DESTINATION : DARJEELING
Darjeeling is the most popular tourist destination in north - east India. Internationally famous for many reasons among them are Tea, Tourism, Trekking and Timber. Being in the limelight for its manicured tea gardens, undulating terrains, and salubrious weather, Darjeeling is popularly known as Hill Queen of Bengal. Darjeeling is world famous for its unbeatable tea and also for Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, locally known as "Toy train". The town of Darjeeling is the headquarters of Darjeeling district in West Bengal, India. It used to be the summer capital during the British period in India.
Darjeeling is the Abode of Lord Shiva and offers spectacular views of Kanchenjunga and the hospitality of colorful Himalayan people. Indigenous ethnic groups of Darjeeling are the Tamangs, Lepchas, Bhutias, Sherpas, Rais, Yamloos, Damais, Kamais, Newars, Limbus along with the Bengalis, Marwaris, Anglo - Indians, Chinese, Biharis and Tibetans. In the time of British Govt. it was developed for enjoying holiday and spending leisure time for their officers. Now in this day, Darjeeling has many things to attract all age group of people across India & rest of world. Most of the foreigners come to see the breathtaking view of snow capped Mt. Kanchendzonga (3rd highest peak of the world).
There are various places to visit in Darjeeling like Chowrasta, Mall Road, Happy Valley Tea Estate, Tibetan Refugee center, Tenzing & Gombu Rock, Japanese Temple & Peace pagoda. However, the best tourist destinations are the below mentioned -
Witnessing the sunrise or sunset views from Tiger Hills is a must behold sight. Standing at a height of 2590m, Tiger Hill is 11 km from Darjeeling. The place is famous for its awesome view of Kanchenjunga and other eastern Himalayan peaks especially at the time of sunrise. The blaze of rapidly changing colors of the snow peaks as the sun strikes is truly spectacular. It's an unforgettable moment for life time.
Batasia Loop & War Memorial
Batasia Loop a railway loop 5 kms away from Darjeeling town. It is an interesting example of engineering where the toy train takes a very unique turn to get a 360˚ view of Darjeeling, open landscape, the snow covered peaks of Eastern Himalaya. In the middle of the loop is a lovely Eco Garden with flower around the railway track. War Memorial has been created in the center of garden to honor the Gorkha soldiers of Darjeeling area who sacrificed their lives in various operations and wars for India's independence.
A visit to Darjeeling is incomplete without a ride in the toy-train of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR). DHR was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999, only the second railway to have this honor, the first one being Semmering Railway of Austria in 1998. The real fun in coming to Darjeeling is on the toy train. It takes six to seven hours to cover a distance of 82 kms and the slow speed gives you enough time to watch and appreciate the beauty which nature has provided it. This train passes through the Forests, waterfalls, over deep valleys and through the mountains and tunnels. Currently, there are daily 2-hour toy train joy rides available from Darjeeling Railway Station. It's a round trip from Darjeeling up to Ghoom and back.
GHOOM GOMPA or Yiga Choeling Monastery of Ghoom, the oldest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Darjeeling area built in the year 1850, is about 8 kms from Darjeeling. Inside the monastery is a 15-foot beautiful statue of the Maitrayie Buddha. It is one of the biggest and oldest statues of Buddha. The Monastery has also preserved some of the rare handwritten Buddhist manuscripts.
Darjeeling Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) & Museum
Darjeeling Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) is the oldest mountaineering museum in the country located on the West Jawahar road. HMI runs courses on mountaineering. It has a mountaineering museum containing mountaineering gears and the specimens of Himalayan flora & fauna. The record of attempts made to conquer Mt. Everest has been kept in the Mt.Everest Museum. Sherpa Tenzing Norgay was the Director of this institute for many years and he was cremated near the institute after his death in 1986.
Zoological Park is situated two kms from the main town of Darjeeling is the largest high altitude altitude birds and animals, vulnerable and endangered Himalayan animals like the Tibetan Wolf, Red Panda, Snow Leopard, Great Grey Birds, Snow Yaks and lot more. This is only zoo in India having the Siberian Tigers. As per latest news in Nov 2014, Darjeeling Zoo is now amongst the best zoos in the world. This is the first zoo in India to receive the prestigious international award "The Earth Heroes" 2014 out of over 300 zoos worldwide.zoo. It spans across 67.5 acres at an altitude of 7000 ft. This zoo houses a wide collection of high-
Ropeway is another tourist attraction in Darjeeling. The panoramic view of Darjeeling vast lush green tea garden, snow capped mountains, and lovely valley around river little Rangeet can be best experienced through Ropeway. This was the first ropeway in India and connects the North point (7000 ft) in the town of Darjeeling to the Singla Bazaar (800 ft) on the banks of the Ramman River. The rope covers a distance of 8 kms in 45 minutes.
Rock Garden & Ganga Maya Park
Rock Garden is located 10 kms below the Darjeeling Valley. The roads are very steep and have sharp bends. However the view of Darjeeling's landscape and the mountain range from the road is unparalleled. Both these are the recreation parks for the visitors. The entire garden area has been created by cutting rocks at different levels and making terraced seating arrangements at various levels. There is a wonderful waterfall that comes all the way from the top and over the rocks to down below.
Ganga Maya is another park area located further down about 3kms which is another relatively new addition to the special attractions. The park is a valley surrounded by hills and having a natural water stream flowing through it. There are beautiful small bridges built over the stream from where you can look at the crystal clear water flowing over the rocky bed. There is a small lake where one can also enjoy boating on paddle boats.