. Darjeeling conjures visions of serenity, of vibrant green hills steeped in splendour. A land of breathtaking beauty, crowned by the majestic Himalayas - the abode of the Gods. This most magnificent hill station of India , has been rightly christened 'The Queen of Hills'.
The beauty and ideal location of this place first caught the eyes of the erstwhile East India Company. It became the 'Summer Capital' of West Bengal . A haven, away from the sweltering heat of Calcutta.
The British pioneered the Tea Plantations and the produce rightly earned the sobriquet 'The Champagne of Tea' as it is popularly known today, worldwide. Extensive tea plantations were established in the region, and tea growers developed distinctive hybrids of black tea and created new fermenting techniques. The resultant distinctive Darjeeling tea is internationally recognised and ranks among the most popular of the black teas.
Another unique feature was the launch of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) on 4th July 1881 , which went on to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, visited by tourists from across the world. It is known all over as The Toy Train. Breathtaking hills, winding roads, gushing waterfalls and lush green carpeted Tea Gardens are a feast for the eyes. Lesser known and virgin destinations are dotted all around the Kanchanjunga region, providing all diverse tourism related activities that one can dream of. Be it religion based (Buddhism), diverse cultural heritage, adventure and nature tours or pleasant pastimes like bird watching, trekking and white water rafting, the region offers it all.
. The Japanese Peace Pagoda was established by Nipponzan Myohoji, a Japanese Buddhist order and Nichidatsu Fujii (1885 to 1985), a Buddhist monk from Japan. The pagoda stands as the symbol of spirituality and peace. Situated on the slopes of the Jalapahar Hill the pagoda can be reached by foot or on taxi. The pagoda is the highest free structure in the town. It also showcases the four avatars of the Buddha glistening with gold polish and eight sandstone carvings depicting the different stages of Buddha's life adorn the walls of the Pagoda.
. Kanchenjunga Mountain is the third highest peak in the world, with an elevation of 8,586 metres. In the Kirat religion of Sikkim, the mountain is regarded very sacred and in the local Limbu language, it is also called Sewa Lungma.
The name Kanchenjunga means 'The Five Treasures of Snow' in the local language, which aptly matches it because of its collection of five peaks, out of which four of are over 8,450 meters high.
Mountain Kanchenjunga can be viewed from many points of Darjeeling and Gangtok. It is the charm of this place and the spectacular view of the mountain range is something that will be stored in your mind forever. Out of the many points in Darjeeling from where you can have a spectacular view of the peak, Tiger Hills is one of the best. The Batisia Garden (Gorkha War Memorial), also has a grand backdrop of glorious white peaks of the Kanchenjunga, floating in the deep blue skies. On a toy train ride around town, the breathtaking sight of Kanchenjunga will cast a spell on you. Though it looks serene and calm, Kanchunjunga is known for constant avalanches and thunderstorms. However, there are numerous camping and hiking tours available.
. Built in 1875 by Lama Sherab Gyatso, this ancient monastery is said to have been blessed by the renowned Tomo Geshe Rimpoche of Tibet. This place is also known as Yogachoeling Gompa, which is located in a place called Ghoom in Darjeeling.
The specialty of this monastery is that it contains the statue of a huge giant size image of seated, the 'Future Coming Buddha' known as Maitreye Buddha.There are bells, ornate thanka scrolls and drums inside the monastery. The Monastery has also preserved some of the rare handwritten Buddhist manuscripts. Located at a distance of about 8 km south from the main town of Darjeeling, this gompa has become a destination for people seeking peace and serenity. The gompa is located nearby Ghoom station. One can also reach the gompa from Hill Cart Road as it is situated just below the road.
Bhutia Busty Monastery
. Bhutia Busty Monastery is one of the popular religious shrines of Buddhism in Darjeeling. Alike others, this monastery also is home to many monks and religious scriptures. Bhutia Busty Monastery was shifted from its origins place at Observatory Hill, after a devastating destroyed it earthquake in 1934. From the Chowrasta, the monastery is about a distance of 1.5 km. Some people have also said that the Nepal army destroyed this monastery during the19th century. Lama DorjiLingpa built the original monastery at Observatory Hill.
The name Darjeeling was derived from the name of this Lama. With the benevolence of the Chogyal of Sikkim, Bhutia Busty Monastery was rebuilt in the present location. Bhutia Busty Monastery get some grant from the Ecclesiastical Department of Government of Sikkim for maintenance, rest is taken care by the Darjeeling municipality.
The monastery has a huge library, which has collections of many Tibetan and Buddhist books. One can have a glimpse of the Tibetan life and culture from these books. Travellers can also have a look at the original copy of the 'The Tibetan Book of the Dead' at the library.
. Druk Thupten Sangag Choling Monastery which is popularly known as Dali Monastery is situated at Dali, about 4 kms away from Darjeeling town. This is one of the most famous monasteries belonging to the Kargyupa sect. The pioneer of this monastery was Thuksay Rimpoche, who died in 1983 and his incarnate is reported to have been born in 1986 at Ladakh. This monastery is the headquarters of Drukchen Rimpoche XII, the supreme head of the Kargyupa lineage.
The monastery is known for preserving the age old culture and tradition of the Tibetan monks. It is home to around 210 monks who came down from the Himalayan region to make Darjeeling their home. In the year 1993, Dalai Lama had paid a three day visit to the Dali Monastery to spread the words and teachings of Buddha and the Tibetan culture. The walls are painted with bright colors depicting the story of life and journey of Lord Buddha. There is also a small library in the monastery, the shelves of which are filled with books on Buddhism and philosophical acts of life. Every morning religious prayers take place in the main hall of the monastery.
. Situated at an altitude of 2590 meters (8482 ft.) and 13 kilometers from the town, this spot has earned international fame for the magnificent view of the sunrise over the Kanchanjunga and the great eastern Himalayan Mountains. Even Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, is visible from here. The hesitant rays of the early morning sunrise changes the colour of these peaks in pale gold.
. Observatory Hill popularly known as Makal-Babu-Ko-Thaan, is one of the oldest sites in the Darjeeling. The place has a rich historical backdrop. As per a legend, there is a myth that Lord Indra's scepter (Dorje), representative of his thunderbolt, had fallen at this place (ling). Therefore, the city got its name from two words 'Dorje' and 'ling'. The hill is quite popular amongst tourists due to its Hindu and Buddhist temples.
Observatory Hill is a hill near Chowrasta square, or The Mall as it is popularly known, in Darjeeling. Magnificent views of snow-clad peaks, including Mount Kanchenjunga are visible from Observatory Hill. The Bhutia Busty monastery was originally located here. Now the hill has the temple of Mahakala. Two important arteries of the town, Nehru Road and Bhanubhakta Sarani, meet at Chowrasta. The Bhutiya Busty, the oldest monastery in Darjeeling, was first located on Observatory Hill.
. Deolo Hill is one of the two hills that the town of Kalimpong stands between. Kalimpong is situated on a ridge connecting the hills of Durpin and Deolo. The hill is 1,704 metres (5,590 feet) above msl and is the highest point of Kalimpong town. The hill is located north east of the town. Three water reservoirs, two of which serve as the primary drinking water source to the town are present atop this hill. The town of Kalimpong, the surrounding villages of Relli valley, Teesta River and its valleys all can be viewed from this point.
The snow-clad mountains of West Sikkim are also visible on a clear day from this hill. At the summit of this hill, a park built for recreation purposes which feature exotic flowers. The park is a popular picnic spot for locals as well as tourists. Near the park a Hindu temple is also a visited spot.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
. The mighty Himalayas are every mountaineer's ultimate dream. If you have the courage, the stamina and you want to try something different, you must check out the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute at Darjeeling. It is one of the oldest mountaineering institutes of the country and has played a vital role in training mountaineers across the country.
After local legend Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary conquered the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest, on 28 May 1953, The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute was set up. It is the oldest mountaineering institute in the country and it conducts a multitude of mountaineering courses every year. Apart from Tenzing Norgay, other legendary mountaineers like Nawang Gombu, who was the first man to climb Everest twice, and Lattoo Dorjee Sherpa have helped build the reputation of this pioneering institute. The institute is presently under the purview of the Ministry of Defence, Government of India and its museum is worth a visit.
The Institute has a good collection of historically significant photographs including some great mountaineering films, which are a treat to watch. The mountaineering museum is the primary attraction to visitors here. The adventurous will love the international standard outdoor artificial climbing wall that has a pavilion for spectators.
Bengal Natural History Museum
. Bengal Natural History Museum was set up in 1903. The Bengal Natural History Museum houses a wide collection of Himalayan flora and fauna. There is a collection of almost 4300 types of species in the museum. The museum has taxonomic displays of a wide range of birds, reptiles, animals, insects.A rare species of crocodile known as estuarine crocodile is also found in the museum. It is undoubtedly a marvel to watch at. Apart from animals and birds, the Bengal Natural History Museum is a storehouse of many colourful stones, which are in their mineral form. The Bengal Natural History Museum, Darjeeling, provides the keen visitors with precious knowledge on the natural world and resources, significant enough to generate the commoner`s awareness about his natural environs.
. Everest Museum and Mountaineering Museum are entered through the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute Zoo. The Everest museum is situated next door. This museum traces the history of attempts to climb the Everest. Sherpa Denzing Norbay, who conquered Mount Everest along with Edmund Hillary, was the director of the institute. At the Lebong Cart Road on Jawahar Parbat, just 2 km northeast of the Darjeeling Chowrasta, the Everest Museum settles paying tribute to the history of attempts made to scale and summit the mighty Mount Everest.
The museum showcases intriguing mementos and photos of all those who have been ambitious enough to climb of the Mount Everest. There is an interesting display of the several mountaineers of India and their mountaineering gear, such as the climbing tools and equipment, technical clothing, head gear, camping gear and so on. If you are curious enough to want to know about the mountaineering equipment used by great mountaineers, who dared to conquer the mighty Everest, this is the closest you will get.
. The War Memorial stands as a reminiscence of the Gurkha martyrs of Darjeeling. It was constructed in memory of brave soldiers who laid down their lives for the country in various wars before independence in 1947. In 1976, Manish Gupta, the then Deputy Commissioner of Darjeeling, took the initiative to construct a War Memorial, to pay homage to the 76 brave sons of Darjeeling who gave the supreme sacrifice of their life, for the cause of their nation.
After Gupta's initiative, a committee was formed and Batasia was selected as the site of the War Memorial. On 22nd March 1995, the War Memorial of West Bengal was inaugurated and opened for public. The memorial comprises of a holy elevated oval platform, 37' x 24', with a 9-feet high bronze statue and a 30 feet high triangular cenotaph, made of granite. The Roll of Honor has been engraved on an octagonal stand, of about 3 feet.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
. Established in 1958, this zoo is dedicated to the memory of Padmaja Naidu, the former governor of West Bengal.The zoo is an average elevation of 7,000 feet (2,134 m), is the largest high altitude zoo in India which is spread over an area of 44 hectares. It is adjacent to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute which is having the glorious background of the majestic Kanchenjunga.
Among one of the best zoos in the country, this is one of the only zoo which raises wild wolf in captivity. The high altitude wild life park is also home to the Siberian Tiger, Himalayan Black Bear, gorals (mountain goat), deer, panther, llama and a variety of endangered birds. If you are an animal lover who has always fancied adopting a fluffy panda or a Himalayan cat, this is your chance. The Zoo has embarked upon a mission to involve the community in animal welfare. The zoo attracts about 300,000 visitors every year.
Snow Leopard Breeding Center
. The Snow Leopard Breeding Center is devoted to the snow leopard breeding program. Snow leopards are one of the endangered species. Efforts are on worldwide to make endangered species breed under captivity, and Snow Leopard Breeding Center is one such effort. Snow leopards are not known to breed under captivity; however, made it possible. These snow leopards are kept in large enclosures, and visitors are allowed to watch them. Complete silence is a must while inside the Center.
Mahananda Wild Life Sanctuary
. Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary is located at a distance of 18 km from Silguri in Darjeeling between the rivers Mahananda and Teesta. This vast expanse of forest and grass lands is the home for Bengal tigers, elephants, Indian bisons, languor, mountain goats, barking deer, Himalayan black bear, chital, gaurs and leopards among others.The winged species include rosy minivets, pea fowls, Kaleen pheasants, hill partridges, king vultures, swallows, swifts and ibis bills. During winter many migratory birds can also be seen.
The West Bengal government forest department arranges jeep and elephant safaris from Sukna gate. The four watchtowers inside the sanctuary help visitors to watch the wild life at close quarters. If you are an adventure seeker, there are some mild to medium trekking tracks inside the sanctuary for you to explore. Nature lovers, photographers, ornithologists and tourists will also find a visit to Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary highly interesting.
Sanctuary remains closed from July to September and the best time for a visit is from October to December.
Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre
. The Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre was set up to give refuge to the Tibetans who came to India during the Tibet China war. This center was established on October 2nd, 1959 for rehabilitation of Tibetans who followed Dalai Lama and escaped their homeland during the period of mayhem. In order to sustain living, they adopted the principle of self help. The center is located on a hill top that can be approached from the Lebong Cart Road. You can see Tibetan men and women making exquisite hand crafted items like woolen carpets, shawls, carved wooden crafts, leather items and more. There is an outlet at the center from where you can buy these items.
There is also a carpet weaving centre here, where tourists can witness the art of carpet making. Besides being a shopping zone, there is also a monastery inside the refugee centre where people worship through chants and prayers every morning and evening.
Happy Valley Tea Gardens
. Happy Valley Tea Estate is located at the end of the T. P. Banerjee Road, in the vicinity of the Darjeeling town, about 15 minutes walking distance, which is between 2 to 3 kilometers from the town. It is one of the major tourist attractions for its beautiful carpeted greenery which may sweep scenery lovers off their feet as they may get a bird's eye view from the Hill Cart road. The tea estate is located at an altitude of more than 2000meters and covers planted area of approximately 100 hectares and is one of the highest tea plantations located in the world.
Happy Valley Tea Garden was established by Mr. David Wilson in the year 1854, which was then known as Wilson Tea Estate. This Darjeeling tea garden got its present name in the year 1929, when Mr.Tarapada Banerjee, from Hoogly, bought it and then merged the nearby tea estate named Windsor Tea Estate, which happened sometime in the year 1903. Hence the bushes of this tea estate dates between 80 years to as old as 150 years.
The Happy Valley tea garden is certified by United Nations FAO project as a model estate and are certified as organic by USDA, JAS, IMO, and HACCP. It also has a museum and has a factory which is the highest in the world Being a tourist spot, the management of factory has made provisions of permitting visitors, into their premises. Visitors may get a chance to look into the manufacturing processes involved at the tea estate.
Badamtan Tea Estate
. Badamtan Tea Estate was originally owned by the more than 150-years-old Lebong Tea Company. The tea estate was one of the tea company owned and managed by the British. It is located across the Rangit River. A walk to this tea estate will take a refreshing half a day.
Badamtan Tea Estate is also a place en route in a hiking from Darjeeling and Glenburn. You can purchase first flush tea, which fills the estate with sweet flavor and fine aroma. One should not miss the Buddha of Badamtan, a 14-foot-high statue of Lord Buddha. Unlike the usual closed-eye position, this statue has Buddha's eyes wide open as if looking up to gods above, having attained enlightenment.
Makaibari Tea Estate
. This estate spreads out over more than 1,600 acres, two-thirds of it dense woodlands and the rest tea. This is also the only tea estate in the entire district that has been run by the same family since its inception in 1859 and is currently under the stewardship of Rajah Banerjee, the great-grandson of the founder, who welcomes visitors to the estate. Call in advance for a tour. To spend the night, stay in a homestay with a tea-worker's family. In season, you can spend a day in the gardens plucking two leaves and a bud. Or go for a hike, the best way to get a sense of the glorious terrain that is Makaibari.
The Mall and Chowrasta
. The Mall road originates and culminates at Chowrasta, which is essentially the heart of the city and people usually come here to take strolls, relax, shop and eat at the numerous shops and restaurants that line the road. Surrounded by roadside food stalls, curio shops, book stores and countless vendors selling artefacts, woollens and various collectibles along the street, Chowrasta is a paradise for shopaholics. The views from Chowrasta are splendid and this is one of Darjeeling's most popular places.
The street along which all these shops are lined up is more popularly known as the Mall. Besides shopping one can also go for a pony ride here. The temple of Mahakal is located on the hill top right at the centre of the Mall and Chowrasta. This region gives a feel of the Victorian era in Darjeeling. There are benches all along the Chowrasta for people to sit and enjoy the views over a cup of Darjeeling tea. There is also a small open space auditorium here, where local rock bands often host performances.
. Senchal Lake is located at an altitude of 8515 feet above the sea level. This lake serves as the water reservoir for the supply of water for Darjeeling. It is approximately 11 km from the town and is close to Tiger Hills. It is especially appreciated for its scenic splendor a picnic spot, which is very popular among the tourists, both Indian and others. The area has a 9-hole golf course with a clubhouse.
Lloyd Botanical Garden
. Lloyd Botanical Gardens is also known as Darjeeling Botanical Garden. This garden was planned and established in 1878 when 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land were acquired at Darjeeling to form a botanic garden as a distant annexe of the Calcutta Botanical Garden. The person behind this huge garden is Mr William Lloyd, after whom the botanical garden is named.
Located at an altitude of almost 1800 meters, the Lloyd Botanical Gardens houses many rare species of flora. The collection of flora gives a clear picture of the vegetation that is dominant in the Himalayan region, especially Sikkim and other neighbouring places.
Lloyd Botanical Gardens is known for its collection of orchids (in the Orchid House) and different herbs. There is a separate conservatory for cactus and some succulent species of plants as well as about 150 floral species.
Darjeeling Toy Train
. The Darjeeling Toy Train made its first journey in September 1881. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has acquired UNESCO's endorsement as a World Heritage icon in 1999. The journey starts from Siliguri and at Chunamandi the train comes to its z-crossing, starting the zig-zagging or reversing in order to attain higher elevation. Sensation corners, which are nothing but loops, are excellent viewing points. A journey in the toy train crisscrosses the motor road and passes through bazaars, leaving a long-lasting memory to the visitor. The journey takes approximately eight hours to Darjeeling from New Jalpaiguri.
. An ancient Kali temple dedicated to Goddess Kali is located on the banks of the river. The architectural marvel and being the only Kali temple in the vicinity attracts hundreds of locals and tourists each year. During Dussehra, the temple is decorated and the whole 9 days are celebrated with pomp and show.
. Darjeeling has several holy places and temples among them Japanese Temple is one of the beautiful Buddhist temple among them. Its also known as Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple in Darjeeling,the temple is located near the peace pagoda.
Japanese Temple of Darjeeling was built in the year1972, the temple stand on the philosophy of peace and spirituality. Inspired much by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Fuji Guru felt the need to lay the foundation of these stupas here. The main aim of it was to preach peace after the world witnessed the bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The best part of the Temple is the time when prayers are chanted.The humming prayers gives the touch of heavenly feel.Its nearly about 2 km from the proper market.
. In 1782, three siva-lingas representing Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar are said to have manifested themselves here. From then on, the Mahakala temple dedicated to Lord Shiva came into being and is today greatly venerated as devotees from all sections of the community go up for worship.
It is one of the most respected places in Darjeeling as many locals come here to worship Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar. This place has a unique element, as one will notice a Hindu priest chanting while a Buddhist monk simultaneously reads Buddhist Holy Scriptures. The holy place is quite famous with both Buddhist and Hindu devotees. The tranquil atmosphere here provides a very spiritual experience.