At the northern tip of Bengal at 7000ft, Darjeeling is nestled in Eastern Himalayas. Take the last winding bend on the mountains and feel pure adrenalin jump through your veins. Darjeeling wears its crown of the Queen of Hills wearily but the crowds still come running to “Dorje Ling” the land of Thunderbolt. For it still remains alluring with its little villages, tiny waterfalls and the even tinier toy train track.
If you have time and inclination do take a ride on the Darjeeling Toy Train which the UNESCO recognizes as world heritage site and commands the same kind of respect as the Taj Mahal. The Guinness Railway Book describes the DHRs’ ascent looping and curving on its way up as one of the most spectacular train journeys in the World. The 2112m gain in height from Siliguri station to Darjeeling, a distance of 88km, might be slow but never tedious.
Today the old engines continue to pull the mighty blue wagons uphill to Darjeeling via Kurseong to the highest station Ghoom, where the line drops dramatically at Batasia, in full view of the snow range. Here the track coils twice around itself to lose height and enter Darjeeling 200m lower.
Things to see and do
The hill town is an important base point for mountains treks, but it’s also got tea estates and monasteries.
Chowrasta, the town square, is lined with shops, restaurants, curio dealers and hawkers. It’s a perfect place to take restless kids. Ponywalas will let you canter around for Rs 60 per hour or Rs 250 per day. The Kanchenjunga is omnipresent. Hotels, cafeterias all are positioned to get the stunning views of one of the world’s most beautiful mountain peaks. In the monsoon, you may get an elusive image of the brilliant sunset. But from October onwards you get unparalleled view of the entire range from dawn to dusk. Concentrate on the splendor when the peak shakes off the night and dresses in the hues of dawn at Tiger Hill.
Your visit to Darjeeling is incomplete if you do not visit (HMI) Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, the Mecca of mountaineers. Established in 1954, the (HMI) is considered India’s premier mountaineering institute. Co-located with Himalayan zoo, it has a beautiful museum divided into two parts. The first part depicts mountaineering and the second part deals exclusively with Everest, its history and chronological study of various attempts made by humanity to climb this mountain.
Beside HMI you can also visit Shrubbery garden, Lloyds Botanical garden, Rock Garden, Gangamaya Park and Peace Pagoda a beautiful built Buddhist temple in Japanese concept.
Darjeeling is also famous for its chai (Tea) industry. Large estates with bungalows from the Raj era dot the map. Some tea gardens are open to visitors. Some of the best are Badamtam (has a 14ft Buddha statue), Runglee Rungliot, Happy valley, Thurbo, Margaret’s Hope and Castleton which holds the record for getting the highest price per kg tea.
Visit Darjeeling you won’t miss the adventure…