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Kanchenjunga Range overlooking Darjeeling Town
Darjeeling town overlooking the majestic Khangchendzonga range
 

Darjeeling

Darjeeling’s location so enchanted Lloyd and Grant, two British officers who visited the area in 1829 that they decided to establish a sanitarium for employees of the Raj to escape from the heat and dust of the Calcutta Indian summer. Initially the property was leased from the Raja of Sikkim for 3,000 rupees but by 1835 it came to be a part of the British Indian Empire after the king of Sikkim gifted it as the treaty says, " Out of friendship." Now at a mellow age of around 170 years since it's founding, Darjeeling, Queen of hill stations, entices thousands to its fairy tale environs and leaves none discontented.

Driving up from the plains of Bengal into the lofty green hills, one enters a different domain altogether. Brilliant red rhododendrons, charming white magnolias, and majestic pine trees welcome you to the land of Darjeeling. And all the while, the slopes gently flow down in waves of green tea bushes. All around you are lonely vales and dales, rushing streams and gasping gorges, and tiny lakes that reflect the turquoise hue of the sky. An intoxicating experience to be cherished forever.

You have the choice of getting there by car or by the famous Toy Train. The train huffs and puffs its way up the steep incline without the aid of cogged wheels that some other hills trains use. Conceived and completed in 1881 by Franklin Prestage, these lilliputian locomotives haul their coaches through sweeping scenes of the extensive plains way down below - perhaps the most romantic railroad in the world. The train exerts its way up to Ghoom, the highest point of the railway at 2,258 meters, and then glides down to Darjeeling town, first traversing the Batasia Loop, an engineering marvel of the 19th century, from where visitors get the first enchanting view of Darjeeling town. Elegant and enduring stands the Queen Of The Hills, her gaze fixed on the shimmering white countenance of Khanchendzonga, which looms impressively on the horizon.

Darjeeling perches among the clouds at 2,134 meters above sea level hugging the crests and slopes of a long ridge. The town's name is shrouded in indistinct origins, but now is generally accepted as being derived for Dorje Ling meaning ‘Abode Of The Thunderbolt’, which was the name of the shrine on its hill top. Around this hub grew a town, now a bustling beehive of color, culture, beauty and gaiety.

Sites Around Darjeeling
Observatory Hill
The hilltop above Darjeeling main bazaar from where one can view into the horizon north, east and west. It is also the site of the Buddhist shrine, Dorje Ling. However, with the overwhelming Hindu population in the area, it's presiding deity is now Lord Shiva though the original Buddhist shrine sill remains. Devotees throng the hill all the year round.

Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
Established after the conquest of Everest by Hillary and Tenzing, the HMI is a mountaineering school and has a fine museum with historical climbing archives.

Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
HMI, Darjeeling

Himalayan Zoological Park
The only center in India for the captive breeding of Snow Leopards, the Himalayan Zoological Park houses a wide variety of animals and birds some of which are Siberian tigers, Himalayan black bears, Red Pandas and the Llama of the Andes.

Darjeeling Zoo Himalayan Black Bears
Himalayan Black Bears at the Darjeeling Zoo

Singamari Christian Cemetery
Darjeeling's century old Christian graveyard where you can see the tombs of some of the first settlers, administrators as well as missionaries, the founders of British Darjeeling who lived and died here.

Singamari Christian Cemetery
Hungarian visitors at the tomb of Alexander Csoma Corosi

Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center
The Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center was established in 1959 for the rehabilitation of the Tibetan refugees. It is a major center for production of excellent Tibetan crafts such as carpets and woodcarvings.

Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum has a fine collection of Himalayan mammals, reptiles, birds, insects and butterflies of the region.

Lloyd Botanical Garden
The Lloyd Botanical Garden, is named after William Lloyd who donated the site in 1878. A fine collection of alpine flora including many species of orchids can be seen there.

Lloyd's Botanical Garden
Lloyd's Botanical Garden

Dhirdham Temple
Situated below the railway station is the Dhirdham Temple. It is a replica of the famous Pashupatinath Temple of Kathmandu and was erected by Dhir Shamsher Rana of Nepal.

Dhirdham Temple
Dhirdham Temple

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway - Toy Train
Darjeeling's ubiquitous Toy Train with narrow guage steam engines brought in all the way from England and Scotland was the first form of mechanized transportation to be introduced back in the 19th. Century by the British. Although it has lost its commercial viability mostly due to its slowness, it has in recent years been revived by local authorities solely to remain as a mascot and to provide 'joy rides' to the town's visitors. However, the DHR has acquired a new leash in life having acquired UNESCO's endorsement as a World Heritage icon in 1999, so it is likely to remain in service for quite some time.

Darjeeling Toy Train
DHR Toy Train

Yiga Choeling Monastery
Fifteen images of the Maitreya Buddha lie reposed inside the Yiga Choeling Monastery in Ghoom.

Yiga Choeling Monastery in Ghoom
Ghoom Yiga Choeling Monastery

Tea Gardens
Besides forest reserves and tiny pockets of farmland, tea gardens occupy the major tracts of arable land in hills of Darjeeling district. During the picking and processing seasons, sightseeing in Darjeeling will include a tea garden visit.

Gopaldhara Tea Estate, Darjeeling
Gopaldhara Tea Estate

Tiger Hill
Thirteen kilometers from Darjeeling at an altitude of around 2,500 meters is Tiger Hill from where one can get a dramatic view of the sunrise across the Himalayan panorama. Peaks visible from Tiger Hill include Mt. Everest, Khangchendzonga, Jannu and Kabru.

Mountain View from Tiger Hill
Tiger Hill

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