The top things to do in Darjeeling
The Top Things to Do in Darjeeling
Darjeeling is the favourite hill station in West Bengal. It is an excellent introduction to the North Eastern Himalayas. It is ideal for families, honeymoon couples, nature lovers, and adventure enthusiasts. Here is a list of top things to do in Darjeeling when you visit this picturesque hill town.
Staying at a Tea Garden
Going on a tour of a tea garden is not a new idea for Darjeeling. The hill station is renowned for its numerous tea gardens since the British era. Darjeeling is sometimes hailed as the “Pilgrimage site for tea lovers,” with some 80 tea gardens still operational. The lush gardens that sprawl across thousands of acres are famous attractions for Darjeeling’s visitors. The brand Darjeeling alone is associated with top quality tea around the world.
You can plan to stay at one of the tea gardens rather than just visiting one for a few short hours. There are some pretty comfortable lodgings at various tea estates. Some of them have been well maintained since the Colonial era. You can choose from a modest bungalow to a gran Mansion from the British Raj. The experience of staying at a Tea Garden can give you a lifelong memory, set away from the cities’ chaos in a peaceful surrounding.
Tiger Hill is a popular tourist attraction in Darjeeling. It is a beautiful viewpoint on clear mornings for one of the most stunning sunrises in the Himalayas, with Mount Kanchenjunga, the third-highest peak being the main show-stealer.
Most tourists come here early with the hope of catching the first rays of the sun as it hits Kanchenjunga and the numerous snowy peaks around it. However, other 8000 meter mountains such as Mount Makalu, Lhotse, and even Everest can be seen from Tiger Hill on very clear days.
Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park
The Padmaja Zoo in Darjeeling is an institution dedicated to the conservation of endangered species of Himalayan wildlife. Visitors often leave in awe after seeing the exotic wildlife of the Himalayas.
The zoological garden is built on a hilly landscape to depict the natural habitat for the fauna. Look out for the beautiful clouded leopard, snow leopards, Siberian tigers along with other big cats, sloth bears, Himalayan black bears, red pandas, Tibetan wolves. The natural settings help the animals exist with ease.
The Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park runs a very successful breeding of Himalayan tahr, blue sheep, Himalayan Monal, Himalayan salamander, red pandas, grey peacock pheasant, satyr tragopan, and blood pheasant. In addition, the zoo is renowned for its conservation breeding programs of the red panda, Himalayan salamander, Tibetan wolf, and snow leopard.
Set within the same compound of the zoo is the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. It is a centre that trains outdoor and mountaineering courses. In addition, there is a mountaineering museum. The admission ticket covers both attractions. Both remain open daily from 8 am to 4 pm.
The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI)
The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is almost a shrine for many mountaineering aficionados. The HMI conducts mountaineering and adventure courses several times of the year.
The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute was established in honour of two famous mountaineers, Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary, after Everest’s summit in 1953. The HMI museum has a vast collection of climbing gear and equipment types from the bygone era and brings much nostalgia to the visitor.
It is an excellent place to visit and can combine with a visit to the Padmaja Naidu Zoo.
Explore colonial connections
The British Colonialists chose to reside in Darjeeling because of the similarities with the climate back home, with a bonus of the scenic beauty. Many buildings standstill from the British Raj. Some classical structures from the 19th century are the Capitol Building, The Immaculate Conception Church, the Windermere hotel, and the Glenburn Tea Estate.
These beautiful buildings remind both residents and visitors of the colonial days. One can enjoy a luxury stay at the Windemere Hotel and the Glenburn Tea Estate with the bygone era’s nostalgia.
Toy Train Ride.
Darjeeling is well known for its tea, scenic beauty, and impressive mountain railway. This narrow-gauge railway is a marvel of engineering, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The railway is also called “Toy Train,” and riding the “Toy Train” is on the list of things to do while in Darjeeling. A ride to Ghoom and back takes half a day. The train fare is INR 360, which includes the entrance to the train museum at Ghoom.
Darjeeling had a longstanding trade connection with Tibet. A lot of Tibetans took refuge in Darjeeling in 1959 after the mass exodus from Tibet. India has since become an essential centre for Tibetans. The Tibetan Self Help Center has evolved into a vital hub for the Tibetan community. Visit the centre to learn about their history and support them by purchasing their beautiful arts and crafts.
The ornate Buddhist monasteries of Darjeeling are worth visiting. Some of the not to be missed Monasteries are the Bhutia Busty Gompa, which also happens to be the home to the original copy of “The Tibetan book of the dead.” The Ghoom Batasia monasteries are two other monasteries not to be missed. These monasteries are in a lovely setting, with Mount Kanchenjunga towering over them and the Darjeeling town.
Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center
The Self Help Center is an excellent place to check out the lives of Tibetans in exile. In addition, one can admire the artisans’ skills in making jewellery, handicrafts, metal-work, Thangka paintings, and carpet weaving, etcetera.
The Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center in Darjeeling is one place to check the Tibetans’ lives in exile. At the Tibetan centre, explore some intricate work by the skilful artisans. Moreover, it is one of the best places to buy souvenirs while helping the refugees to sustain themselves by this means.
Mahakal Temple, Darjeeling
The Darjeeling Observatory hill is a great location to enjoy the delightful views of the valleys. It is a short hike from town. You can get away for a few hours to enjoy the serene ambience and mesmerizing views. A little further from the Bhutia Busty Monastery is a strongly revered Mahakal, a Hindu Temple. This sacred place is religiously significant to both Hindus and Buddhists. The pilgrims come with offerings, and the constant ringing of the bells and fluttering prayer flags can give you a feeling of positive vibes. Be careful of the monkeys that can come to snatch things from your hand as an easy source of food.
Riding on the cable car in Darjeeling, can you give a view from another angle altogether. The Rangeet valley cable car is an excellent way to enjoy this scenic ride to Rangeet valley and visit a tea garden. The short 45-minute ride brings you from an altitude of 2100 meters to 800 meters.
Chill Darjeeling Chowrasta
Chowrasta is a favourite place to watch the world pass through. It is a place where both locals and visitors love to hang out to chill, people watch, ride ponies or walk on the Mall road. There are plenty of shops selling souvenirs, artefacts and to savour local eateries and restaurants.
The Peace Pagoda
The foundation stone of the pagoda was laid on 3 November 1972 by Nichidatsu Fujii. It was inaugurated on 1 November 1992. The construction of the pagoda that M. Ohka designed took 36 months to be completed. The pagoda is 28.5 meters high and 23 meters in diameter. It is situated on the slopes of Jalapahar Hills. The peace pagoda is one of the 30 shrines of its kind in the world. The views from this spectacular monument are spectacular, as well. It is yet another place for contemplation in peace from the hustle and bustle of downtown Darjeeling.
Shopping in Darjeeling
There are always plenty of things to do in Darjeeling. There is a wide choice of shopping to be done here. You can start with the local provision shops at Chowk Bazaar up to the stalls on the way to Chowrasta and the more stylish shops at Chowrasta. They have shops and goods for visitors from all walks of life, from the inexpensive woollen wear, handicrafts, prayer flags, tea to the more exotic collectables.
The Batasia Loop
The Batasia Loop is on the route of the toy train. It is a popular stopover for tourists either on the way back from Tiger Hill or on the Toy train ride. On clear days, the views of Kanchenjunga and the Eastern Himalayan peaks are breathtaking.
The loop was built to help the toy train navigate the steep ascent and descent on the mountain railway. There is a garden at the top of the loop with a war memorial to Honour the Gorkha soldiers. The tourists stop to admire the views, take photos, and do some souvenir hunting. If you are there at the right time, you might even see a Toy train chugging slowly to the top of the loop.
Darjeeling, the queen of hills, is a favourite for outdoor activities. Whitewater rafting is one of the exhilarating adventure sports that can be experienced on the Teesta river. The rushing water from the nearby hills and Himalayan peaks feed the Teesta, making it an exciting river for white water rafting for beginners and experienced rafters alike. You can also opt for an overnight rafting trip for an extended experience. The Teesta is a great river to raft throughout the year, but there is a lull during the monsoon as very few tourists visit Darjeeling during this period.
Visit a Tea Garden
If you have not been on the cable car ride and visited Rangeet tea estate, then Happy Valley Tea Estate is located close to town; the Happy Valley Tea gardens are the second oldest in Darjeeling. It is spread over 437 acres of land and one of the biggest employers with more than 1500 employees at the plantation. The tea estate is at an altitude of 2075 meters and only three kilometres from town, another quiet hub a short distance from downtown.
Plan a full day outing and enhance your knowledge of the tea industry. The Happy valley tea estate is internationally famous for its organic farming. It produces some most exceptional quality of luxurious hand-rolled tea. When in Darjeeling, you cannot miss a visit. Sample the tea, and don’t forget to bring home some.
Darjeeling has a large variety of eateries, restaurants, and food joints. You can get from mouthwatering to super-hot local favourites, Indian cuisine, Tibetan, Chinese, Thai, and ever-growing new restaurants that provide international cuisine. You will see both locals and visitors enjoying their meals in many of these eateries. Some of the best-known institutions to enjoy great food are Keventer’s and Glenary’s Bakery.
Darjeeling is full of hard-working people, including their womenfolk. There is high unemployment in this district, with minimal employment opportunities. The women try to contribute to the economy and the family income. Visit Hayden Hall, where there is an initiative that sells handicrafts made by women. You can contribute to the enterprise and these hard-working women’s income by purchasing some products such as hand-woven bags, carpets, hand-knitted hats, socks, and gloves for a good cause.
Get a Tattoo
You must be wondering, of all places – why get a tattoo here? The people of Darjeeling have always been very talented in music and painting/art. Now some of the gifted youths have channelled their talent into this new trendy art form. They have a unique combination of art from the hippie era, and Buddhism influences their craft. You can get an exact quotation or an inspirational image of the Buddha on your body.
The North Eastern Himalayas
You can combine a visit to Darjeeling with the surrounding areas of Kurseong, Kalimpong, and in the many sprouting homestays in the villages with hospitable families with quaint forests and farmlands. You can also visit nearby Sikkim or combine it with your Bhutan tour or other North-East Indian states such as Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, etcetera.