A treat to the sore eyes, a honeymooners’ paradise, a must-visit destination during summer vacation, a trekking route under a shoe-string budget- Darjeeling is all rolled into one and many more.Once upon a time it was only a bunch of villages, but Darjeeling had come into its full glory, during British raj. Over the years, Darjeeling had been the staple travel destination for Bengalis in West Bengal but right now, the appeal of this ‘queen of hill’ reached beyond the boundary of India.
So much so that, whenever you go to Darjeeling in any time of the year, you will see flocks of foreign tourists exploring the nukes and corners of this lovely town.If you want to know more about Darjeeling, then look no further than Satyajit Ray. The maestro film maker-author had immortalized the town in his 1962’s film Kanchenjunga- showing how the tranquility and magnificence of this place could change the dynamics of humane-relations. Or you can look out for the translated copy of his detective novel based on this town- to know the sinister, dark alleys of Darjeeling.
Attractions in Darjeeling
An old hill station that houses Victorian buildings as well as modern concrete jungle; where Tibetan refugees co-exist with the natives; where there is a thriving scenario in western music, sumptuous food, colorful clothes amidst acute poverty and day-to-day struggle- this town has plenty to offer to the restless wanderers.
1 Kanchenjunga from Tiger hill
Kanchenjunga is undoubtedly – the star attraction of Darjeeling. But it is said that, you have to be very lucky to catch even a glimpse of this glorious mountain anywhere from Darjeeling as most of the time, the city is cloudy.But to experience the almost surrealistic view of Sunrise over Mt. Kanchenjunga, you need to step out of Darjeeling and go to Tiger hill before dawn. The turning of the mountain peak almost golden by the touch of first sun rays- will make you believe from where the name Kanchenjunga had been derived from.
Start really early for Tiger Hill as the place gets really crowded by the enthusiastic visitors if you arrive late.
2 Darjeeling Toy Train
A UNESO heritage site, Darjeeling toy train is one of the most fantastic examples of hill passenger railways around the world. It passes through some scenic mountain villages in a zing-zag way, and provides with some out-of-this-world picturesque views outside of the train- windows.
Over the years, the condition and route of this train have been deteriorated (as per the reviews of travelers in various forums). So it’s better to gather information beforehand once you are planning to spend your time and money on it.
3 Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
It’s a nice place to visit,especially for children and students, in order to brush up their knowledge regarding Himalayas and mountaineering.This museum has an enviable collection of equipment and memorabilia of mountaineering from the old days to the present. Also there are many rare photographs of mountaineering expeditions in various times. The special mentioned must be given to the burial ground of legendary mountaineer Tenzing Norgay within the campus.
Don’t forget to get clicked near Tenzing Rock.
4 Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
Himalayan Zoo locally called “Zoo” is adjacent to the mountaineering institute, very well maintained with natural environment for the animals’ to- live and breed. This will make any animal-lover very happy. Added with it, the exotic and vast collection of animals that are particular to the Himalayan region like Red Panda, Snow Leopard, Mountain goats and colorful birds- will provide with an interesting sight for both-kids and adults –alike.
5 Ghoom Monastery
A beautiful, holy place of worship for devotees of Buddhism, you can visit Ghoom Monastery on your way back to Tiger Hill or from the Ghoom station itself. A quaint, little Monastery with a lovely, tranquil surrounding- you can offer a prayer here by lighting a lamp near the altar.
It’s a good place to buy souvenirs, but only after you do some serious bargaining.
6 Chowrasta (or Darjeeling Mall)
The nerve center of Darjeeling, Chowrasta is a beautiful, circular open area that is surrounded by many benches that are always full, from early morning to late evening.A haven for those who love to bargain– Chowrasta offers plenty of local shops selling mainly Tibetan craftworks and woolen goods; not to forget the nice bookstore adjacent to the area and the little eateries.
7 Mahakal Temple
Mahakal Temple is around 5- minutes up-hill climb from Chowrasta.It’s a serene place where both Buddhist and Hindu devotees can pray together. The place is at the top of the hill – thus offers a breath-taking view of the town below.
Beware of the monkeys that reside in this place. Don’t disturb them unless you wish to invite trouble.
8 Barbotey Rock Garden
A stunningly landscaped garden- complete with exotic flowers and planned waterfalls- Rock Garden is one of the most gorgeous places that Darjeeling can offer.Other than these above spots, Darjeeling has lots on it’s platter- from the serenity of Japanese Peace Pagoda to colorful Bhutia Busty, from the thrilling ropeway ride to the lush greenery of tea gardens or the marvelous Batasia loop, you will feel confused with so many choices and there are more!
9 Dhirdham Temple
It is a beautiful Hindu Temple of Lord Shiva resembling Pashupatinath temple of Nepal.The pagoga architecture ancient temple was made the king of Nepal – Purna Bahadur Pradhan in 1939.It falls near Darjeeling railway station.
10 Peace Pagoda
The 94 feet tall Peace Pagoda symbolizes world peace as you can figure out from the word.It was built by Japanese monk Nichidatsu Fujii and opened for public in 1992.You can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and serenity all around.
Be prepared to climb many steps before you can reach there !
11 Lal kothi aka Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council
It was built by King of Kooch Vihar – Maharajah Prasad Nath Roy in memory of Queen Bhawani Dewan Roy some-what like Taj Mahal.At present it is the headquarters of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.
North-Bengal has so many beautiful spots that it is almost impossible to list all of them in a single article. There are hidden gems tucked into everywhere in the mountains of North-Bengal, and visiting them should be in your agenda.