From times immemorial the mighty town of Darjeeling, tucked in the Lesser Hiamlaya, has always attracted the mind of travellers from all over the world. The town hosts the typical Gorkha culture and is well known for its quaint colonial ambiance. Moreover, this hill station in India is the gateway to one of the popular treks in the Indian Himalayan region, the Sandakphu-Phalut Trek and is also one of the two places in India where from one can capture the entire panorama of the Eastern Himalayan ranges, from the Everest to Kanchendzonga. Further, the refreshing environment layered with several tea estates and evergreen forests… simply offers a retreat and is ideal for leisurescapers. Here are some of the best places to visit in Darjeeling that will surely quench your Darjeeling trip palette.
A well-stocked museum that displays several mountaineering gears and expedition artifacts, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is a must visit place in Darjeeling especially for the mountain lovers. It was built in the memory of Tenzing Norgay who, along with Sir Edmund Hillary, climbed the Everest in 1953. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute further runs a boarding school for mountaineering students and maintains a memorial dedicated to Tenzing Norgay, a restaurant, and a souvenir shop. Located within the premises of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, which is also known as Darjeeling Zoo. It spreads over approximately 68 acres and houses many endangered species of animals adapted to alpine conditions like the snow leopard, red panda, goral (mountain goat), Siberian tiger, Tibetan Wolf and a variety of birds. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and Darjeeling Zoo is perched on the Birch Hill, which is easily accessible from Darjeeling Mall.
One of the major tourist attractions in Darjeeling is the Tiger Hill, which is the highest point in the region. It stands at an elevation of 2,590 meters overlooking the spur of the snow capped mountain ranges of the Eastern Himalaya. The Tiger Hill is one of the two points in India from where you can capture the entire panorama between Mount Everest and Kanchendzonga along with other peaks like the Kabru, Rathong and Kokhtang on a sunny morning. The other point from where you can have a glimpse of a similar panorama is from Phalut, at 3,600 meters approximately, which can be only reached by trekking. The Phalut trekking route from Darjeeling starts from Manebhanjan and goes through Tonglu, Giribas, Kalapokhri and Sandakphu. The Singalila National Park that falls on the trekking route is yet another attraction in and around Darjeeling. Nonetheless, the Tiger Hill is best known for the amazing view of the Kanchendzonga peak at sunrise. It is easily accessible by road and roughly takes 40-45 minutes to reach from Darjeeling town.
A paradise for nature lovers, the Batasia Loop is specifically known for its spiral of a narrow gauge railway track on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway where the Toy Train makes a complete loop around a wonderful circular garden. It covers an area of 50,000 square feet and is dotted with several flowering plants. It also maintains an eco garden, Gorkha War Memorial, and many restaurants and eateries. The Batasia Loop is approximately 5 kilometers away from Darjeeling town and is close to Ghoom. If you are lucky enough then on a clear sunny day, you will get a jaw breaking view of the Kanchedzonga range.
Located in the heart of Darjeeling town, the Darjeeling Mall and Chowrasta is one of the best places in Darjeeling that one cannot afford to miss on his or her trip to Darjeeling. It is a rendezvous of people from all over the world and is notable as a popular tourist hangout in Darjeeling. Besides hosting several boutique shops, restaurants and eateries… this place is just your own pick where you would love to get hold of the nature at its best. One side of the mall is thickly layered with pine forest under the shadow of the towering mountain peaks, the other side lies shops of traditional garments, handicrafts, carpets, rugs, paintings, semi-precious jewellery and metalwares. Some of the noted shops, restaurants and eateries in the area are Habeeb Mullick & Son, Curio Corner, Nathmulls Tea & Sunset Lounge, Golden Tips, Life & Leaf, Jolly arts and Bhutan Tibet Art Shop. The Hawa Ghar and the huge golden color statue of the Nepali poet Bhanubhakta Acharya are the two major attractions in Chowrasta. The Bhutia Market, which is close to Chowrasta is another attraction for shopaholics.
Both these places around Darjeeling town are haven for botanists. The Rock Garden, which is approximately 10 kilometers from Darjeeling town, is set with picturesque and colourful terraced gardens dotted with highly diversified flowering plants… blazing the rocks and cliffs at different levels. The Chunnu Summer Falls is another additional feature that makes the park more scenic. On the other hand, 3 kilometers ahead is the Ganga Maya Park, which is another nature park with a narrow gushing stream flowing through it. The park also hosts gardens dotted with varied species of colourful flowers and a lake. Tourists can also enjoy Gorkha folk dance at Ganga Maya Park.
Withal the natural element in just one view, the Darjeeling Ropeway, which is also known as the Rangeet Valley Passenger Cable Car, offers a refreshing getaway. From the ropeway you can enjoy the spectacular view of the valley below that is bedded with lush green tea gardens and dense forest and cut by several small gushing streams. It is one of the best tourist spots in Darjeeling where one can spend some ideal hours in the tea estate and enjoy a nature walk.
A fine example of traditional Japanese style architectural, the Japanese Temple is one of the major Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Darjeeling that was inaugurated in the year 1972. It is a two storied white building that maintains a large prayer room where the chief priest offers the prayers, beating a huge drum (also known as Ho-ko) that reverberates to build up a solemn atmosphere in the entire temple premises. The temple further hosts a picture of the founder Fujii Guruji and a model of Lord Buddha. Close to the Japanese Temple is the Peace Pagoda, which is a monument to inspire peace, designed to provide a focus for people of all races and creeds, and to help unite them in their search for world peace. It was inaugurated in the year 1992 and houses four avatars of Lord Buddha. From the top of the Pagoda, you get a panoramic view of the landscape of Darjeeling including the Kanchenjunga range. The Japanese Temple and Peace Pagoda are the two most sought tourist spots in Darjeeling that you can’t miss on your Darjeeling trip.
Originally formed, in 1915, to display only the specimens of butterflies and birds of the area… the Bengal Natural History Museum comprises two major sections today housing a huge collection of different specimens like birds with nests and eggs, reptiles and fishes, mammals, insects and more. The taxidermy unit that was built at the time of inception serves to mount the skins of animals so that they have a lifelike appearance at the display. While one of the sections exhibit specimens like Himalayan Brown Wood Owls, Northern spotted owlet, Northern Brown Fish Owl, pheasants, fly catchers, woodpeckers and 800 more bird species, the other is stocked with animal species like Tibetan fox, Tibetan Lynx, elephant, Toddy cat, heads of wild buffaloes hanging from the walls, panthers, leopards and many more. There are some other less important sections in the museum that display specimens of reptiles and insects.
Close to Chowrasta or The Mall, the Observatory Hill is another prominent place in Darjeeling from where you can capture magnificent views of the snow-clad peaks, including Kanchendzonga and its sister peaks. It is approximately 10-15 minutes of uphill walk from the Mall. Atop the hill is the Mahakal Temple, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva and also holds three gold plated icons of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar. It is one of the major Hindu pilgrimage sites in Darjeeling that was built after the invasion by the Gorkhas in the 19th century. Originally this place was the home to the Dorjeling Monastery that was relocated in 1861 to its present location, which is some 2 kilometers down from the Mall. Around the Observatory Hill you fill come across the Sai Baba Temple and Hanuman Temple and several Hindu priests and Buddhist monks.
Home to the Tibetan refugees, sick, elderly and needy destitute… the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center today houses 130 Tibetan family who mostly earn their bread and butter by producing traditional handicrafts like Buddha idols, various Tibetan sculptures, musical instruments, masks, thangka painting and many more. It is located at hillside Lebong in Darjeeling that has a historical significance where the thirteenth Dalai Lama had spent his exile in India from 1910 to 1912. It is a must visit place in Darjeeling for tourists having keen interest in Indo-Tibetan culture and their lifestyle.
Belonging to the Nyingma sect, the Bhutia Busty Monastery, which is also known as Karmaa Dorjee Chyoling monastery, is a branch of Phodang Monastery in Sikkim. It was initially built atop the Observatory Hill in 1761 by Lama Dorje Rinzing but was later relocated to its present location in 1879 after the invasion of Darjeeling by the Gorkhas. The Bhutia Busty Monastery is approximately 2 kilometers down from the Mall and houses a huge collection of Old Buddhist scripts, including the “Book of Dead”, which is one of the notable ones. The present architectural structure that dilates the Buddhist traditional style of craftsmanship pulls in thousands of tourists throughout the year. The monastery maintains a prayer room, a model of Lord Buddha, photographs of Dalai Lama and images of Goddess Tara Devi and Lakshmiswari. It also houses a huge collection of murals, which are originally made out of real gold powder.
The largest monastery in Ghoom, which was built in 1875 by Lama Sherab Gyatso and belongs to the Gelug sect, the Ghoom Monastery is one of the major Buddhist pilgrimage places in Darjeeling district. It is approximately 8 kilometers from Darjeeling town. Besides the prayer hall, the monastery houses a 15 feet high statue of “Maitreya Buddha”, images of Buddha’s disciples, and many Buddhist texts.
Perched on a steep hill and approximately 5 kilometers away from Darjeeling town, the Dali Monastery which was originally named as Druk Sangag Choling Monastery, is yet another important Buddhist pilgrimage center belonging to the Kargyupa sect. It was built in 1971 during the time of Kyabje Thuksey Rinpoche. It houses a prayer room, a Tibetan school, a coffee shop and residences belonging to over 200 monks. The monastery also maintains huge cylindrical golden coloured drums.
One of the three monasteries in Ghoom, the Samten Choling Monastery is approximately 7 kilometers away from Darjeeling town and belongs to the Gelupka sect of Buddhists. It is crafted with a huge square arched gate and the exterior of the monastery maintains a white body and golden top in the typical Tibetan architectural style. The major attraction is the 26 foot model of Lord Buddha. It also houses a huge collection of Buddhist books and manuscripts. Inside the premises you will find a small café where you can have tea or coffee and light snacks. It is also the residence of several monks belonging to yellow hat sect. Tourists are requested not to confuse Samten monastery with Yiga Choeling monastery, which is the original Ghoom Monastery, was built in the year 1850, and is 1 kilometer away from the Samten Choling Monastery. It also belongs to the Gelupka sect of Buddhists and maintains a 15 foot model of Lord Buddha. Inside the Yiga Choeling Monastery there are images of Lord Buddha and lamas. There is a large collection of Buddha’s manuscripts, bells and a huge drum inside.
Built by Sangay Lama in 1914, the Aloobari Monastery is approximately 3 kilometers away from Darjeeling town. Its original name was Yolmowa Mak Dhog Monastery. It comprises bright red and yellow walls and maintains a prayer hall, statues of Lord Buddha, marvelous model of Padmasambhava and murals depicting the life story of Lord Buddha. Surrounding the monastery are several villages inhabited by Tibetan families. It is one of the must visit places in Darjeeling where you can get acquainted with the local culture and experience their hospitality.
A replica of the Pasupatinath temple in architecture form, the Dhirdham Temple that is dedicated to Lord Shiva is a prominent Hindu pilgrimage site in Darjeeling. The major attraction inside the complex is the white colored statue of Lord Shiva that represents the five different expressions of Shiva with his universal third eye. The Dhirdham Temple was built in the year 1939 by the king of Nepal, Purna Bahadur Pradhan. The temple complex holds a tranquil ambiance and you will surely come across the hospitable nature of the priests bestowing blessings to devotees.
Another major attraction that is close to the Mall is St. Andrew’s Church, which is one of the prominent architectural examples from the colonial era. It was built in the year 1843 but was later rebuilt in 1873 after it was damaged by a massive earthquake. The church holds many inlaid marble tablets and brass plaques, including that of Lt. General Lloyd and Charlotte Countess Canning.
A public park that is approximately 10 minutes walking distance from the Mall or Chowrasta, the Shrubbery Nightingale Park is a must visit place in Darjeeling for travellers seeking some relaxation after their long sightseeing tour in Darjeeling. It is a great place where you can catch some Nepali cultural programs during the peak tourist season. The park is crisscrossed by many pebbled walkways and also maintains an idol of Lord Shiva. The musical fountain is also a major attraction inside the park.
One of the oldest wildlife sanctuaries in India that was set up in 1915, the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary is a haven for wildlife lovers who are visiting Darjeeling for just a couple of days or in the weekends. It is approximately 11 kilometers away from the Darjeeling town. The Senchal Lake inside the sanctuary is one of the picturesque sites that attract lots of tourists. The Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary is home to several species of animals such as the barking deer, wild pig, Himalayan black bear, leopard, jungle cat, common rhesus monkey, Assam macaque, Himalayan flying squirrel and many more. It is also rich in several bird species and plant species. It covers an area of approximately 40 square kilometers.
It is time to enjoy the sprawling tea estate that is spread across 437 acres. Your trip to Darjeeling remains incomplete till you visit the Happy Valley Tea Estate, which is Darjeeling’s oldest tea estate and was established in 1854. If you are touring Darjeeling between March and May, then you are likely to see the plucking process. The Happy Valley Tea Estate is approximately 3 kilometers away from Darjeeling town and I must say that tea lovers are surely going to like this place… because of the sweet flavour blending with the atmosphere.
This place is highly recommended for travellers who are travelling with their partner. A perfect hideout for couples, it is a 3 kilometers long stretch of narrow refreshing walkway in the midst of nature… the Love Road encircles the Birch Hill. As stated it is a lovers’ point… hence it is also one of the best places in Darjeeling where you can sight some beautiful bird species coupling, twittering and flattering around. This place is strictly prohibited for loners and senior citizens. Ah! I just cracked a joke. The Love Road is open to all but kindly restrict your views if you come across anything unusual. Ahem!
One of the three museums in Darjeeling district, the DHR Ghoom Museum that is located in the premises of the Ghoom Railway Station, which is the highest railway station in the world, preserves the oldest model of Toy Train engine of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. The Baby Sivok is a major attraction. The premises also have a huge collection of rare and old artifacts of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, photographs and items donated by the ex DHR employees.
Declared as a site of ‘National Importance’, the Darjeeling Old Cemetery houses two historical graves and several other graves belonging to people from the colonial era. The grave of Lt. General George W. Aylmer Lloyd and the great Hungarian linguist Alexander Csoma de Koros are the major attractions in the vicinity.
A memorial to Tenzing Norgay and Nawang Gombu, the Tenzing and Gombu Rock are said to be a pilgrimage for mountaineers. Located approximately at distance of a 20 minutes drive from Darjeeling, these two are massive natural rock formations where rock climbing training is given by the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. Tenzing himself used to practice on the one named after him.
It is the third of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway museums located at Sukna station. The second is located at the Kurseong Station. It has a nice collection of original photographs related to Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
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