Darjeeling is situated at the foothills of Kachengjungha, one of the peaks of the great Himalaya. Darjeeling is connected to Siliguri or NJP via roadways and narrow gauge ‘Darjeeling Himalayan’ Railways. The nearest airport is Bagdogra Airport in Sikkim, just 20 km away from Siliguri in West Bengal, India. It is often considered as the ‘Queen of Hills’ for its magnanimous stature and marvelous Mountain Top Views; the headquarter of the proposed Gorkha Land. The place is the homeland of the Mt. Everest climber Tenzing Norgay who brought laurels for the country and established the belief that Mountain Sport can be a real sport in India.
I, with my parents, boarded the UNESCO Heritage narrow-gauge Toy train service from NJP in the morning. The toy train platform (no platform number) in NJP is located at one corner, almost near the entry point of the railway station. Please carry foods and savouries along with you as you start the journey since the upcoming halts have fewer stalls. It passes through the Sukna Forest Division followed by Tindharia, Kurseong, and Ghum (The World’s Highest Railway Station) to reach Darjeeling railway station. The train is on the slower side as it takes almost 8 hours compared to roadways which require 2 and half hours journey to reach the Darjeeling town. Even if the toy train takes more time, one should enjoy the toy train ride as it takes you back to the old British India Period. The greenery and the cool breeze will enthrall your senses as the train slowly ascents upwards to Darjeeling.
Day 1 in Darjeeling:
After breakfast at Dafaey Munal restaurant near the Clock Tower, we decided to check a few places and markets in and around the main town by strolling. Our hotel was near the restaurant. If I have to suggest a hotel to stay in Darjeeling, I would say, kindly make arrangements near the Clock Tower in Darjeeling as it will serve as the center point of your stay in Darjeeling. At first, we went to the ‘Himalayan Tibet Museum which is just a 15 min walk from our hotel. at the entry point, you need to buy an entry ticket of Rs. 15. Photography is allowed inside the museum. The museum has detailed information and photography of the entire Tibetan Kingdom along with few old artifacts from that golden ancient era of the Tibetan Kingdom. You can also buy stuff from the shop of the museum. From there, we headed towards St. Andrews Church crossing the Deshbandu District Library.
The church is about 1 km from the Museum. we walked through the popular Gandhi Road down the Mall Road. The place near the church was peaceful and we enjoyed the view and cool breeze for some time and clicked pictures. While coming back, we stopped in a restaurant and had our lunch. After some rest in the evening at 4 O’clock, we headed to the Darjeeling Station covered with dark clouds and dense fog. We got relaxed as we started to enjoy the famous tea and Momo at the ‘Chai Ka Dukaan’. We sat there and enjoyed our tea amidst the cold fog engulfing us. We walked by the famous Hill Cart Road and reached the famous Chowk Bazaar area. We visited a few local shops and got back to our hotel by 6:30 PM. At night, I, with my mom went to the crowds’ favourite Mall road to check out the nightlife in Darjeeling including an evening coffee at Glenarys.
Day 2 in Darjeeling:
We booked a taxi for sightseeing the outskirts of the main town of Darjeeling. We met a friendly taxi driver whose name was Sangeet Chhetri, a my-dear fella. It started at 9:30 in the morning with Japanese Peace Pagoda being the first place of visit on day 2. You can witness the four positions of Lord Buddha at the Stupa inside the Japanese Buddha Temple. You can view the Kachengjungha peaks from there too if the sky remains clear and brighter. The next sight we headed was, Orange Valley Tea Estate on the way towards the Rock Garden. You can click pictures going deep into the tea gardens and even talk to the local Pahari people. There are small shops that sell organic directly from the gardens. Get ready for some really good clicks in here.
In the Rock Garden, we went up the hill on a curved upstairs crossing the waterfall and overviewing the Lotus Pond. Inside the garden, you can feel the freshness of cool air and contrasting colours of a variety of flowers surrounding the garden. You can relax in various halts while going up. Another fantastic place to show off your photography skills. We had little snacks and tea in one of the tea stalls near the garden. This is a must-visit site if you ever been to Darjeeling. As we finished our tea, Sangeet ji took us to the Himalayan Zoo on the other side of the town. You can see various animals, reptiles and birds inside the zoo. The popular attractions are the Brown Panda and Royal Bengal Tiger.
As you move up the hill inside the zoo, you can visit the West Bengal Himalayan Museum and Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) where you can see the pictures of Tenzing Norgay and others who climbed the Mt. Everest and all the information related to mountaineering and Himalayan region.
Before going to the zoo, do visit the Ropeway as it is always in high demand and hence, you will hardly get any tickets. Get there before 2 PM and book your tickets and experience the 5 KM Stretch overviewing the Darjeeling as a whole. The last destination for the day was ‘Sister Nibedita’s House- Roy Villa’. The mansion is now under the supervision of Ramakrishna Mission but well managed. You can see photographs of the sister with Sri Sri Saroda Maa and others. The sunset view on the Kanchengjungha from the mansion was just marvelous and picturesque. Don’t miss this place to add to your bucket list. Since Tiger Hill for sunrise viewing is not always visible due to fog and clouds, this place is the exact alternative for that and we happened to use this opportunity. While going towards this mansion, you stop and climb the Tenzing Rock alongside the Gumba Rock and click pictures of the Darjeeling town from that outskirt.
Day 3 in Darjeeling
On our third day, we chose to visit Ghum. There you can see and visit the famous Buddhist Monastery and the popular Batasia Loop. If you have more days in your hand, you can have a day visit to Kalimpong and Mirik each to add more to your travel destination. There are entry tickets of Rs. 20 to go inside the Batasia Loop. Inside the loop, you can see the War Memorial, a 20 ft high round toy train loop amidst a beautiful and well-maintained garden. There too, you can view of the heart-melting Kachengjungha peaks. Be ready with your Camera and capture the moment as much as you want.
On our fourth day, we had our return toy train tickets to NJP. We boarded our train at 8:30 in the morning. In case you chose to reach Darjeeling by car or Taxi, do use the short to and fro Toy Train Joyrides from Darjeeling to Ghum via Batasia Loop.