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Darjeeling Tourist Places & Attractions
You thought that Darjeeling must be a small hill town and what could you see there other than Kanchenjunga peaks and some scenic views? Sure Darjeeling town is small, but you may be amazed to know how many great places you can access from here that are within short distances. And if you love to travel down the winding mountain roads, you can reach some treasures that are unmatched anywhere in the world.
Over the past many years of our family vacations, we have uncovered all such great Darjeeling attractions. Remember, while Darjeeling town is small, the district of Darjeeling spans over more than 3,000 square kilometers (or about 1,200 square miles). So it's really up to you how far would you like to travel to uncover a treasure. We don't keep any limits until it's time to be back.
In the sections below, I have described the top Darjeeling tourist places and attractions including the parks & gardens, scenic places & view points, waterfalls, temples & monasteries, museums & historic places, and lot more. But you will need to take Sightseeing Tours to experience all that unless you have your own vehicle. Few of these tourist places are of course within easy walking distance from the town center.
If you are planning to visit some of them on foot, remember a couple of things. First a distance in the hills will feel like almost three times of a similar distance in the plains as you walk uphill. And most of the roads in Darjeeling have steep gradient or slope. So unless you are used to walking in the hills, it may not be as easy as you may think. Second, there are some sightseeing places in Darjeeling that can only be reached on foot. A vehicle can only go up to a point beyond which you will need to walk. So in general, a sightseeing day in Darjeeling should start early.
As you go through the Darjeeling tourist attractions below and visit the links for details, you will get the distance of the places and time it should take to reach from the town center. Let me start with our top favorite sights and tourist places in Darjeeling. And then I'll talk about the ones which too come very close to the best.
Top 10 Tourist Places in Darjeeling - Our Favorites
Here are the top places to see in Darjeeling. If you are visiting Darjeeling for a short vacation, then you should target to visit some of these places listed in this section.
HMI is a destination by itself and a said to be a pilgrimage for all climbing enthusiasts of the world. It was established in honor of Tenzing Norgay after he and Sir Edmund Hillary climbed the Everest in 1953. It has a well stocked museum with mountaineering displays and many expedition artifacts, a boarding school for mountaineering students, houses for the trainers, a restaurant, a souvenir shop and more. HMI is located on Jawahar Road or the Birch Hill that can be accessed from the Mall Road and Lebong Cart Road. One can actually walk down Mall road & then Jawahar road to reach HMI.
The Zoo is located in the same premises where HMI is and therefore should be covered at the same time. The unique feature of this zoo is, it houses animals of high altitude and mostly from upper Himalayas. You can see some rare animals here like Red Pandas, Snow Leopards, Tibetan Wolf and lot more.
(2) Tiger Hill
Located at the highest point in the Darjeeling area, Tiger Hill is best known for the dazzling sunrise view of the Kanchenjunga and the snow covered peaks of the entire eastern Himalayan range. On a clear day you can even see the mount Everest from here. Tiger Hill is located 11km from the Darjeeling Town and takes about 40 minutes to reach by car.
(3) Batasia Loop
Located 5km from Darjeeling Town and just below Ghoom, Batasia Loop as the name suggests, is a loop or a spiral of a narrow gauge railway track where the Toy Train negotiates a sudden sharp descent from Ghoom. It's a wonderful viewing place with manicured gardens, streams and falls, from where you can get a wide range view of the Darjeeling's landscape, Kanchenjunga and the other Eastern Himalayan peaks.
This is one way you can be part of special diverse offerings from the nature and all in one place. From the ropeway of Darjeeling which is also known as the Rangeet Valley Passenger Cable Car, you can have mind blowing view of the valley below, see the spread of lush tea gardens, dense forests, mountain streams in their full flow, waterfalls, and the awesome snow peaks at the background. Get off at a lower station and enjoy the tea estates, walk through the tea gardens, or just relax and enjoy the view around. It's hard to find all these together in one place.
The Chowrasta or the Mall is the town center in Darjeeling. This is a lovely little flat area, a public square where four roads meet. This public place is where you would like to lounge & bake in the sun, sit and watch the wonderful views of the mountain range and see many locals and tourists hanging around. One side of the mall is lined with pine trees through which you get wonderful mountain vistas, the other side is lined with lovely boutique shops of different kinds. And all around the mall, you have benches to sit and relax.
These two are scenic parks in wonderful settings located a few miles away from the Darjeeling town. Rock garden is about 10km and Ganga Maya is another 3km from there. Rock Garden is all about terraced gardens at different levels that have been cut through the rocks having a waterfalls with nice seating arrangements. Ganga Maya is more spread out and has a beautiful stream flowing through it on a valley, has flower gardens, fountains and more.
About 10 minutes by car, you will reach a wonderful area that is symbolic of peace and tranquility. Located in the Jalapahar hill, the Japanese Temple is built in traditional Japanese style where you can join the prayers and feel the spiritual peace amongst humming and chants. Close to it is the Peace Pagoda where there are four large avatars of Lord Buddha. The view from the top is magnificent. You can see the snow peak range from here including the Kanchenjunga.
What started as a modest effort in 1903 to display butterflies and birds of the Darjeeling district, has grown to house a large collections of mammals, birds & nests with eggs, reptiles & fishes and even insects of wide varieties. The displays are actually specimens of real creatures that had been captured, stuffed and preserved. The Bengal Natural History Museum can be reached by few minutes walk from the Chowrasta Mall.
Rising from behind the Mall, Observatory Hill is an ideal place to get a 360 degree view of Darjeeling and the peaks surrounding it. The Mahakal Temple, the central temple of Darjeeling of all faiths is located on top of the hill where the original Dorjeling Buddhist Monastery once stood.
This center was established on October 2nd, 1959 for rehabilitation of Tibetans who followed Dalai Lama and escaped their homeland during the period of mayhem. In order to sustain living, they adopted the principle of self help. The center is located on a hill top that can be approached from the Lebong Cart Road. You can see Tibetan men and women making exquisite hand crafted items like woolen carpets, shawls, carved wooden crafts, leather items and more. There is an outlet at the center from where you can buy these items.
Other Great Tourist Places in Darjeeling
Honestly, there are many other tourist attractions and sights in Darjeeling that equally compete to be in our list of top 10. Check out the links below to know about more of our personal favorites. I have grouped them under different heads.
After Hinduism, Buddhism is the next predominant religion in Darjeeling, and then comes Christianity which is practiced by a minority community. We have had the opportunity to get deep insights into the lives of several lamas, priests and clergymen here. For us it has always been a privilege to understand and feel the divine spirituality of the place through those who have dedicated their lives to such cause. You need to visit a monastery, a temple or a church, listen to the head of the shrine, join the prayers and absorb the spirituality to get that feel.
Several religious shrines in Darjeeling have been built by great religious leaders of the past, and some are perched on hills with magnificent views all around. This section will let you know about all our favorite monasteries, temples and churches in Darjeeling, their history, offerings, location and lot more.
Here is your treasure for the best of gardens and parks in Darjeeling. The section also captures my favorites amongst lakes and water areas, forests and sanctuaries and even confluence or meeting points of great rivers of Darjeeling hill area.
If you like to dwell deep into the history of Darjeeling, understand animal and bird life of the region, know who had sacrificed their lives from this part of the world, and other unique ways Darjeeling has played its role in the world like its unsurpassable mountaineering achievements, then visit some of the great museums and memorials. They vividly capture the life and history of Darjeeling and its unique flora & fauna. You will be immersed with the rich heritage of the place.
Darjeeling has its own treasure of artwork and artisans. There are well known artists who have their own studios, galleries and handicraft factories. And there are many skilled local artisans and sculptors whose work can be seen in many of the curio and jewelry stores around the Mall and Nehru Road.
Places to visit for Kids & Children
If you are travelling to Darjeeling on a vacation with your family and kids, you will need to keep in mind the interest of your children. There are places that kids & children would love to visit and things they would love to do. Check out Darjeeling Places For Kids & Children to know all about them.
1) Local Package Tours: The best way to cover the above tourist places is by taking a local packaged tour. All local taxi drivers and touro operators offer suck packages.
By Raj Bhattacharya
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