Darjeeling, the Queen of Hills, is a world famous tourist destination in the state of West Bengal, India. Nestled among the lower Himalayas, it is known for its raw and captivating natural beauty and excellent quality of tea it produces; Darjeeling tea is aptly titled as the ‘champagne of tea’ for its exquisite flavor and taste. It is also famous for the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is lovingly called the ‘Toy-Train’ – a favorite among tourists.
Darjeeling is the headquarters of the district consisting of five sub-divisions: Darjeeling town, Siliguri, Kurseong, Kalimpong and Islampur. Darjeeling in the past was under the rule of the erstwhile kingdom of Sikkim, which was leased to the British East India Company and was converted into a beautiful hill station and became a favorite among holiday makers. Darjeeling is a name of Tibetan origin, which means the “Land of the Thunderbolt”.
The hill town of Darjeeling is situated at an altitude of 7,000 ft and enjoys a temperate climate with a maximum of 25 degrees in summer and 5 degrees in winter; however, in severe climates the temperature can go down the zero mark.
Apart from scenic locales and alpine landscape covered with poplar, pine, birch and oak trees; beautified with rhododendrons and rare orchids; and exciting trekking trails among the Singalila Ridges, Darjeeling provides spell binding views of Mt. Kanchenjunga and Mt. Everest. Darjeeling is an exciting mix of the ancient and modern; west and the east. While the western influence can be seen its British architecture, rock music and western attires; the influence of its roots can be witnessed in the numerous rituals, traditions and food of the people.
Darjeeling is located at a distance of 80 km from Siliguri by road; nearest railway station is located at NJP at 85 km; nearest airport is Bagdogra which is located 90 km from Darjeeling town.
Lloyd Botanical Garden – The Lloyd Botanical Garden is named after William Lloyd, an old resident of Darjeeling who donated his land for the construction of the garden in 1877. It consists of many exotic species of plants and flowers from the Eastern Himalayas including an orchiderium. Interesting items are the specimen of the Living Fossil Tree from China; a pre-historical specimen of Ginko Biloba, rare magnolias and many others.
The Mall (Chowrasta) - Darjeeling’s Mall, locally know as ‘Chowrasta’ – meaning a confluence of four roads – is located figuratively in the heart of the town and is literally, the heart of the town. The place, lined with curio shops, restaurants, fast-food joints and park benches to relax, photographers and ponywallas is a favorite haunt for tourists and locals alike. On a clear day, it provides magnificent view of Mt. Kanchenjunga looming on the horizon.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) - The HMI is the oldest and premier mountaineering institute in India. It was established in 1954, soon after the conquest of the Mt. Everest by Sir Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary. The HMI with more than 50 years of service and training to mountaineers is respected all over the world. The institute contains a museum for visitors which still preserve mountain gears, equipments, photographs and films of death-defying mountain expeditions across the mighty Himalayas.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park - The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park owns the distinction of being the only zoo in the world to breed the Tibetan Wolf in captivity; the first South Asian Zoo to breed the Snow Leopard and the Siberian Tiger; and the first to breed the endangered Red Panda. It also boast of inmates like the Siberian Tiger brought from Switzerland; the Himalayan Black Bear, Red Panda, Snow Leopard, Clouded Leopard and avian species like blood pheasants, satyr tragopan and monals. The zoological park is located 2 km from the town.
Rock Garden - The Rock Garden, a garden carved out on rock and studded with numerous species of flowers creating a magical carpet of colors, is located 12 km from Darjeeling town. A steep winding road leads to the garden through a narrow road with a view of the surrounding hills. Tourists can also pay a visit to the Ganga Maya Park nearby Rock Garden; it consists of a beautiful lake where boating facilities are available.
Batasia loop - The Batasia loop near Ghoom, is a winding railway track atop a small hill which the ‘Toy-train’ encounters en-route to and from Darjeeling town. It provides a mesmerizing view of the Kanchenjunga; tourists can stand within a beautiful garden which consists of a war memorial atop the hill and take in the pleasures of the magnificent view.
Tenzing and Gombu Rock - Tenzing and Gombu rock are two natural rock structures which has been named after Tenzing Norgay and Ngawang Gombu. It is a few kilometers away from Darjeeling town and is ideal for beginners to get a feel of rock climbing; it was the rock where Tenzing Sherpa had given a small demonstration of rock climbing to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru when he visited Darjeeling.
Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre - The self-help centre was established for the rehabilitation of Tibetan Refugees following the invasion of the Chinese government in Tibet; the ideology behind the centre was that self-help or self reliance was the best form of rehabilitation and empowerment. The centre was started on October 1, 1959 and today it consists of more than 800 Tibetan refugees who earn their livelihood my making handicrafts and other traditional items.