Hill stations across north-eastern India are great vacation destinations.
But have you considered a visit to the Queen of Hills, Darjeeling?
Darjeeling is a sleepy hill station with a rich cultural heritage and views to die for. The fresh Himalayan air and the alpine forests make it a traveler’s paradise.
We are here to bring the essence and spirit of Darjeeling to you. From life-changing treks through the Singalila National Park to taking an evening stroll down Mall road.
You could sip a cup of Darjeeling Tea from freshly plucked leaves or get a ride on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
On this trip, you will learn what makes Darjeeling unique and why it retains the title of “Queen of Hills.”
What Makes Darjeeling The Queen Of Hills:
Darjeeling (originally ‘Dorje Ling’ meaning ‘land of thunderbolt’) is a small picturesque town nestled in the cozy lap of the Himalayas that has been dubbed “Queen of Hills.” Darjeeling has a rich cultural heritage, and it oozes out from various monuments all over Darjeeling. Art and culture also flow freely in this small town perched atop a hill.
1. Freshly Brewed Darjeeling Tea!
The tea connoisseur in you is going to be delighted at the mere sight of vast rolling hills painted green with the famed Darjeeling tea shrubs. Here is your chance to visit the very roots (quite literally).
The Happy Valley Tea Estate hosts travelers and gives them a guided tour of its plantations and the factory. You may even be lucky enough to taste a freshly brewed cup of tea straight from the factory’s production line.
2. Feel The Warmth Of The Rising Sun.
The Kanchenjunga range is also known as The Sleeping Buddha.
The mountain range is deemed holy. It is truly a sight to behold, especially when the first golden rays of the rising sun bathe the mountains in an orange glow.
Tiger Hill is the place to be when it comes to watching the perfect sunrise. The chilling winds make way for the warm radiance of the first rays when it first hits you.
Better pack your warmest clothes for this one as it gets excruciatingly chilly and windy before dawn, but the sunrise more than makes up for the ordeals.
3. Toot! Toot! All Aboard The Toy Train!
Take the joyride of your life on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. This World Heritage site is undoubtedly the best way to traverse the slopes of this hilly town and the surrounding areas.
Vintage steam engines pull luxury coaches with a panoramic glass roof to provide an unobstructed view.
The winding narrow gauge track meanders through the valley and the cliffs.
One of the key places to visit is the Batasia Loop. Once a necessity for the steam engines to climb altitude, this loop has become a significant spot for tourist attraction.
During the day, special trains meander through this loop. From the small street-side vendors to the whistle of a steam engine, everything about Batasia Loop reflects Darjeeling’s soul.
The loop surrounds a small garden making it one of the most beautiful spots around Darjeeling. A fitting destination after you have watched the rising sun from Tiger Hill.
4. Discover Inner Peace!
Demographics in Darjeeling consist of a sizable Tibetan population resulting in the surrounding areas dotted with Buddhist Monasteries.
They have a rich historical significance and are still the most peaceful spots in the town. Discover your inner self while you sit and meditate with the monks here or stroll in for an ambiance of spirituality.
Dali Monastery is one of the bigger ones and is visible just before you reach Darjeeling. Peace Pagoda is another spot tourists flock to.
One of 30 such pagodas worldwide, you will thoroughly enjoy being in this peaceful environment. It has long been said that the very architecture of the pagoda spreads peace to anyone who visits it.
The delicately carved mythologically significant moments aim to tell a story. Apart from that, the view from the peace pagoda is magnificent too. You can watch the snow-covered peaks on the horizon or choose to get lost in the pine trees surrounding this free-standing structure.
5. Go Green!
Are you a nature lover? Does coming across rare plants and endangered animals excite you? Darjeeling has it all. From Lloyd Botanical Garden to the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, you will encounter the absolute wonders that nature has provided Darjeeling with. Lloyd Botanical Garden sprawls over a vast compound, and the sheer number of plants it houses will make you giddy! The orchidarium is the true pinnacle of this garden. Housing over 2500 orchids, primarily sourced from the Singalila National Park, you will be dazzled by the massive display of colors nature has arranged for your eyes to feast on. Do not miss the presentation of a prehistoric plant called “Ginko Biloba.”
Enough about the plants. Have you ever seen a red panda up close? Or a snow leopard? Both of these animals are extremely hard to find in the wild due to their diminishing numbers and shy nature. The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, commonly dubbed Darjeeling Zoo, has them all. You will be awed into submission by how adorable red pandas are. The snow leopards are one of the most majestic predators you will ever lay your eyes on.
Furthermore, you will find Himalayan black bears and Himalayan salamanders here too. Wait, that’s not all! The Park has over 200 species of plants and trees, too, like Oak, Birch, and Adler. Be prepared to spend more than half a day just adoring the red pandas.
6. Off The Trail!
Are you a thrill-seeker? Does the idea of a trek to the Himalayas excite you? Pack your trekking gear and embark on a trek along Darjeeling’s famous trekking routes through the Singalila National Park.
Also known as the trekker’s paradise, the National Park will not disappoint. Pangolins, bears, and red pandas freely roam here, and if you are lucky, you might even spot a few. The trek to Sandhakpu and Phalut is downright breathtaking (sometimes quite literally). The trails here are scenic, and if you visit in the proper seasons of the year, blooming rhododendron flowers and orchids of all kinds will cover the entire route. Sandhakpu is the largest hamlet on this trek, and you ought to try the local wine made from rhododendron flowers.
Meanwhile, Phalut is beyond Sandhakpu and is also the highest point of the state. Both these places and the route provide incredible panoramic views of The Sleeping Buddha. This is one trek where it’s more about the journey than the destination. Additionally, if you’re a birdwatcher, you’re in luck as this Park contains several rare bird species and is home to over 120 species of birds. This is one trek you will want to go on once again after you’ve completed it.
7. Conquer Summits And Learn Mountain Climbing!
You are aware of the first two people to conquer Mount Everest. One of those two people was Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. He established the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute for adventure seekers like you. You can avail of classes for mountain climbing from the very best here. From beginner to expert-level courses, you can be a mountain climbing maestro in no time. Not interested in taking a class but want to know more? You can even visit the HMI Museum, which is loaded with all sorts of mountaineering gear from all periods. If you are looking to prove yourself, you can even take the challenge of climbing an artificial rock wall installed right outside the museum.
Besides that, Tenzing Rock is a must-visit too. It is said that Tenzing Norgay started his climbing career after practicing and successfully scaling that rock. It is nothing short of Mecca for enthusiasts.
8. Art & Cultural Hub Of The North-East.
Darjeeling has always been the hub of art and culture in North-Eastern India. You are never too far from a poetry session or an art exhibition here. Literature and music flow freely through the streets of Darjeeling.
You can spend your entire day in Chowrasta, the most famous spot in Darjeeling, just loitering or sitting around. Several cultural exhibitions and performances light up the square from time to time.
You might as well grab yourself a chair and enjoy the theatrics of Darjeeling. Even when there are no shows, Chowrasta makes for an excellent spot to watch the time go by. Several stores (some from back in the early 1900s) surround the square.
You can get yourself a souvenir from any of these stores or pick up the local handicraft. Perhaps, you would like to splurge on assorted forms of Darjeeling Tea; You can buy that here too. Think of Chowrasta as the Times Square of Darjeeling.
You can walk down Mall Road and walk up to Observatory Hill, the highest point in Darjeeling. Here, you will come across a temple with Buddhist monastery roots. Tibetian prayer flags cover the entire hilltop, and you’re greeted with an air of spirituality.
If you are looking to spend on new fashion, take a stroll down and past Chowrasta. Darjeeling has also been dubbed the fashion hub of the North East, and you will understand why it is so when you pop into one of these fashion stores.
All in all, Chowrasta is a jack of all trades. It has something for everyone, and you will not regret a moment or dime you spend in this square. You could also try horse riding as there are many such operators in the square offering horseback rides.
9. Ride The Ropes.
By now, you will have seen Darjeeling from the street level.
How about watching Darjeeling and its slopes from a glass cabin as you slowly slide down a rope? Sounds daunting?
Darjeeling Ropeway provides just that. The oldest ropeway in all of India was initially constructed to provide accessible transportation for people in the tea gardens in the valley to and from Darjeeling.
Now, it garners a massive amount of tourist attraction. You will get an opportunity to witness a wide range of panoramic landscapes, from the verdant rolling hills of the tea plantations to the frozen icy peaks off in the distance.
The gondolas are well maintained and will provide you ample time to appreciate the beauty of Darjeeling from a different perspective. Pack your telephoto lens for some incredible shots of the mountains on the horizon.
10. Soar High.
The trip down and up the ropeway was not engaging enough? Want to soar higher? Like an eagle? How about you book yourself a paragliding flight? You will enjoy the actual bird’s eye view of the entire town on this flight. Imagine soaring high above a mountain town with the snow-clad peaks of the Himalayas overlooking you as you slowly glide down the slopes of Darjeeling!
That can be you when you visit Darjeeling. You can take a 15-30 minute flight down the slopes of Darjeeling while enjoying mesmerizing views of an alpine forest towering above a bustling town surrounded by verdant rolling tea plantation hills. These few minutes will give you true freedom in every sense of the word while also quenching the adventure seeker in you. Make this one of your best decisions.
11. Farm Life.
What if you want to live close to nature and away from the hustle-bustle of a town?
Do you want to experience what authentic farm life in Darjeeling feels like? Well, why stay in a hotel or a resort when you can stay on a farm instead. Located away from the crowded town, these farms provide you a chance to unpack your mind. Providing rustic experiences without sacrificing modern amenities, you can stay in private huts or tents here—the campfires are big and memorable. You can enjoy your visit to Darjeeling in the most sustainable way as these farms provide a necessary exit from the city. Furthermore, these are also excellent spaces for stargazing due to the clear skies and minimal light pollution.
12. Biking Trails.
If you are looking for some trails you can ride a mountain bike on, you will not be disappointed.
Darjeeling has many vendors who rent out mountain bikes. One of the most popular biking trails is the one that leads to a small hilly hamlet called Chatakpur.
It is the crown jewel of the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary. The trail leading to this village is one of the best trails in the region, second only to the one in Singalila National Park (you cannot ride mountain bikes there). The trail snakes its way up a hill, and it provides you with excellent views of Darjeeling and Kurseong (a small mountain town below Darjeeling). Covered in pine trees and soft meadows, this trail looks like a divine presence crafted it. You can rest among the 90-odd people who live in Chatakpur as they are keen to host guests and even hold cultural shows. The view from Chatakpur is seriously underrated as the village is surrounded by thick alpine forests and makes for a wonderful off-beat destination.
13. Park It!
Darjeeling offers a plethora of public parks, but one of the most notable ones is Nightingale Park. You will have a chance to walk around in the former courtyard of Sir Thomas Tartan’s home. The Park always seems to be packed with tourists, and rightly so. The majestic view of Kanchenjunga it provides is enchanting in all its glory. You can walk around the Park enjoying the Park’s ambiance, easing your soul and filling your cup of life with peace and tranquility. Be prepared to enter a trance-like state owing to the soft meadows and the murmuring fountains. You would completely forget that you are in the middle of a town when you visit this Park.
A bit further from Darjeeling is the Lamahatta Eco Park. This Park is situated in a sleepy hamlet located a bit further from Darjeeling and is very picturesque. The tall pine trees are lined with prayer flags. You can enjoy the spiritual essence of this Park to the fullest if you take a small hike up to a pair of lakes deep into the alpine forest. These lakes are deemed holy, and the prayer flags surrounding the lake flutter quietly into the breeze. You can spend hours here and not even realize it. This is one of the most enchanting spots in all of Darjeeling. That’s not all! Not far from Lamahatta is a viewpoint called “Lovers Meet.” It overlooks a confluence spot for two Himalayan rivers with a mythological twist.
How To Get There:
The nearest airport to Darjeeling is Bagdogra which is approximately 95 km away from the city. There are some direct flights from big metropolitan cities like Kolkata, Delhi, and Guwahati to Darjeeling. One can hire a taxi from the airport, or we can arrange for one as soon as you touch down, for a hassle-free experience.
The nearest railway station to Darjeeling is New Jalpaiguri. One can hire a private taxi or share the local cab with other passengers, or we can arrange for a vehicle to pick you up for a comfortable ride to the hills. It takes around 3 hours to reach Darjeeling. You could also take the Toy Train to Darjeeling, which will take about 6-7 hours.
There are regular buses and taxis via road from Siliguri to Darjeeling. We can arrange for taxis to take you directly to your stay options from the point of boarding.
Darjeeling, the Queen of Hills, is a traveler’s paradise and is one of the top spots to visit in all of India. The view, culture, adventures, and hospitality Darjeeling provides are unparalleled. It is so much more than just a sleepy hamlet nestled under the snowy peaks. If you plan to visit any hill station, Darjeeling should be your first choice. Every single spot you visit in Darjeeling has its own story to tell, its imprint it will leave on you. If any of the reasons listed above appeal to you; lay back sip a cup of Darjeeling tea and connect with our travel advisors to help plan your perfect trip to Darjeeling.