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