Darjeeling is a wonderful city in India. A memorable train ride along the charismatic Himalayan, tea gardens, catching the sunrise at Tiger Hill, mesmerizing temples, and more are waiting for you here. To help you plan a trip to Darjeeling, here is a complete travel guide to Darjeeling, India written by Amrita Sen from Tale of 2 Backpackers. This travel guide includes the top attractions in Darjeeling, off the beaten paths things to see and do, tips, where to eat and where to stay.
Darjeeling is a charming town located in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas in the state of West Bengal. It has an ethereal beauty and its Victorian charm can lure all. With the magnificent Kanchenjunga at the backdrop and the lush green tea gardens, the town is very aptly called the Queen of Hills. And the best part is the Darjeeling Toy Train (The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways) that chugs along the narrow railway lines.
The name Darjeeling comes from the Tibetan words ‘Dorje’ meaning thunderbolt and ‘ling’ meaning land. Thus Darjeeling is known as the land of thunderbolt. Here is a complete travel guide to Darjeeling, The Queen of Hills!
Top 6 Landmarks to See in Darjeeling
1. The Mall or Chowrasta:
The Mall is perhaps the best place of Darjeeling where you can roam around leisurely without thinking of the traffic. It is the centre of Darjeeling town and the meeting point of 4 roads. No traffic is allowed here. There are benches surrounding the Mall. Many beautiful boutique stalls and eateries are present surrounding the Mall. On a clear day, you might be able to see the Kanchenjunga ranges from the Mall itself.
2. The Darjeeling Zoo and Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI):
The Darjeeling Zoo is one of the major attractions of Darjeeling. it covers a vast area of 27 acres and is specialized as a breeding centre of endangered Himalayan species like red panda, snow leopards, Tibetan wolf, Himalayan black bear, and other species. You can see a variety of Himalayan animal and bird species here.
The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute or HMI is a pilgrimage for the entire trekking enthusiast and the mountain lovers. It organizes various mountaineering and adventure courses.
Zoo Timings: Everyday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM in the summer and 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM in the winters.
3. Sunrise at Tiger Hill
Your visit to Darjeeling will not be completed if you do not visit the Tiger Hill and view the sunrise from there. When the first rays of sun falls on the snow clad peaks of Kanchenjunga and the Everest ranges, you will fell nothing short of ecstasy.
4. The Darjeeling Toy Train
Just like the Tiger Hill, the Darjeeling toy train is must see. The toy train ride in Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) in the misty tracks of Darjeeling will transport you to a romantic dreamland. The DHR has been given the UNESCO World Heritage site status. Where else you can find steam engines pulling mini coaches in breathtaking sceneries? The Ghum station at a height of 7404 ft has the distinction of being the highest narrow gauge station in the world. You can take the joy ride at the Darjeeling toy train that makes around trip from Darjeeling station upto Ghum Station via the Batasia Loop.
5. Japanese Temple and Peace Pagoda
The Japanese Temple is located in the Jalapahar hills and is a place of peace and tranquility. It is built in traditional Japanese style and you can very well find your zen here.
Temple Timings: Everyday from 4:30 AM to 7 PM
6. Happy Valley Tea Estate
You cannot simply leave Darjeeling without visiting the tea gardens and having a cuppa fresh Darjeeling Tea. Happy Valley tea estate is the best place in Darjeeling where you can get a first hand experience of the tea gardens as well as the process how the tea leaves are processed into tea.
Timings: The Tea estate and factory are open from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM from Tuesday to Saturday.
Darjeeling Off the Beaten Path
Darjeeling cannot be surmised in all these landmarks. There are so many things to see and experience here. Here are few more experiences to explore if you have more time in your hands, as this is a complete travel guide to Darjeeling.
1. Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre
The Tibetan Refugee Centre was started on October 2, 1959 after his Holiness Dalai Lama escaped from Tibet. The refugees were given land here and they adopted the method of self help so that they can be independent in a foreign country. They now make various Tibetan handicrafts that you can buy from them.
2. The Das Studio
The Das Studio is a place for all the photography enthusiasts. It is situated at the Nehru Road and carries on the legacy of photographs of the mountains. The Studio was established by Mr. Thakur Das Pradhan in 1927. The studio has unique and wonderful photographs of various mountain ranges as well as old and current Darjeeling. Visit Das Studio if you love photography.
3. Monastery Hopping in Darjeeling
Visit the monasteries of Darjeeling to get an idea of Tibetan Buddhism. The famous monasteries of Darjeeling are the Bhutia Busty Monastery, Dali Monastery, Old Ghum Monastery and the Samten Choling Monastery. You can also visit the Mahakal Temple at the Observatory Hills that is revered by both the Buddhist and Hindu community.
4. Go for a trek to Sandakphu
Darjeeling is the starting point of Sandakphu trek, one of the most beautiful treks in eastern India. The trek starts from Maneybhanjan, a small hamlet near Darjeeling. From Sandakphu, you can get wonderful views of the Kanchenjunga ranges. And if you choose to trek further upto Phalut, you get to see 360-degree panoramic views of the mountain ranges.
Where to eat in Darjeeling
A complete travel Guide to Darjeeling, India has to include recommendatons of restaurants, so here they are:
Keventers is one of the best places that serves English breakfast. But the restaurant is only for non-veg.
2. Glenary’s Bakery and Restaurant
Glenary’s is one of the finest eateries at Darjeeling. It has a café and bakery at the ground floor and a multicuisine restaurant at the top floor. The basement has a pub named Buzz Bar. Both Glenary’s and Keventers are situated at the Nehru Road near the Mall.
3. Sonam’s Kitchen:
For a taste of the Nepali food, visit Sonam’s Kitchen. It is located in the Zakir Hussain Road.
Where to stay in Darjeeling
There are many accomodation optiones in Darjeeling, and listed in this complete travel Guide to Darjeeling are the best:
Do you think Revolver is a strange name? This hotel is built by a couple who are ardent fans of the Beetles. The hotel was built in the theme of the famous music band. It has rooms named after the singers and manager of the Beetles. The hotel is situated at Gandhi Road, a 15 minutes walk from the Mall.
Some other budget Hotels at Darjeeling:
Capital guest House
Pahari Soul Homestay
Happy Valley Homestay
Boutique Hotels at Darjeeling:
The Cedar Inn
Tips for Darjeeling
- Taste the famous Darjeeling tea and buy tea for your home. Don’t buy tea from anywhere, the best tea shops are the Golden Tips and Nathmull’s at the Mall or Chowrasta. You can also buy good quality Darjeeling Tea from the happy Valley Tea estate.
- If you are shopping from the local market, do not forget to bargain. And bargain hard!
- If you are fond of hiking, then you can hike around the Mall and tale the road behind the Mall all the way upto the Zoo. It is a pleasant walk.
- Start your day early in Darjeeling. Roam around the entire day and have fun. But after dusk, it is not advisable to roam around alone in desolate places.
- If you are getting in a shared vehicle, talk to the driver about the fare in advance. And if you are hiring any vehicle, then it is better to do so from the car hire companies. Random drivers will try to take extra from you.
- Please do not wear short dresses while visiting a temple or monastery.
Darjeeling is a wonderful place for a vacation. It offers many options to tourists and travellers. It is a must visit place of India, a place to enjoy a cup of warm Darjeeling tea and viewing the mighty Kanchenjunga ranges.
About the author:
Amrita Sen – I am an avid traveller and a storyteller. I have left behind my lucrative bank job to pursue my passion for writing and travelling. I want to travel my country India and experience the unexplored facets of the country. I believe that travelling increases our horizon and knowledge; I am just a traveler who is learning to travel and travelling to learn!
I love the mountains and wish to scale Mt. Everest by 2020. Follow her travels on Facebook, Twitter, and instagram too.