Darjeeling, situated on the lofty Himalayas, is a part of West Bengal. It was built by the British and is known as the ‘Queen of Hill Stations.’ It is particularly famous for its natural beauty. The mountain ranges, tea gardens and snow covered Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world, provide a unique opportunity to tourists who can relax amid nature here. The sight of red rhodendrons, swift flowing Teesta river and green tea estates are particularly breath taking.
How to Reach Darjeeling
Darjeeling is very well connected to Kolkata and the rest of India.
Air- Bagdogra, the nearest airport to Darjeeling is located about 95 kilometers away from the hill station. Daily flights from Kolkata, Delhi and Guwahati operate from here and it is possible for the tourists to hire a taxi or private vehicle from the airport to travel up to Darjeeling or Siliguri, the nearest city to Darjeeling.
Railways- The nearest rail station to Darjeeling is New Jalpaiguri Junction (NJP)which is easily reachable from all parts of India. Darjeeling Mail is the most well known train plying from Kolkata with the other options being Kanchenjunga Express, Kanchankanya Express, Kamrup Express, Guwahati-New Delhi Rajdhani Express etc.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway operates between the hill station and NJP. It is known as the toy train and has been declared as a World Heritage by the UNESCO.
Road- Shared jeeps and taxis are the most popular form of transport from NJP to Darjeeling. Passengers usually have to pay Rs 200-Rs 300 for a seat and shell out extra if they have too much of luggage. Air conditioned taxis are also available at the rate of Rs 1800-Rs 2000. Special luxury vehicles are available too on the basis of advanced reservation.
Bus- There are regular bus services available from NJP. However, they take more time due to the narrow, steep roads and break down often due to overloading.
Attractions & Activities in Darjeeling
Tiger Hill – A famous site for watching the sunrise which lights the snow clad peaks of Kanchenjunga with a golden hue.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute – Created by Tenzing Norgay, one of the first men to climb Mt. Everest, this institute offers a glimpse into the life of mountaineers by showcasing their achievements as well as the equipments used for climbing.
Zoo – The zoo has an excellent collection of Himalayan animals including the Red Panda. The authorities charge Rs 50 from Indians and Rs 150 from foreign tourists with an additional fee for clicking photographs. It remains closed on Thursdays.
Japanese Peace Pagoda – A group of 30 pagodas built by Buddhist monks from all over the world is a popular tourist destination.
Rock Garden – A place full of indigenous vegetation with many varieties of local flowers. The waterfall and landscaping makes it an ideal site for picnic.
Batasia Loop – A famous loop where the toy train takes a turning. The site is also home to the Gorkha Martyr memorial.
Srubbery Park – A beautiful park that offers live entertainment in the firm of cultural performances. Visiting hours are from 4 P.M.- 8 P.M. every day.
Accommodation in Darjeeling
There are numerous hotels, tourist lodges and cottages available at Darjeeling. West Bengal Forest Department also has a guest house in the city apart from the West Bengal Tourism Department’s accommodation. Mayfair Darjeeling and Windamere Hotel are two of the most expensive places to stay.
When to Visit Darjeeling
The summer months of April to June are considered to be the peak tourist season. However, many backpackers and travelers also visit it in winter for witnessing snowfall. Visiting Darjeeling during monsoon is risky and fraught with difficulties due to landslides and closure of tourist attractions.