Darjeeling, also known as the “ Queen of Hills”, is a quaint hill station in the Himalayan foothills of the state of West Bengal, India. Spread over vibrant green hills amidst acres of emerald green tea plantations, it gives one of the most breathtaking views of the majestic Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain of the world. Nestled comfortably among the snow-capped Himalayan peak, Darjeeling is a conglomeration of quaint British era houses, serene forests and a rich influence of Tibetan culture and cuisine reflecting in every nook and corner.
1. When in Darjeeling, the famous ride on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a must. Fondly known as the Darjeeling toy train, it gives the most envious and laid back ride over undulating hills. It negotiates at least 870 curves, amidst the lush green tree plantations and dense forests. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, when in Darjeeling, it should feature as a top priority in the must-do list.
2. For all adrenaline junkies, the best thing to do while in Darjeeling is to experience river rafting in the raging Teesta river. Known as one of the country’s best for its varied intensity of rapids. It surely will challenge your wits. Rafting and camping on the bank of the river is a match made for each other and will undoubtedly tickle your adventurous spirit.
3. A must-do you in your tour itinerary is an early morning visit to Tiger Hill. Catch the awe-inspiring view of the first golden rays of sun bathing the mighty snow clad Kanchenjunga with a cup of Darjeeling tea and biscuit from Glenarys.
What do you like about your city?
Darjeeling is crowded during peak seasons. It has its own old world charm exuding from every corner. Whether it’s the mist laden smoky air, the snow clad Kanchenjunga. The delicious aroma of fresh bakes from Glenarys or the all-embracing smiles of the locals; this little hill station has it all to fill up your inner void and relax your senses.
Best Walk in Darjeeling
There are way too many walking opportunities in and around Darjeeling. In fact these hill-stations are best explored by foot. Take a walk along the heart of Darjeeling town, the Darjeeling Mall or Chowrasta , as it is popularly known. A delight for pedestrians and usually crowded at peak hours, try to take an early morning stroll here. To enjoy the warmth of the morning sun rejuvenating your soul. If the weather permits you will surely catch the most resplendent view of Kanchenjunga beyond, and the valleys beneath.
Take a look at the colonial architecture dotting the streets including the famous clock tower, and the not-to-be missed Andrews Church. You can take the Mall Road and trudge towards the Observatory Hills to get the best mountain view or just sit back and watch the sudden appearance of the much coveted toy train rattling past. Being a social centre, the cacophony during peak time might seem revolting at times, but as you walk along and imbibe the charm, there is no looking back.
For the adventure seekers and trek lovers, the Sandakphu Trek along the Singalila ridge in Darjeeling is a must, provided you have time in your hand. Sandakphu is the highest point of the state of West Bengal, India and is considered as the Holy Grail of Indian trekking, as it gives a pristine view of four of the five highest peaks of the world – Everest,Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu, on a clear sunny day. The trail runs through dense rhododendron forests and tall bamboo thickets. One of the most popular tourist destinations, it can be physically challenging too; though the mesmerizing view along the trail will keep you ecstatic throughout.
Best Restaurants in Darjeeling
Making a list about the best places to eat in Darjeeling, is quite a daunting task, as almost every eatery has it’s speciality and every one of them exudes a magical charm. Darjeeling is synonymous with Keventers and Glenarys, the two oldest eateries always brimming with tourists.
Keventers is an institution in itself. The charm and nostalgia it emits transport you to a different era. Catch the morning breakfast platter of sausages, ham, bacon and fried eggs on the open terrace overlooking the ridge, and wash it down with a steaming cup of hot chocolate.The not-to-be missed Glenarys is all about freshly baked cakes, pastries, breads, brownies and the best class of Darjeeling tea. Best known for its cafe atmosphere, sit and idle your evening with a cup of the best tea or just fill your lungs with the aroma of fresh baked goodies.
Kunga Restaurant- Difficult to find an empty table at peak hours, Kunga’s speciality is its local Tibetan cuisines of momos and soups. While in Kunga, do not miss the Tibetan meat pies, Tibetan breads and Gyathuks.
Tea gardens being the signature of Darjeeling, a visit to Nathmull’s is a must for tea enthusiast. As tea lovers you get to see, smell , taste and buy some of the world’s finest tea here. Take a cup of first flush and soak in the charm of the sunset skies.
The near mention of Darjeeling sums up a beautiful image of hills and tea gardens but to get the actual taste of its distinct culture, one has to be a part of its festivals and events.
The Darjeeling carnival celebrated in the month of November is a 10 day event which includes band music of different languages, exhibitions, and many more such activities. You can also get the opportunity to taste the varied local cuisines sold here.
Teesta Tea and Tourism Festival- This November festival is one of the most famous festivals in Darjeeling. It has an epic footfall of tourists all over the world. As the name indicates this event exhibits tea tasting sessions and it will take all the tea lovers along a unique ride of different flavours of tea ranging from the scented ones to the black tea to the first flush.
If you are a late night person, be aware of your timings as nightlife ends fast in the hills. Nearly all the pubs down their shutters by 9:30pm.
Joey’s Pub- The face of Darjeeling nightlife, do not miss this old British style country pub. Whether you want to relish a beer or drown in its earthy atmosphere. This is the place to enjoy a complete laid back evening.
Gatty’s Cafe – A perfect combination of a cafe, bar and music lounge. It is the only place in Darjeeling that remains open till midnight. The local bands, the ambience, food, everything will amaze you and you would want to visit it again.
Far from the blaring music, there is more to Darjeeling nightlife than just pubs and bars. The intoxicating night lets you sit and even talk to strangers, make local friends, strengthen old bonds and have the best evening under the starry sky.
Best Day Trip out of the City
Darjeeling being a tourist hotspot, it represents a cacophonous busy life during peak seasons. If time permits, it’s best recommended to go on few day trips out from the city and explore nature in its most pristine form.
The most beautiful yet virgin circuit includes the day tour through villages of Takdah, Tinchuley and Lamahatta. Famous for its clear and stunning mountain views, you will also stumble upon some lovely tea gardens and orchid centres.
A day trip to Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary is also a must for wildlife lovers. Home to the Himalayan black bear, mountain goats and many more resident and migratory birds. It is about a few kilometres drive from the town centre and will surely liven up the zoologist in you.
Something that not many travellers know about Darjeeling
When we talk about the best way to view a hill station or a city, it is undoubtedly the ropeway system and Darjeeling proudly boasts of the largest ropeway in Asia. Started in 1968, the first cable car system in India. The Rangeet-Valley Ropeway System of Darjeeling, makes a steep climb amidst dense forests. It gives the best panoramic view of the city through the veils of clouds. Quite a heavenly journey indeed.
- In 2017 International tourists only amounted to 1.9% of total tourists to West Bengal State.
- For the 5 years from 2013 to 2017 domestic tourist numbers in West Bengal State increased 42% year on year for 5 years. During the same period international tourist numbers only increased 5% yr on yr.
- The top 3 nationalities of international tourists to West Bengal are:
- Bangladesh 17.2%
- Nepal 16.7%
- Bhutan 11.6%