Darjeeling

TIGER HILL

Tiger Hill is the summit of Ghoom, the highest railway station on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is famous for the panoramic views it offers of Mount Everest along with Kangchenjunga.
It is 11 km from the town of Darjeeling and can be reached either by jeep or by foot through Chowrasta, Alubari (incidentally the oldest tea plantation in Darjeeling) or Jorebunglow and then climbing up the incline to the summit, which takes about 2 hours at an easy pace.

The first rays of the sun shoot ahead and shed light upon the twin peaks ofKangchenjunga painting it pink and then bathing it in a beautiful orange colour. From Tiger Hill, Mount Everest(8848m) is just visible, peeping out through two other peaks standing by its side.Makalu (8481m) looks higher than Mt. Everest, owing to the curve in the horizon, as it is several miles closer than Everest. The distance in straight line from Tiger Hill to Everest is 107 miles.
On a clear day, Kurseong is visible to the south and in the distance, along withTeesta River, Mahanadi River, Balason River and Mechi River meandering down to the south. Chumal Rhi mountain of Tibet, 84 miles away as the crow flies, looks like a great rounded mass over the snowy Chola Range. One comes face to face with this peak of superb beauty from Phari Jong which is 129 miles away from Darjeeling.
While at Tiger Hill, you can also visit Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary, which offers great picnic spots, and its two artificial lakes serve as a reservoir for supply of water to Darjeeling town.

BATASIA LOOP

Batasia Loop was commissioned in 1919 because it was an engineering requirement for the toy train to be able to handle a steep descent in this area. Just after Ghoom (which is the highest railway station) there is a sharp fall as the toy train moves towards Darjeeling. There was no way the toy train could negotiate such a drastic fall of about 1,000 feet unless there was a way to somehow reduce the gradient of the slope.

Batasia Loop was created by the British to counter such sharp descent. You won’t even realize how the toy train actually descends by about 1,000-foot as it completes the loop through a large circular area and on a gentle slope and then crosses its own track near the beginning of the loop through a tunnel below. It is considered as one of the greatest engineering feats.

Batasia means airy space. the As you stand on one side of the garden and see the toy train making a complete loop while hooting its whistle along the way and trying to negotiate the spiral track with a double loop, it’s a fabulous experience. There are seating areas as well to enjoy the views. The entire area along with the gardens and an approach bridge that leads to the garden is about 50,000 square feet. It has been covered with grass and beautified with both seasonal and perennial flowers and shrubs.
There is no better place to get a 360 degree view of Darjeeling’s landscape including the hill town and the snow covered peaks of the Eastern Himalayas with the majestic Kanchenjunga on one side. And all this from the middle of a lovely garden with flowers around which the toy train track is laid.

YIGA CHOELING MONASTERY

Yiga Choeling Monastery of Ghoom is one of the oldest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Darjeeling area built in the year 1850. This is the original or the old Ghoom Monastery.

Located below Ghoom railway station, the external structure of the Yiga Choeling Monastery or the Ghoom Monastery was built by the monk and a famous astrologer Lama Sherab Gyatso in 1850. He was the first head of the monastery and continued his tenure until 1905. He later went back to his birthplace Tibet.

Located below Ghoom railway station, the external structure of the Yiga Choeling Monastery or the Ghoom Monastery was built by the monk and a famous astrologer Lama Sherab Gyatso in 1850. He was the first head of the monastery and continued his tenure until 1905. He later went back to his birthplace Tibet.

There is another monastery called Samten Choling Monastery in Ghoom which is also sometimes referred as Ghoom Monastery by the local drivers. So if you are planning to visit the original Ghoom Monastery, be specific and mention old Ghoom Monastery. Ghoom is about 7km from Darjeeling town and located at an altitude of about 7,407ft. (or 2,226 meters).

Inside the Yiga Choeling Monastery there are images of many Buddha deities and lamas such as the Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara), Buddha of compassion, and Tsongkhapa who was the founder of the Gelupka sect to which the Monastery belongs. There is a large collection of Buddha’s manuscripts inside that includes a 108-volume Kangyur – The Tibetan Buddhist Gospel. There are also bells and a huge drum inside.

DARJEELING HIMALAYAN RAILWAYS (DHR)

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the “Toy Train”, is a 2 ft (610 mm)narrow gauge railway that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in West Bengal. Built between 1879 and 1881. Four modern diesel locomotives handle most of the scheduled services: however the daily Kurseong-Darjeeling return service and the daily tourist trains from Darjeeling to Ghum (India’s highest railway station) are handled by the vintage British-built B Class steam locomotive.

The toy train on the Darjeeling Himalayan section is not merely a source of delight for the young and old, it also represents the engineering skills of the highest order. This 83 km. long section connecting Darjeeling with the railhead at Siliguri is of great importance and has been bestowed World Heritage Site status. The railway line from Siliguri to the beautiful hill section of Darjeeling is considered an engineering feat and passes through very picturesque country.

The railway line is laid more or less on the same alignment as the Hill Cart road, which criss-crosses the line at several locations. The line between Sukna and Darjeeling is almost all along located on the road-bench wither skirting or on the far edge of the road except at a few locations where the road and rail formations are on different level and follow a different alignment. Out of a total of 87.48 km., 64 kms. are on the same road bench. The actual climb starts from Sukna encountering steep gradients and curves all the way long. There are some peculiar features to be marked during the journey. The train passes through dense forest from Sukna and it chugs along the hill slopes and at places where a clear path is not available. The climb is through reverse and loops. There are 5 such reverses, 3 loops, the most famous being the BATASIA LOOP between Ghum and Darjeeling. Apart from this, the section has 5 major, 498 minor bridges and 177 unmanned level crossings. There are 14 stations including New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling with an average inter distance of 6 to 7 km. Except between Siliguri and Sukna where the distance is over 10 km., Ghum station is the second highest railway station in the world to be reached by steam locomotive.

DRUK SANGAG CHOLING MONASTERY

Located in Dali which is about 5km away from Darjeeling Town, although this monastery is popularly known as the Dali Monastery, it’s actual name is Druk Sangag Choling Monastery. This is the name which is prominently written on its outside wall as you approach it from the road and walk through its arch gate. When you look at the monastery from a little distance standing on the Hill Cart Road, it looks awesome. Its one of the largest monasteries with white buildings built in typical Tibetan style and perched on a steep hill.

The monastery was originally built at the time of Kyabje Thuksey Rinpoche in 1971. He was a well known religious Tibetan teacher. Dali Monastery belongs to the Kargyupa sect. Today it is the head quarters and residence of Drukchen Rimpoche the XII, who is the supreme head of the Kargyupa sect of Buddhists. The newly constructed complex of the monastery was inaugurated by His Holiness The Dalai Lama in 1993, where he gave 3 days of religious teachings.

This is one of the biggest monasteries in Darjeeling. The walls are painted with bright colors depicting the story of life and journey of Lord Buddha. There is also a small library in the monastery, the shelves of which are filled with books on Buddhism and philosophical acts of life. The best time to pay a visit to the Dali Monastery is either in the morning or in the evening when the prayers and chanting take place.
It is the only monastery in the eastern side to have disciples and monks from the Himalayan region. At present there are 210 monks. Prayer sessions are one in the morning from 5.00 AM to 6.30 AM and the second is in the evening from 5.00 PM to 6.30 PM.

HIMALAYAN MOUNTAINEERING INSTITUTE

After the successful ascent of Mount Everest on 29th May 1953, by Late Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary, the mountaineering in India got impetus. Consequently the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute was established on 4th November 1954 by personal initiative of Late Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru the first Prime Minister of India and Dr.B.C.Roy the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, which was then the hub centre of all mountaineering activities in India.

Late Maj N.D. Jayal was the first Principal whereas Late Tenzing Norgay was the Director of Field Training of the institute.
The institute is located at an altitude of 6,800 feet above sea level.

ZOO

This zoo was set up in the Birch Hill area (now known as Jawahar Parvat) in 1958. It was then known as the Himalayan Zoological Park. In India, this is the largest high altitude zoo. It spans across 67.5 acres of area at an altitude of 7,000ft (2133m).

India’s former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi dedicated this zoo in memory of Padmaja Naidu. She was an ex Governor of West Bengal and the daughter of Sarojini Naidu, a national leader and a poet. Since then the zoo is known as the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park.

The zoo includes an off-display breeding center for snow leopards and red pandas. Captive breeding of snow leopards was started in 1983, with Leopards which were brought to the zoo from Zurich, the United States, and Leh-Ladakh. The red panda program was started in 1994 with individuals from the Cologne Zoo, the Madrid Zoo, Belgium, and the Rotterdam Zoo. In addition to these species, the zoo is breeding the Himalayan Tahr, Blue Sheep, Himalayan Monal, Grey Peacock Pheasant, Himalayan Salamander, Blood Pheasant and Satyr Tragopan.
The zoo is famous for its conservation breeding programmes of the Red Panda, Himalayan Salamander, Tibetan Wolf, and Snow Leopard.

JAPANESE PEACE PAGODA

Peace Pagoda, Darjeeling or Darjeeling Peace Pagoda is one of the Peace Pagodas designed to provide a focus for people of all races and creeds to help unite them in their search for world peace. It is located in the town of Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal. Like most of the other Peace Pagodas, it was built under the guidance of Nichidatsu Fujii (1885–1985), a Buddhist monk from Japan and founder of the Nipponzan-Myōhōji Buddhist Order for world peace. He was a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi and had seen the tragedy of atom bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. .
The foundation stone of the pagoda was laid on 3 November 1972 by Nichidatsu Fujii, and was inaugurated on 1 November 1992. The pagoda was designed by M. Ohka, and it took 36 months for constructing it. The height of the pagoda is 28.5 metres (94 ft) and diameter is 23 metres (75 ft).
According to the Lotus Sutra, the very appearance of the Peace Pagoda is an embodiment of Lord Buddha that radiates peace and non-violence.

The Peace Pagoda here showcases four avatars of Buddha. This is the tallest free standing structure in Darjeeling.
It’s height is 28.5 meters and diameter is 23 meters. As you climb up the stairs in the Pagoda, you will see two concrete models of lions on two sides at a lower level. The avatars of Buddha are all large statues carved in the walls and polished in gold color. The Peace Pagoda was designed by Dr. M Ohka of Japan and took three years to construct.

The temple open hours is from 4:30am in the morning up to 7pm daily. There is no admission fee. Prayer timings are from 4:30am to 6am, and 4:30pm to 6:30pm.

HAPPY VALLEY TEA GARDEN

The estate was established in 1854 making it oldest tea estate of Darjeeling, and at a height of 6,800 feet, it is also one of the highest tea factories in the world. David Wilson, an Englishman, had named the garden Wilson Tea Estate and by 1860 had started cultivation of tea. In 1903, the estate was taken over by an Indian, Tarapada Banerjee, an aristocrat from Hooghly. In 1929, Banerjee bought the Windsor Tea Estate nearby, and merged the two estates under the name of Happy Valley Tea Estate. G.C. Banerjee was the next owner of Happy Valley Tea Estate. He with his wife Annapurna Devi and three daughters (Nonimukhi, Monmaya and Savitri) lived there for some time. Annapurna Devi was related to the Ganguly family of Khandwa; her maternal uncle was Kunjalal Bihari, father of the famous cine Gangulys.

In March 2007, after remaining nearly dormant for nearly four years as the tea industry had experienced a slump, the estate was bought over by S K Bansal, of Ambotia Tea Group, which established a new factory within the premises, and started modernization process, replating and switching to organic farming. Finally, the estate reopened to public in 2008, with the original factory turned into a working museum. It also displayed single piston slow-speed engines, and the shaft machines and sells tea-related mementos. Today, over 1500 people worked in the tea estate and processing unit.

The tea estate is spread over 437 acres, at a height of 6,800 ft. (2,100 m). The bushes in the garden are very old — the minimum age is 80 years, and some are 150 years old. Very little re-plantation has been done in the recent past. Situated around 3 km north of town, below Hill Cart Road, accessible via Lochnager Road from Chowk Bazaar, this tea estate is the closest tea estate to Darjeeling town, and tourists often visit the garden. The months of March to May are the busiest time here. when plucking and processing are in progress. It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There are guides who will offer to take you inside and show you the entire tea production process. They are usually employees of the factory acting as guides during their off time and charge small fees. While the fees may vary depending on the demand, it usually varies between Rs. 50/- to Rs. 75/- if you are alone. For groups, the per person charge can be lesser.

There are seasons for different types of tea. Green and little bit of White Tea are plucked during March to May. June to August is the season for Black Tea. September to November is again the season for Green and White Tea. During the other months (December to February), teas are not plucked and the machines do not operate. The tea produced at the Happy Valley Tea Estate are all exported. Harrods in London is the main distributor of the tea.

ROCK GARDEN AND GANGAMAYA PARK

The Rock Garden (also known as Barbotey Rock Garden) at Chunnu Summer Falls andGanga Maya Park, near it, are recently added tourist attractions in the hilly town of Darjeeling in the state of West Bengal, India. It is a show piece meant to lure tourists back to Darjeeling after political agitations disrupted the visit by tourists in the 1980s. There is another rock garden in Darjeeling known as Sir John Anderson Rock Garden, which is part of Lloyd’s Botanical Garden.

It is situated about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from Darjeeling. While proceeding from the town along Hill Cart Road, one has to turn right, well before reaching Ghum. The road descends rapidly into the valley. With sharp bends all the way, there are breathtaking views at many points. Tea gardens dot the hill slopes.
Constructed by The Gorkha Hill Council Tourism Department, it was inaugurated by Subhash Ghising, the GNLF supremo. The Rock Garden is not one in the conventional sense. A multi-level picnic ground terraced around a natural waterfall, its attraction is in it “being a sort of road-side facility but with a little too much concrete.” The garden offers a beautiful view of a hill stream cascading over rocks along the slope, done up with flower gardens and sitting spaces at different levels. There also is a small lake. With tourists pouring in large numbers, tea shops and snack kiosks have come up.
Ganga Maya Park is further down the road, about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from the Rock Garden. Named after an innocent victim of police firing during the GNLF agitation, “it meanders down the course of a chortling mountain stream, past gazebos, clumps of flowering shrubs and trees, over humped backed bridges under which koi-carp coruscate, and into a circular lake with paddle boats and a waterfall.” It has a small lake where boating facilities are available Gorkha folk dances are performed to entertain the tourists.

TENZING ROCK

Tenzing Rock, a gigantic natural rock in Darjeeling is named after Tenzing Norgay, the man who created history by climbing the Everest first time along with Edmund Hillary in 1953.

Opposite to this is the Gombu Rock named after Nawang Gombu, nephew of Tenzing who was the first person to climb the Everest twice, once in 1963 and then in 65. He took over as the Director of Field Training at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute after Tenzing retired in 1976.

Both these rocks are used for rock climbing training by HMI.

There is a board right on top of the Tenzing Rock that says “HMI Rock Climbing Training Area”. While facing the Tenzing Rock, the left side or the left face of the rock is used by the professional rock climbers and the trainees. Most tourists make a mistake of going over to the right side where the approach to the top of another parallel rock is quite shorter.

Actually the right face of the rock can be used by amateur climbers or even tourists for climbing. However one needs to take help of guides and pay some nominal fee. The gradient of the right face is gentle and surface is easier for climbing.

The steep and almost vertical rock comes up from far below and rises high above the road level. Tenzing himself used to practice climbing on this rock. During a visit of erstwhile Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Tenzing demonstrated a climb on this rock without any safety equipment.

During and after the monsoon, the surface of both the rocks get covered with slippery moss that makes it even more difficult to climb. Often the moss is cleaned up and powders sprayed on the surface to circumvent this problem. There are many temporary stalls put up by the local Nepali vendors on that side selling tea, momos (dumplings) etc. They set up tables under a large shade.

TIBETAN REFUGEE CENTRE

This complex was setup by the Tibetan refugees in Darjeeling on October 2, 1959 after they followed Dalai Lama and escaped from Tibet. The refugees adopted the principle of self help so that they could become self-independent and completely rehabilitate themselves in a foreign country, which they did gracefully.

They received the site “Hill Side” measuring some 4 acres of area from the state government to build the center. It’s located on a hill top that can be approached from Lebong Cart Road by car. Initially they started raising funds through donations, subscriptions, charity shows and even through exhibition soccer match. Soon they started receiving some funds from domestic and international voluntary organizations as well.

A committee with 10 members was formed that was responsible for the development and management of the center. Ms Gaylo Thondup was the first President of the center. One of the prominent members of the first committee was Tenzing Norgay who climbed the Everest in May 1953 with Edmund Hillary.

A small center that started with only 4 workers with the objective of self rehabilitation and helping the under-privileged Tibetan community in the area, has now grown to accommodate more than 650 Tibetan refugees. You will see Tibetan men and women making exquisite hand crafted items like woolen shawls & carpets, carved wooden crafts, leather jackets, coats and lots of other items. They have a training center that imparts skills to the new workers.

Here you will see all the hand crafted items on sale. There are many ladies jackets, carpets, gloves, woolen aprons, bags, various types of curios, small models of Buddha, cards, pouches, carved wooden items, hand painted scenery and pictures of Tibetan women on cloth pieces, and many other items.

There is a small counter where two Tibetan women help with the transactions. There is a board that says “Fixed Price” which essentially means no bargaining. A Hindi music usually plays here in the background.

The factory of the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center where the all the handicraft items are made, is located at a place known as Hill Side. From Lebong Cart Road opposite to the Rangeet Valley Tea Estate, a narrow steep road on the right goes uphill. This winding road leads to the center. From Darjeeling town center, it takes about 20 minutes to reach the center by car.

ROPEWAY

One of the best ways to experience the panoramic views that Darjeeling is so famous for, is by taking a ride on the ropeway. It’s also called the Rangeet Valley Cable Car because of the spectacular view of the valley around the river Little Rangeet.

You will need to board the cable car from Singamari which is some 3km (i.e. 1.8 miles) away from Darjeeling Chowk Bazaar. As you ride the cable car, in about 45 minutes you will travel from an altitude of about 7,000 ft. (or 2134m) down to 800 ft. (or 244m) where the last station Singla Bazar is located.

Darjeeling ropeway started in 1968 and is the first cable car system in India. It was initially set up to cater to the tea gardens at the valleys below which did not otherwise have an easy access. Starting with just one cable car or a carriage, it was upgraded to accommodate 16 cable cars each having a capacity of six persons.

There are several stops or lower stations between Darjeeling Singamari and Singla Bazar which is 8kms (i.e. about 5 miles) away located at the bank of Ramman river. The cable car stops at Tukvar Village which is well known for its vast stretch of tea estate that started in 1856, followed by another village called Burnesbeg, and then the Singla Tea Estate which is owned by the Jayshree Tea Company.
From the cable car you will be able to get breathtaking view of the valley below, see the spread of lush green tea gardens on the hill slopes, flowing rivers, forests, waterfalls and to top it all the magnificent view of the Eastern Himalayan range including the snow capped peaks of the Kanchenjunga.

Timing for Ropeway: 10am to 4pm during winter and up to 4:30pm during summer (the timings are subject to change). There is no advance reservation required. However, during the peak season there are often long queues for the rides. For best views, try to take a seat facing downhill.