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Darjeeling

Travel Guide Asia India West Bengal Darjeeling

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Introduction

A bird's eye view of Darjeeling town

A bird's eye view of Darjeeling town

© All Rights Reserved mariamji

Darjeeling is probably the main tourist destination in West Bengal and certainly the most famous of the old colonial hill stations. Situated in the eastern Himalayas at an altitude of 2,128 metres above sea level, its cool and fresh atmosphere attracts many visitors to escape the sweltering heat of the plains, especially during the summers. The town is well known internationally for its tea plantations and for fabolous views of the world's thirds heighest mountain peak Kunchenjenga (8,585 metres). Reach the town is an experience in itself, as tourists can take the famous UNESCO World Heritage site listed Darjeeling Himalayan Railway or 'Toy Train'. This train still runs on steam from New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri to Darjeeling and makes for a charming activity in itself. The narrow guage railway built by the British and completed in 1881 is a really great way to take in the scenery and watch the world go by at a nice relaxing pace.

The centre of town is a mixture of bustling local markets and winding streets with shops selling everything from trekking gear to jewellery and camera equipment to the famous Darjeeling Tea. There are also plenty of good restaurants and roof top cafes affording views across the town to rolling hills and on a clear day, the Himalayas beyond.

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Sights and Activities

  • Ghoom Monastery is the oldest monastery in Darjeeling, dating from 1875 and is home to many rare and well preserved books. This brightly coloured and elaborately decorated monastery is well worth a visit. The fluttering prayer flags are very photogenic and the tranquility of the place and the sound of the monks chanting from inside make it well worth a visit. It is also possible to go inside the monastery to look around at the incredible paintings statues and murals, and the monks will be happy to talk to you if they are not busy.
  • Tibetan Refugee Centre is another interesting place to visit in the city. This was set up by the Dalai Lama's sister and not only provides tourists with an interesting place to look around and buy Tibetan made handicrafts, but more importantly a legitimate income for the Tibetan community, schooling and healthcare for their children and a place to live. You are free to walk around the workshops where you can watch all manner of things being made from high quality rugs and carpets to woolen produce, bags, wooden carvings and clothes.
  • Toy Train is the famous UNESCO World Heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway still running on steam from Siliguri to Darjeeling and makes for a great train journey.
Peace Pagoda in Darjeeling

Peace Pagoda in Darjeeling

© All Rights Reserved serkhang

  • Japanese Peace Pagoda - This impressing building is part of a grid of around 30 pagodas spanning the whole globe. Constructed by the Japanese Buddhist Nipponzan-Myohoji Order, the one at Charlimont on the outskirts of Darjeeling was consecrated in 1992. A small temple just lies alongside. If you're woken up due to the sound of drumming in the streets of Darjeeling between 4:00am and 5:00am, these are the monks (Theravada) of the Japanese temple having their early morning walk.
  • Tea Plantations
  • Kanchenjunga Views from Tiger Hill - One of the increasingly popular attractions in Darjeeling is a jeep ride up to Tiger Hill for sunrise. This is not just for Western tourists, hoards of Indian, Nepali and Tibetan people also flock to this spectacular viewpoint to worship the sun or just welcome the new day and enjoy the view.
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering Institute Museum.

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Events and Festivals

  • Losar (February) – Tibetan new year
  • Dalai Lama's birthday (mid-June)
  • Dasara
  • Diwali (between mid-October and mid-November)
  • Darjeeling Carnival (November) – This annual 10-day carnival portrays Darjeeling Hill's musical and cultural heritage.
  • Christmas (25 December)

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Getting There

Tending to the toy train, Darjeeling

Tending to the toy train, Darjeeling

© All Rights Reserved Nat and Ev

By Plane

The nearest airport is at Bagdogra, which is around 93 kilometres from Darjeeling. Bagdogra is connected with Kolkata, Guwahati and Delhi by regular flights operated by Indian Airlines and Jet Airways. Buses and Taxis are available from the airport to the city centre

By Train

The nearest railhead is at NewJalpaiguri/Siliguri. The narrow gauge scenic 'Toy train' is the best way to reach Darjeeling from Siliguri. Train timings and fare can be checked at Indian Railways website.

By Bus

Regular buses connect Darjeeling with the nearby towns such as Bagdogra, Siliguri, Kalimpong and Gangtok. Shared taxis and mini-buses are also available from Siliguri and the journey takes around 3 hours and costs around Rp150-200.

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Getting Around

By Public Transport

Jeeps and taxis can be hired for excursions to the surrounding areas.

By Foot

The best way to explore the city and its vibrant markets is on foot. The fresh air and the cool climate will make the walk all the more relaxing and enjoyable.

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Eat

There is a good selection of restaurants serving delicious North Indian food (mainly vegetarian) as well as Nepali momos and Chinese Chow Mein. However, if you are craving the comforts of home by the time you reach Darjeeling, it is also possible to get a steaming hot cup of tea and a huge piece of cake in one of the bakeries or tea rooms left over from the old colonial days. Just what you need after a morning walk through the plantations!

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Drink

The best drink recommended is Darjeeling tea. Darjeeling Tea is widely and universally acknowledged to be the finest tea, because its flavour is so unique that it cannot be replicated. Connaisseurs will assert that without Darjeeling, Tea would be like wine without the prestige of champagne.

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Sleep

Mid-Range

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Snowlion Homestay27/A, Gandhi Road, DarjeelingHostel90
Bellevue Hotel DarjeelingP O Box 28, The Mall, DarjeelingTibetan Hotel-
Old (Main) Bellevue Heritage Hotel1 and 5/1 Nehru Road Chowrasta The MallHotel78
Cozy Nest Homestay128 gandhi road behind compuset centreHOSTEL92
Hotel Seven Seas17 nb singh road Darjeeling 734101 West BengalHOTEL-

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Keep Connected

Internet

There's good coverage over most of India for Internet cafes. However, following the recent terror attacks in Mumbai and some other cities, all internet cafes have been instructed by the authorities to maintain a register and note down the identification details of all persons using internet. Sify iWay is a reliable and cheap cafe with over 1,600 cafes over India. iWay also allows you to open a pre-paid account that you can use all over India. Whenever you have Internet access probably the best and cheapest way to call family and friends at home is software that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet such as Skype.

Wifi hotspots in India are, for most part, limited. The major airports and stations do offer paid wifi at around RS.60-100 an hour. Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai are the only cities with decent wifi coverage. At Mumbai airport, you get to use WiFi internet free, for an hour or so.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The country code for India is 91. To dial outside the country from India, prefix the country code with 00.

The general emergency number is 100 (emergency response police & fire), while for ambulance you should dial 102 or 112, though some regions have 108 for this emergency. 108 is used in in the Indian states of Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Goa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha,Assam, Meghalaya, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. 108 can be called for medical, crime, fire, or any other emergency from any phone.

Local phone numbers can be anywhere from 5-8 digits long. But when the area code is included, all landline phone numbers in India are 10 digits long. Cellphone numbers usually start with '9', '8', or '7'. Toll-free numbers start with 1-800.

If staying longterm it is probably wise to think about investing in a mobile phone. You'll possibly need to provide a photocopy of your passport and itinerary, so come prepared. Make sure you arrange it upon arrival in a big city, as it can sometimes be difficult to organise with language barriers and such in more regional areas. You can buy a cheap nokia for about RS.1,200 with a pre-paid plan. Airtel is a good carrier to think about as they have great coverage, and constant offers for cheaper calling. To recharge, most shop vendors with phone carrier signs can do it via their own phone. You give them your mobile number, they put it in their phone and you'll both get messages as to whether or not the recharge has been successful. Also, if possible, buy the phone in the state where you do the most travelling as the charges are higher in the states where you did not originally buy the phone.

Over the entire country there are plenty of public phones, even in the middle of the countryside. Although most of the time these phones are not very well maintained and have horrible connections. Therefore remember when using one of these public phones one must be extremely patient.
For international calls from payphones, you'll have to visit a reputable internet cafe with a phone-booth. Mobile phones are usually a better and cheaper option.

Post

India Post is the national postal service of India, and on their website you find details about prices to send postcards, letters and parcels, both domestically and internationally. For most postcards to send internationally, it is better to visit the post office before writing on the card as you may need quite a few stamps. Parcels must be taken to a tailor, he will then sew it up in white linen. Make sure he seals it with red wax, otherwise the post office may refuse to send it or try to get you to pay them to do it. Sewing up a parcel should only cost RS.50 to 200. In general, post offices are open from 10:00am to 1:00pm and 1:30pm to 4:30pm in most bigger towns and cities, though there are regional variations and some might keep longer hours or be open during (part of) the weekend as well. Ask around.

If you want to send bigger packages/parcels, it might be better, faster and sometimes even cheaper, to contact a private company like DHL, TNT or UPS.

Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 27.039996
  • Longitude: 88.263603

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This is version 37. Last edited at 13:49 on Feb 5, 14 by Utrecht. 5 articles link to this page.

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