Tourism in Darjeeling provides innumerable options for the weary souls to rejuvenate the mind and body and also plan a short trip of two to three days in Darjeeling and other surrounding places like Kalimpong, Kurseong and Siliguri. Walking across tea gardens, enjoying a one-hour joy ride in the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and taking those leisurely walks around the Mall, unwinds every bit of lethargy from one's body and mind. Within three days the tourists manages to visit the various places of tourist interest within the district with the help of competent tour operators. One can start the vacation by spending a night beside the picturesque lake at Mirik before heading towards Darjeeling for three days and then a three-hour drive to Kalimpong. Shopping from the numerous curio shops and malls are a favourite pastime.
The strategic location of Darjeeling district is significant. Lying in the northernmost region of the state of West Bengal, the altitude of the district rises to a height of approximately 7500 feet or 2134 m above the mean sea level. It is an integral part of the Lower Himalaya. Pleasant climate of the district makes it an ideal place for holidaying.
Pilgrimage Tourism in Darjeeling District
Pilgrimage tours in Darjeeling district occupy a special place in tourism. The Japanese Peace Pagoda in Darjeeling was established by Nipponzan Myohoji and can be reached by foot or on taxi. The pagoda is the highest free structure in the town. It also showcases the four avatars of the Buddha. Dhirdham temple is designed on the conception of the famous Pashupatinath temple of Kathmandu and was built in 1939. Darjeeling is a place of many revered monasteries. Dali Monastery is situated about 4 kms away from Darjeeling town and is one of the most famous monasteries belonging to the Kargyupa sect.
Lama Sherab Gyatso built the famed Ghoom Monastery in 1875. The renowned Tomo Geshe Rimpoche of Tibet blessed this ancient monastery. The specialty of this monastery is that it contains the statue of the 'Future Coming Buddha' known as Maitreye Buddha. The Monastery has also preserved some of the priceless handwritten Buddhist manuscripts. Tashi Dargyalingh Monastery of the Nyingmapa sect, is one of the oldest monasteries of the community and was established in 1926. In the Mag-Dhog Yolmowa Buddhist Monastery, the statues of Lord Buddha depict different forms. The paintings on the walls were done with the help of herbs and are an amazing work of art.
Kalimpong has three important monasteries, the Tharpa Choeling Gompa, the Tongsa Gompa and Zong Dog Palri Fo-Brang Gompa. The Tharpa Choeling Gompa belongs to the Yellow Hat (Gelukpa) sect of Tibetan Buddhism; the Tongsa Gompa is located near the Tharpa Choeling Gompa and the present building is constructed over the ruins of the original monastery, which was raised by the Gurkhas, in the pre-British era. The Zong Dog Palri Fo-Brang Gompa was consecrated by His Highness the Dalai Lama. This monastery is famous for its traditional Tibetan wall paintings.
Kurseong is a notable place in Darjeeling district to venture as a pilgrim. The Ambhotia Shiva Temple is set amongst brilliant scenic beauty. Jagdish Mandir on Bank Road is a very old temple (almost 300 years old) of Lord Jagannath. This temple is still retained in the old style made of complete wood interiors with two statues of Lord Jagnnath that are very attractive. St. Pauls Church on Hill Cart Road, Giddapahar Durga Mata Mandir, Buddisht Gompha in Montieviot and the Buddist Gompha in Dowhill Road are some more religious sites in Kurseong.
Nature Tourism in Darjeeling District
Darjeeling district is probably the best retreat to enjoy the Indian scenic beauty at its best. Darjeeling is dotted with several places of natural beauty. Ghoom, which rises approximately 7407 ft above the sea level, is the highest railway station on Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. The other places of nature tours in Darjeeling are Tiger Hill, Museum of Natural History, Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoo, Llyod Botanic Garden, Tea gardens and Observatory Hill and so on. The zoo happens to be the only center in India for the breeding of the rare snow leopard. The Ussurian tigers and the Himalayan black bear are also among its attractions. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is another place of interest in Darjeeling. Rock Garden and Ganga Maya Park have added to the beauty of Darjeeling. Garg World Amusement Park is another place of significance in Darjeeling and is an amusement park with lots of attractions stored for its tourists.
For the botanists, animal and nature lover, Darjeeling offers several nature spots of interest. The Tiger Hill is located around 11 km from the main town. The Tiger Hill has earned international fame for the superb view of sunrise over the Kanchenjunga and other great Eastern Himalayan peaks. The golden glow of the rising sun changes the colour of the snow-capped peaks to crimson, pink, and shining gold making it a breathtaking view.
Then there is the striking Kurseong at an altitude of 1,458 meters. Many tourists halt at Kurseong on their way to Siliguri from Darjeeling. The serene landscape with undulating hills and mountains, rivers and gorges make a wonderful view. Mid-way between Siliguri and Darjeeling lies another hill resort, Mirik. At 1,767 meters Mirik is famous for its lake, boating facilities and plantations of pine, cardamom, and oranges. Eagle's Craig is the highest viewpoint here, offering a panoramic view of the surroundings. Kalimpong is a nature's paradise with countless varieties of flowers and plants. It is also an important flower-producing center and it produces 80% of the total gladioli produced in India. There are numerous nurseries in Kalimpong, which excel in production of orchids. Places to visit in Kalimpong include the Sericulture Research Institute, and the Nature Interpretation Center (located on Rinkingpong Road).
Siliguri is a tourist attraction spot and the ample natural landscapes attract tourists of all age groups. Gajoldoba on Tista Barrage is an ideal place for bird watchers. The reservoir is surrounded by dense forests of Baikunthapur and invites a large collection of water birds from Ladakh and Central Asia. The Brahmini ducks, Poachards, Pintails, mallards, Shovlers, black Ibis, and many species of storks, cormorants and ducks are seen here. Fulbari barrage is situated 15 km from Siliguri on Siliguri-Jalpaiguri highway and forms a huge marshy land which provides ideal nestling place for migratory water fouls like Rudy shell, Mallard, open bull stork and much more. Shorea Forest Recreation Center is a recently established eco-tourism center and is situated amidst the dense high sal forests of Baikunthapur division of Mahananda Wild Life Sanctuary. Sevok, Kalijhora and Mongpong are surrounded by forested hills and vast river basin. Nature tourism in Darjeeling district provides a much-desired break from the chaotic urban life.
Leisure Tourism in Darjeeling District
Leisure Tourism in Darjeeling is probably the best option for holidaying. The entire journey from Siliguri to Mirik (1767M, 50Kms) through the winding roads cutting across the tea gardens on the rolling slopes offers magnificent views. The quiet evening at Lake Sumendu encircled by forested hills, followed with a leisure walk on the forest trails around the lake, provides a memorable day in Mirik. One can also take a horse ride or simply walk around and then take a drive to Darjeeling after lunch. Early morning trip to Tiger Hill for a breathtaking view of sunrise over the Kanchenjunga, then a visit to the Ghoom Monastery and Batasia Loop makes a perfect day in Darjeeling. The unforgettable ropeway ride over the Takvar Valley Tea garden, Rock Garden and Gangamaya Park in the evening makes a memorable stay at Darjeeling. Drive to Loleygaon (1620M, 24Kms) unfolds another hidden picturesque hamlet in Kalimpong hills. Sunrise from Jhandidara over the Kanchenjunga is a never to forget experience. On a clear day Mt. Everest is also visible from the watch tower of Jhandidara.
Trekking in Darjeeling is organized through both high and low altitude areas. The most popular of treks is the one through the Singalila range in Darjeeling. The trek starts at Maneybhanjang (2134 m), goes to Meghma (2900 m), Toughu (3070 m), Gairibas (2621 m), Sandakphu (3636 m), and Phalut (3600m). The best time of the year to undertake trek in Darjeeling in India is April-May and October-November.
Entertainment in Darjeeling District
Entertainment in Darjeeling can be attained through shopping, traditional functions and so on. Darjeeling district is a major hub for shopping with scattered stores in almost every part of the district. The tourists are entertained to their best during the season of major festivals, namely October - November. The shows are often accompanied with traditional music and dancing celebrating the traditions of the various local communities. The dancers will often be dressed in elaborate costumes and decorated with jewelry and make up in the colourful tradition of their particular origins. The Darjeeling Carnival is a 10-day carnival held every year during the winter with the high quality portrayal of the rich musical and cultural legacy of Darjeeling Hills as its central theme. There are cinemas in both Darjeeling and Kalimpong showing Bollywood and other movies. There are many nightclubs, pubs and bars in Darjeeling, providing a vibrant nightlife.
Shopping in Darjeeling District
Darjeeling district is a great place for shoppers; one can shop for Himalayan curios like thangkas, jewellery, brass statues, woodcarvings, woven fabrics, carpets and the famous Darjeeling tea. The main shopping centers in Darjeeling are Chowrasta, Chowk Bazar, Ladenla Road, Supermarket, Nehru Road, Motor Stand and Mahakal Market. Bargaining is the judicious way to go for lucrative shopping expedition.
Darjeeling is a pleasant tourist spot, all across the year. Summer season starts from May and continues till June. The summer days are soothing and its maximum temperature increases to 25 °C. Heavy rainfall occurs from June to September. At that time landslips also are common features, which creates blockage at various places of India. During winter season, the average temperature is 5-7 °C, rarely temperature drops below freezing point. Mist and fogging are common during monsoon and winter days. During the summer season, light woollens are worn.
Darjeeling is easily reachable from any part of India. The quickest and comfortable way to get to Darjeeling is by air and flights connect all the important cities in India. The Bagdogra airport is the nearest airport lying just 100 km south of Darjeeling. Several flights regularly operate between Bagdogra and the major cities and metros of India. However, Darjeeling is also connected to various cities and towns through roadways and railways. New Jalpaiguri is the nearest rail station to Darjeeling. There are also buses and taxis from Mirik, Gangtok, Kalimpong and other parts of the hills that also form major tourist attractions and holiday destinations in India. The world famous 'Toy train' that gushes through the winding mountains is an experience that no one should miss.
Inhabited by a number of Nepalese and Tibetians, one shall find innumerable Tibetian and Nepalese food like Thukpa, Momo, Wai Wai and Churpee all over the hills. While 'Momos', are soft dumplings with a stuffing of pork, chicken or vegetables, served with piping hot watery soup, 'thukpas' and 'wai wai' are a kind of thick noodles served in soup or eaten dry. The churpees are local chewing gums that are made out of cow or yak milk and are great to taste. Tea is the most popular drink as in the whole of India. Wide expanse of teagardens along the Dooars, one can find some of the finest quality of tea that is exported to different parts of the world. 'Chhang' is another local beer made from millets and can be easily available everywhere. There a large number of restaurants and a wide choice of food and drink in Darjeeling.
Accommodation in Darjeeling is available in diverse budgets. One can avail luxury resort and budget lodges as well. Finding a hotel in every second lane is quite a usual sight in Darjeeling. Luxury hotels like Hotel Mayfair Hill Resort, Hotel Cedar Inn, Hotel New Elgin and Hotel Fortune Resort Central are some of the finest luxury accommodations in Darjeeling district.
Tourism in Darjeeling district have seen no lapse in the previous decades and the growth of many more tourist zones, resorts and adventure sports opportunities have contributed largely to its extended tourism industry.