Darjeeling Travel guide

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Darjeeling is a small city in West Bengal, India.

Understand


Originally just a cluster of villages that was administered intermittently by Nepal and Sikkim, Darjeeling grew in prominence during the mid 19th century when, because of its climate, the British first established a hill station there after leasing it from the Chogyal of Sikkim and later discovered that the area was particularly well suited for tea plantations. In 1849, the British annexed the area and Darjeeling became a part of British India. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was opened in 1881 (it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the town became the de-facto summer capital of India during the days when the Raj was governed from Calcutta.

Because it was a popular hill station during the days of the Raj, a lovely Victorian town was built among the Himalayan foothills, the remnants of which are still visible around the Chowrasta and Darjeeling remains a popular summer and fall resort for the natives of Kolkata today. For foreign tourists, the main attractions are the cultural diversity (many Tibetan refugees moved here after Tibet was annexed by China and they co-exist with the descendants of the many Nepali and Bihari laborers brought to work in the tea plantations), the beautiful views (including the wonderful vista view of Kanchenjunga), a variety of trekking options, and the opportunity to cool down after a stint in the plains. The town is also a jumping off point for travelers heading to Sikkim. 4 Days Queen of Hills Sightseeing in Darjeeling.

There has been intermittent political action from Gorkha groups demanding an independent state (Gorkhaland). In June 2008 a strike paralyzed the area, with closed hotels, restaurants and shops, and the accompanying protests even turned violent a couple of times. Though inconvenient, tourists generally are not at risk, but recently they do check the status before going there.

Get in


By plane

The nearest airport is Bagdogra, near Siliguri, 96 km from Darjeeling.

Bagdogra Airport is 2.5 hours by road from Darjeeling and 2 hours by air from Delhi, and 50 minutes by air from Kolkata.

Air India (fomerly Indian Airlines), India's largest airline, has flights from:

Jet Airways, a private airline, has flights from:

Spice Jet also operates flights from Kolkata & Delhi.

Indigo has also started direct/indirect flights to & from Delhi and Guwahati since April, 2009 end.

Go Air has daily flights to and from Delhi.

All other cities major cities can be accessed by taking a flight to Delhi/Kolkata and connecting.

You can take a prepaid taxi or shared jeep from Bagdogra to Darjeeling as explained below.

Getting to and from Nepal can be tricky, despite their close proximity. One can catch a share jeep to Siliguri and a bus to the Nepalese border, changing buses in Nepal. An alternative is that Juniper Tours and Travels - located just next to the clock tower in Darjeeling offer a service where a driver can take you across the border and drop you at the Bhadrapur airport in Nepal for your connecting flight to Kathmandu. It is more expensive than organising your own transport but they make a concerted effort to look after you and will help you out if the situation becomes dicey (particularly with strikes in Nepal), they cannot be recommended highly enough and this is unusual for India.

By taxi/shared jeep

Siliguri is the nearest town connected to the mainline rail network. Ample transport is available to Darjeeling from here. The most popular modes of transport are taxi (usually shared by three to four passengers), shared jeep (ten passengers) @ {{Indian Rupee|link=Indian rupee}}100-200 depending on bargaining skill.

Shared jeeps depart regularly, from several locations around town. They are probably cheapest at the main bus stand. They leave when full, and are a cheap and fast (but uncomfortable as roads are poorly maintained) way to get to Darjeeling. An air conditioned prepaid taxi will cost {{Indian Rupee|link=Indian rupee}}1800 (as of December 2012) - if you can find people to share it with you it will obviously be cheaper!

If you have arrived by train at NJP, you can take a taxi or shared jeep to reach Darjeeling from the booking counter at the taxi stand in front of the railway station. There is also a prepaid taxi stand in front of the train station. Note that if you arrive too late for the jeep to make a return journey from Darjeeling, you may end up paying more, e.g. {{Indian Rupee|link=Indian rupee}}200 per person. The prepaid counter will tell you that no jeeps are available, so you'll have to find one via a fixer or by negotiating directly with drivers.

Reserve cars also available from Kings Travels dial-09830428401/093319-39486.

Tourists often opt to buy an extra seat or two to have more space for the 3 hour journey up to Darjeeling! Luggage is carried for free on the roof. Jeeps may stop for a snack and toilet break on the way up (normally a few km short of Kurseong).

While going to Darjeeling from NJP, try to hire a Taxi/Jeep/Sumo with overhead carrier, which has just arrived from Darjeeling, as this will be much cheaper if you hire a vehicle which is going directly from NJP to Darjeeling.

Avoid any tour packages at NJP railway station. They will provide you lowest standard hotel.

By bus

There is a regular bus service from Silguri to Darjeeling. However, they are quite slow due to the steep, twisty climb up to Darjeeling. Shared jeeps are faster, but cost double: 200rs vs. 100rs for the bus (2015).

By train

The nearest railway station to Darjeeling is New Jalpaiguri which connects the city with all the major parts of the country. There are a number of trains from cities like Kolkata, Delhi, Guwahati, Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Bhubaneshwar and Kochi.

New Jalpaiguri (NJP),Siliguri is the nearest station on the main inter-city line. Direct trains to NJP run from Delhi (approx 27 hours) several times a day. If you are traveling from Kolkata (Sealdah Station) the best train for you will be Darjeeling Mail (circa 12 hours) running nightly at 10:05PM.

From there (NJP), the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), known to all as the 'Toy Train' completes the journey to Darjeeling. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was the first, and is still the most outstanding, example of a hill passenger railway.It is now listed as a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO. If you plan to take the toy train to Darjeeling, be sure to book ahead in the summer months as it tends to get fully booked by Indian tourists.

This route is very popular with tourists as it passes through some very picturesque mountain scenery and has been the subject of many romantic articles. The line has a series of zig zags and loops to gain height and runs straight up several village main streets!

The 'Joyride' train operates from Darjeeling to Ghoom round the famous Batasia Loop, nine times a day – enquire at Darjeeling station. Costs {{Indian Rupee|link=Indian rupee}}800 for diesel loco and 1300 for steam (March 2017). Joyride take two hours with 30 minutes stop at Ghoom and 10 minutes at Batasia Loop. Website DHR:

A steam train also operates Siliguri to 'Agony Point' above Tindharia most Saturdays and Sundays. Enquire to Siliguri station.

There is also a daily 'School Train' that leaves Kurseong at 06:15 arriving Darjeeling at 08:45. It leaves Darjeeling at 16:00 arriving Kurseong at 18:30.

This is still hauled by a steam engine and is one of the last 'day to day'/ordinary steam trains running anywhere in the world. IR keeps changing the times for it and it is notoriously unreliable often running hours late.

Get around


Darjeeling is a small town and the salubrious climate means walks around town are an extremely enjoyable means of getting around. For longer trips, taxis are available in stands near the entrance to the Mall.

Taxis and travel agents sell various tour packages based on "points" which are simply the number of attractions covered. A 7-point package includes seven places to visit such as the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute/Zoo, Cable Car, Peace Pagoda, etc and takes about 5 hours to complete with the driver waiting at each attraction. Price in April 2014 was Rs. 1,200 for a dedicated car. Numerous taxis also sell "Local Sightseeing" trips on a shared basis with up to 10 travelers, in a Tata Sumo or Mahindra Bolero SUV.

Point-to-point dedicated taxi rides start at Rs. 150 for even short distances. The most economical way is to flag a shared taxi. Rides are Rs. 10 for short distances and Rs. 20 for longer distances. Traffic jams are common especially around the mall and bus station areas. It may be easier to walk rather than sit in a crowded taxi.

A great way to spend a day is to take a shared-jeep to Ghoom (the next town up the ridge), visit some monasteries there and walk back to Darjeeling via some of the villages.

See


Open from 9 am-4.30 pm

Entrance fee: Rs 6

Please note that the HMI & Zoo are closed every Thursday.

But the good news is that after the second inspection by the Public Works Department, the ropeway is now fully operational and starts at the Darjeeling Singamari station. Riders get off at Tukvar downhill, enjoy the lush tea gardens, take their time and come back to the Darjeeling Singamari station. The total distance round-trip, Singamari-Tukvar, is about 5 KM and takes 40 minutes. Allow 2 hours from the time your ride starts.

The total round trip costs Rs. 150/- per person (subject to change). *Timings- 10am to 4pm during winter (off peak) and 10am to 2 pm during summer (peak). Capacity of each cabin is 6 persons. Pets are not allowed. Children above 8 years are charged adult fare. The service shuts down on the 19th day of each month for maintenance.

There is no advance reservation required. However, during the peak season there are often long queues for the rides. *Location- The Darjeeling Ropeway or cable car station is located at Singamari which is 3km (1.8 miles) away from the Chowk Bazaar (the main market center of Darjeeling at the lower level). You will get cabs or shared jeeps from Chowk Bazaar that takes about 15 minutes to reach unless there is a traffic jam in the market area which is often the case. Get down at North Point on Lebong Cart Road which is quite close to the St. Joseph's college. Across the road you will find a narrow and steep stairway that leads to the Singamari cable car station located at a higher level. You can see the station at a height from the road and the cable cars passing over your head down to the valley below

Do


Darjeeling is one of the oldest hill stations in India, and has plenty of options, both for those seeking a lazy getaway from the hot plains, as well as nature enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies. Do not get fooled by the touts trying to talk you into {{Indian Rupee|link=Indian rupee}}100/spot. Almost all the tourist attractions are located in 3-4 clusters of walking distance.

Apart from sights within the town, there are plenty of trek options along the Himalayan ridges on the Indo-Nepal border near Darjeeling. The most popular one being the Singhalia Ridge Trail. Bookings for guides, porters and accommodation on the trail can be made in Darjeeling or in the nearby town of Manebhanjang, which serves as the trail-head. Be aware that from July to mid-September the Singalia park is closed, but because of the rain, clouds and fog it is less enjoyable anyway.

Buy


Eat


Several eateries which dish out North Indian, Nepali, Tibetan, and continental fare dot the area around the Mall. Vegetarian and Jain food is available at several restaurants. "Momos", a steamed Tibetan delicacy are a staple food offered by almost every eating joint.

Keep in mind that everything closes pretty early in the night (The town goes to sleep before 9PM). So, do keep something in stock to eat, if you are planning to stay up late.

Drink


Sleep


Darjeeling has a large number of hotels and lodges. However, on the whole, budget accommodation is of poor value compared to elsewhere in India. Most places target groups coming in from West Bengal; backpacker-oriented accommodation is sparse and you probably won't get touts coming to pick you up at the bus stop so it pays to have a few ideas in advance.

In general, avoid getting into deals with taxi drivers at Siliguri or NJP who offer attractive taxi fares to Darjeeling in return for agreeing to stay at a hotel recommended by them. You can do much better on hotel reservations on your own.

There are several forest guest houses in the Darjeeling area. In order to stay at any of these a special permit from West Bengal Forest Department is required.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Get out


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