Darjeeling, a hill town, overlooking the snow-capped mountains of Kanchenjunga along with the lush green tea gardens on the slopes of the hills, pine and orchid trees is an amazing gateway destination which is located at an altitude of 6,710 ft in north-east India and is a part of the state West Bengal.
- ‘Darjeeling’, the name is derived by joining two Tibetan words, ‘Dorje’ and ‘ling’. ‘Dorje’ means thunderbolt, which is the known sceptre of Indra and ‘ling’ which means a place and land and hence the meaning of Darjeeling is ‘the land of the thunderbolt’
- After the coming of the Britishers in India, Darjeeling was taken over by the British East India Co. in 1835. Before this Darjeeling was a part of Sikkim and for a time period Nepal.
- Darjeeling in the ancient times were a spot for warfare between the Chogyal of Sikkim and the Gorkhas of Nepal. But soon after the British Government interfered and made Darjeeling as the buffer state between Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.
- The Non-Cooperation Movement for India’s independence also did spread through the tea estates of Darjeeling where various communist activists continued against the British by mobilising the plantation workers and the peasants of the area in the 1940s.
- An elected hill council called Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) was created in 2011 and was given numerous powers to control the frequent uprisings in this beautiful hill town.
Darjeeling is located at an altitude of 6,710ft in north-east India and is a part of the state West Bengal. It is a city and municipality of West Bengal and is a part of the Lesser Himalayas. Darjeeling is famous amongst tourists for its beautiful tea gardens, the view of Kanchenjunga which is the world’s third-largest mountain and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The nearest airport to Darjeeling is Bagdogra, the airport is connected with Kolkata, Delhi and Guwahati. From Bagdogra airport, bus, cab or taxi services are available to go to Darjeeling which takes approximately 3 hours.
New Jalpaiguri (NJP) near Siliguri is the nearest railway station on the main inter-city line. Direct trains from Delhi to NJP runs several times a day. From there, the popular Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the ‘Toy Train’ completes the journey to Darjeeling city. Tourists prefer this route more because the train passes through some of the picturesque mountain sceneries. They have tourist quotas for trains to Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.
The road distances from Darjeeling to Kolkata is 651 km, Gangtok is 100 km and Kalimpong 51 km. Journey time is approximately 14 hours by road though the roads are not even throughout.
When to visit Darjeeling
During April to June is when it is considered the best time to visit Darjeeling. With the climate being warm, it makes the visitors easier in engaging with activities as well as spend time leisurely.
To witness the snow, it is best to visit during October-November. Numerous adventurous activities will also be present during that time so choose ultimately when to visit based on how you would like to spend the time.
The official language is Bengali and Nepali declared as the co-official in subdivisions of Darjeeling. The most common languages that are prevalent or at the least spoken in Darjeeling are Nepali, Bengali, Hindi and English
Darjeeling city lies 2074m above the sea level. The climate throughout is mild, and generally warm and temperate. When compared with winter, the summers have much more rainfall. The average temperature remains 13.6 degree Celsius.
Fairs & Festivals in Darjeeling
- Losar- Losar is Tibetan New Year’s festival which is celebrated during February March for 15 days. Prayers for peace and harmony is offered to God during Losar.
- Saraswati Puja- Saraswati Puja is celebrated by Bengalis and Nepalese to worship the Goddess of Knowledge. This day also marks the start of the harvest season.
- Darjeeling Carnival- Darjeeling carnival is celebrated in the month of November with the playing of rock music in English, Bengali and Nepalese by the local talents. There are various food stalls around for the 10 days that the carnival is celebrated.
- Teesta Tea and Tourism festival- It is a famous festival among tourists in Darjeeling. It is held every year with a spread of various types of tea and fairs. Toy train rides and food stalls are extra attraction to this festival.
- Durga Puja- Durga Puja is the most famous festival celebrated by Bengali Hindus in the foothills to worship Goddess Durga. It is celebrated for 4 days mostly in the month of October.
- Darjeeling Cultural and Tourism festival- generally held in the months of October or November this festival mainly portrays the unique culture and tradition of Darjeeling.
According to the data in the year 2019, roughly 1.9 million/19 Lakh people live in Darjeeling. The sex ratio is 970 females per 1000 of males.
By Taxi- There are cars by private company operators who drive you to the sightseeing areas either in private or multi-sharing basis.
By rent- There are rental car services providing tourists for take tour around Darjeeling. There are few restrictions from rental services that must be followed.
Top places to visit in Darjeeling
The Peace Pagoda
The Peace Pagoda- This is a Japanese temple that showcases four avatars of Buddha. This is the tallest free landing structure in Darjeeling. It is purposely built to spread peace and prosperity to every individual.
Singalila National Park
Singalila National Park- This is the highest altitude park in West Bengal. For the ones who enjoy adventure and trekking, this is the place to look for. It is also the place to explore the flora and fauna meaning you will find wildflowers as well as witness species like exotic mammals, exotic birds and reptiles.
Rock Garden- This manmade garden is filled with beautiful waterfalls, bridges and also introduced a park with a plethora of activities to entertain with family and friends. With the range of floral gardens, visitors can relax and witness the beauty all across the gardens.
Monasteries- There are a number of monasteries that showcase its glory and depict paintings beautifully. Some of the famous ones are Bhutia Busty Monastery, Dali Monastery and the Ghoom Monastery.
St. Andrew Church
St. Andrew Church- One of the oldest churches which have witnessed earthquake and was rebuilt in the 19th century. There are early residents that are engraved in marble tablets and brass plaques. The history of this church is an intriguing one. Preserving the British architecture and its remains, it continues to attract visitors.
Tinchuley Village- Away from the city with an elevated view, this eco-friendly destination is filled with tea plantations, fruit orchards and other attractions that are worth looking for. If you are planning to relax at an offbeat destination, this is a more secluded place to plan.
Observatory Hill and Mahakal Temple
Observatory Hill and Mahakal Temple- Chowrasta Square/The mall is considered one of the popular centres for tourist attraction. Around that area exists Observatory Hill where you climb up, witness the natural beauty of Mount Kanchenjunga and also find Mahakal temple with numerous colourful flags and hanging bells with an amalgamation of Hindu and Buddhist priests performing rituals and prayers.
Things to do in Darjeeling
- Take a toy train joy ride that takes you to beautiful landscapes and steep mountains.
- Watch the sunrise at Tiger Hill.
- Witness the red panda and Snow Leopard Breeding centre at Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park.
- Explore those luscious tea gardens.
- Learn to trek at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute.
- Trekking at the places like Kanchenjunga, Sandakphu etc.
- Enjoy the magnificent view of mountains and tea gardens with Darjeeling Ropeway.
Cuisines to taste in Darjeeling
There are a mix of Tibetan, Nepali and Bengali cuisines that are available at Darjeeling. To the tourists who are unfamiliar with these cuisines, these dishes can be exciting.
Chhurpi- This is a local cheese made out of cow or yak milk that comes in both hard and soft forms. It is mixed in different dishes like Momos and curries. It not only is made at Darjeeling, but it is also present at other Himalayan ranges.
Sael Roti- This is a deep-fried bread-like texture that is made from rice flour. A perfect combination with tea, this Nepali dish is also complimented with chutneys, pickles etc.
Dalle Pickle- This is a spicy pickle prepared with round red chillies, mustard oil and other spices. Complementing with momos and thupkas, this is for the ones who love spice, it will be a fireball.
Thalis- As I have said earlier, there are numerous cuisines in Darjeeling. There are Naga, Nepali and Bengali Thalis, each with its distinct offerings. The difference between Nepali and Bengali Thalis are that it tends be spicier and have larger portion respectively.
- Naga Thali- rice, dried/fermented bamboo sticks, pork/chicken/fish dish, ghee and pickles.
- Nepali Thali- dal, rice, veg/non-veg curry, pickles, curd, papad and sweet.
- Bengali Thali- dal, rice, veg curry, non-veg curry, curd, pickles, papad and sweet.
Local Brews- Chaang/ Tongba and Jnaard are the variations of local beer that’s made by fermenting finger millets with yeast. It is served in bamboo pipe and it can get intoxicating if had in larger quantities.
Souvenirs to buy in Darjeeling
Darjeeling Tea- As it is famous for teas and its gardens, it should be no surprise that you should be purchasing authentic teas from shops. They have an incredible range of flavoured teas that you must try.
Visit the New Mahakal Market
Visit the New Mahakal Market- Explore the hand-knitted quality winter clothing which are offered at a reasonable pricing. You will find sweaters, shawls, caps of all sizes and is considered the best in the market.
Shop at Nehru Road Market
Shop at Nehru Road Market- You will find a plethora of items being sold here. From small souvenirs, books to necessary essentials, there are numerous shops that you will find for shopping.
Tibetan Artefacts- Locals have been selling various Tibetan masks, carpets, prayer wheel, wooden carved items and a lot more. Many artefact shops sell various Tibetan craftworks and you must look into the choices to finalise what you want to buy.