Top Tourist Places & Attractions in Darjeeling
Darjeeling is a resort town in the Himalayas that attracts over 4.5 lakhs tourists annually. Other than its picturesque settings in the hills and wonderful climate, Darjeeling is known for its top class aromatic tea for which it is adored worldwide, and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway which is fondly known as the Toy Train which is now part of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But Darjeeling has lot more attractions to offer other than sprawling tea gardens on slopes of the hills and its heritage toy trains. And that includes scenic parks & gardens, a zoo with high altitude Himalayan animals, world renowned mountaineering institute with its vast museum showcasing exhibits from many historic expeditions, lovely view points, waterfalls, monasteries, museums etc.
While you can easily walk down and visit some of these attractions, you will need a vehicle to visit some of the others. It's best to take a local sightseeing tour
to cover most of these attractions systematically in a relatively short time.
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 gradients. 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.
Below is an account of the top attractions in Darjeeling. Visit the links for details.
Located at the highest point in 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 11kms from the Darjeeling Town and takes about 40 minutes to reach by car.
Kanchenjunga as the sun rises, Tiger Hill Darjeeling
Photo: Meenakshi Jha
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. There is also a restaurant as well as a souvenir shop in the premises.
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 the Mall road and then Jawahar road to reach HMI.
Known as Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, the main entrance to Zoo and HMI are the same and both 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.
In 2018 the Bengal Natural History Museum
has been moved to the compound of HMI and Zoo. It started as a modest effort in 1903 to display butterflies and birds of Darjeeling district, but had eventually 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.
So now you can visit three attractions in one go. It's an excellent museum to know about flora and fauna of Bengal along with animals and birds specific to north-eastern part of the state.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) operates both steam and diesel engine driven toy train joy rides for tourists. The steam engine driven trains are the original heritage trains. The 2-hour round trip journey starts from Darjeeling station, passes through the township offering views of the landscapes, goes along the famous Batasia Loop and then reaches Ghum station where it halts for 10 minutes.
Steam Engine Toy Train at Batasia Loop, Darjeeling
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Here at Ghum station you can visit the DHR Ghum Museum
to see exhibits and many artifacts of the history of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, how the project started and took shape during British colonial days including many pictures. The toy train then takes the same route back to Darjeeling.
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.
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 snow peaks and the other Eastern Himalayan peaks.
Batasia Loop Darjeeling
While you can take a taxi and reach there in 15 minutes from Darjeeling town, one of the popular means is to take the Toy Train Joy Ride
which makes a round trip from Darjeeling station to Batasia Loop and Ghum and back, and stops at both Batasia and Ghum.
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.
Darjeeling Mall with shops lined up on one side
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.
Rock Garden Darjeeling
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.
Peace Pagoda Darjeeling
This is one of the famous tea estates in Darjeeling that was established by British planters in 1854 and located only 3kms away from the lower town. Due to its proximity, a visit to this tea estate is quite common in the local package tours offered by tour operators or taxi drivers. Many tea bushes here are over 100 years old and it's a treat to the eyes to watch the vast expanses of lush tea gardens on the slopes of the hills.
Happy Valley Tea Estate Darjeeling
During season (April to October) you can watch tea plucking by local Nepali women. The estate workers also volunteer for a tea factory tour (expecting a good tip though). You can get inside the factory and watch the various stages of tea processing. The best quality tea here is known as Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. The estate produces black, green and white tea.
Darjeeling is home to many Tibetan Buddhists who are mostly immigrants from Tibet. Over the years, several monasteries have come up in Darjeeling some of which are of historic importance. One of the prominent ones is Dali Monastery... you will see this large towering monastery perched on a hill at a higher elevation from the road as you are approaching Darjeeling town. The monastery is 5kms away from the town center. The monastery belongs to the Kagyupa sect of Buddhists.
Dali Monastery, Darjeeling
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The monastery welcomes tourists. You can go and join the prayers along with the lamas and listen to the chants. There is a large open terrace in front where you can relax and watch the views around. There is also an adjoining coffee shop which serves tea, coffee and snacks.
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.
The Mahakal Temple, Darjeeling
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.
Apron Section, Tibetan Refugee Self Help
This is a newly developed 13-acre complex amidst nature and scenic beauty. Jamuni is only 45 minutes away from Darjeeling town (about 15kms). So what to see & do here? There is a lovely mountain stream flowing through the place which is surrounded by forested hills and villages, there is a manmade lake for boating, a children's playground, stepped and manicured gardens, nice walkways through the complex with gazebos to relax in, and more... a great place for a family picnic.
Jamuni, River Rangeet and the central round lake
This is a heritage sports club in Darjeeling that was established in 1909. It's located on Mall road and adjacent to Darjeeling Tourist Lodge covering an area of 2 acres land. As a tourist, you can visit the club office and easily get a temporary membership, and then avail several sporting facilities offered by the club. The club has large indoor roller skating rink, indoor badminton courts including two wooden courts and one hard court, tennis courts, billiard and card rooms, library etc apart from dining, bar and lounge that are also offered to temporary members.
Darjeeling Gymkhana Club
You might be able to see Kanchenjunga snow peaks from the bed or balcony of your hotel room in Darjeeling, but often, that is a partial view of the entire Kanchenjunga range.
While Tiger Hill is a very popular place where tourists go to watch sunrise over Kanchenjunga and how the sunlight changes its colors over the snow, there are several other excellent viewpoints and vantage areas in Darjeeling which offer stunning views of the range on clear days. You must time your visit on the right months so that the weather does not play a spoil sport.
Kanchenjunga Range, from the Viewpoint on Mall Road, Darjeeling
Photo: Suvobroto Ray Chowdhuri
From places like Sandakphu and Phalut, not only can you get end-to-end view of the 'Sleeping Buddha' (the name by which Kachenjunga range is popularly known with its sister peaks like Pandim, Kabru and Kumbhakarna), but you also get magnificent views of four of the five highest peaks in the world including Mount Everest, Lhotse and others.
Darjeeling Monasteries, Temples & Churches
After Hinduism, Buddhism is the next predominant religion in Darjeeling, and then comes Christianity which is practiced by a minority community. I have had the opportunity to get deep insights into the lives of several lamas, priests and clergymen here, and understand 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.
Darjeeling hills encompasses lot more exotic attractions and places beyond what you see in Darjeeling town itself. You can take a cab and reach out to most of such destinations within an hour or two at the most, and several of them can be easily covered in day tours and some such places require overnight stays to justify the attractions and beauty they hold.
Rungli Rungliot Tea Garden in Takdah
If you are a nature lover you must visit some of such offbeat places in Darjeeling area. You can experience unparalleled tea garden life, magnificent views of the mountains and snow peaks, village life and local culture, get to savor homemade local cuisine and 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.
Roy Villa, Darjeeling
Photo: Department of Tourism, West Bengal
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.
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. For example horseback riding with a guide at Mall (Chowrasta) is very popular, children love to ride the Ropeway (cable car) and of course the famous steam engine toy trains, and the Zoo here has many fascinating high altitude Himalayan animals which are seldom seen else where.
The eBook on Darjeeling & Sikkim is a great resource to plan your tour and get deep insights into various attractions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim including trips, tours and rides.
Several top tour operators in Darjeeling offer great discounts on local sightseeing tours if you have Darjeeling Tourism Card. The card additionally entitles you to hefty discounts in many hotels, restaurants, shops and transport services.
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 tour operators offer such packages.
Shreeya Bhowmik (November 2018)
Unfortunately as we went there on Nabami and planned local sightseeing on Dasami, it was a blunder. We missed Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Zoo and Rock Garden. We missed Keventers too as it was Dussera. It was below my imagination that a famous cafe like Keventers can be closed in the dussera time! So we missed the special Keventers selfies with the Clock! Alas! Due to bad weather we couldn't even see the glimpse of Mt. Kanchenjunga!
B. Rajagopal (March 2017)
Darjeeling town and all the tourist spots, in and around , were spectacularly beautiful. Our trip started with the visit to Mahakal Temple ? which energized our heart and soul. It was followed by the Toy Train ride. We had a tiny halt at the Ghoom ? what a beauty it was! Later, we had an exciting Cable Car ride at the Rangeet Valley Tea Estate.
On the consecutive days, we went to other tourist places as per our itinerary. Our favorite among all the places, was the Ganga Maya park and Rock garden. Ganga Maya park was breathtakingly beautiful, just out of a picture post card ! The next best was the Japanese temple and peace pagoda with excellent view of Kanchanjungha peak between the tall coniferous trees.
The Padmaja Naidu Zoo and HMI had many interesting things to see. We went to Tibetan center and purchased some souvenirs, which were reasonably priced. From there we went the Bhutia Busti monastery. We were very lucky to get a chance to participate in the prayer that was going on at that time. The monks chanting the mantras along with the drums, created an out of the world experience altogether! We visited the Ghoom monastery and Dali monastery also.
Almost every day, as long as we were there, we visited the Mall ? soaking up the cheerful atmosphere and enjoying the pollution free air while sipping hot cup of tea.
Mita Chatterjee (June 2014)
How to reach Roy Villa, where Sister Nivedita breathed her last?
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) June 2014
Roy Villa is located on Lebong Cart Road, about 3kms from Chowk Bazaar (Lower Bazaar) Taxi Stand and near Tenzing Rock, North Point. It's also about the same distance from the Mall, Chowrasta. You can take a taxi from the stand. Shared Jeeps also ply from Chowk Bazaar Jeep stand.
Roy Villa has been renovated in last January and taken over by the Ramkrishna Mission in May 2013. It is now known as Ramkrishna Mission Nivedita Education and Cultural Center.
Phone: +91 9831769737; 9830289328; 9433320004;
To Readers: Sister Nivedita breathed her last at Roy Villa on 13th Oct, 1911.
Chintan Shroff (March 2014)
Hi Mr. Raj.. You have provided such an amazing facts and attraction spots of Darjeeling. Thanks for that. We are planning to visit Darjeeling on 1-3 July 2014. So there will be a monsoon. My question is whether we can visit Tigers Hills and can enjoy Toy train journey in this period or not. Also sir I would like to know whether tea gardens will be open to visit or not. Eager to know answers from you on all these question. I would be highly appreciate if you tell me in details. Thanks and Regards.
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) March 2014
Hi, you can visit Tiger Hill in monsoon but possibility of being able to watch sun rise is very low. The sky mostly remains cloudy and you can't really get views of the sunrise or even the snow peaks, unless you are lucky. You can still try. Toy train operates in monsoon and tea gardens also remain open.