( Sight Seeing )
The highest spot in the area at 2590m, Tiger Hill is near Ghoom,
about 11km from Darjeeling. The hill is famous for its magnificent
dawn views over Kanchenjunga and other eastern Himalayan peaks.
On a clear day even Mount Everest is visible.
Every day a large convoy of battered Land Rovers leaves Darjeeling
at 4.30am, which means that in the smaller lodges you get woken
up at this time every day, whether you like it or not. It can be
very cold and very crowded at the top but coffee is available. There
is a view tower. Halfway down the hill a temple priest causes a
massive traffic jam by anointing the steering wheel of each vehicle
for the return trip. Many take the jeep one way and then walk back
- a very pleasant two hour trip.
Close to Tiger Hill is Senchal Lake, which supplies Darjeeling with
its domestic water. It's a particularly scenic area and popular
as a picnic spot with Indian holiday-makers.
At 8598m, this is the world's third highest mountain. From
Darjeeling, the best uninterrupted views of it are from Bhan Bhakta
Sarani. The name Kanchenjunga is derived from the Tibetan Khang
(snow), chen (big), dzong (fortress or treasury) nga (five) - big
five peaked snow fortress, or big five peaked treasury of the snow.
Bhutia Busty Gompa
Not far from Chowrasta is this colourful monastery, with Kanchenjunga
providing a spectacular backdrop. Originally a branch of the Nyingmapa
sect's Phodang Monastery in Sikkim, it was transferred to Darjeeling
in 1879. The shrine here originally stood on Observatory Hill. There's
library of Buddhist texts upstairs which houses the original copy
of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
More correctly known as Yogachoeling Gompa, this is probably the
most famous monastery in Darjeeling and is about 8 km south of town,
just below Hill Cart road and the train station near Ghoom. It enshrines
an image of the Maitreya Buddha. Foreigners are allowed to enter
the shrine and take photographs. As Ghoom is frequently swathed
in mists, and the monastery is old and dark, it is often affectionately
called Gloom monastery.
There are three other gompas in Ghoom: the very large but relatively
uninteresting Samdenchoeling, the nearby and smaller Sakyachoeling,
and the Phin Sotholing.
Nearer Darjeeling, on Tenzing Norgay Rd, Aloobari Monastery welcomes
visitors. The monks often sell Tibetan and Sikkimese handicrafts
and religious objects (usually hand bells). If the monastery is
closed ask at the cottage next door and they'll let you in.
Halfway between Ghoom and Darjeeling is the Thupten Sangachoeling
Gompa at Dali. Westerners interested in Tibetan Buddhism often study
here. A little closer to Darjeeling on the same road is the opulent
Situated above the Windamere Hotel, this viewpoint is sacred to
both Hindus and Buddhists. There is a Kali shrine here and the multicoloured
prayer flags double as trapezes for he monkeys. Watch out for them
as they can be aggressive.
The most conspicuous Hindu temple in Darjeeling, this is just below
the railway station and is modelled on the famous Pashupatinath
Temple in Kathmandu.
Natural History Museum
Established in 1903, a comprehensive but dusty collection of Himalayan
and Bengali fauna is packed into this interesting museum. Among
the 4300 specimens is the estuarine crocodile, the animal responsible
for the greatest loss of human life in Asia. The museum is open
daily except Thursday, from 10am to 4pm.
Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
This zoo was established in 1958 with the objectives of
study, conservation and preservation of Himalayan fauna. The animals
are well cared for by dedicated keepers. To protect and breed the
dwindling stocks of wild animals, to educate the public and instill
in them a sense of the worth of these wonderful creatures, it is
necessary to keep them in pseudo-natural habitats. The zoo houses
India's only collection of Siberian tigers and some rare species,
such as the red panda and the Tibetan wolf.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) & Museums
Entered through the zoo, on Jawahar Rd West about two km from the
town, the HMI runs courses to train mountaineers, and maintains
a couple of interesting museums. The Mountaineering Museum contains
a collection of historic mountaineering equipment, specimens of
Himalayan flora and fauna and a relief model of the Himalaya. The
Everest Museum next door traces the history of attempts on the great
Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who conquered Everest with Edmund Hillary
in 1953, lived in Darjeeling and was the director of the institute
for many years. He died in 1986 and his statue now stands beside
cremation spot just above the institute.
A 20 to 30 minutes walk from Chowrasta through leafy glades and
tea plantations, brings you down to the Tibetan Refugee Centre.
Established in 1959, the centre comprises a home for the aged, and
orphanage, school, hospital and craft workshops that produce carpets
of pure ladakhi wool, woodcarving, leather work and wool items.
The weaving and dyeing shops and the wood carving shop are particularly
The word gymkhana is actually derived from the Hindi gendkhana (ball
house). Games on offer include tennis, squash, badminton, roller-skating,
table tennis and billiards.
At north point, about 3 km north of the town, is India's oldest
passenger ropeway. It is 5 km long and connects Darjeeling with
Singla bazaar on the little Ranjeet river at the bottom of the valley.
Below the bus and taxi stand near the market, these gardens contain
a representative collection of Himalayan plants, flowers and orchids.
The hothouses are well worth a visit.