Darjeeling fondly called "Queen of the Hills", provides a perfect gateway for those seeking a rendezvous with Mother Nature. This is the land of the muscatel flavored Darjeeling tea revered by connoisseurs across the globe. This is the land of the UNESCO world heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, popularly – known as ‘Toy Train’, where the century old miniature steam engine still chugs uphill. It is certain that Darjeeling comprises of six T’s -Tea, Teak, Tourism, Toy Train, Tiger Hill and Trekkers’ paradise. Weary souls looking to rejuvenate the mind and body can plan a short trip of two to three days in Darjeeling, spending time scuttling between tea gardens, enjoying a one hour joy ride in the famed Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and taking those leisurely walks around the Mall. Tiger Hill, Batasia Loop, Ghoom Monastery, Zoological Garden, Japanese Peace Pagoda, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute & Museums, Tea Garden, Ropeway etc. are a few places of interest in Darjeeling.
Situated at an altitude of 2590 metres (8482 ft.) and 13 kms from the town, Tiger Hill has earned international fame for the magnificent and stunning dawn views of Mt. Khangchendzonga. The exotic views that the Tiger Hill boasts of, are cited as a rare sight as one has to be up and awake by 4:00am to be able to watch the Sunrise and see how the rays create a mesmerising effect on the snow covered peaks of Khangchendzonga and the great Eastern Himalayan Mountains. As the first rays of the sun hit the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Khangchendzonga , one can see the white colour of the snow changing to red and then orange. As the sun comes up, the colour again changes from pale orange to golden and finally returning to its original white colour. The play of light on these beautiful snow-covered peaks leaves the visitors enthralled.
Ghoom Monastery, also known as the Yiga Choeling Monastery is one of the oldest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Darjeeling area built in the year 1850. The Monastery belongs to the Yellow Hat sect also known as the Gelupka. One of the key attractions inside the monastery is the 15-foot high statue of the Lord Buddha which is known as The Maitreya Buddha or the Gyalwa Shampa which means the Buddha of the future or the Coming Buddha. The monastery houses Tibetan spiritual artefacts such as prayer wheels, bells, thangkas, scrolls, drums and some old Buddhist manuscripts. The multi-coloured Prayer-flags that are strung around the Gompa bless the surroundings with peace, prosperity and good health and come in sets of five comprising 5 colours - blue, white, red, green and yellow in each set. The colours represent the five elements - the sky, wind, fire, water, and earth.
The Batasia Loop is a spiral railway loop created to lower the gradient of ascent of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in Darjeeling district of West Bengal, India. About 5 kms from Darjeeling, this Railway Loop is a marvellous feat of engineering. Here the Toy Train makes a 360 Degree turn. Batasia means airy space. the As you stand on one side of the garden and see the toy train making a complete loop while hooting its whistle along the way and trying to negotiate the spiral track with a double loop, it's a fabulous experience. It is fascinating to watch the train wind its way around the loop. The place also has an Eco Garden providing information on organic farming and plantation in Darjeeling. A War Memorial situated at the centre of the Batasia Loop is dedicated to those Gorkha soldiers who sacrificed their lives in several wars after Indian Independence in 1947.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) is a destination that is said to be a pilgrimage for all climbing enthusiasts of the world. It is located on Jawahar Road or the Birch Hill that can be accessed from the Mall Road and Lebong Cart Road. It was established in honour of Tenzing Norgay after he along with Edmund Hillary climbed the Mt. Everest in 1953. The foundation stone of HMI was laid by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru on 4th November 1954 and the legendary Tenzing Norgay Sherpa was its first Director of Field Training. Tenzing Norgay’s grave is located on the hill’s summit. The Institute comprises of a museum on mountain lore, a well-equipped school for mountaineers, a hostel for students and Swiss-style houses for the Sherpa trainers. A separate Everest Museum tells the story of various expeditions to the world’s highest peak in a chronological order.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park is the only specialized Zoo in the country and is internationally recognized for its conservation & breeding programmes of Red Panda, Snow Leopards, Tibetan Wolf and other highly endangered animal species of Eastern Himalayas. In India, this is the largest high altitude zoo. It spans across 67.5 acres of area at an altitude of 7,000ft (2133m). Here you can see vulnerable and endangered animals like the Tibetan Wolf, Red Panda, Snow Leopard, Siberian Tigers, Black Bears, Yaks and a lot more, all in their natural habitats. Here you can see different kinds of birds inside including Rose Ring Parakeets, Hill Mynas, Ring Necked Pheasants, Blue Gold Macaw and many others. There are also some Reptiles and Amphibians in the zoo. The entry in the zoo is by tickets which are also valid for the Natural History Museum and the Mountaineering Institute & Museum.
The Japanese Peace Pagoda as the name signifies is an abode of peace & tranquillity, broken only by the sound of the drums. It is one of those Peace Pagodas (Buddhist stupas) in the world that have been established with the aim of creating a special niche for enlightening people from all religions, creeds and origins, to come together and work for world peace. The Peace Pagoda is the tallest free standing structure in Darjeeling. Its height is 28.5 meters and diameter is 23 meters. It was designed by Dr. M. Ohka of Japan and took three years to construct. According to the Lotus Sutra, the very appearance of the Peace Pagoda is an embodiment of Lord Buddha that radiates peace and non-violence. It purifies the land as well as the mind and soul of the people.
Darjeeling tea has a distinctive natural flavour and is internationally reputed and recognised as a geographical indicator. There are 87 tea estates in the Darjeeling hills. One of these is Chitrey Tea Garden that is near Tibetan Refugee Centre and Tenzing Rock Climbing Centre. The place has a distinctive aroma of tea leaves and one of the best views of Khangchendzonga. The added attraction for tourists are the bamboo shacks of locals there selling Darjeeling tea and local cuisine.
Rock climbing is an activity in which you will climb up or across natural rock formations with the goal of reaching the summit of a formation or the endpoint of a pre-defined route. Two rocks are used for climbing in Darjeeling, namely, Tenzing Rock, a gigantic natural rock named after Tenzing Norgay who created history by climbing the Everest first time with Edmund Hillary in 1953 and Gombu Rock named after Nawang Gombu, nephew of Tenzing who climbed the Everest twice, in 1963 and in 65.
Himalayan Tibet Museum is located on Gandhi road. As the name suggests, the museum is mainly about the Tibetan community although it has several exhibits and artifacts of other communities along the Himalayan belt as well. The museum is full of priceless exhibits & artifacts like replica of Potala Palace & seats of Dalai Lama. One of the most striking displays is a large 3-dimensional structure on the floor depicting the Himalayas and the plateau.
The Rock Garden also known as the Barbotey Rock Garden is about 10 kms from Darjeeling town in a valley down below. With sharp bends all the way, there are scenic views at many points. Tea Gardens enhance the beauty of hill slopes. The garden offers a beautiful view of a hill stream cascading over rocks along the slope, done up with flower gardens and sitting spaces at different levels. There is also a small lake. With tourists pouring in large numbers, tea shops and snack kiosks have come up.
Ganga Maya Park is about 3 kms down the Rock Garden. Named after an innocent victim of police firing during the GNLF agitation, it meanders down the course of a chortling mountain stream, past gazebos, clumps of flowering shrubs and trees, over humped backed bridges under which koi-carp coruscate and into a circular lake with paddle boats and a waterfall. It has a small lake where boating facilities are available. Gorkha folk dances are performed to entertain the tourists.
Mirik, a nest in the hills, is a picturesque tourist spot in the serene hills of Darjeeling. ristine Lake Sumendu surrounded by high forested hills, tea gardens, orange orchards and cardamom plantations, is the heart of the town. Some popular activities at the lake area include boating, horse riding, fish feeding etc. Mirik Excursion also includes Pashupati Market at the Indo Nepal border. This border market with Nepal is a commercial centre for trade in clothes, electronic and household goods.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, popularly known as the Toy Train, is the first and still the most outstanding example of a hill passenger Railway. It has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since December 1999. It is a 2 ft. (610 mm) narrow gauge railway that was made to run between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in West Bengal, India. Built between 1879 and 1881, the railway is about 78 kilometres (48 mi) long. Its elevation level varies from about 100 metres (328 ft) at New Jalpaiguri to about 2,200 metres (7,218 ft.) at Darjeeling. It has tiny 4-wheel diesel locomotives (some over 100 years old) like living legends. One can experience the sound, smell and romance of a bygone era. Now the Train runs between Ghoom and Darjeeling as its operation between Siliguri and Kurseong has been temporarily suspended following a Landslide at Tindharia since 2010. The journey offers breath-taking views of the mountains, valleys, forests, tea- gardens and local villages on the way. Known as one of the engineering marvels, the toy train track has several zigzags and loops on the way that helps the train to negotiate steep gradients.
Deolo Hill (also known as Dello Hill) is a marvellous 8-acre parkland with wonderful view points, sprawling gardens with many flowering plants, and pathways to soak in the charm. It's located at the highest point of Kalimpong municipality at an altitude of about 5,500 ft and located 8kms from the town. This parkland is maintained by GTA (erstwhile DGHC) which also runs a tourist lodge here with a multi cuisine restaurant. The lodge has many spacious and well furnished rooms with great views. You can book rooms through Gorkha Bhavan, at Salt Lake, Kolkata. Day visitors are also welcome. There are several viewing areas in Deolo Hill. It's probably the best place in Kalimpong to get a view of Khangchendzonga range towards north beyond the hills of Sikkim. You can also get lovely views of Kalimpong town, Relli valley and the Teesta river from here. Children can take horse rides here around the compound. Overall a great place for day's picnic or even vacation stay for couple of nights.
Mangal Dham is one of the most beautiful temples in India and one of the best in Kalimpong. It spans over a sprawling 2 acres area and located close to Thongsa Gompa. In 1940 Guruji Shri Mangal Dasji Maharaj visited Kalimpong. The visit had a profound impact on him. He decided to realize his divine dreams of serving the poor and needy in Kalimpong, dedicated his life to social welfare, and created orphanages, schools and temples. Mangal Dham was essentially built in his memory. The whole theme of the dham is ... Knowledge, Devotion and Service. The samadhi of Guruji lies in the ground floor. The prayer hall is in on the top floor where you can see the idol of Raj Shyamaji. On his two sides are Guruji Mangal Dasji and Rev. Prannath. On the walls you will see many paintings and diorama depicting various scenes from Krishna leela. The ambience in the dham is serene. You can walk across to various parts of the dham. Walk into the office room at the ground floor and collect a leaflet that narrates the story of the Dham, background and its activities.
Kalimpong Science Centre is located about 1 km from Deolo Hill on the opposite side. It has been set up in 2008 to raise interest for science & technology particularly amongst the young generation. It's a great place for children and adults to learn, enjoy and have fun with science. There are several attractions here: The open Science Park outside the exhibition hall has many different exhibits on the lush green field including large size Dinosaurs. Children can climb spider webs, ride swings, play with different levers & pulleys and see the results, look through telescope, play with pendulums etc. There is also a medicinal garden here with many rare herbs. Inside at the Fun Science Gallery you can see and interact with many fun scientific creations like objects defying gravity, optical gadgets, rolling balls, kaleidoscope etc. At the Digital Corridor you can see the application of digital technology including a blue tooth printer, learning to spell your name in binary system etc. Taramandol is a dome shaped planetarium where about 25 persons can watch the stars and planets as they appear on a clear night sky and learn about them.
Flower Nurseries are in abundance in Kalimpong, as the place is famous for cultivation of horticultural plants. These flower nurseries are engaged in exporting beautiful and exotic flowers. Pine View Nursery has great collections of cactus and ornamental plants. Over 1500 species of cactus can be found here which was collected diligently from around the globe for four decades. Over the years the nursery has been awarded with several national and international awards for breeding various types of cacti all at a single place. People from all over the world come to this unique nursery to witness the spectacular display of this cactus which is a treat to the eye. You get great view of Kalimpong town from the backside lawn. Entry fee: Rs. 10/- per person.
At a distance of 8 km from Kalimpong Bus Station, Hanuman Temple is a Hindu temple located in Kalimpong of West Bengal. Dedicated to Lord Hanuman, the Hanuman Temple was inaugurated in 2004 by Karma Wangchuk. The temple has a gigantic statue of Lord Hanuman with a height of approximately 30 feet. This place is located at an elevation and overlooks the Teesta River on one side and the hills on the other side. One need to climb a flight of stairs to reach the temple and the place offers a mesmerizing view of Mount Khangchendzonga. On a bright sunny day, neighboring state of Sikkim, the surrounding landscapes of Lava and Kaffer hills are also clearly visible from here. Another impressive place of worship nearby is the statue of Lord Buddha sitting in the lotus position.
Durpin Monastery (also known as Zang Dog Palri Monastery) is located at the Durpin Dara Hill. As you enter the monastery, the first thing you will notice are the two large cylinders on two sides (each about some 10-ft high). You can turn the cylinders by a crank, and a lever is so arranged that a bell will ring at every turn. As common with most Buddhist monasteries, outside on the wall you will see a row of prayer wheels. Durpin monastery was constructed in 1972 by Hon. Dudjum Rimponche. There are rare Buddhist manuscripts on Tibetology inside called "The Kangyur" of 108 volumes. These were presented by Dalai Lama when he visited Kalimpong in 1956. He brought them from Tibet. Some idols inside were also brought from Tibet. Dalai Lama revisited Kalimpong on 29th May 1976 when he consecrated at Durpin Monastery.