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Darjeeling, the Queen of the Hills

Updated: May 25, 2023

​Kurseong | Kalimpong | Sandakphu | Singalila National Park

Geographic Location: Situated at an elevation of approximately 2,042 meters (6,700 ft), the beautiful hill city, of Darjeeling is the district headquarters of the Darjeeling district of the Indian state of West Bengal.

Access: Nearest rail station, New Jalpaiguri Junction is one of the major railheads of North Bengal and it is very well connected to other cities like Kolkata, New Delhi, Guwahati etc. The rail station is about 70 KM from the hill city. There is also a narrow gauge railway that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling and it is known as The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. But now it is operational between Kurseong and Darjeeling only. In the year 1999, UNESCO declared this route a World Heritage Site.

Darjeeling is accessible by road from other places in North Bengal. Siliguri is about 68 KM away and Alipurduar is about 215 KM away.

The nearest airport is Bagdogra International Airport which is 67 KM away from the main city. All major airlines in India operate regular flights to Bagdogra from other cities of India.

Brief Facts: Nestled in magnificent height with a view of Mt. Kanchenjunga and surrounded by tea gardens and green valleys, beautiful Darjeeling has been given the title of “The Queen of the Hills”. Darjeeling is famous in the world for its traditional tea industry and its orthodox aromatic long-leaf black tea. With nearly 100 operational tea estates, Darjeeling is very eminent and internationally recognized for its tea. You would witness the all-embracing view of Mt. Kanchenjunga with the whistling sound of the steam engine of the toy train of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and it gives a romantic feeling indeed.

Darjeeling was under the control of the King of Sikkim until the early 19th century. During the British colonial era, due to the pleasant climate, the place was used as a sanatorium and health resort for British soldiers and since then Darjeeling had been developed briskly by the British. After Indian independence, it was included in the Indian state of West Bengal.

Best Time to Visit: September to May is the best time to visit Darjeeling. Since the climate is subtropical, the place receives heavy rainfall in summer and in the rainy season. The winter season is comparatively dry but very cool as the temperature fluctuates from 4 °C to 20 °C. Sometimes the city receives snowfall during the winter months.

Nearest Attractions: Within Darjeeling there are so many places. The UNESCO world heritage site, The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is worth visiting. It is 88 KM long narrow gauge railway track that covers the distance between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling. But now DHR is operational between Kurseong and Darjeeling Station only and it covers Ghum which is the highest railway station in India, situated at an altitude of 2,258 meters (7,407 feet). It also covers Batasia Loop, which is a mesmerizing toy train pathway and is surrounded by lush green mountains. Batasia Loop offers nice views of the valley and Mt. Kanchenjunga.

A few other places of interest in & around Darjeeling are St. Andrew’s Church, Mag-Dhog Yolmowa Monastery, Happy Valley Tea Estate, Lloyd’s Botanical Garden, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, and Peace Pagoda.

Tiger Hill – The most famous mountain peak in Darjeeling, known for the panoramic view of Mt. Everest and Kanchenjunga, is 20 KM away from the town. People gather here during the sunrise to get the best view of mountain peaks in the golden light.

Senchal Lake & Wildlife Sanctuary – About 11 KM away from Darjeeling, Senchal Lake & Wildlife Sanctuary is the southeast extension of Singalila National Park and it covers an area of 39 square KM. The place is encircled by mountains from all sides. It is a very old sanctuary. It has more than 300 types of plants including pine, oak, birch, rhododendrons, orchids, etc. Animals like Wild dogs, barking deer, Himalayan black bears, leopards, flying squirrels, and birds like flameback woodpeckers, emerald cuckoos, black pheasant, different species of hornbills, different species of sunbirds, collared falconets, etc. can be found here.

Kurseong - With an altitude of 4,864 feet from mean sea level, Kurseong is a subdivision of Darjeeling district and it is 29 KM away from Darjeeling via NH 110. With white orchids grown in abundance in quaint villages, a beautiful tea garden along with mountain slopes, unalike flora & fauna in the hilly area, few famous schools and churches established during the British Colonial days, Kurseong is a must-visit.

Next to Kurseong station, there is Eagle Craig viewpoint which is worth visiting place. Kurseong is extended across various hills. Dow Hill is notable among them. Dow Hill and Dow Hill Park, Dow Hill Forest Museum are a few local attractions.

Kalimpong – The beautiful hill station of North Bengal and an ideal offbeat getaway for relaxation, Kalimpong is about 50 KM from Darjeeling via Rishi Road. The place offers a view of Mt. Kanchenjunga and the Teesta Valley. There are few Buddhist monasteries, churches, and Tibetan handicraft shops. The historically significant place, Kalimpong was Sikkim Raja’s domain in the early 1700s. In the early 1800s, it was Bhutan King's kingdom. After the Anglo-Bhutan War in 1865, British rulers took over the place. 1 or 2 nights in Kalimpong would be a good experience. Bhutia handicrafts, woodcarvings, winter clothes, paintings & souvenirs of Buddhism are shopping options here.

Sandakphu – With an altitude of 11,930 feet from the mean sea level, it is the highest point of West Bengal and the distance is around 58 KM from Darjeeling. The Manaybhanjang – Chitre (the small hilly village in the lap of nature) – Tonglu (a tiny village and one of the peaks of the Singalila Ridge) – Kalipokhri (the small village inside Singalila National Park) – Sandakphu, with an extension to Phalut, is one of the most sought after trekking route which shines brightly with rhododendrons, magnolia, primula, and other alpine flowers during April or May. From Sandakphu and Phalut, the entire range of Mt. Kanchenjunga and Mt. Everest are visible in clear weather. The entire trek may take 4 or 5 days from starting point Manaybhanjang, depending on night halts. In Tonglu or Kalipokhri, having the wine made from Rhododendron flowers with the preparation of dried yak meat would add a unique gastronomic experience to this trip.

Singalila National Park – Located on the Singalila Range, the national park lies en route to Sandakphu from Tonglu. It has an altitude of more than 7,000 feet from the mean sea level. It is a popular destination nowadays for bird photography and for viewing red pandas. Other notable species like Himalayan black bear, clouded leopard, barking deer, and yellow-throated marten can also be found. A few notable bird species, which can be seen here, are Brown Bullfinch, Great Parrtbill, Fulvous Parrotbill, Rusty-throated Wren Babbler, Red-headed Bullfinch, Dark-rumped Rosefinch, Flameback & Rufous Breasted Woodpecker, Brown Parrotbill, Spotted Laughing thrush, Black-throated Parrotbill, Scarlet Finch, Collared Grosbeak, Scaly Laughing thrush, Gold-napped Finch, Satyr Tragopan, Himalayan Monal, Fire-tailed Myzornis, etc.

Things to Do: Without buying different types of Darjeeling tea, the Darjeeling trip would be incomplete. A few places, wherefrom Darjeeling Tea can be purchased, are House of Tea (exclusive outlet of Goodricke, located on Nehru Road), Nathmull's Tea Room (located on Laden La Road), Happy Golden Café (adjacent to Happy Valley Tea Estate), Golden Tips Tea Lounge (located at Chowrasta Mall), and Afternoon Tea at Windamere.

A few popular tea estates, open to visitors, are Badamtam, Happy Valley, Runglee Rungliot, Thurbo, Castleton, Margaret’s Hope, Rangaroon Tea Estate, and Steinthal Tea Estate.

There are few shops in the mall and Chowrasta, where Himalayan handicrafts, hand-weaved winter garments, and Tibetan carpets are available at bargain prices.

With more than 100 years since its establishment in the British Colonial days, the very famous and traditional breakfast & snack place, Keventers is must visit. It is famous for its dishes of bacon, pork, and ham with delicious cheese. Having the view of Kanchenjunga from its rooftop would give you a nice eating experience.

Glenary’s is another popular bakery, restaurant, and pub. The place offers a wide range of delicacies like Chinese dishes, continental dishes, homemade chocolates, homemade cakes & pastries.

Supersoft Ice-Cream Parlour serves handmade ice-creams and other delicious snacks. Kunga Restaurant on Gandhi Road would also be a good choice. Vegetarians can go to Jain Jaika Restaurant on Laden La Road.

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