India is incredible with experiences for all the senses. Visiting Darjeeling is now easier than ever in this colourful country with the new e-visa. The town of Darjeeling is set at the foothills of the Himalayas, known for its tea, but it has so much more! Historical buildings, culture, food and the people put Darjeeling on the map. Once the summer home to the British aristocracy, you can still see colonial buildings, enjoy a journey on the Steam Railway also known as the “Toy Train” and visit the Lloyd Botanical Gardens. An oasis of calm located in the centre of this bustling vibrant town, on so many levels.
Visiting Darjeeling The Himalayan Foothill Town
Getting To Darjeeling
The easiest way to arrive is by flight into the closest airport of Bagdogra. From there you can go by car on this scenic winding journey, taking you to heights above 4000 metres. On the way watch out for passing wild elephants and the lush green tea landscapes. The drive can take up to 4 hours depending on the traffic. On the day of your arrival, on your journey you might witness the dramatic warm glow as the sun goes down behind the towering mountainous landscape.
Accommodation In Darjeeling
The small town has a variety of accommodation available from homestays, hostels to traditional and comfortable hotels. There doesn’t seem to be a low off season period as such in recent times, with the growing popularity of visitors wishing to visit during different seasons.
While visiting Darjeeling, I stayed in the Mount Himalayan Resort located in the centre, within walking distance to the main town centre. There is an abundance of independent market street shops, restaurants, the Lloyd Botanical Garden and Steam Railway.
The hotel has 17 deluxe rooms which are spacious and very comfortable, including a television and tea/coffee making facilities. The steep incline up to the hotel and steps at the entrance, offers generous vistas from the guest bedrooms and also the sundeck. (There is no lift within the hotel).
The restaurant offers a multi cuisine menu with a traditional Scottish Porridge served at breakfast to the delicious local dish – vegetable or chicken Momos.
What to See & Do
With so much to see and do I would recommend a long weekend/three night stay.
Darjeeling is well known for its famous produced tea. A tour to a tea garden/plantation while visiting Darjeeling is a must! The Happy Valley Tea Estate is the oldest tea plantation in Darjeeling offering an invaluable and informative tour of the process and production of teas. There is also a tasting session and the opportunity to purchase a quality refreshing organic tea. 100 INR (Indian Rupee) per adult.
The Steam Train/Toy Train is also an enjoyable and quaint way to enjoy the landscape of the area. Completed in 1881, it is a piece of nostalgia from the British settlement days. The return route from Darjeeling to Ghoom is operated by the British Steam engine and takes around 2 – 2.5 hours.
The highest zoo in India at an elevation of 7,000 feet is Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park. Internationally recognised for its breeding programs of Red Pandas and Snow leopards. It is well worth a visit! The site also has a Mountaineering Museum and Natural History Museum which are included within the entry fee. 100 INR (Indian Rupee) per adult. Allow at least two hours for your visit.
Tiger Hill is a must visit to see Kanchenjunga take on the golden glow of sunrise, before the sun can even be seen. It can be extremely busy, you might like to opt for a lower level viewing area with the same spectacular views.
Ghoom Monastery is the oldest monastery in the Darjeeling area built in 1850 built by the monk and a famous astrologer, Lama Sherab Gyatso. Standing at an elevation of 8,000 feet, the monastery follows the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Inside you can see the 15th feet Lord Buddha/Buddha of the future. The charge for taking a photograph is 100 INR (Indian Rupee).
Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre was founded in 1959 after the dramatic escape of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from Tibet. You can visit the photograph exhibition, traditional handicraft workshops and gift shop.
Lloyd Botanical Garden established in 1878 and names after William Loyd who was the owner of Lloyds Bank. It has an extensive orchid collection, succulents glass house, replica of Kew Gardens Glasshouse and much more. Entrance is free.
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Disclaimer: All the above opinions are my own.
Thank you to the Mount Himalayan Resort and Discover Culture India.