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Darjeeling Tours and Sightseeing

 
If you are planning to experience some of the lovely tourist places and vistas in and around Darjeeling, you will need to plan a tour, preferably a guided or a conducted tour. Depending on what you want to see and how much time you have, there are several options to go around Darjeeling. 
 
Most tourists who come here for short vacations, take the local half day sightseeing tours that are known as 3-point, 5-point, 7-point and mixed-point tours covering preset points or tourist places in and around the hill town. These local sightseeing packages offered by taxi drivers and local tour operators are most popular amongst tourists. And another ride which is seldom missed is a toy train joy ride. 
 
But, if you want to get deeper into the magical attractions of Darjeeling hills, then your next step would be to take a scenic drive to one of the many amazing places close to Darjeeling, enjoy the bounty of nature like wonderful mountain landscapes, driving by the tea gardens & villages, watch waterfalls & lakes etc and come back after spending a day of great joy & fulfillment. These are known as day trips from Darjeeling. 
 
However, if you intend to explore Darjeeling and the surrounding areas at greater depth, like to know about the heritage and historical background of the place that originated from the British colonial times, or want to feel the nature and its flora & fauna more intimately, then you will need to take a special tour. There are tours & safaris to take you to national park & sanctuaries which are habitats of amazing and rare Himalayan animals, you can take a heritage walk of the town to visit many historical places that reflect the life & culture of British Raj days, and there are lovely tea garden tours that includes many tea garden activities including stay at the garden. 
 
While you can self organize most standard tours by hiring a taxi or a shared jeep from the stand, you will need to go through a tour operator for the special tours. I shall discuss all these options in the following section from all our personal experiences.  
 
 
 
These are short half-day tours covering sunrise views, monasteries & temples, art & craft, museums, zoo, tea gardens, parks, rides and more. These are the most popular sightseeing tours with the common tourists and provide a quick flavor of Darjeeling. There are several preset packages offered with various combinations of the sights and attractions. You can choose the ones you like. 
 
There are regular 2-hour joy rides offered by the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways on its toy trains from Darjeeling. The narrow gauge train with steam engine makes a round trip to Ghoom via Batasia and back. This is a scenic ride offering great views of Darjeeling landscapes and the Eastern Himalayan snow peaks. This tour by Toy Train is extremely popular with tourists. You will need to book well in advance as the capacity is limited and demand is high. Many visitors who can't take the 7-hours long toy train ride from New Jalpaiguri to reach Darjeeling, take this short ride. 
 
Kanchenjunga & the Toy Train, Darjeeling 
Kanchenjunga and Toy Train 
 
Although Darjeeling town is small, the district of Darjeeling spans over more than 1,200 square miles of area that includes majestic mountains & valleys, beautiful tea gardens, lakes, waterfalls, forests, villages and more. So you have great opportunities to take lovely scenic drives to some amazing places where you can spend the day and even stay back if you like. 
 
Very few people know that there is a guided walking tour offered to explore the rich heritage and history of Darjeeling. During the colonial days of 1800s and early 1900s, the British have left behind many heritage landmarks. They built schools, parks, museums & monuments as they converted miles of raw forests in Darjeeling hills into a natural holiday sanitarium and laid thousands of acres of tea plantations to make it a place for Champagne of Tea. All these along with the people, flora and fauna, the landscapes & majestic mountains have all been integral part of Darjeeling's heritage. 
 
Spread across the Singalila range, this high altitude national park can be accessed from Manebhanjan which is located 26kms from Darjeeling town. This is one of the stunningly beautiful parks that offers plethora of flora & fauna, and breathtaking view of the Himalayan snow peaks. There are numerous types of orchids, rhododendrons, magnolia, primula and many other flowers that bloom in abundance during the season. 
 
 
 
You will pass through forests of thick bamboo, oaks and silver firs. The reserved forest area has many exotic and rare high altitude animals like Red Panda and Pangolins that you see only in the books. The park has over 120 species of birds. And you will get rare opportunity to view some of highest peaks of the world including Everest and Kanchenjunga family. However this tour will take 2-3 days to complete. Know about the complete description of the park, how to reach, best time to go, where to stay and many other details. 
 
Not many can trek and that too along the steep routes of Sandakphu and Phalut. But anybody who loves mountains and the snow peaks, will love to make it to these places once in a lifetime. Where else can you view four of the five highest peaks of the world? A great way to do that is to take a jeep safari. 
 
Tea tourism is increasingly becoming popular in Darjeeling area. It's about spending a few days in a sprawling tea estate, staying in original planter's bungalows that offer British colonial ambience, walking through the tea gardens to experience garden life, visiting the factory to watch tea processing, and tasting some of the greatest teas the garden offers to the world. And all these can be combined with nature & village walks, day trips to nearby attractions and view points, witnessing ethnic cultural dance & musical performances by the local villagers, and enjoying many other nature activities including even wildlife safaris and white water rafting. Sounds interesting? 
 
Is it possible to take a car from Bagdogra Airport or NJP Station and cover all the thee places - Darjeeling, Sandakphu and Gangtok and get dropped back to the airport or the railway station. Well, nothing is impossible when you have the will to do it, particularly when in search of the best of the mountain nature. 
 
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3) If you need further information, check out Tourist Information Centers and contact the GTA or West Bengal state Government run centers that provide information and booking assistance for Darjeeling tours. 
 
 
Visitors' Reviews/Comments 
 
Ron Rodrigues (September 2013) 
In February 2014 my wife and I plan to visit Darjeeling. Having just read Path to Glory covering the two climbs of Everest by George Mallory I am interested in finding out more of the journey from Darjeeling to Base Camp or a point where we could get a good and clear view of Everest. Any information would be greatly appreciated. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) September 2013 
Hi, In Darjeeling, a good place to get a view of Mount Everest is from Tiger Hill. You should visit the place to view the sunrise amongst the Himalayan snow peaks. Early in the morning and with clear sky (you need to have a bit of luck for this) you  get a wonderful view of some of the highest peaks in the world including Everest. You can see Everest between the peaks of Kanchenjunga and Makalu. Although it looks quite close, it's at a distance of about 225kms from where you stand. So carry a binocular. Tiger hill is 11kms from Darjeeling town and you can take a jeep or private taxi to reach the sunrise point. You will find more information here: Tiger Hill 
 
Another great place to get a view of Everest is from Sandakphu. It's the summit of the Singalila range and a popular trekking destination. It's also accessible by jeep or Land Rovers. You can organize a trip or a trek to Sandakphu through a tour operator in Darjeeling. However, in February the routes are often closed due to heavy snowfall in the area. The season actually begins from April, but the best views are available between October through November. Here is more information about Sandakphu 
 
Mahesh M (August 2013) 
I am planning for a 10 days long trip with my wife and 3 years old kid from Oct 05 - Oct 14. My wife is physically challenged but may be able to walk some distance with good support. But mostly would require wheelchair. Firstly, Is it possible to Manage sightseeing in Darjeeling and Gangtok. If so what would be the best plan when you are travelling with Physically challenged and a small kid. Last year i could take my family to Jaipur, Udaipur, Agra, Fatehpur-Sikri( Just for more info). 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) August 2013 
Hi, Darjeeling and Gangtok are both on steep hilly terrain. Most tourist attractions won't be accessible or suitable for wheelchair bound persons. Also note that it's unlikely you will find a taxi or van in Darjeeling which can accommodate a wheel chair, or has a site door with a ramp etc. You will require a folding type wheelchair which can be taken in the car boot. 
 
If she can manage to walk a bit and get into a taxi, then you can certainly take her around for a scenic sightseeing tour to view the landscapes, tea gardens (like Happy Valley Tea Estate, Rangeet Valley Estate etc from the taxi of course). Unfortunately most tourist attractions in Darjeeling require quite some uphill walk or climbing stairways from the car park. There are some exceptions though like Bengal Natural History Museum, Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center, Tenzing & Gombu rocks, Ava Art Gallery, Samten Choling Monastery in Ghoom etc which are relatively easier to access and are suitable for most who are physically challenged. However you won't find a packaged local tour that covers these assorted places. You will need to negotiate with the taxi driver and make a local sightseeing day tour of your own. All these can be easily covered in 4-5 hours. 
 
I have discussed the most suitable hotels in Darjeeling for physically challenged in the link below (it considers taxis being able to reach up to the door step, elevator in the hotel, ramp for wheel chair etc etc): Darjeeling hotels for handicapped 
 
Nivedita Seal (May 2013) 
Hello Sir, a wonderful blog with loads of information and no doubt they are priceless for travelers like us. Six of us are planning to visit Darjeeling in the first week of December 2013 though our plan was for Sikkim but 2 of us will be from Bangladesh so we are planning for Darjeeling. We want to enjoy the core beauty of Darjeeling for 5-6 days and we want to include Jorpokhri, Mirik, Maneybhanjang etc. Will you please inform us from where we can get best view of Kanchenjunga? And we will be traveling with 2 year old kid and want a good budget or 2 star (if we get discount) hotel. Will you please suggest which one will be good as per service and view? Is there any way that we can get some snow around any places near Darjeeling? Will it be possible for us to visit Sandakaphu with the kid? Eager to hear from you. Best regards 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) May 2013 
One of the best family hotels with Kanchenjungha views in Darjeeling is the main building of Darjeeling Tourist Lodge. The attached small private balconies in the rooms offer great views. Check out the following link for my detailed reviews of Darjeeling hotels with great views: Best View Hotels in Darjeeling 
 
You can also go down to the Mall road view points (specifically the one just next to the Dolphin Hotel and close to Raj Bhawan). In December you should get excellent views from there. If you can wake up early in the winter morning, try out Tiger Hill to see the sunrise and the range of snow peaks including Kanchenjunga. It's likely to be quite cold in December, but snowing is very rare in Darjeeling town. 
 
You can go to Manebhanjan and take a jeep towards Sandakphu. In fact you should get enough snow in Tumling itself (about half way to Sandakphu) around that time. But with an infant with you, you should be very careful. It will be biting cold over there and there are hardly any facilities. All accommodations are basic. Even if you decide to go, do not go further than Tumling around that time with a kid. Take adequate measures and warm clothes. While you may see plenty of snows, you may not be able to see snowfall. There is nothing in Manebhanjan and do not plan to stay there. Darjeeling to Mirik via Jorpokhri is a nice drive through the tea gardens. You will enjoy boating at the Mirik lake. 
 
Sunanda Choudhury (May 2013) 
If I want to visit 3 points & mixed points by a shared jeep how is that possible....coz a shared jeep wont wait in every point for me. Please suggest me the plan of day 2: three points tour & mixed points tour & day3: Mirik with Pasupati market tour by a shared jeep.... 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) May 2013 
Only Sunrise from Tiger Hill and Batasia Loop on the way back can be planned on shared jeep. Rest can be done on reserved taxi. Shared jeeps ply between Darjeeling and Mirik. You can get off at Pashupati market and take another one from there to Mirik. You will get more information about fares and timings here: Darjeeling to Other Places 
 
Nikhil Jain (April 2013) 
Hi Raj, Thanks for your wonderful work in this website. We 3 people are coming to visit Darjeeling. We want to hire a cab in NJP itself, from there we need 3 days package (NJP to Darjeeling, sightseeing there and drop us to NJP railway station on 3rd day). Can you please let me know will any one offer this and how much approximate charges would be. Would be grateful if you let us know reliable guy for this. Thanks, 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) April 2013 
There are tons of such tour operators, many in Siliguri area which you can get by searching the web. In Darjeeling, you can contact Subash Tamang of Ashmita Treks & Tours. You will get his contacts here: Top Tour Operators. Take my reference, it can help 
 
Rajiv Chanda (March 2013) 
Let me congratulate you on this awesome site. It has provided me most of the info needed for travelling to Darjeeling. I plan to come there on 30/5/13 to 6/6/13. I just wanted to know should I book the transport before hand as we are 3 families including 6 kids. Though you have already mentioned that Prepaid taxis are available from NJP. I was wondering if they are easily available or will have to wait. The charges that I find for drop are about Rs. 3000 per Innova and about 1600 per Sumo. Would it be better to book now or take a chance once we reach there? And secondly it seems that 14 seaters or more are not available (for sightseeing) in that area. We enjoy traveling together, but it is being suggested that we need to take 2 separate vehicle. Also vehicles are for point to point basis only and not available on per day or per km basis. Can we find 14 seaters if we explore on reaching there. Warm regards 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) March 2013 
Hi, Pre-paid and reserved taxis are easily available at NJP unless you are reaching at an odd hour. 14-seaters are not easily available in this area. You can either book a vehicle for a pickup/drop service or local tours, usually not both. For that you should contact a credible travel/tour agent who can offer a tour package for your entire stay including pickup and drop services. The charges will depend on your tour plans. Most good hotels in Darjeeling offer such services as well. If you want to go through a tour operator, then look for one in Siliguri/NJP area since the pickup and drop will take place here, and the overall charges would be most economical. Here is one in Siliguri that you may look into: 
 
Kings Travels, 94 Bankim Chandra Road. Siliguri-6. 
Email: kingstravels7@gmail.com or kings_travels@yahoo.com,  
 
Airi Chang (March, 2013) 
Hello Raj, after I saw the Bollywood hit movie (Barfi), I was totally in love with Darjeeling's nature beauty. Now I am planning to visit Darjeeling around end of April. Is it possible to ask you to provide information of any local travel agency who conduct Barfi location tour, or can you suggest any shooting location to visit? Thanks in advance. Warm regards. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) March 2013 
You can call up and check this out with Subash Tamang of Ashmita Treks & Tours. You will find his contacts here: Top Tour Operators 
 
Amrita Kumar Mukherjee (November 2012) 
Respected Sir, I shall reach Darjeeling on 19/01/2013 at about 12 noon and leave within 12 noon of 21/01/2013. I am in extreme need of your valued advice for local sightseeing along with DHR Joy Ride. 
Q-1) Is it be possible to do 7-Point/5-Point and Tiger Hill-Batasia etc. and DHR Joy Ride of 13:40PM Train on 20/01/2013. 
Q-2) How much I have to spend for those. 
Q-3) If any other advice in details, as I am in first time in Darjeeling. We are three Self-Wife-Son (7 years) 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) November 2012 
Hi, It is possible to take a half day local sightseeing tour and then take the toy train joy ride in the afternoon. For that you will need to start the sightseeing tour early. Ask the Taxi driver to pick you up by 8am and finish the tour by 12:30pm. However the 7-point tour will be difficult to complete as HMI/Zoo takes time and so does the Ropeway (cable car), and both have specific opening hours/operating time that you have to keep in mind. But if you are willing to just breeze through the spots quickly, then it may still be possible by sequencing the visits correctly. Ask the taxi driver and he will help you on that. 
 
The 5-point tour or Tiger Hill/Batasia are easily doable in first half, but don't try both. You can also mix and match (mix point tour) between the options and work out an optimal sightseeing plan. But you will need a private taxi of your own rather than joining a set tour offered by an operator. I have indicated the tour and ride rates in appropriate sections of my website which you can use as reference for working out your budget. 
 
Darjeeling in January is gong to be very cold. So take lots of woolens and warm clothes, and carefully select a hotel that offers proper room heaters. 
 
Somanath M (From Chennai, Aug 2012) - A customized tour in Darjeeling 
We reached on 13th August, by noon. Then we went around to Chowrastra for a short hang out. Mr.Subash (of Ashmita Tour & Trek) then explained the points of interest in Darjeeling. We started on the next day early morning at 4 to Tiger Hills. The scenic beauty of sun rise was like a heaven. It was amazing and the best part of our trip... those 45 minutes are still in front of our eyes. Then we went to Buddhist Monastery in Ghoom, followed by the War Memorial, here the view of mountains that glitter under the sun was amazing. There was a short break for breakfast.  
 
We then resumed to Japanese temple, then to Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and Zoological Park. Then we had the local lunch, then to few mountain view points. We were back to the hotel by evening. Then we took a walk to local bazaar in the evening. 
 
On day two, we started at 9 in the morning and went to Mirik Lake, a hang out place. On the way we saw the parade by school students, (since it was Aug 15th), it was very nice. We then had lunch and went to Nepal border, then to a mountain view point Jorpokhri. Next day, we had some shopping then back to NJP by cab. 
 
P.S: It was a well planned, organized and structured tour by Mr. Subash of Ashmita Tour & Trek. A Pleasing smile of Mr. Subash confirms you the pleasure of your trip. They welcome even salty feedback with pleasant smile and take things with sporting spirit. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
__________________________________________ 
By Raj Bhattacharya 
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