For a tryst with the Himalayas, Darjeeling is a retreat of scenic and natural beauty with its magnificent snow capped mountain peaks, dense forest cover, serene lakes and a wide assortment of flowers. The huge magnolia, pines, spruce forests and green tea estates offer the most panoramic and breathtaking views. Darjeeling, formerly known as ‘Darjiling’ is also known as the place of thunderbolt or Dorja the mystical. The Himalayan city is a popular tourist destination situated at an altitude of 6,710 ft in the Mahabharat range. The town overlooking the snow capped high hills, bedded with an evergreen forest and vibrant market arraying with traditional item shops, have been one of the ideal hill stations in India and has hence earned the status ‘Queen of Hill Stations’.
For centuries the hill station at Darjeeling has provided respite from Kolkata’s fierce summer heat and also the ideal climate for tea planters to cultivate the ‘Champagne of the East’. The wonderfully cool climate, clear brisk air and the breathtaking views of the Himalayas drew the British here to escape the stifling heat of Kolkata. It is a perfect getaway for honeymooners, trekkers and travelers alike seeking to be in harmony with nature and the people. This is the land of flavored ‘Darjeeling-Tea’ revered by connoisseurs across the globe. There are over seventy tea gardens in the region with the nearest being Happy Valley Tea Estate about 1km away which is open to tourists.
A charming small town, Darjeeling enjoys pleasant weather all year round and offers numerous options of things to do for tourists and residents alike. The best way to explore the city is to go trekking. Two of the most popular treks are Sandakphu and Phalut. The shorter trek to Sandakphu passes through the forests of the Singelila National Park, with breathtaking views of the Kanchenjunga range. Continuing on to Phalut the trek takes in views of passes into to Tibet, and views of the Everest range. You can also go for white water rafting on the nearby Tista River.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is the town’s other claim to global fame. Connecting the town with the plains, it was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 and is one of the few steam engines still in service in India. Darjeeling also has several British-style public schools, hotels and houses that are very old and declared as heritage buildings. Other notable attractions in Darjeeling are the Tiger Hill, Ghoom Monastery, Observatory hill, Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Mirik, Lloyd Botanical Garden and Kurseong.
While traveling in Darjeeling, you not only explore the Himalayan hues but also the Tibetan Buddhism culture and lifestyle practiced till date by the locals.