Darjeeling, the queen of the hills and the major charm of West Bengal is a well known and popular tourist destination of India. It is an emotion for the peoples residing in Bengal. Situated at the Northernmost part of West Bengal at an elevation of 6,700ft, Darjeeling allures a huge amount of tourists throughout the year. Following the Tibetan culture, the place is also known by the name The Land of Thunderbolt. The epithet Darjeeling belongs to the Tibetian language where “dorje” means thunderbolt and “ling” means the land.
Darjeeling being a high altitude destination serves as a respite from the hot and humid weather of the plains. During British rule, the place used to be the summer capital of the country. Darjeeling is well noted for its aromatic tea commonly known by the name of Darjeeling tea and for the glorious view of Mount Kanchendzonga, the third highest mountain peak of the world. Another conventional lure of Darjeeling is it’s metre gauge train generally referred to as Toy train.
Well known from the time of British era Darjeeling also footholds some British dubbed churches and private schools which attracts students from all over India. Apart from the churches and schools some colonial structured mansions also exist in the town. The beauty of lush green tea plantations rolling over the mountain slopes with the mighty Kanchendzonga at the backdrop affixes the glamour of the town.
Darjeeling itself is a wonder. Being a tourist destination Darjeeling has quite a lot to offer. However, this article will help you to gain knowledge about the 7 most tempting attractions of the town. So let’s get through them.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR)
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), one of the World Heritage Sites, plays the role of the most imperative wonder and a tempting segment of the town. Generally known as Toy Train, due to it’s shorter size, it attracts tourists from all over the world. Being a narrow-gauge railway it consists only of two locos. DHR trains trots upwards from the plains of Siliguri to Ghum, the highest railway station of India and proceeds further to Darjeeling. The DHR trains ascends from an elevation of 100ft at the plains to an elevation of 7,218ft up at Ghum Station using five loops and six zig-zags. UNESCO in the year of 1999 proclaimed DHR as one of the World Heritage Sites.
The romantic saga of toy trains aka DHR of the town has been an emotion for the people throughout the world. The tale of DHR dates back to 1870 when the town of Darjeeling has already been in the list of famous hill spots. However, travelling to Darjeeling during those days were difficult as there were no such transports and thus, carrying utilities uphill was really strenuous. As an outcome, Franklin Prestage, the then agent of Eastern Bengal Railway proposed this railway link between the plains and the hills. He received the sanction for his proposal in the year of 1879 and DHR was finally inbred in the month of September in 1881.
The DHR trains cover almost a distance of 88kms from Siliguri plains to Ghum and further to Darjeeling offering you the surreal view of nature, hills and tea gardens rolling down the hills with the mighty Kanchendzonga at its backdrop. The route from Siliguri to Ghum was formerly shut down due to improper maintenance. Notwithstanding it, the service has presently reopened.
Primitively DHR used to have steam locomotives to run the trains. But with the descent of time and without proper maintenance these steam locomotives have been wiped out and presently there are only a handful of steam locomotives that run as Joy Rides between Darjeeling to Ghum via Batasia Loop. In addition to the steam locomotives, there are some DHR trains with diesel locomotives too which also runs as a Joy Rides between Darjeeling Station to Ghum via Batasia Loop and vice versa. Besides the Joy Ride, there are two passenger trains (Train No. 52541 runs from NJP to Darjeeling and Train No. 52540 runs from Darjeeling to NJP) that run once in a day from NJP to Darjeeling and vice versa with stopovers at Kurseong, Tung, Sonada and Ghum.
The process of booking a DHR train is similar to any other trains. You need to visit the Indian Railway Site (IRCTC) or any ticket reservation centre to book a DHR train which includes the Joy Rides too. As per IRCTC, the last updated cost of DHR trains are as follows:
Joy Ride (Diesel Engine): Rs. 1000/- for all first-class seats
Joy Ride (Steam Engine): Rs. 1600/- for all first-class seats. Charges for steam engine locomotives are higher because they represent the indigenous heritage.
Darjeeling to NJP: First Class (FC) – Rs. 1420/-, AC Chair Car – Rs. 1700/-
Darjeeling to Ghum: First Class (FC) – Rs. 450/-, AC Chair Car – Rs. 525/-
Darjeeling to Sonada: First Class (FC) – Rs. 590/-, AC Chair Car – Rs. 700/-
Darjeeling to Tung: First Class (FC) – Rs. 610/-, AC Chair Car – Rs. 720/-
To experience the dawn breaking upon the mighty Himalaya one needs to travel to another wonder of the Darjeeling, i.e. Tiger Hill. Tiger hill is located at an elevation of 8428ft and is the highest point of the town.
One needs to hire a jeep early morning (3:30 am during summer and 4:15 am during the winter) from the Mall, known as Chowrasta and travel for about 11kms, a mere 45-50 minutes drive to reach the parking lot of the Tiger Hill. From there a short climb up by foot will take you to the point from where you can experience the spectacular view of dawn lighting up the majestic Himalaya, including both Kanchendzonga and Everest can be witnessed.
Tourists from all over the world visit Tiger Hill to hook their eye for the glimpse of snow-capped mountains resting amongst the white cottony clouds while their peaks glow like gold as the Sun soars up above the country. However, the luck of withholding this view depends on your fate as most of the time clouds abode the snow-clad mountains. The best time to catch this breathtaking view are during the months of October-December and during March-April.
There is an observatory tower just beside the viewpoint and if one wishes then they can catch the glimpse of the breaking dawn over the snowy mountains from that tower too. One needs to pay a nominal charge to reach the viewpoint and the observatory tower in order of its maintenance. The charges are mentioned below:
Tiger Hill Parking Lot: Rs. 10/-
Observatory Tower: Rs. 20/- for the ground floor, Rs. 30/- for the first floor and Rs. 40/- for sitting.
Batasia Loop is a spiral loop formed to lower the gradient of ascent for a DHR train. This place with its spectacular 360-degree view of the city is considered as one of the seven wonders of Darjeeling. Batasia Loop is located at just 5kms away from the main town of Darjeeling at Hill Cart Road which is just a mere 20 minutes drive from Darjeeling.
The epithet Batasia connotes Airy. Besides the loop for the DHR trains this magnificent place also holds a war memorial in the memory of the Gorkha soldiers who gave up their life in various wars after the country became independent. The place is perfect for a photographer to capture the city’s beautiful moments of the landscape.
Situated at the top of the hill Batasia Loop offers a grandiose view of the Darjeeling city with cotton-like clouds floating above the city along with mighty Kanchendzonga at its backdrop. The place also beholds a beautiful eco garden with some perennial and seasonal flowers, green grasses and some shrubs that are enclosed by the spiral track of the railway. With such enormous beauty, Batasia Loop accords a feeling of peace within your soul.
Once in Darjeeling none should miss the view of this place where the DHR train tears through the white clouds and makes a loop through Batasia and finally merges into the deep green hills of the city. One can forget everything and spend some of their own sweet time under the open sky viewing the mighty Kanchendzonga in this beguiling wonder of the town.
View this post on Instagram
Once in the queen of hills, at least a morning should be reserved for this culinary wonder of Darjeeling. Till date, Keventers is the most famous and popular eatery of the city. Keventers was endowed by Edward Keventers in the year of 1911 and has crossed a century till its establishment. Located just at the centre of the town in Nehru Road which leads to Chowrasta and the hustling shopping mall, this two-storeyed eatery is famous for its English breakfast and beverages.
Keventers has two floors. Once you enter the building the left-hand side of the ground floor is reserved for bakeries and takeaways. On your right-hand side, there is a small wooden stairway that leads you to the upper floor. The upper floor has sitting arrangements both inside and at the terrace under the open sky. The indoor area has only five tables with four chairs around each. The terrace occupies around 7-8 tables with a varied number of chairs around them.
The highlight of Keventers is to sit at the open terrace and zest your soul in the lap of nature. Fabricate the moment while you are having the famous English Platter and a cup of hot chocolate or Darjeeling tea on a sunny morning while relishing the view of glorious snow-white Kanchendzonga in front of you. The place won’t even fail to mesmerise you on a cloudy day. Just imagine you are sitting with your closed one on the open terrace beneath the shelter of a garden umbrella while the clouds pass by you and the light drizzle just kisses your face. How exotic it would be!
Keventers is open on all 7 days from 8 am in the morning till 6:30 pm in the evening. Thus, once in Darjeeling do visit this wonder of the town and give a good appetite to your soul.
View this post on Instagram
View this post on Instagram
Glenary’s is an eminent bakery shop located at the heart of the city. It is considered as one of the seven temptations of Darjeeling. Placed on Nehru Road, just at a stone-throwing distance from the mall, this quaint food joint offers various kinds of cuisines. However, the highlight lies in the enormous variations of cakes and pastries along with their special chocolates. Glenary’s is open throughout the week from 8 am to 9:30 pm.
Glenary’s is painted white and is two-storeyed. The building here exists from the time of British Era and thus has a colonial structure. The Edward family has run the whole property since its formation. The building prominently frame-up its name in the front and is a well-known landmark of Darjeeling.
Glenary’s has several sections and serves various kinds of appetites. The bakery and cafe section is located on the ground floor. Just as you enter through the wooden glass door you will find a big large showcase displaying all the variations of cakes, cookies, pastries, pies and chocolates. You need to purchase your choice of the bakery delicacies from this area. Besides the display area, there is a sitting lounge where you can enjoy your time over the bakery delicacies. On the same floor, another sitting arrangement has been made in the open balcony just behind the display area. This particular area offers a grand view of the city with Kanchendzonga at the backdrop.
The restaurant that serves assorted cuisines is located at the upper floor which is accessible through a narrow staircase both from inside and outside the bakery area. The restaurant looks impressive with a wooden structure and a monochrome colour with artefacts hanging on the walls. One side of the restaurant has a glass wall through which the magnificent view of the city can be looked at while you savour on the delicious cuisines. In the basement, there is a buzzing bar which seems to be a modern pub.
Withholding all the above delicacies one can even visit Glenary’s for the variations of unique chocolates that are found here. These unique chocolates are available only in Glenary’s and can’t be found in any other parts of the state making it a rare one. However, the chocolates can’t be carried to the plains as it melts with the rise in temperature.
View this post on Instagram
Unlike all other wonders, Das Studio is also one of the wonders of this heritage town, Darjeeling. This grand store is run by a family as a business and has developed much ahead of a normal photo studio.
The studio was ingrained in 1927 by Thakur Das Pradhan, a great photographer of that time. Formerly located at Mount Pleasant Road, Das Studio is currently located just near the mall at Nehru Road. It is situated just beside the Glenary’s and has been a prominent landmark for the town.
Das studio is primitively known for its beautifully framed posters and pictures of the city’s landscapes and scenes. One can find these frames and pictures at the right end corner of the room as you start entering it. Along with the above, you will also find frames and pictures of elegant tea gardens, Batasia Loop, Kanchendzonga, DHR trains and many more. Besides, family pictures of Thakur Das that date back to the 1800s are also found in the studio.
The layout of the studio has not been changed since ages and thus it looks exactly the same as it was at the time of its formation. At the centre of the studio, there is a cash counter from where one can purchase the reprints of the photographs. Other than the photographs the studio also sells various other items like camera, camera stands, camera bags, films, picture postcards and many more. The ambience of the studio makes it worth visiting.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI)
HMI or Himalayan Mountaineering institute stands among the premier mountaineering institutes of the world. HMI is considered as one of the wonders of Darjeeling. Founded in 1954 by Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India the institute offers various forms of mountaineering courses.
Located at a picturesque location HMI was constructed to celebrate the success of Tenzing Norgay, the first human to set foot on the peaks of Mount Everest. Tenzing then became the first director-general for field training in HMI. Mountain enthusiasts contemplate HMI as a pilgrimage site. HMI bestows a residential training school, a museum that is stocked with mountaineering artefacts, houses for Sherpa trainers, expedition displays, a food hub and a souvenir shop.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) is located in the same complex of Darjeeling Zoo and Bengal Natural History Museum. Once you enter through the main gate there are some shops that sell souvenirs on your left. From this point, multiple roads direct you to multiple locations. To reach HMI you need to take the road that is straight uphill. Walk for about 100 meters and you will find the arch gate of the institute. Few feet from the arch gate and you find the institute building with one of its walls imprinted with a mountaineer model. Just beside the imprint, there is a quote which reads, “May You Climb From Peak To Peak”.
There are a total of 16 regular courses that are offered by the HMI. Along with these 16 courses every year the institute also arranges for special courses depending on its requirement. For the course details, you can check out the website of HMI – https://hmidarjeeling.com/. HMI is open on all days during the peak season from 9 AM to 1 PM and then from 2 PM to 5 PM. During the lean ones, the institute is closed on Tuesdays.
Wandering through these seven wonders of Darjeeling helps to boost up your knowledge about the culture and tradition of the Sherpa folks. Yet the travel to Darjeeling is not accomplished without a visit to the Mall and its market. Darjeeling Mall is none the less than 8th wonder of the city.
Being the heart of Darjeeling the Mall is the liveliest place of the town. With various flea stores, the Mall appeals to tourists from all over the world. Besides, it also serves as the main market for the residents of the town. Being the life of the city Mall remains crowded throughout the day. Iron benches encompass the stage that is forged at the centre of the Mall. During the operational hours, several cultural programs are showcased at this stage. In addition, there are few tea joints where one can savour their tongue with the different variations of tea that are produced at Darjeeling. The Mall is operational throughout the week from 8:30 AM to 10:00 PM.
Although these seven places serve as a wonder to Darjeeling, still the vibe of the town can’t be put into words. To feel the emotion of the place one needs to sojourn and explore the city with their intuitive soul.