Tour Destinations - India - Darjeeling
Darjeeling conjures visions of snow peaks, serenity of vibrant green
hills steeped in splendor, a land of breathtaking beauty crowned by
the majestic Himalayas. Darjeeling is one of the most magnificent hill
resorts in the world. This heavenly retreat is bathed in hues of every
shade. Flaming red rhododendrons, sparkling white magnolias, miles of
undulating hillsides covered with emerald green tea bushes, the exotic
forests of silver fir - all under the blanket of a brilliant azure sky
dappled with specks of clouds, compellingly confounds Darjeeling as
the QUEEN OF HILL STATIONS. The crest of Kanchenjunga shining in the
first dawn light truly supports the title.
Darjeeling beckons thousands today for a leisurely respite from the
bustle of the madding crowd. The traveller - whether a tourist or a
trekker, an ornithologist or a photographer, a botanist or an artist
- will find in Darjeeling an experience which will remain etched in
the memory - forever.
Tiger Hill-Tiger Hill is the best point in Darjeeling for watching sunrise.
Located at a height of 7,407 feet above sea level, the hilly trails
through the mountains lead to the hill top. On a clear day, the entire
Himalayan range can be seen. It is at a distance of 11 km from the main
city of Darjeeling.
Sunrise tours to Tiger Hill are arranged by hotels. Normally, the pickup
time from the hotel is around 4 am. It is better to reach a little early
in order to secure a place. There are tea stalls selling flavored Darjeeling
tea along with snacks. There are also shops from where one can pick
up souvenirs like hand crafted items or picture post cards of Kanchenjunga
Tiger Hill is located 11km (6.8 miles) from Darjeeling town and above
Ghoom. It's the highest point in the Darjeeling area at an altitude
of 8482 feet (or 2590 meters). The best season to see the dazzling snow
covered peaks as the sun rises is between Mid October to December. March
to April is also a good time. For sunrise, you will need to start by
3:30am in the morning so that you reach by 4.15am. Some taxi drivers
will insist that you start even earlier. There is a reason why. As you
reach close to the summit, particularly during the high season there
would be a huge queue of cars lined up. Hundreds of tourists come here
every day for the sunrise view during this time. As a result, you may
have to walk uphill quite a bit as your vehicle may be parked much below
the top. And if the tower-house from where people watch the sunrise
gets full by the time you reach, then you will probably need to watch
the sunrise standing on a meadow little below the summit. Remember,
Darjeeling's weather can change anytime. The fog and the mist play a
mystical game here all the time. They can come from nowhere and put
a white blanket all around. You can't predict that. In fact, looking
at the weather and the sky from Darjeeling Town is almost no indication
of how the weather may be at Tiger Hill. Cloud and fog in this area
lie at various levels of the mountains; sometimes they may be above
you, other times you may be above them. So no one can guarantee a perfect
sunrise view from the Tiger Hill. In many occasions, tourists are able
to see the sun after it has risen quite a bit in the sky and not when
they want to see it rising over the horizon and spreading its multicolor
hue on the snow capped peaks. So, be prepared to experience the magical
play of the sunrise the way the nature offers you. Just before the sun
comes up, the peaks begin to emerge. It’s hard to take your eyes
off the dazzling snow peaks of Kanchenjunga that has vive treasure peaks
of the snow, the highest of those being 28,169 ft (or 8,586 meters)
which is the third highest peak of the world. On a clear day if the
mist doesn’t play foul, you can even see the world’s highest
peak Mount Everest 29,029 ft ( 8,848 meters) which lies about 225 km
away and also the Mount Makalu 27,769 ft ( 8,464 meters). About 135
km away is the Tibet’s Chomol Hari Mountain which is said to be
world’s most beautiful peak. And then the sun rises above the
horizon a little away from the peaks.
Japanese Peace Pagoda:
Japanese Peace Pagoda is one of the most popular attractions in the Darjeeling
city of West Bengal. It is one of those Peace Pagodas in the world that
have been established with the aim of creating a special niche for enlightening
people from all religions, creeds and origins, to come together and work
for world peace. It was build under the supervision of a Buddhist Monk,
Nichidatsu Fujii, who was also the founder and preceptor of Nipponzan
Myohoji, a Buddhist order for world peace.
The foundation stone of the Japanese Peace Pagoda in
Darjeeling was laid down by Fujii himself, on 3rd November 1972. However,
this Pagoda was inaugurated after his death, in 1992, by his senior most
disciples. Nichidatsu Fujii, popularly known as Fujii Guruji, was also
a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. Perturbed by the tragedy that followed
the dropping of atom bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in 1945, Nichidatsu
Fujii pledged to teach the world the importance of non-violence, goodwill
Japanese Peace Pagoda of Darjeeling comes across as
one of Fujii's efforts to teach world a lesson of spirituality and peace.
It was designed by Dr M Ohka of Japan. This pagoda, which is 28.5 meters
long and 23 meters in diameter, still stands as a sacred symbol of harmony
and brotherhood, inspiring the entire world. The only motive of this sacred
testament is to establish unity, harmony and goodwill amongst people belonging
to different sects of society. Whenever you happen to visit Darjeeling,
make sure to pay a visit to this 'peace monument'.
This monastery is situated just opposite to the Batasia Loop or the War
Memorial. Nearly 8 kilometers from Darjeeling is the Ghoom Gompa. Here
a very beautiful statue of the Maitriyia Buddha is established. The Monastery
has also preserved some of the rare handwritten Buddhist manuscripts.
There are three other Gumpha like Samdenchoeling, Sakyachoeling and the
Phin Sotholing. Midway between Ghoom and entry of Darjeeling town is the
Thupten Sangachoeling Gompa. Tourist and Guest interested in Tibetan Buddhism
often visit or study here. A little closer to Darjeeling on the same road
is the Sonada Gompa.This place also has a very good market where you can
buy the purses, bags and other decorative items made by the local women
at very reasonable price The monks or many Buddhist women sells Tibetan
handicrafts and religious objects. If the monastery is closed nearby cottages
will definitely please you with their ware. It is advisable for the guest
to visit this area either early morning or late evening to get a glimpse
of the beauty of the Himalaya and the rising or setting sun. At Ghoom
one can spend more than a day. The Monastery, The highest Railway Station
of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, The War Memorial, Batasia Loop and the
scenic beauty is worth enjoying.
The Batasia Loop is a spiral railway created to lower the gradient of
ascent of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in Darjeeling district of West
Bengal, India. At this point, the track spirals around over itself through
a tunnel and over a hilltop. The Batasia loop situated almost 5 km away
from the town is a gigantic railway loop where the Toy Train makes a 360
Degree turn. It was basically built to make it possible for the Toy Train
to cut the deep ascend. Strategically located the Batasia Loop offers
a panoramic view of the Kanchanjunga Range. A War Memorial constructed
in the memory of the brave sons of the soil who laid down their lives
in the different wars since the independence of the nation adds to its
attraction. There is also a well furbished market where visitors can buy
locally made purses, bags and other decorative items.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute:
The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute was set up following the successful
ascent of the Mount Everest-the highest peak in the world by the local
hero Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir EdEdumund Hillary on 28 May 1953. The
oldest mountaineering institute in the country carries out various mountaineering
courses every year. Apart from Tenzing, legendary mountaineers like Nawang
Gombu(the first man to climb Everest twice) and Lattoo Dorjee Sherpa have
helped build the reputation of this pioneering institute.
Himalayan Zoological Park:
Established on the 14th of August, 1958, the zoo was dedicated to the
memory of Padmaja Naidu, former Governor of West Bengal on the 21st November,
1975. Considered as one of the best zoos in the country, it is the only
centre that breeds the tibetan wolf in captivity. Breeding programmes
for the endangered red panda, snow leopard and the siberian tiger are
also carried out at PNHZP. The zoo is open on all days except on Thursdays
and other national holidays.
Tenzing Rock, a gigantic natural rock in Darjeeling is named after Tenzing
Norgay, the man who created history by climbing the Everest first time
along with Edmund Hillary in 1953.
Opposite to this is the Gombu Rock named after Nawang
Gombu, nephew of Tenzing who was the first person to climb the Everest
twice, once in 1963 and then in 65. He took over as the Director of Field
Training at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute after Tenzing retired in
Both these rocks are used for rock climbing training by HMI.
There is a board right on top of the Tenzing Rock that
says “HMI Rock Climbing Training Area”. While facing the Tenzing
Rock, the left side or the left face of the rock is used by the professional
rock climbers and the trainees. Most tourists make a mistake of going
over to the right side where the approach to the top of another parallel
rock is quite shorter.
Actually the right face of the rock can be used by amateur climbers or
even tourists for climbing. However one needs to take help of guides and
pay some nominal fee. The gradient of the right face is gentle and surface
is easier for climbing.
The steep and almost vertical rock comes up from far
below and rises high above the road level. Tenzing himself used to practice
climbing on this rock. During a visit of erstwhile Prime Minister Jawaharlal
Nehru, Tenzing demonstrated a climb on this rock without any safety equipment.
During and after the monsoon, the surface of the both
rock get covered with slippery moss that makes it even more difficult
to climb. Often the moss is cleaned up and powders sprayed on the surface
to circumvent this problem. There are many temporary stalls put up by
the local Nepali vendors on that side selling tea, momos (dumplings) etc.
They set up tables under a large shade.
Tibetan Refugee Centre:
This complex was setup by the Tibetan refugees in Darjeeling on October
2, 1959 after they followed Dalai Lama and escaped from Tibet. The refugees
adopted the principle of self help so that they could become self-independent
and completely rehabilitate themselves in a foreign country, which they
They received the site “Hill Side” measuring some 4 acres
of area from the state government to build the center. It’s located
on a hill top that can be approached from Lebong Cart Road by car. Initially
they started raising funds through donations, subscriptions, charity
shows and even through exhibition soccer match. Soon they started receiving
some funds from domestic and international voluntary organizations as
Happy Valley Tea Garden:
The estate was established in 1854 making it oldest tea estate of Darjeeling,
and at a height of 6,800 feet, it is also one of the highest tea factories
in the world. David Wilson, an Englishman, had named the garden Wilson
Tea Estate and by 1860 had started cultivation of tea. In 1903, the estate
was taken over by an Indian, Tarapada Banerjee, an aristocrat from Hooghly.
In 1929, Banerjee bought the Windsor Tea Estate nearby, and merged the
two estates under the name of Happy Valley Tea Estate. G.C. Banerjee was
the next owner of Happy Valley Tea Estate. He with his wife Annapurna
Devi and three daughters (Nonimukhi, Monmaya and Savitri) lived there
for some time. Annapurna Devi was related to the Ganguly family of Khandwa;
her maternal uncle was Kunjalal Bihari, father of the famous cine Gangulys.
In March 2007, after remaining nearly dormant for nearly
four years as the tea industry had experienced a slump, the estate was
bought over by S K Bansal, of Ambotia Tea Group, which established a new
factory within the premises, and started modernization process, replating
and switching to organic farming. Finally, the estate reopened to public
in 2008, with the original factory turned into a working museum. It also
displayed single piston slow-speed engines, and the shaft machines and
sells tea-related mementos. The tea estate is spread over 437 acres, at
a height of 6,800 ft. (2,100 m). The bushes in the garden are very old
— the minimum age is 80 years, and some are 150 years old. Very
little re-plantation has been done in the recent past. Situated around
3 km north of town, below Hill Cart Road, accessible via Lochnager Road
from Chowk Bazaar, this tea estate is the closest tea estate to Darjeeling
town, and tourists often visit the garden. The months of March to May
are the busiest time here, when plucking and processing are in progress.
It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There are seasons for different types of tea. Green and little bit of
White Tea are plucked during March to May. June to August is the season
for Black Tea. September to November is again the season for Green and
White Tea. During the other months (December to February), teas are not
plucked and the machines do not operate. The teas produced at the Happy
Valley Tea Estates are all exported. Harrods in London is the main distributor
of the tea.
A committee with 10 members was formed that was responsible
for the development and management of the center. Ms Gaylo Thondup was
the first President of the center. One of the prominent members of the
first committee was Tenzing Norgay who climbed the Everest in May 1953
with Edmund Hillary.
A small center that started with only 4 workers with the objective of
self rehabilitation and helping the under-privileged Tibetan community
in the area has now grown to accommodate more than 650 Tibetan refugees.
You will see Tibetan men and women making exquisite hand crafted items
like woolen shawls & carpets, carved wooden crafts, leather jackets,
coats and lots of other items. They have a training center that imparts
skills to the new workers.
Here you will see all the hand crafted items on sale.
There are many ladies jackets, carpets, gloves, woolen aprons, bags, various
types of curios, small models of Buddha, cards, pouches, carved wooden
items, hand painted scenery and pictures of Tibetan women on cloth pieces,
and many other items.
There is a small counter where two Tibetan women help with the transactions.
There is a board that says “Fixed Price” which essentially
means no bargaining. A Hindi music usually plays here in the background.
The factory of the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center
where the all the handicraft items are made, is located at a place known
as Hill Side. From Lebong Cart Road opposite to the Rangeet Valley Tea
Estate, a narrow steep road on the right goes uphill. This winding road
leads to the center. From Darjeeling town center, it takes about 20 minutes
to reach the center by car.
Mirik is famous for its scenic beauty, its beautiful Sumendu Lake, the
monastery and other activities like horse riding and boating. This hill
station serves as a great place for complete relaxation for those who
want to escape from the city madness. Situated at an altitude of 1767
meters, Mirik is widely covered by cardamom and pine forests. Besides,
there are many other plantations and orchards in Mirik that attracts a
lot of nature lovers from all over the country. You can walk down the
gardens of Mirik and enjoy the natural surroundings. Don’t miss
the Sumendu Lake, which has a bridge over it that spans 80 meters and
enters a dense pine grove.
Places to see in Mirik: Perhaps, the biggest attraction
of Mirik is the Mirik Lake, which is a great place to take a horse ride
around it. Besides, there is the coffee and tea plantation that makes
it a good spot, especially for nature lovers. Religious people will have
a pretty good time visiting some places of religious importance like Shri
Mangal Dham, a temple that was built in 1933. Devi Sthan or the Singha
Devi Temple located on the western bank of the Sumendu Lake is another
place of religious importance. Rai Dhap, another beautiful spot overlooking
Mirik is apt for picnics. This place is the main source for water for
the people of Mirik. There are a few viewpoints located all around Mirik,
which offers panoramic views of Mt. Kanchenjungha too.