The town of 6 Ts – Tea, Toy Train, Tourism, Teak, Tiger Hill and Trekking, Darjeeling, in the East Indian state of West Bengal, is the ‘Queen of the Himalayas’. Darjeeling travel opens Nature’s secrets which are spellbinding and compel you to get lost in them.
As Darjeeling is set on the backdrop of the beautiful Himalayas and has a significant population of Nepalese mountain-dwelling communities, like Gorkhas, Lepchas, Rongpas and Khampas, its music is extremely melodious. Buddhism is prevalent here and the atmosphere is filled with chimes of bells and chants of mantras, from the colorful and mesmeric monasteries.
Darjeeling was under the rule of Raja of Sikkim and later was captured by Nepal. The British helped the Raja against Gorkhas and later acquired it in 1835. Formerly a worthless hill, Darjeeling was developed as a hill station by the British.
Darjeeling’s pride is its tea and its Toy Train.
And of course, you should travel to Darjeeling for its many monasteries, like Bhutia Basti, Dali, Ghoom, Tashi Dargylingh and Aloobari, as well as Japanese Peace Pagoda. So also, there are several historical monuments that you must visit, like Step Aside, Netaji Museum and Sister Nivedita Memorial.
Get some mental peace at Ramakrishna Vedanta Ashram and Shree Mandir.
Visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute founded by the great mountaineer Tenzing Norgay, the conqueror of Mount Everest. You will find no scarcity of Nature’s beauty in Darjeeling. There are plenty of places to witness the splendor of Himalayas, like Himalayan Zoo, Snow Leopard Breeding Centre, Tiger Hill and Senchal Lake.
With an altitude of 8,482 feet, Tiger Hill offers the most magnificent view of sunrise over the incredible Mount Kanchenjunga, for which you will have to get up early and catch a vehicle.
The most amazing of all of Darjeeling’s marvels is Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, lovingly called Toy Train, which starts from the New Jalpaiguri (NJP) rail station in the plains. On its course, this train offers you unforgettably breathtaking views of Himalayan mountains, valleys, tea gardens, streams and the wonderful Batasia Loop. A sacred War Memorial stands at the centre of the gigantic loop.
Darjeeling tea is a must-buy. There are countless varieties, like Green, Black, Oolong, White, Herb tea, and so on. Roaming along the Rink Mall, local Haat (bazaar) and Chowrasta is sheer enjoyment. You can buy yak wool clothes, hand-woven clothes, jewelry, carpets and artifacts like miniature monasteries, brass statues and thangkas (Tibetan wall-hangings).
The most popular sports and adventures in Darjeeling are mountaineering and trekking.
Being nestled in the Himalayas, Darjeeling offers countless trekking destinations, like Maneybhanjyang, Tonglu, Sandakphu, Tonglu, Garibdas, Kalipokhari or Black Pond, Phalut, Sabarkum, Gairibas, Rammam, Rimbick, Srikhola, and many more. Trekking in Darjeeling is unforgettable, because of the breathtaking Himalayan mountains, over 600 species of birds and flowers spread everywhere, like rhododendrons, magnolias, primulas, and many others. You should also remember that while trekking, you may come across extreme elevations and depths and so you should carry appropriate clothing. Mountain-springs’ water is absolutely safe to drink, but carry water-purifying tablets and water bottles for extra precaution.
A sheer enjoyable feature of Darjeeling is the cable car ride on Rangeet Valley. Passing by clouds and breathtaking views of tea gardens below offer some unforgettable moments on this ride.
White water rafting in the vibrant River Teesta, mountain-biking, hand-gliding and ballooning are some other enjoyments in Darjeeling.
Eating is a pleasure in Darjeeling because of its cool climate and breathtaking scenery. You should eat especially at the local Darjeeling hotels. Momo and momocha are delicacies you should enjoy here. These are meat-balls with a flour-covering. Wai-wai and thupkas are thick noodles and should be enjoyed. And of course, sipping the delicious Darjeeling tea at a roadside inn or at a tea garden is also a must-do.
Darjeeling hosts a number of Tibetan festivals, which primarily feature Cham (mask) dances, participating in which is utterly pleasurable. Cho Nga Chopa (11th January), Lepcha and Bhutia New Year (January), Tibetan New Year ‘Losar’ (February), Dalai Lama’s birthday (June), Shri Panchami, Ram Navami (April), Buddha Jayanti (April) and many other colorful festivals are celebrated in Darjeeling.