Darjeeling – The Best And Most Popular Hill Station
Once a summer retreat of the British, Darjeeling, situated at an elevation of more than 7000 feet, is one of the most popular hill stations of India. Darjeeling conjures up a vision of snowy peaks of the Himalayas, with Mount Kanchenjunga being the most prominent. A glimpse of Mount Everest is also possible from Darjeeling. Famous for lush green tea gardens producing the best quality tea in the world, Darjeeling mesmerizes people with its toy train, amazing local cuisines and wonderful trek opportunities.
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How to Reach
Darjeeling can be reached by road from Bagdogra Airport or New Jalpaiguri Railway Station. It is hardly a drive of around 3 hours from these places. Public transport is also available in adequate numbers from Siliguri.
Places to visit
Darjeeling is a beautiful place to be in. The whole setting is wonderful in itself. But from a tourist’s point of view, there are a number of attractions. The topmost of these is Tiger Hill from where one can see breathtaking sunrise in the backdrop of the Himalayan peaks. It is Tiger Hill from where one can get a glimpse of Mount Everest also.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is another nice place to visit. You can also visit Darjeeling Zoo, which is adjacent to the Mountaineering Institute. A wide variety of animals found in the Himalayan areas can be seen in this zoo. A joy ride on the Darjeeling Toy Train is a unique experience in itself. And, watching the train go around Batasia Loop is so amazing. Ghoom Monastery is a must-visit on a trip to Darjeeling.
A visit to local restaurants to taste local cuisines must be done in Darjeeling. And, how you can ignore a visit to a tea garden and see the whole processing system of tea. This will clarify how Darjeeling Tea is different from other tea.
There are other popular places like Rock Garden, Darjeeling Ropeway, Mahakal Temple and Japanese Temple. Trek lovers may choose to go on the wonderful Sandakphu Trek.
Darjeeling, a town developed by the British to beat the heat, is situated in the West Bengal Himalayas at an altitude of close to 7000 feet.
It has borders with Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal. Darjeeling has an amazing confluence of old British heritage with the natural wonders the place offers.
So many hill stations are referred to as the queen of the hills. Darjeeling is perhaps the best among all such queens as it beautifully merges the natural wonders with a rich history and British legacy can be seen all over Darjeeling.
Location of various films in India, the very mention of Darjeeling brings three instant images – first image is that of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Toy Train, second image is that of large stretches of tea gardens and the third image is that of a mesmerizing sunrise from Tiger Hill where a spectacular natural display of sun rays can be seen on the horizon early in the morning.
So, what are the attractions in Darjeeling, tourists should visit? Here is a list of important activities one should indulge while in Darjeeling.
Darjeeling is famous worldwide for its variety of tea. The tea produced here has got GI Tag from WTO as well.
Darjeeling has 87 tea gardens spread over 19,000 hectares and it is estimated these together produce around 9.6 million Kg of tea every year.
Unique taste of Darjeeling Tea is often attributed to its climate, soil, slope, mountain, mist and rain. Visitors must make a visit to a tea factory to understand the complete processing of tea.
They will get to know how green tea, white tea and normal black leaf tea are made and how they are different from each other.
Visitors will also get to taste different varieties of tea produced in the tea gardens. It will be interesting to know how tea tasters rank the different tea varieties.
Some tea gardens are also open for guests to stay at their plantation bungalows. This can prove to be a fascinating experience. In some tea gardens the plantation workers also offer home stays in their colonies. Some people choose to stay there as well as these are more affordable compared to staying at plantation bungalows of tea gardens.
Darjeeling is famous for its colourful sunrise. Not many places in the world have same sort of colourful dazzle in the sky at the time of sunrise.
The most famous point for observing this natural phenomenon is Tiger Hill, the highest point in Darjeeling district.
Tiger Hill, situated at an altitude of 2590 meters (8497 feet), has an observatory to witness sunrise. This is one of the rare places within India from where one can see even Mount Everest on a clear day.
On a clear day, one can see far off places from Tiger Hill. Besides the nearby Kurseong town which is visible to the south, one can also see in the distance three rivers – Teesta River, Mahananda River, Balason River and Mechi River – meandering down. Mountains situated in Tibet can be seen from here, and one can also get a glimpse of the town of Namchi, situated in Sikkim.
Senchal Lake, which is a part of the wildlife sanctuary of the same name, is also visible from Tiger Hill on a clear da
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (Darjeeling Toy Train)
With many film songs shot on it, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, usually referred to as Toy Train, has been one of the most famous belongings of Darjeeling.
Built by the British between 1879 and 1881, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway route, a two feet gauge track, is 88km long covering a gradient from 100 meters near New Jalpaiguri to more than 2200 meters near Ghum in Darjeeling.
Darjeeling Toy Train crosses a number of loops offering some magnificent views all along. The train reversing on a “Z” track is also an interesting observation.
Crossing the loops to gain elevation is also quite scenic. Batasia Loop near Ghum is perhaps the most spectacular loop and attracts a number of visitors. Ghum railway station is the highest on this whole route.
In recent year the entire route has hardly been operational because of a number of landslides. However, tourists always have the option of getting an experience of the toy train by booking a joyride specially meant for visitors.