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Darjeeling

About the place: 

Originally just a cluster of villages that was administered intermittently by Nepal and Sikkim, Darjeeling grew in prominence during the mid 19th century when, because of its climate, the British first established a hill station there after leasing it from the Chogyal of Sikkim and later discovered that the area was particularly well suited for tea plantations. In 1849, the British annexed the area and Darjeeling became a part of British India. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was opened in 1881 (it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the town became the de-facto summer capital of India during the days when the Raj was governed from Calcutta.

Because it was a popular hill station during the days of the Raj, a lovely Victorian town was built among the Himalayan foothills, the remnants of which are still visible around the Chowrasta and Darjeeling remains a popular summer and fall resort for the natives of Kolkata today. For foreign tourists, the main attractions are the cultural diversity (many Tibetan refugees moved here after Tibet was annexed by China and they co-exist with the descendants of the many Nepali and Bihari laborers brought to work in the tea plantations), the beautiful views (including the wonderful vista view of Kanchenjunga), a variety of trekking options, and the opportunity to cool down after a stint in the plains. The town is also a jumping off point for travelers heading to Sikkim. [1] 4 Days Queen of Hills Sightseeing in Darjeeling.

There has been intermittent political action from Gorkha groups demanding an independent state (Gorkhaland). In June 2008 a strike paralyzed the area, with closed hotels, restaurants and shops, and the accompanying protests even turned violent a couple of times. Though inconvenient, tourists generally are not at risk, but recently they do check the status before going there.

Region or Zone: 
East
State or Union Territory: 
West Bengal
How to reach: 

By plane

The nearest airport is Bagdogra, near Siliguri, 96 km from Darjeeling. Bagdogra Airport is 2.5 hours by road from Darjeeling and 2 hours by air from Delhi, and 50 minutes by air from Kolkata.
Air India (fomerly Indian Airlines), India's largest airline, has flights from:
Delhi - AI 880 (daily) and AI 879 (daily)
Guwahati - AI 879 (Mon/Fri)
Kolkata - AI 721 (Tu/Th/Sat)
Jet Airways, a private airline, has flights from:
Delhi - 9W 601 (Mon/Wed/Fri - Via Guwahati) and 9W 602 (Tu/Th/Sat/Sun)
Guwahati 9W 601 (Mon/Wed/Fri)
Kolkata 9W 617 (Daily)
Spice Jet also operates flights from Kolkata & Delhi.
Indigo has also started direct/indirect flights to & from Delhi and Guwahati since April, 2009 end.
Go Air has daily flights to and from Delhi.
All other cities major cities can be accessed by taking a flight to Delhi/Kolkata and connecting.
You can take a prepaid taxi or shared jeep from Bagdogra to Darjeeling as explained below.
Getting to and from Nepal can be tricky, despite their close proximity. One can catch a share jeep to Siliguri and a bus to the Nepalese border, changing buses in Nepal. An alternative is that Juniper Tours and Travels - located just next to the clock tower in Darjeeling offer a service where a driver can take you across the border and drop you at the Bhadrapur airport in Nepal for your connecting flight to Kathmandu. It is more expensive than organising your own transport but they make a concerted effort to look after you and will help you out if the situation becomes dicey (particularly with strikes in Nepal), they cannot be recommended highly enough and this is unusual for India.

By taxi/shared jeep

Siliguri is the nearest town connected to the mainline rail network. Ample transport is available to Darjeeling from here. The most popular modes of transport are taxi (usually shared by three to four passengers), shared jeep (ten passengers) @ Indian rupee 100-200 depending on bargaining skill.
Shared jeeps depart regularly, from several locations around town. They are probably cheapest at the main bus stand. They leave when full, and are a cheap and fast (but uncomfortable as roads are poorly maintained) way to get to Darjeeling. An air conditioned prepaid taxi will cost Indian rupee 1800 (as of December 2012) - if you can find people to share it with you it will obviously be cheaper!
If you have arrived by train at NJP, you can take a taxi or shared jeep to reach Darjeeling from the booking counter at the taxi stand in front of the railway station. There is also a prepaid taxi stand in front of the train station. Note that if you arrive too late for the jeep to make a return journey from Darjeeling, you may end up paying more, e.g. Indian rupee 200 per person. The prepaid counter will tell you that no jeeps are available, so you'll have to find one via a fixer or by negotiating directly with drivers.
Reserve cars also available from Kings Travels dial-09830428401/093319-39486.
Tourists often opt to buy an extra seat or two to have more space for the 3 hour journey up to Darjeeling! Luggage is carried for free on the roof. Jeeps may stop for a snack and toilet break on the way up (normally a few km short of Kurseong).
While going to Darjeeling from NJP, try to hire a Taxi/Jeep/Sumo with overhead carrier, which has just arrived from Darjeeling, as this will be much cheaper if you hire a vehicle which is going directly from NJP to Darjeeling.
Avoid any tour packages at NJP railway station. They will provide you lowest standard hotel.

By bus

There is a regular bus service from Silguri to Darjeeling. However, they are quite slow due to the steep, twisty climb up to Darjeeling. Shared jeeps are faster, but cost double: 200rs vs. 100rs for the bus (2015).

By train

The nearest railway station to Darjeeling is New Jalpaiguri which connects the city with all the major parts of the country. There are a number of trains from cities like Kolkata, Delhi, Guwahati, Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Bhubaneshwar and Kochi.

Toy Train of Darjeeling

New Jalpaiguri (NJP),Siliguri is the nearest station on the main inter-city line. Direct trains to NJP run from Delhi (approx 27 hours) several times a day. If you are traveling from Kolkata (Sealdah Station) the best train for you will be Darjeeling Mail (circa 12 hours) running nightly at 10:05PM.
From there (NJP), the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), known to all as the 'Toy Train' completes the journey to Darjeeling. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was the first, and is still the most outstanding, example of a hill passenger railway.It is now listed as a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO.
This route is very popular with tourists as it passes through some very picturesque mountain scenery and has been the subject of many romantic articles. The line has a series of zig zags and loops to gain height and runs straight up several village main streets!
NJP to Darjeeling Toy Train service is suspended after railway track damage due to recent earth-quake (September 2011). The service may not be restored until 2013. The train now starts at Kurseong and terminates in Darjeeling Railway station though times are not fixed. It is probably best not to rely entirely on this service rather reach Darjeeling by other means and go for a joy ride if and when time permits. Collect enough information if you are planning to reach Darjeeling by Toy Train.
The steam 'Joy' train operates from Darjeeling to Ghoom round the famous Batasia Loop, four times a day – enquire at Darjeeling station. Costs Indian rupee 400. Website DHR: [2]
A steam train also operates Siliguri to 'Agony Point' above Tindharia most Saturdays and Sundays. Enquire to Siliguri station. There is also a daily 'School Train' that leaves Kurseong at 06:15 arriving Darjeeling at 08:45. It leaves Darjeeling at 16:00 arriving Kurseong at 18:30. This is still hauled by a steam engine and is one of the last 'day to day'/ordinary steam trains running anywhere in the world. IR keeps changing the times for it and it is notoriously unreliable often running hours late.

Important Places to Visit: 

Himalayan Mountaineering Institute(HMI), (naveen), ☎ 09711100094, [3]. This Institute was founded and managed by the late Tenzing Norgay who conquered Mt Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. Today, it has on display records of some major expeditions undertaken. Next to this is the Everest Museum, which traces the history of different attempts on the world's highest peak. You may also contact the institute for mountaineering courses for all levels. And a one-off rock-climbing session can be taken at the Tenzing Norgay Rock, located on the northern fringes of Darjeeling. Open from 9 am-4.30 pm Entrance fee: Rs 6 

Himalayan Zoo (Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park - shares the premises of HMI). It has a good collection of animals found in the Himalayan region. Animals seem to be treated well (particularly by developing country standards), but some of the big cats don't look very happy in their small-ish cages. [Indian rupee] 40 for Indians, [Indian rupee] 100 for foreigners, [Indian rupee] 10 per camera. Ticket also includes entry to the HMI Museum. 

Please note that the HMI & Zoo are closed every Thursday.

Buddhist monasteries
Japanese Peace Pagoda. This impressive building is part of a grid of around 30 pagodas spanning the whole globe. Constructed by the Japanese Buddhist Nipponzan-Myohoji Order, the one at Charlimont on the outskirts of Darjeeling was consecrated in 1992. A small temple just lies alongside. If you're woken up due to the sound of drumming in the streets of Darjeeling between 4 and 5AM: These are the monks (Theravada) of the Japanese temple having their early morning walk.

Tiger Hill - Ideal to visit early morning when the first rays of the sun kiss the Mt. Kanchenjunga and give it a golden color. To visit the hill, one needs to get up at 3AM in the morning. You can taste some excellent tea on your way to the hill, which will provide much needed warmth on cold Darjeeling mornings. When getting into a taxi at 4AM keep in mind that they are shared taxis and your driver might wait around in vain for others to join your taxi causing you to miss the sunrise! Those travelling alone or as a couple might want to squeeze into an already occupied jeep to insure full viewing pleasure. Though it has an executive lounge ( [Indian rupee] 40/- per person) and special lounge ( [Indian rupee] 30/- per person), nothing beats having a view from open area, as you can have a full paranomic view from outside avoiding crowd in the lounge. The earlier you can arrive, the better place you can find to stand inside or outside the observatory tower. If you are late, you may find yourself standing behind many people with a lot obstructions to feeling the sunrise and magic lighting on Mt. Kanchengunga. You may also need to walk a lot to reach there via a steep ascendent road. The tip of Mt. Everest can also be seen on clear days.

Observatory Hill: Observatory hill is the oldest site in Darjeeling. This hill is also known as the “Makal-Babu-Ko-Thaan” in local area. It is said that a Red Hat Buddhist Monastery stood at this very spot. Nepal people destroyed this monastery in the 19th century. It also offers a good vantage point for viewing the himalayean range.

Rock Garden. Its a beautiful place with a small waterfall. This place has got varities of flowers landscaped in the rocks. Females can also get dressed in the local dress and take pictures.

Batasia Loop. Batasia Loop is bascally a place where the legendary toy train makes a loop. there is a Gorkha martyr memorial here. There is also a landscaped park. If you go early in the morning (before 8 am) you can get the glimpse of a local crafts market here. One can get dressed in the local attire and get their pictures taken. 

Nightingale Park/Srubbery Park. It is about 2-5 kms from Darjeeling Railway Station and walkable from the Chowrasta. It is a beautiful park with a package of cultural program performed daily during the tourist season and its opening time is 4.00 p.m. and closing time is 8.00 p.m. The park has recently been extensively re-developed, and now comprises of a giant Statue of Lord Shiva, a temple, and provisions for live-interactive entertainment. The best time to visit the park is in the evenings. Entrance fee is charged and nominal charges for photography may also be required to be made by the visitor. You may think alternative of Tiger-hill to see the sunlight magic on Kanchenjunga from this Park. Good spot for photographers. This place is not very crowded and you can enjoy your photography from here. Nice landscape is visible from this park.

Ropeway/Cable car- Darjeeling Ropeway started in 1968 and went through a major upgrades in 1988. It is a joint venture between the Forest Development Corporation of the state and a private company called Conveyor and Ropeway Service Pvt. Ltd. Over the years, it had become one of the key tourist attractions in Darjeeling. However since an unfortunate accident that took place in October 2003, the ropeway has remained closed. Three cable cars slipped out of track from the Darjeeling Singamari station and crushed into the tea gardens some 100 feet below causing death of four passengers and injuries to several others.

But the good news is that after the second inspection by the Public Works Department, the ropeway is now fully operational and starts at the Darjeeling Singamari station. Riders get off at Tukvar downhill, enjoy the lush tea gardens, take their time and come back to the Darjeeling Singamari station. The total distance round-trip, Singamari-Tukvar, is about 5 KM and takes 40 minutes. Allow 2 hours from the time your ride starts.

The total round trip costs Rs. 150/- per person (subject to change). *Timings- 10am to 4pm during winter (off peak) and 10am to 2 pm during summer (peak). Capacity of each cabin is 6 persons. Pets are not allowed. Children above 8 years are charged adult fare. The service shuts down on the 19th day of each month for maintenance.

There is no advance reservation required. However, during the peak season there are often long queues for the rides. *Location- The Darjeeling Ropeway or cable car station is located at Singamari which is 3km (1.8 miles) away from the Chowk Bazaar (the main market center of Darjeeling at the lower level). You will get cabs or shared jeeps from Chowk Bazaar that takes about 15 minutes to reach unless there is a traffic jam in the market area which is often the case. Get down at North Point on Lebong Cart Road which is quite close to the St. Joseph's college. Across the road you will find a narrow and steep stairway that leads to the Singamari cable car station located at a higher level. You can see the station at a height from the road and the cable cars passing over your head down to the valley below

Where to stay: 

Budget

The Diocesan Guest House PH:09434467784/09197202914 Roshan Thapa, Gandhi Road (Top floor of the National Open School). Offers a clean and homely living at an amazing budget. You can choose from dormitories or double or single rooms. Run by the church, This place is an awesome place to be. The view from the place is amazing, no showers.  edit email id- roshan1967@rediffmail.com

Ivy Castle, (Arriving to the roundabout of the Chorasta, turn right to where the local food market is. Keep going and when the rd splts keep on the one going down the hill. Theres a sign). checkin: 12:00; checkout: 12:00. Offers a clean and homely living at a very good prize. You can bargain to 400 or may be less if staying for a few nights. Has very nice and tidy rooms. Nice toilet with hot water, towels and soap. free wifi. Ask for the top rooms if you want the wifi in your room. There's also TV in the room. Very nice view if you get a clear day. Rs. 500.

Hotel Aliment, ☎ 03542255068. checkout: 10AM. Located at the top of the hill, the views are nice, but the 15 min walk from the clock tower is quite steep. In some double rooms there is hot water 6:30PM-7:30PM, but they can fill up a bucket with hot water the rest of the day. There is also a simple restaurant, which houses an impressive library. Rs 400-1600.

Hotel Roma, ☎ 09339424307. checkin: 12 noon; checkout: 11AM. Located near the mall , the views are nice, but the 3 min walk to mall. , There is also a restaurant, Rs 1300-2000.

Abhi Satya, (on the left, south of Chowrasta). checkout: 12:00. This place has an amazing hostel owner and worker. They make you feel at home. They don't try to overcharge you, the rate is fixed. They only have double beds, but you may be able to get it cheaper if you are alone and it's not busy. The rooms are not very clean, have a TV, and the toilet is letrine with no shower, they do offer a bucket of hot water which is enough for a nice full shower. There's no wifi, they may say they do but is just from the guy below but charger 40rs for an hour. Rs 300 / 400.

Birds Eye, Dr. Zakir Hussain Rd (near the top of the hill on the south end of Darjeeling. From the jeep drop off and train station it is up to the very top and then keep going right), ☎ 9832321037,. checkout: noon. Opened in October 2008. Rs 300+.

Darjeeling Tourist Lodge, Bhanu Sarani, Darjeeling (7 minutes from Mall, near Gymkhana Club), ☎ +91 354 2254411/12/13 (dort1@dte.vsnl.net.in, fax:+91 354 2254412), [11]. checkout: noon. Property belongs to West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation and has a breathtaking location with views of Kanchenjunga. Rs 900-1,600.

Mid-range

Amigos Homestay, Chowrastra, The Mall (Underneath SBI ATM and Golden tips), ☎ +91-9733015452. checkin: 12pm; checkout: 12pm. Amigos homestay is a great family run place with big clean rooms. It is conveniently located underneath the two biggest tea shops in Darjeeling and the SBI ATM. Rooms come with cabel tv, free wifi and 24 hours running hot water. Rs. 1000-2500.

Bellevue Hotel, P O Box 28, The Mall, Darjeeling, W.B. 734101 (Right at Chowrasta, the central square within the pedestrian zone), ☎ +91 354 2254075(pulger@rediffmail.com), [13]. Run by a Tibetan family for around forty years, the hotel features a modest, dry and warm interior, rooms are wood-panelled and clean. Free WiFi. Rs 1800 - 2,000.

Pahari Soul, 46 Hill Cart Road, Dali, Darjeeling, W.B. 734101 (2 minutes from Dali monastery and a minute from dali taxi stand), ☎ +91 9800214163(pahari.soul@gmail.com), [14]. Every room offers the view of entire kanchenjunga range,deluxe rooms with room and bed heaters,tea/coffee maker,flat screen television with cable channels,travel desk,Indian and continental food and Free WiFi. Rs 1500 - 2,000.

Hotel Dekeling (At the south end of the Mall), 51 Ghandi Road, ☎ +91-354-2254159, [15]. checkin: 12 noon; checkout: 12 noon. Cozy atmosphere and honestly caring oweners/staff. Wide range of nicely timbered rooms, breakfast buffet (Rs 227). Free hot water bottle every evening. Has free WiFi and a computer (at a price) in the community area. Rs 600-3,000.

Splurge

Mayfair Darjeeling, opposite Governor House, The Mall, ☎ +91 354 2256376 (darjeeling@mayfairhotels.com, fax: +91 354 2252674), [17]. Hill resort offering good views. This property was once the summerhouse of the Maharajah of Nazargunj. Rs 8,000.

Hotel Sinclairs,It has 46 beautiful rooms and suites, with satellite TV. The wooden interiors give it an ambience of a traditional country home. Rs 3,500-7,300.

Windamere Hotel, Observatory Hill Darjeeling West Bengal - 734101 India (By Road NH 31A By Train New Jalpaiguri 88 km(NJP) By Flight Bagdogra 90 km), ☎ +91 354 2254041/42, [19]. Rs 6,650-12,500.

Eat and Drink: 

Several eateries which dish out North Indian, Nepali, Tibetan, and continental fare dot the area around the Mall. Vegetarian and Jain food is available at several restaurants. "Momos", a steamed Tibetan delicacy are a staple food offered by almost every eating joint.

Keep in mind that everything closes pretty early in the night (The town goes to sleep before 9PM). So, do keep something in stock to eat, if you are planning to stay up late.

Glenary's Bakery and Cafe, Nehru Road (The Mall). A good place for cakes, pastries, the ubiquitous Darjeeling cuppa, sizzerlers and North Indian fare. Offers nice views of Mt Kanchendjunga on clear days.
Hot Stimulating Cafe. On the way to Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, on Hooker Road, is this lovely little cozy place with pictures of Bob Marley covering one whole wall. The Momos here are awesome! They even offer a Momo-cooking course! The guy who owns it can double up as your local guide, trekking along with you to some adventurous outings from Darjeeling.
Hotel Lunar, (Near the clock tower and the Dekeling Hotel). This is probably the best vegetarian restaurants in town where you can enjoy a great view and wonderful service.
Roly Poly Pudding (Windamere Hotel), Observatory Hill, Darjeeling. India Pin Code: 734101, ☎ 91-354-2254041, [5]. The food is authentically prepared porridge for breakfast" and "cheese & onion pie".
Hotel Lunar, (Near the clock tower and the Dekeling Hotel). This is probably the best vegetarian restaurants in town where you can enjoy a great view and wonderful service.
Hotel Chanakya. If you are looking for an authentic Bengali restaurant in town where you can enjoy both veg and nonveg dishes then this is the place where you should go.
Kunga's, 51 Gandhi Road (Very close to the clock tower and the Dekeling Hotel). An excellent Tibetan place, situated just above the clocktower. It serves superb Tibetan food, including hearty Tibetan soups (Thentuk is recommended). It is, however, tiny, hence often full and crowded.Visit with a bit time in your hand and enjoy the delicious food.
The Park, (50 meters from the clock tower). Located near the clock tower, this restaurant is especially popular with tourists. They have two menu cards, one Thai and the other Indian, and the cook mastered both cuisines. The Thai cuisine is quite excellent. Try their Thai style chicken rice noodle. Rs 90-150.

Best time to visit: 
February
March
April
May
September
October
November
December

Tiger Hill

Batasia Loop

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