Like a dream land from ages of yore that seems far from reality, nestled among the mountains and the Queen of the Hills is Darjeeling in West Bengal and here are the eight places one can visit.
How to Get There
- By Air: The nearest airport is Bagdogra airport which is at a distance of 96km from Darjeeling.
- By Rail: The nearest railway station is at New Jalpaiguri which is at a distance of 62km from the main town and is very well connected to major cities such as Delhi, Guwahati, Kolkata, Bangalore.
- By Road: To hit the road and drive from nearby cities such as Kurseong, Kalimpong and Siliguri and admiring the beautiful mountains all the way is like seeing one’s dream unfold on a reel!
Best Time to Visit
The months from April to June are a very pleasant and ideal time to travel to Darjeeling and are perfect for sightseeing. October to March is ideal for the indoorsy and people who enjoy the chill in the air and the beautiful snowfall. July to September is the monsoon season and is better avoided due to heavy rainfall.
1. Tiger Hill
A beautiful viewpoint in Darjeeling which is located at a distance of 11km from Darjeeling town, one can hire a taxi to reach the place from the town. The view of the Kanchenjunga and Mt. Everest is simply splendid and it is the summit of Ghoom. The view of the sunrise that hits the Kanchenjunga, a slight tinge of gold and orange over the snow capped peak is just something one cannot afford to miss. At anytime during the day, the atmosphere up here is serene and soothing.
The rapidly changing weather which differs from the summit to a place somewhere at the base might play a trick in obscuring one’s view and it is advised that one starts early to catch a glimpse of the rising sun coloring the peaks!
2. Batasia Loop
Located on NH 55 and at twenty-minute taxi ride from Darjeeling town is the solemn and splendidly erected war memorial at Batasia. The Batasia Loop is one of the marvels of engineering acumen, and a toy train ride from Darjeeling will take one through this amazing loop which has lush green gardens mottled with flora of varied hues and the azure sky above and the fresh air which is flows just at the right speed!
One can also take a walk along the track instead of savoring the view from the train and stroll through the gardens and pay respects to the martyred Gorkha soldiers at the centrally situated war memorial. There is a small market area which is bustling with people purchasing various items such as artifacts, bags, and hats or savoring hot snacks such as samosas!
3. Bhutia Busty Monastery
Also known as Karmaa Dorjee Chyoling Monastery is a nifty little monastery located in Bhutia town which is located at a distance of a mile from Chowrasta Mall. This traditional Tibetan infused with Sikkim style of architecture is elegant and peaceful. The main prayer room is huge and reverberating with monks chanting, there is model of Buddha in a glass case it also has the image of Tara Devi and Lakshmeeshawari installed on the other side of the hall.
There are large murals illustrating the life story of Buddha which are authentic powder stone works. The monastery is open from early morning until 7 pm and is a calm and peaceful place to be after a busy and hectic day outdoors.
4. Happy Valley Tea Estate
One cannot go to Darjeeling and not visit a tea estate! The Happy Valley Tea Estate is a vast expanse of land, a tea garden on sloping hills and little houses around and the vast chain of mountains beyond. It is located at a distance of about 3km from Chowk Bazaar area and makes for an adventurous walk for the place is winding downhill!
There is a white building within the estate which is a tea production factory and one can catch a glimpse of the process for a minimum fee of 50 to 75 rupees. The factory is open from 8am to 4pm from Tuesday to Saturday and it remains closed during the winter season (November to February), nonetheless one can savor the view of the vast tea garden and do some photography!
5. Japanese Peace Pagoda
Constructed with an intention to bring in peace within people of all races and unite them, this spick and span pure white Pagoda which is located close to a Japanese Temple at the Jalpahar hill area is at a 10 min car ride from Darjeeling town. The temple is a Buddhist religious temple and the Pagoda has the four avatars of Lord Buddha wonderfully showcased.
The white color is a symbol of peace and one can feel the serenity breathed in the air. The avatars of Buddha are carved as statues into the wall in a polished gold color. It is customary to circumambulate around the pinnacle and one can see the four avatars which includes Buddha’s sleeping, sitting, meditating and standing postures on the walls. It is open from 4:30 am to 7pm all week.
6. Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
Visiting a place which is so cold and secluded and highly favorable to many exotic and rare wildlife to thrive, one must definitely pay a visit to the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park. It is located at the Jawahar Parbat and one can take a car up to the Leobong Cart Road and then walk for about 5 minutes to the park.
It is internationally acclaimed for its conservation breeding programs of Red Panda, Tibetan Wolf, Snow Leopards and many such endangered species found in the Eastern Himalayas. More popularly known as Darjeeling Zoo, it is highly remarkable for conservation of the exquisite flora and fauna of the Himalayas and maintaining their numbers by breeding them. Siberian tigers, yaks, Blue Gold Macaw, Hill Mynahs, Rose ring parakeets and for the flora birch, alder and many other species thrive here wonderfully.
The zoo is open on all days except Thursday from 8:30 am to 4 or 4:30pm depending on the season.
7. Observatory Hill
Another viewpoint in Darjeeling to savor and marvel at the snow clad Kanchenjunga and other major peaks and is quite ideal in terms of a tourist destination for there are two more important destinations en route the trip to the top.
Locate at the Mall area and a 15-minute uphill trek which might be a bit tiring but is certainly worth the view from high point. If one is lucky enough and the clouds decide to spare the day then the beautiful view of the sun kissed, snow capped peaks will drain one of all doubts about the peerless artist called nature.
Somewhere halfway through the climb, one can see the ancient heritage site Windamere Hotel and at the summit of the hill is the famous is the gate to the famous Mahakal Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
8. Senchal Lake
Last but not the least is the captivating, lifeline of Darjeeling; Senchal Lake. It is at a distance of about 11 km from Darjeeling town and one can reach via Jorebunglow and Ghoom.
It is part of the larger Senchal sanctuary. The hill on which the lake is located also has one of the highest golf courses in the world. One can make this lake an ideal picnic spot, blue skies above, mountains far and beyond, forests and trees all around with leopards, barking deer’s, monkeys, cuckoos, hornbills and many other animals and a little away from the lake lies the Tiger Hill which is another excellent viewpoint for seeing the sunrise.
There are tourist lodges available within the forest and one can have a peaceful and relaxed time by the lake!