The picturesque hill-station of Darjeeling in West Bengal is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. At an altitude of 6,700 Ft, this town came into existence around the mid-19th Century during the British Rule. Darjeeling is 65.6Km from Bagdogra Airport and 71.8Km from New Jailpaiguri Railway Station. Cabs are easily available from both Bagdogra and New Jalpaiguri to take you to Darjeeling.
Darjeeling is a picture of true scenic beauty with a flurry of outdoor activities that is bound to make your vacation exciting. Some of the things you can look forward to do are:
1. Darjeeling Mall
The Darjeeling Mall, popularly known as the Chowrasta is the central hub of this hill town. If you love shopping and eating, this is the place to go to!! There is a beautiful fountain at the centre of the Mall, surrounded by beautifully carved benches that give you an amazing view of the snow-capped mountains in the horizon. If you are in this area at around 4:00pm IST, you will hear the soothing chant of hymns coming from the nearby Monastery. The kids can also enjoy the pony rides here.
One side of the Mall is lined with shops that offer you the choicest of hill products like Darjeeling Tea, woolens, curios, silver jewelry, gemstones and jute bags made by local artisans. The famous Oxford Book Store has a unique collection of books and maps on the Himalayas.
Eating at the famous Glenary’s Restaurant deserves a special mention. The red and white building was built during British Rule and is more that 100 years old. The place serves a variety of Continental, Chinese and Indian dishes and also has a well-stocked bar.
2. Toy Train Ride
If you are keen to go site-seeing, take the Toy train instead of a cab. The cute little train with its colorful coaches operates on narrow gauge tracks through beautiful hills, tunnels, dense greenery with the occasional view of snow peaks in the distance. A trip in the Toy Train from Darjeeling to Ghum (the highest train station at an altitude of 7407 Ft) takes you through quaint little villages. Hill people are charming and as you pass along in the train, you will see little red-cheeked kids waving at you merrily.
The Batasia Loop where the train halts for 10mins is an interesting part of the journey. It is the point where the train tracks take a loop around a circular garden area. There are some stalls at the area offering woolens woven by locals. The 14km round trip from Darjeeling to Ghum takes around 2hrs.
3. Ropeway Ride
The Darjeeling Ropeway gives you a panoramic bird’s-eye view of Darjeeling from an altitude of 7000 Ft. You can look down upon the extensive tea gardens, the dense greenery and the confluence of River Ramman and the Little Rangeet River. The view of the snow-capped Kanchenjunga Mountain is a breath-taking experience from the cable car.
The Ropeway starts from Singamari located 3kms from Darjeeling. It is a 15mins ropeway journey to Tukvar where it halts for sometime before heading back to Singamari. You can get off in Tukvar for a stroll in the lush tea gardens and also enjoy a hand in tea-picking with the locals.
4. Outdoor Sports
The hill station with its rocky mountains, narrow pathways and the gurgling Teesta River is a haven for outdoor sports! Paragliding and Hot Air Balloon ride during the summer months give you an exciting aerial view of the Himalayan Range including a glimpse of Mt. Everest!!
There are several Trekking and Biking trails around Darjeeling that will take you through colorful trails of Orchids, Rhododendrons, and forests of Magnolia and Spruce trees.
White water rafting on the River Teesta, Kayaking and Camping will give you a true experience of the natural beauty of Darjeeling. These activities can be booked through tour guides from hotels or Darjeeling Tourism offices who will provide you with the necessary equipment.
5. Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
A vacation in Darjeeling calls for a visit to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. Apart from learning all about Mountaineering, the institute offers you to try a hand at supervised rock-climbing. The institute was established in 1954 and houses the Tenzing Memorial in memory of Tenzing Norgay, the first Indian to scale Mt. Everest along with Sir Edmond Hilary.
The Institute’s Museum has an impressive display of climbing suits worn by Tenzing Norgay and accessories used by the duo on their adventure. The walls of the museum are straddled with treasured photographs of mountaineering expeditions. It also houses a huge library of books about the Himalayan range and Mountaineering.
The tiny beautiful hill station of Darjeeling, with its waterfalls, the foaming River Teesta snaking through the steep rocky hills is truly an amazing experience of natural beauty. And if you want an action-filled vacation, there is no dearth of exciting activities that you can find here!!