Spread in ribbons over a steep mountain ridge, surrounded by emerald-green tea plantations and towered over by majestic Khangchendzonga (8598m), Darjeeling is the definitive Indian hill station and is arguably West Bengal’s premier attraction. When you aren’t gazing open-mouthed at Khangchendzonga, you can explore colonial-era architecture, visit Buddhist monasteries, and spot snow leopards and red pandas at the nearby zoo. The adventurous can arrange a trek to Singalila Ridge or hire a mountain bike for a guided ride around the hilltops. Meanwhile the steep and winding bazaars below the town bustle with an array of Himalayan products and faces from across Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet. And finally, when energies start to flag, a good, steaming Darjeeling brew is never far away.
Darjeeling is a mesmerising hill station located in West Bengal and is a divine amalgamation of lush green hills, beautiful serene monasteries, tea plantations and the amazing toy train. The city is also known as the Queen of Hill Stations and it's name comes from the Tibetan word 'Dorje' which means a precious stone or the thunderbolt and 'ling' meaning place, thus Darjeeling means the land of thunderbolt. At one point of time, Darjeeling was the most preferred location of the Britishers because of its cool climatic conditions and lush mountains. It is also very famous in the world for it's Darjeeling tea. Being in Darjeeling and sipping the hot cuppa tea is priceless. The town has a total population of over 132,016 people and is ethnically diverse with the common languages spoken being Nepali, Tibetan, Hindi, Bengali and English. Months from March- May and September-November are considered the best time to visit this heavenly place. In the month of July, Darjeeling gets heavy rainfall and due to the rampant deforestation and the poor planning, landslides occur.Thus, the rainy season should be avoided while planning a trip to Darjeeling.
One of the major attractions of Darjeeling is its toy train which was built in the late 19th century and runs from Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its tracks rise from sea level to an altitude of over 7,500 ft in just about 70 km. In order to overcome these gradients, the train does Zigzag, reverses and loops, the most famous being the Batasia Loop, where the train does a complete figure of eight. The train covers about 83 km in six or seven hours, so you have plenty of time to breathe in the fresh mountain air.
The mighty Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world 8586 m is one of the eye catching beauty of Darjeeling. The path to ascend the mount is full of hardships, but the feeling that you get when you are at the summit and are seeing the world from the top, is incomparable. However, you shouldn't be disheartened if are not able to see the view from above, not everybody can summit Kanchenjunga. You can view the beauty of Kanchenjunga from Tiger Hills, the sunrise tour is the most famous one amongst the tourist. One can also watch the panoramic view of Ranjit River and the green tea plantation of the city through the Passenger Ropeway. This is the first passenger ropeway in India and covers a distance of 5 km from North point to Singla Bazaar. Visiting Darjeeling and not paying a visit to the tea gardens is a big mistake. The tea garden which are located at the rolling slopes of the hills are going to charm you without a doubt. You can visit the Badamtan Tea Estate, which was once, one of the tea company owned and managed by the British. It is located across the Ranjit River. You can purchase first flush tea, which fills the estate with sweet flavor and fine aroma.
Darjeeling also has a number of monasteries with their beautiful architecture. Ghoom Monastery is one of the oldest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Darjeeling built in the year 1850.The statue of Maithreya Buddha meaning "The Coming Buddha", which is 4.57 meter high, of this monastery is of interest here. The monastery also preserves some of the rarest Buddhist manuscripts. Jang Dong Palriffo Brang monastery was consecrate by Dalai Lama and was established in 1976. The monastery shows a beautiful specimen of Buddhist architecture and some spectacular painting on the walls.If you are a wildlife enthusiast, you can visit the Darjeeling Zoo, where you can see some of the very high altitude animals and some endangered species that are rarely seen anywhere else in the world. The zoo is situated at a distance of 2 km from the city which breeds several animals like Snow Leopard, Panther, Deer, Black Bear, Snow Yaks etc. But amongst them, Red Panda catches special attention of the tourist. This zoo is claimed to be the only zoo in the world to breed Tibetan Wolf in captivity. It is also the first South Asian zoo to breed Snow Leopard and Siberian Tiger.
Now after seeing the serene mountains, wildlife and the spiritual gompas, you can unleash the adventurer inside you by indulging in a plethora of activities ranging from Trekking, hiking, rafting etc.The hilly areas of Kalimpong are best used for hiking as well as trekking. Teesta River of Kalimpong allows the adventure tourists to experience their wild side in river rafting activity. The activity starts at Melli Bridge and ends at Geilkhola in Kalimpong. Thus, Darjeeling is a must visit to find an escape from the hustle-bustle of the cities and find peace in its serene surroundings.