Places To Visit In Darjeeling – Tourist Attractions

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Darjeeling, a hill station located in the Himalayan foothills offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. It is in the state of West Bengal, India. Darjeeling is also a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors with its scenic beauty, cool climate, local delicacies, and a range of cultural and outdoor activities. Explore these Places to visit in Darjeeling – Tourist Attractions depending upon your number of days trip/budget and similar experiences already explored in other hill stations.

Landscape view of the Darjeeling town
Landscape view of the town

We drove down from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. The town has a rich cultural heritage and is home to diverse communities, including Gorkhas, Tibetans, and Bengalis, which contribute to its unique atmosphere. Darjeeling is a place of historical significance and natural beauty, making it a popular destination for travelers from around the world.

Collage of Darjeeling natural landscapes
Beautiful natural landscapes

Darjeeling Tourist Attractions

  • Hill Station: Cool weather, fresh air, relax
  • Landscape views: Himalayan ranges, Sunrise scenes
  • Lush Greenery: Local trees amidst mist, calm and quiet
  • Historical Places & Engineering Marvels: Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, Railway Stations, Batasia Loop
  • Darjeeling Tea: Tea Gardens visit, Tea tasting
  • Mountaineering Institute
  • Modern Gardens, Flora, Fauna and Park
  • Zoo
  • Temples/Pagodas
  • Local food delicacies
  • Shopping/Souvenirs
  • Birding
  • Adventure Activities

Places to visit in Darjeeling

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (Toy Train)

This historic narrow-gauge railway, often referred to as the “Toy Train,” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The journey takes you on a slow and scenic ride through the picturesque landscape of Darjeeling, offering breathtaking views of the tea gardens, dense forests, and the mighty Himalayas. The vintage steam engines and charming old-world carriages make this experience truly unique. It has been a symbol of Darjeeling’s charm and heritage for over a century.

Facts

  • DHR was inaugurated in 1881. Constructed to connect the hill station of Darjeeling with the plains of Siliguri.
  • British engineer Franklin Prestage played a pivotal role in the railway’s construction, and it became an engineering marvel of its time.
  • Granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999, recognizing its cultural and historical significance.
  • Narrow-gauge railway with a track gauge of 2 feet (610 mm), which adds to its uniqueness.
  • The railway covers a distance of approximately 88 kilometers (55 miles) from Siliguri to Darjeeling, passing through diverse landscapes, including lush tea gardens, dense forests, and hilly terrain.
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Collage of Batasia Loop images

  • At Batasia Loop the train makes a complete loop to gain altitude gradually. It features a beautifully landscaped garden with a central floral clock, making it a picturesque and tranquil location for visitors. There is a War Memorial at the center of the loop, which pays tribute to the Gorkha soldiers who sacrificed their lives in various wars. DHR stops there for some time for the visitors to enjoy.
  • DHR uses vintage steam locomotives, some of them over a century old. These locomotives are maintained in operational condition, providing an authentic and nostalgic experience to passengers.
  • There are diesel locomotives that have been introduced for regular service, especially on busy sections of the track.
  • The route of the DHR passes by several iconic landmarks, including the Batasia Loop with its beautiful garden and War Memorial, the Ghum Railway Station (the highest narrow-gauge station in India), and the picturesque Kurseong town.
  • The journey also offers stunning views of the Kanchenjunga mountain range and, on clear days, even Mount Everest in the distance.
Himalayan views from Batasia Loop - Darjeeling Places to visit
Himalayan mountain views from Batasia Loop
  • Book tickets for the DHR journey from Darjeeling, Kurseong, and Siliguri.
  • Popular stretch for tourists is the Darjeeling to Ghum route, known for its breathtaking views, and the Batasia Loop.
  • Book tickets in advance, more so during peak tourist seasons.
  • The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a journey back in time, offering a unique and enchanting experience that allows travelers to appreciate the region’s natural beauty and the rich history of this iconic railway. It is a loved and enduring symbol of Darjeeling’s charm and heritage.

I have already written a detailed post on Darjeeling Himalayan Railway – A Living Dream on this site, do read and watch the video.

Tiger Hill

Known for its spectacular sunrise views. The early morning trek or drive to the hilltop for the sunrise over the Kanchenjunga mountain range in golden hues. On clear days, you can even spot Mount Everest in the distance. However, during peak travel season you may have to walk quite a distance in pitch dark only with your mobile torch light and also climb the hill for 50 meters or more over nature’s pathways. We had to, due to a huge traffic jam.

Sunrise scenes at Tiger Hill Darjeeling Places to visit
Sunrise scenes at Tiger Hill

Avoid if you have senior citizens or have toddlers, kids, and the like constraints. There was a stall serving Tea and condiments atop the hill. Over-crowding is the concern there.

  • Situated about 11 kilometers from the town, stands at an elevation of approximately 8,400 feet (2,567 meters) above sea level.
  • Kanchenjunga range is home to some of the highest peaks in the world, including Kanchenjunga itself, which is the third-highest mountain globally, as well as other prominent peaks like Mount Everest, Makalu, Lhotse, and Nuptse.

Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park – Places to Visit in Darjeeling

Simply referred to as the Darjeeling Zoo, it is a renowned zoological park.

This high-altitude zoo is dedicated to the conservation of Himalayan wildlife. It’s particularly known for its successful breeding programs for endangered species like the red panda and the snow leopard. Open to the public, features a diverse range of Himalayan birds and other wildlife. We did visit the zoo. You can take a leisurely close-up look at the live Himalayan wildlife. Red Pandas, Snow Leopards, a variety of Himalayan Sheep, and more worth your appreciation for wildlife, and time. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is there right next to the zoo, I recommend you visit that too.

  • Established in 1958 and was named after Padmaja Naidu, the daughter of Sarojini Naidu, a freedom fighter and the former Governor of West Bengal.
  • Created with the primary goal of breeding and conserving Himalayan fauna, especially those species facing the threat of extinction.
  • Situated at an elevation of about 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) above sea level, one of the highest-altitude zoos in India.
  • Nestled within a dense forested area, it offers a natural and serene environment for the animals.
  • Renowned for its successful breeding programs and conservation efforts, notable is the breeding program for the critically endangered red panda, which has made significant strides in increasing the population of this species.

Part of a larger complex that includes the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the Tenzing Norgay Rock, offers visitors a chance to explore these additional attractions and saves time.

I have written a detailed post on Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park at Darjeeling, do read it.

Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) – Places to visit in Darjeeling

The HMI is an institution of great historical significance. It was established to train mountaineers and has produced some of India’s most renowned climbers. The institute also hosts a mountaineering museum with a fascinating collection of artifacts related to mountaineering, showcasing the triumphs and challenges faced by mountaineers. We did visit the institute.

Collage of images from Himalayan Mountaineering Institue, Darjeeling
Images from Himalayan Mountaineering Institue

You get a glimpse of the history, gears used by the early mountaineers, and how they have improved over time. Appreciate the spirit, perseverance, resilience, and grit of the incredible Himalayan mountaineers. It is one of the Places to visit in Darjeeling even if you are not a museum enthusiast, just try climbing a small mountain, and you will get an idea of how tough it is to climb Mount Everest.

Facts

  • Established on November 4, 1954, with the primary objective of imparting training to mountaineers, with a focus on promoting mountaineering and adventure sports.
  • Founded by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, and Tenzing Norgay, who, along with Sir Edmund Hillary, was one of the first two individuals to reach the summit of Mount Everest
  • Offers various courses in various aspects, including ice and rock climbing, rescue operations, and high-altitude trekking related to mountaineering, rock climbing, and adventure sports.
  • HMI has a mountaineering museum that showcases the history of mountaineering, equipment used in various expeditions, and the achievements of famous mountaineers.
  • The campus includes natural rock formations named Tenzing Rock and Gombu Rock, which are used for rock climbing training.
  • Museum exhibits related to the history of mountaineering, equipment used in various expeditions, and the achievements of renowned mountaineers

Peace Pagoda

A symbol of serenity and spirituality. Located on Jalapahar Hill, this white Buddhist stupa stands tall against the backdrop of lush greenery and offers a panoramic view of Darjeeling and the surrounding hills. A place for meditation, reflection, and appreciating the harmony of nature and culture. We did this trip on the way back from Sikkim, having visited other Buddhist spiritual places en route skipped this one due to time constraints. If you are planning a visit to Darjeeling do consider visiting it.

Rock Garden and Ganga Maya Park

Features stunning rock formations and terraced lawns. Ganga Maya Park includes a small lake with boating facilities. Both parks offer a serene atmosphere for picnics, leisurely walks, and moments of relaxation amidst nature. These are like the modern-day parks in and around the cities. Popular picnic spots for the visitors. Despite being on the entrances of them we chose to skip them on the way back from our long trip to Gangtok, Sikkim, and further planned activities in Kolkata.

  • Created by transforming a natural hillside with rocky outcrops into an enchanting garden through terraced landscaping.
  • Adorned with numerous rock formations, pathways, and cascading waterfalls, making it a perfect location for leisurely walks and exploration.
  • Offers stunning vistas of the surrounding hills and valleys, and it is especially picturesque during the monsoon season when the waterfalls are in full flow.
  • Ganga Maya Park/Lake is a serene and man-made water body surrounded by dense forests and a variety of plant species.

Darjeeling Tea Gardens – Places to visit in Darjeeling

The tea gardens in and around Darjeeling are world-famous for producing the finest black and green teas. Visitors can take guided tours of tea estates like Happy Valley and Makaibari to witness the tea-making process, from plucking the tea leaves to processing. It’s an opportunity to learn about the heritage of Darjeeling tea and enjoy tastings.

  • The history of tea cultivation in Darjeeling dates back to the mid-19th century when the British established the first tea gardens in the region. The Darjeeling tea industry has since grown to become one of the most renowned in the world.
  • Darjeeling is famous for producing a variety of teas, including black, green, white, and oolong teas. Each type has its unique flavors, characteristics, and processing methods.

Tea Estates and Gardens

  • There are dozens of Tea estates and gardens in Darjeeling, each with its distinct character and tea offerings.
  • Well-known tea estates in Darjeeling include Makaibari Tea Estate, Happy Valley Tea Estate, and Glenburn Tea Estate.
  • Visitors to tea gardens can participate in guided tours and learn about the tea-making process.
  • Many estates also offer tea-tasting sessions, visitors can sample a variety of teas and appreciate the nuances of Darjeeling’s diverse flavors.
  • These gardens are surrounded by lush greenery, terraced slopes, and stunning vistas.
  • They provide excellent opportunities for nature walks and photography.
  • Views of the Himalayan mountains from some of the gardens are breathtaking, adding to the overall experience.
  • An Ideal time to visit the tea gardens is during the second flush, from late May to early July. This is when the famous “muscatel” flavor is at its peak.

We had already visited Tea Gardens or Estates in Sikkim just a week before and hence skipped them. However, if you have not visited any Tea estates before do visit one. The vast lush greenery, terraced landscape, an opportunity to taste a variety of tea, and learning the process of making the tea are all worth it.

Japanese Temple and Peace Pagoda

These spiritual sites are a testament to the peaceful coexistence of different cultures in Darjeeling. The Japanese Temple showcases intricate Japanese architecture and beautiful gardens, while the Peace Pagoda, with its golden statues, offers visitors a sense of tranquility and stunning views of the Himalayas.

Tibetan Buddha Temple Darjeeling
Tibetan Buddha Temple

Observatory Hill and Mahakal Temple – Places to visit in Darjeeling

Observatory Hill is a sacred place for both Hindus and Buddhists. It offers panoramic views of the town and the surrounding hills, making it an ideal spot for both religious pilgrimage and sightseeing. The Mahakal Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is a prominent religious site on the hill – one of the easily doable, in the city.

Mahakal Temple - Darjeeling Places to visit
Mahakal Temple
  • A prominent hill located at the center of Darjeeling offers panoramic views of the town and the surrounding Himalayan mountains.
  • Easily accessible on foot, and the walk to the top provides a blend of cultural and natural experiences.
  • Observatory Hill is considered sacred by both Hindus and Buddhists and is home to several religious structures.
  • Hindus rever the hill as a manifestation of the powerful deity Lord Shiva, and it is associated with legends from Hindu mythology.
  • At the summit of Observatory Hill, you will find the Mahakal Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva.
  • An ancient structure with traditional architectural elements with intricate carvings and design. It is considered one of the holiest sites for worshipers of Lord Shiva in the region
  • Observatory Hill is also adorned with Buddhist monasteries and prayer flags.
  • Walk to Observatory Hill is a pleasant and relatively easy one, and it is accessible from the center of Darjeeling town.

Hanuman figurine

Must do things

While you explore the places to visit in Darjeeling are:

Explore local delicacies

Some local delicacies to try when you’re in Darjeeling:

  • Momos: You can find steamed or fried momos with various fillings, often served with a flavorful dipping sauce.
  • Thukpa:  A noodle soup with vegetables, meat (usually chicken or pork), and aromatic spices. It’s a hearty and warming dish, especially enjoyed during colder weather.
  • Sel Roti: A rice-based doughnut or rice donut is a popular snack or breakfast item. Made by deep-frying a rice flour batter, resulting in a crispy exterior and a soft inside.
  • Gundruk Soup: A fermented leafy greens. It is a tangy and flavorful broth made with fermented greens, and it’s often served with rice.
  • Alu Dum: Potatoes (Alu) cooked in a rich and spicy gravy. It’s a flavorful side dish that pairs well with rice or Indian bread like puri.
  • Phaley: Deep-fried bread stuffed with various fillings, such as minced meat or vegetables. Delicious snack.
  • Churpee: Traditional Himalayan cheese made from cow’s or yak’s milk. It’s hardened and can be chewed directly or used in cooking. Unique local specialty worth trying.
  • Nettle Soup (Sisnu Soup): Nettle leaves are used to prepare a nutritious and healthful soup in Darjeeling.
  • Finger Millet (Ragi) Bread: Ragi is a nutritious millet, and in Darjeeling, it’s used to make flatbreads. These can be paired with various side dishes or enjoyed on their own.

Tea tasting and shopping

Darjeeling is renowned for its high-quality tea, and the region produces a variety of flavored teas, each with its unique characteristics. The flavor profiles of the teas are influenced by factors such as altitude, soil, climate, and the time of year when the tea is harvested.

Darjeeling Souvenirs - Variety of Darjeeling Tea's and spices
Souvenirs – A variety of tea and spices

Popular ones are

  • Muscatel
  • Earl Grey
  • Rose
  • Lemon
  • Jasmine
  • Chocolate
  • Spiced Darjeeling Chai
  • Fruit-Infused
  • Green Darjeeling with Mint
  • Honey Darjeeling

Consider trying different flushes (first flush, second flush, autumnal) and various estates to experience the diverse and nuanced flavors that the region has to offer.

Take an easy stroll on the Mall road

Popular commercial and social hub for locals and tourists alike. Mall Road is in the heart of the town, offering scenic views of the surrounding hills and the Kanchenjunga mountain range. Lined with shops and stores selling local handicrafts, souvenirs, traditional clothing, and tea. It’s a great place to shop for souvenirs or gifts. Dotted with restaurants, cafes, and eateries offering a mix of local and international cuisine. You can enjoy a meal or a cup of Darjeeling tea while watching a beautiful panoramic view.

Mall road - Darjeeling Places to visit
Scene of Mall Road Square

Birding, keep an eye you will find several

Shop souvenirs

Darjeeling offers a variety of souvenirs that reflect the rich culture and natural beauty of the region. While exploring the Places to visit in Darjeeling, the following are some of the souvenirs you may consider:

  • Darjeeling Tea: One of the most iconic souvenirs from Darjeeling is, of course, its world-famous tea. You can buy high-quality Darjeeling tea leaves or tea blends as a memorable and authentic gift.
  • Handicrafts: Look for items such as traditional Nepali and Tibetan artwork, Thangka paintings, and handmade paper products.
  • Traditional Clothing: Traditional clothing items like Gorkha hats, shawls, and scarves are popular souvenirs. These items often showcase the local craftsmanship and reflect the cultural diversity of the region.
  • Local Jewelry: Handcrafted jewelry featuring semi-precious stones, beads, and traditional designs are unique and culturally significant souvenirs.
  • Tibetan Carpets and Rugs: Tibetan carpets are exquisite and often feature intricate designs. Beautiful and durable souvenirs that add a touch of elegance to any home.
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  • Local Spices: Aromatic spices like locally sourced cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.
  • Bamboo and Cane Products: Bamboo and cane craftsmanship items like baskets, furniture, and decorative pieces.
  • Wooden Artefacts: Hand-carved wooden items, such as statues, figurines, and traditional masks, are distinctive souvenirs.
  • Local Honey: You can find pure and locally produced honey, often with unique flavors derived from the region’s diverse flora.
  • Prayer Flags and Singing Bowls: Inspired by Tibetan culture, prayer flags, and singing bowls are symbolic and spiritually significant items that you can find here.
  • Local Sweets: Consider picking up some local sweets like Darjeeling tea-infused chocolates or traditional sweets from local confectioneries as sweet treats for friends and family back home.

Explore local markets, street stalls, and artisan shops to find authentic and locally produced items. Bargaining is a common practice in markets, so feel free to negotiate prices, especially in open markets and smaller shops.

Darjeeling images

Adventure Activities

Darjeeling offers a range of adventure activities, including trekking, paragliding, and river rafting, making it an appealing destination for adventure enthusiasts. We have not experienced any of the adventure activities due to the paucity of time as well as personal interest. However, for the benefit of readers list them. Please take all precautions while exploring adventure activities. Pursue them only with registered and reputable organizers, Some of them are:

  • Trekking
  • Paragliding – Watch the video of my paramotoring, and here at Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh on my YouTube channel.
  • River Rafting
  • Rock Climbing and Rappelling
  • Mountain Biking
  • Camping
  • Ziplining
  • Yak Safari
  • Hot Air Ballooning: Take a look at my experience elsewhere at the Mandu Festival in Madhya Pradesh, and Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh on the blog. Watch the videos posted on my YouTube channel Mandu, Amaravati, and Varanasi Balloon Festival.

Precautions to take while exploring the Places to visit in Darjeeling

Darjeeling cityscape - Places to visit in Darjeeling
Landscape views of the hill station
  1. Carry warm clothing and wear them if you are stepping out early in the morning or late evening.
  2. Avoid stepping closer to the mountain edges, stay safe stay away. Enjoy the views from a distance.
  3. While driving up the mountains to Darjeeling or on the way back, stop by safe roadside places and view the landscapes.
  4. Overall this mountainous place may be tough if you have toddlers and for senior citizens in-climbing the staircases, roads, gardens, etc, the places to visit in Darjeeling.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This guide to tourist attractions in Darjeeling is fantastic! It covers must-see places, offering a comprehensive itinerary for travelers. Perfect for anyone planning to explore this beautiful hill station.

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