Darjeeling : "The place of the Thunderbolt" is popular hill-resort in Eastern India. Also known as "The Queen of the Hills", Darjeeling lies 686 km north of Calcutta. Perched at a height of 2,134 meters with a panoramic view of the
mighty Himalayan peaks of the Mt. Khangchendzongna Cluster. It has attracted many generations of visitors to enjoy the joys of the cool and healthy climes of the mountains. Darjeeling was the very first "hill sanitarium" developed by the
British to escape from the hot Indian summers of Gangetic Bengal.
Toy Train : By the late 1800s, Darjeeling had gained in importance as a hill station but the only means of transportation of goods to and from the town was by bullock carts using the Hill Cart Road beginning in the plains at Siliguri and ending
at the Lebong Race Course. An agent of the East Bengal Railway, Franklyn Prestage, came up with the plan for a narrow gauge rail link between Siliguri and Darjeeling. Construction started in 1879 and the first train pulled by the 'gutsy' little steam-engine and three coaches puffed into Darjeeling on 4th July, 1881. Nicknamed 'Toy Trains' they have been making daily journeys for over a century. Not quite the fastest means of reaching Darjeeling from the plains - the journey takes around 8 hours - the trip is more of an experience.
Toy Train : By the late 1800s, Darjeeling had gained in importance as a hill station but the only means of transportation of goods to and from the town was by bullock carts using the Hill Cart Road beginning in the plains at Siliguri and ending at the Lebong Race Course. An agent of the East Bengal Railway, Franklyn Prestage, came up with the plan for a narrow gauge rail link between Siliguri and Darjeeling. Construction started in 1879 and the first train pulled by the 'gutsy' little steam-engine and three coaches puffed into Darjeeling on 4th July, 1881. Nicknamed 'Toy Trains' they have been making daily journeys for over a century. Not quite the fastest means of reaching Darjeeling from the plains - the journey takes around 8 hours - the trip is more of an experience.
Places of interest
OBSERVATORY HILL : Offers a fine view of the twin peaks of Mt. Khangchendzongna. There is a Mahakaal Temple of Lord Shiva and a Buddhist Shrine here at the place from which the town derives its name " Dorje - Ling" or the place of the thunderbolt.
CHOWRASTA : below Observatory Hill, may be termed as the 'heart' of Darjeeling - a place where people meet and sit to watch the world go by.
TIGER HILL : is the place which is the 'first pilgrimage' on the itinerary of almost all who come to Darjeeling. The 11 km journey to Tiger Hill starts in the dark hours of the early morning. On reaching, one waits for the unforgettable experience of catching the black night turning lighter, get suffused with a dull red turning into brilliant orange and then bright gold as the sun rises over the Khangchendzongna Range. You can see the tips of Mt. Everest and Mt. Makalu on clear days.
BATASIA LOOP: 5 km from Darjeeling, affords the fascinating sight of the Toy Train chugging around the loop with the Mountains in the backdrop. A memorial has been constructed here with well kept lawns and gardens.
YIGA-CHOILING MONASTERY: 8 km from Darjeeling and just below Ghoom is a monastery of the Gelukpa Sect and enshrines a 15 ft. statue of the Maitrey Buddha.
JAPANESE TEMPLE : A Buddhist Temple was opened in 1972 and a Peace Pagoda was completed and opened on 1st November, 1992. A place of great interest.
DHIRDHAM TEMPLE : Just below the railway station, is built on the style of the famous Pashupathinath Temple in Kathmandu.
RANGIT VALLEY ROPEWAY : India's first passenger rope way at North Point, 3 km from town. The 30 minute joyride down the mountainside by the cable car is quite an experience. It has been extensively repaired and upgraded recently.
LEBONG RACE COURSE : 8 km from town, is the smallest, and amongst the highest race courses in the world. Although there is no horse racing any more, it is a nice place for a walk.
LAL KOTHI : After renovation and landscaping, this impressive building has been turned into the Council House of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. It has an excellent view of the mountains and the town.
DARJEELING GYMKHANA CLUB : Has indoor games and other facilities. Visitors may become temporary members.
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM : A few minutes walk from Chowrasta, has a collection of preserved butterflies, moths, reptiles and birds from all over with a focus on the Himalayas.
HIMALAYAN MOUNTAINEERING INSTITUTE : Located on Jawahar Parbat, about 2 km from Chowrasta, this institute was established in 1954 to commemorate the ascent of Mt. Everest in 1953 by Darjeeling's 'son' Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary. The Everest Museum here displays memorabilia of the 1953 Everest Expedition.
STEP ASIDE : A few minutes walk from Chowrasta, is the house where the great Indian Patriot, Deshbandhu C.R. Das, passed away in 1925.
LLOYDS BOTANICAL GARDEN : Just below the Market Motor Stand, has chestnut, birch, ash, maple and magnolia trees, plus a representative collection of Himalayan plants and flowers spread in its 40 acre garden.
PADMAJA NAIDU HIMALAYAN ZOOLOGICAL PARK : Near the HMI, is a home for the endangered snow leopard, yaks, Himalayan black bears, pandas, Siberian tigers, deer and other animals and birds. It is also a very successful breeding center for snow leopards and red pandas.
Famous Tea Gardens
Tea - drinkers the world over must constantly bless the memory of the person who decided around 1840 that the climate of the Darjeeling region was very conducive to the growth of tea. Huge forest areas were cleared and tea was planted. Chinese experts were called in to teach the art of tea making and thousands of Nepalese were hired to work in the tea gardens. Darjeeling Tea has such a premium value in the Western markets that it considered to be one of the finest teas in the world especially when it came to aroma and delicacy of taste. Soon named the "Champagne of the East", not only has tea formed the backbone of the economy in the region, but 'Darjeeling' and 'excellent tea' have become synonymous. Out of over seventy tea gardens in the area, Happy Valley Tea Estate is the nearest to Darjeeling town and a view of its gardens is included in most of the sightseeing tours. Makaibari and Castleton Tea Estates are near Kurseong. The produce of Castleton has been getting the highest price in the world for the last few years with prices of over Rs.8000 per kg. The famous Lopchu Tea Estate lies between Darjeeling and Teesta. Not only buying and drinking tea is a must for visitors, it is also strongly advised that they take special 'Tea Garden Tours' covering exotically named gardens such as Marybong, Chongtong, etc.
By Air : Bagdogra, the nearest airport, is 90 km away. There are direct flights to Bagdogra from Delhi & Calcutta. Taxis are available for Darjeeling at the airport with the trip taking around 3 hours.
By Rail : Darjeeling is served by the 'Toy Train.' Siliguri (77 km) and New Jalpaiguri (88 km) are the nearest main railway stations with direct connections to Calcutta, Delhi, Guwahati and other places in India.
By Road : Darjeeling's main connection with the rest of India is the road-link to Siliguri. The road is very good, passing through very picturesque tea gardens, forests and hamlets. With flowers lending added charm. Taxis and Buses are available at the Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminus, Siliguri with frequent bus services by the North Bengal State Transport Corporation and private operators. Share taxis also ply between Siliguri and Darjeeling. From Darjeeling W.B.S. T. C., D.G. H. C. Transport and private operators offer bus services to Gangtok, Kalimpong, Kurseong, Mirik, Siliguri/New Jalpaiguri. Jeeps/Land Rovers on share basis ply between Darjeeling and other hill destinations.
Local Transport : If one does not wish to walk, ponies are available from Chowrasta. Taxies are available for local running/outstation trip on negotiable rates. Fix the fare before undertaking the journey. The market Taxi Stand is the main venue for taxis. Porters are available for carrying baggage at fixed rates. If seats are available, long distance buses also accommodate passengers for local destinations. The train provides an interesting trip to Ghoom.
Population : 83,000