Boasting iconic railways, distinctive black tea plantations and Mt. Kanchenjunga, one of the world’s highest peaks, it’s no wonder that floods of tourists enjoy visiting Darjeeling every year. Its unique blend of culture and natural beauty draws travellers from across the globe. Dubbed The Queen of the Hills, this town takes the crown as one of the most photogenic destinations that India has to offer.
If you’re lucky enough to be travelling to Darjeeling, here are a few of the must see attractions to tick off your list.
For unrivalled panoramic views of Mt. Kangchenjunga and Everest, there’s no better place in the world than Darjeeling’s famed Tiger Hill. Favoured by avid trekkers, the peak is located 11km out of the town and can be accessed by jeep. Alternatively, you can reach the area by foot, with a stunning two hour walk that leads you through some of Darjeeling’s oldest tea plantations
While indulging in the beautiful sights, you can also visit the summit of Ghoom, the highest station in the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, along with the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary, with its artificial lakes and picturesque picnic spots. Be sure to pack your camera.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
Animal lovers won’t be able to resist visiting the rare and endangered species at Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoo. Spreading across over 67 acres of land and situated at an average elevation of 2,134 meters above sea level, it is one of the country’s largest high altitude zoos.
Since opening its doors back in 1958, it has also served as a valuable breeding centre for red pandas and snow leopards. The zoo is also famous for its conservation programmes of Himalayan salamander, mountain goat, Siberian tigers and the critically endangered Tibetan wolf. This attraction offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to see incredible creatures who are facing potential extinction.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Expanding across 78 kilometres and reaching elevations of around 2,200 meters, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is Darjeeling’s most famous attraction. Travelling between the town and New Jalpaiguri, the “toy train” runs on a narrow gauge railway that is just 2 feet in width. Most of the scheduled services are served by four modern diesel locomotives, with daily tourist trains and return services from Kurseong to Darjeeling being served by the characteristic British built vintage steam locomotives.
Since its creation in 1881, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has been recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. After the Semmering Railway in Austria, it is the second ever railway to be given such an honour.
This spiral railway was commissioned in 1919, covering 50,000 square feet of area and reaching a height of 1,000 feet. The looping track transverses into tunnels, across landscapes and over hilltops, delivering 360 degree views of the town to passengers travelling in the toy train.
Located in the centre of the Batasia Loop is a war memorial, which honours the Gorkha soldiers of the Darjeeling area who fought and died in various wars following India’s independence in 1947. In addition to the luscious greenery of the memorial park, the nearby arts and craft markets are well worth a visit.
Built between 1885 – 1985 under the guidance of Nichidatsu Fujii, a Japanese Buddhist monk, the Peace Pagoda in Darjeeling is one of only 30 shrines of its kind in the world. Measuring 23 square meters in width and 28.5 square meters in height, the white and gold structure is set against a backdrop of breath taking natural scenes.
The Peace Pagodas’ purpose is to provide an area of focus for individuals of all races and backgrounds, allowing them a uniting space in the search for world peace. It is therefore the perfect place to escape the busy cities and experience a touch of tranquillity.
Happy Valley Tea Estate
Witness what really goes into your cup of tea by visiting Darjeeling’s second oldest tea estate. The scenic tea garden lays claim to over 437 acres of land, one of the world’s highest tea factories and a massive workforce of more than 1,500 employees. Situated 3km north of the town and at 6,800 feet above sea level, it also provides some truly remarkable sights of surrounding India.
The estate has a rich history, being established by Englishman David Wilson back in 1854 and then taken over by Indian aristocrat, Tarapada Banerjee in 1903. Banerjee purchased an estate nearby and merged the two to create Happy Valley Tea Estate. Today the estate is under new ownership, with its organic farming producing luxurious hand-rolled tea that has made its way onto prestigious European shelves.
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