One of the most magical lands on earth, Darjeeling is lavished with awe-inspiring wildlife and exquisite flora, with some of the rare species of animals and birds and some 600 species of butterflies. Synonymous with tea, Darjeeling is a petite hill station in West Bengal.
Cradled in the folds of the loftiest mountains of the world, Darjeeling is justly regarded as the queen of India's hill-stations. Tranquil tea plantations, rolling hills against the Khangchendzonga, the Toy Train, elegant monasteries and charming hilltops, add to the charm of Darjeeling, making it a special destination in the east.
While the Buddhist Monasteries and the Hindu temples are of architectural and cultural importance, the Himalayan physiography of lofty mountainous terrain and cascading rivers, offers adventure sports like trekking, mountaineering and river rafting.
Until the beginning of the 18th century, the whole area, between the present borders of Sikkim and the plains of Bengal, including Darjeeling and Kalimpong, belonged to the Rajas of Sikkim. But they lost it to the Gurkhas, who invaded Sikkim in 1780, following consolidation of the latter's, rule in Nepal.
The annexations however, brought them into conflict with the British East India Company. A series of wars were fought, eventually leading to the defeat of the Gurkhas and part of this territory was restored to the Rajas of Sikkim.
The British then pressured the Raja into granting the site to them, in return for an annual stipend, but later annexed it. These annexations brought about a significant change in the status of Darjeeling, eventually leading to the invasion of Sikkim, by the Tibetans and the British military expedition to Lhasa.
Populated with the Nepalese and the migrant Tibetans, the lives of the inhabitants revolve, mainly around the huge tea plantations and processing plants. Simple and hard working, they are satisfied with what they have. Buy whatever, be their economic standard, they love to dress well.
Practicing a weaving culture, most of the arts and crafts are hand-woven and hand-knitted. From the famous Nepali shawl, to the colorful bags, pencil boxes to dressing gear, everything is woven. And the carpets having world-class designs and patterns are very intricately woven.
Fun loving and remarkable preservers of their culture and tradition, they have a special kind of song and dance competition and the drunker you are, the better you perform. A unique cultural trend crediting it to the romantic nature of the inhabitants, most of the marriages take place through elopement.
Indian and Chinese food.
Chowrasta and The Mall are the best places to do your shopping in Darjeeling. Buy Tibetan curios from Habib Mullick, or try the famous Kalimpong cheese (go for the light cheddar) at Glenary?s on The Mall. It is also a cheerful place to sit down and have some tea and cakes. Fresh tea is available in mind-boggling varieties at shops along The Mall. If you want to buy some of the local craft works, then go down to Hayden Hall, where you can have your pick from shawls, sweaters, Tibetan rugs, carpets and much more. Check out exquisite wood carvings and woven bamboo baskets, Bhutan paintings, Tankhas, Tibetan turquoise, Nepali khukris and masks, metal work and sundry local artefacts on The Mall.
The Beni Mela is held on the banks of the River Teesta in January. The Bhutias and the Lepchas celebrate their New Year in January. February is time for the Tibetan New Year, which is marked by great festivities, religious ceremonies and colourful folk dances in monasteries. Durga Puja is celebrated in a big way in October.
Darjeeling is a summer retreat in the Himalayas in the northern region of West Bengal. It is situated on a spur jutting out northwards from the Ghoom Senchal ridge.
Jet and IA from Calcutta and Delhi service the airport at Bagdogra daily. Confirmations/reservations can be made from Siliguri and Darjeeling. Airport: Bagdogra is the nearest airport, 90 km away from Darjeeling.
Two Rajdhanis ply five times a week from Delhi to New Jalpaiguri Station. From there take the Toy Train that operates on the narrow gauge track between Darjeeling and New Jalpaiguri. Railway station: New Jalpaiguri/ Siliguri is the main railhead for Darjeeling bound passengers. Siliguri is connected to Calcutta and other parts of the country by train.
From Bagdogra or New Jalpaiguri: Take a taxi/ scooter/ rickshaw to Siliguri 10 and 5 km away respectively. From Siliguri: State-run buses and coaches, taxis and cars for hire are available from the Siliguri Bus Terminal to cover the 80 km journey to Darjeeling.
The average temperature ranges from 8.5? C to 15? C in summers and 1? C to 6? C in winters.
One of the better-known monasteries of Darjeeling, Ghoom is about 6 km south of the city center. The 4.57-m high statue of a seated Maitreya Buddha is of great interest here.
Lying at an altitude of 1,730 m, Mirik is an attractive hill destination with a charming lake, forests of Cryptomeria Japonica, orange orchards, tea gardens and cardamom plantations. The Sumendu Lake, with its 3.5 Km. of cobbled promenade, is a major attraction of Mirik and is situated at the bottom of the Mirik spur. There is also a floating fountain in the middle of the Lake and an 80 ft. long footbridge, connects the flower garden, to the heavily forested ridge on the west. Sumendu Lake also offers boating facilities.
About 2 km down from Chowrasta, the institute houses a collection of historic mountaineering equipment, specimens of Himalayan flora and fauna, a relief model of the Himalayas and a record of all attempts to scale the great peak. Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who conquered Everest in 1953, was the director of this institute.
About 13 km from the town, this lake near Tiger hill, is appreciated for its scenic splendor. It's a popular picnic spot, has a 9-hole golf course with a clubhouse and a tourist lodge.
The multicolored Buddhist prayer flags, fluttering in the breeze here, provide a rather enchanting sight. This viewpoint is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists.
Located below the railway station, it resembles the famous Pashupatinath Temple of Katmandu.
Situated 1 km out of town. With the Khangchendzonga (Kanchenjunga), providing a spectacular backdrop, this monastery was originally a branch of the Nygmapa sects. Phodang Monastery in Sikkim. It was transferred to Darjeeling in 1879. The shrine here originally stood on Observatory Hill. The monastery has a well-stocked library with many old Buddhist texts.
This is a good place to go for some sightseeing and shopping, as the monks here sell Tibetan and Sikkimese religious accessories. It is minimum 3km away from the city center.
It is about 5 km from Darjeeling and 3 km from Ghoom. This railway loop is a marvelous feet of engineering. It is delightful to see the train, as it winds it way round the loop. It is a pleasant and delightful descent from Ghoom - highest railway station in the world.
At North Point, about 3 km from town, this is India's first passenger ropeway. The 5-km long ropeway connects Darjeeling with Singla Bazaar on the Ranjit River, at the bottom of the valley.
On the way to Darjeeling from Siliguri, lies Kurseong at a height of 1,458 m. Famous for its tea plantations, Kurseong paints a rather unusual picture with its rail track, road and market stretching along together up to Darjeeling. Some of the main sights of this little town include the Deer Park, Makaibari Tea Estate and, of course, have a ride on the Toy Train.
Tiger Hill (2,555 m), the highest point in this area, is about 14 km from Darjeeling, near the Ghoom Monastery. It has earned international fame for the fabulous view of the Sunrise over Kanchenjunga and the great Eastern Himalayan peaks that can be seen.
PHALUT - About 22 km from Sandakphu, Phalut is at the Junction of Nepal, Sikkim and West Bengal. It offers a very close view of Mt. Kanchenjunga. The Singalila trek is a 160 km stretch from the small border town of Manebhanjang, 26 km from Darjeeling.
AVAART GALLERY - It is about 2 km from the town on the way to Ghoom. It houses fine art and embroidered work of Mrs. Ava Devi.
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM - Established in 1903, a comprehensive collection of Himalayan and Bengali fauna is packed into this interesting museum. Amongst the 4300 specimens, is the estuarine crocodile, the animal responsible for the greatest loss of human life in Asia.