located on Hill Cart road, somewhere about 7kms away from the main town of Darjeeling. Visit the monastery at early hours to experience the Buddhist chants by the monks. You could browse through the collection of books and manuscripts that is well treasured in this monastery.

  • The insides of Ghoom Monastery, where a monk looks after the requirements in the prayer room

 

Mahakal Temple 

Located on top of Observatory Hill, Mahakal Temple is a very interesting place as one witnesses an amalgamation of beliefs within the same premises. This temple was originally a Buddhist monastery and on the present day both Hindu priests and Buddhist monks sit side by side to chant their respective prayers. You will earn an experience of a lifetime by visiting this temple. According to legends, the name Darjeeling was derived from the name of the previously existing monastery ‘Dorje-Ling.’ 

Mahakal Temple, where an amalgamation of Hinduism and Buddhism takes place

 

Shop till you drop in Darjeeling

At Darjeeling, you will surely be tempted to buy the trendy outfits the locals pull off so confidently. You could take a walk down the mall market or check the street shopping scene around the mall area to find out what fits your choice. There are plenty of shops for souvenirs, in case you’d want to exhibit parts of Darjeeling in your own living room back at home. A famous store located in Laden La Road in Darjeeling run by Hayden Hall, a NGO working for the underprivileged women, is a must-visit if you’re interested to buy handicrafts and woolen garments.

 

What to Eat in Darjeeling

A very important part on a trip is to relish on lip smacking food. Darjeeling is a place where you have the discretion to taste Nepalese delicacies like momo, thukpa, she-phaley or taipo at local eateries or relish on a fine-dine experience.

Sub sandwiches and tea at Glenary's, the best restaurant with vintage vibes

A quick stop at Keventers to savour on their breakfast platters is a must. Another famous eatery, probably the most sought-after in Darjeeling is Glenary’s, located right next to the mall area. Started during the British period, Glenary’s is a bakery and restaurant and in addition it now also has a new pub called The Buzz in the same building. This insta worthy restaurant has an old world charm in every corner.

Visit during the evenings to experience some amazing live music, the vibe and tunes of which will teleport you to the colonial era. Do not forget to indulge in a cup of aromatic Darjeeling tea, known across the globe for its one of a kind quality.

Some other restaurants and cafes in Darjeeling which are my personal favourite are: Joey’s Pub, Frank Ross Café and Boney’s.

The open seating area of Glenary's Darjeeling is one of the most beautiful places to sip your coffee at

 

Offbeat destinations around Darjeeling

Adding a couple of days to your Darjeeling trip is highly recommended so that you are not only left with the conventional experiences but get to witness the untainted natural beauty possessed with pride by the Himalayan ranges. Tinchuley, Lepchajagat, Takdah and Chatakpur are few places near Darjeeling where you could spend a day, to add a few extra pages to your Darjeeling diaries. You could also read about the offbeat Himalayan getaways to know more about these destinations.

A silhouette clicked at Mirik Lake

 

Tips and recommendations

For backpackers/solo travelers

The cheapest way to go around in Darjeeling is to travel by local taxis on a shared basis. Now seeing that you’re not a local, the taxi drivers might try to insist you to reserve the vehicle, but you’d need to hold firm. For visiting the different spots in Darjeeling, the only way to go about is to book a shared sightseeing package. You need not pre-book any of these but check and book in person after arrival. The only drawback is you cant choose the places you want to visit, but would have to stick to the pre-planned spots.

For the ones who’d want to hit the roads on a bike, Rider Next is a reliable option to rent a bike from.

 

For bigger groups

If you’re traveling in a group, least being four members, you can hire a cab from Darjeeling and plan with the driver which places you’re interested to visit. You can then compare the cost with a sightseeing package and figure out what you should pay him. This will also allow you to head to the offbeat destinations without a hassle.

 

5-Day Darjeeling Travel Itinerary 

Day 1: Arrive at Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri and drive to Darjeeling.

Day 2: Leave for Tiger Hill at dawn to witness the gorgeous sunrise. Have breakfast at Keventers/Glenary’s and head out for local sightseeing. Take a stroll at Mall Road in the evening.

Day 3: Leave for Takdah. Visit Lamahatta Eco park on the way. Spend the day in Takdah exploring the heritage bungalows, orchid centre, warerfalls and pine forests. Spend the night in Takdah.

Day 4: Post breakfast, move to Chatakpur. Explore the hamlet on foot; walk through Senchal wildlife sanctuary. Spend the evening by a bonfire listening to stories from the locals and stay over at the eco huts in Chatakpur.

Day 5: Wake up at dawn to watch sunrise from the Chatakpur View Point. Post breakfast, head to Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri. Your flight/train should be scheduled for later than 3pm.

Now that you have a detailed list of what awaits you at Darjeeling, mark your favorites and refer back back to them when you plan your trip.

Read about these stay-cations near Darjeeling if you wish to move in for a long stay and live within tranquil landscapes right below the Eastern Himalayas.

 

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One Reply to “Visit Darjeeling in West Bengal and Travel Back to the Colonial Era”

  1. Visited Darjeeling from Kolkata. Took the train. It took a long time as it went slowly through the hills. But it was totally worth it. Loved the Mall area as well. Thank you for bringing back my fond memories.

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