As the oldest and many say the best hill station in India, Darjeeling was an extremely popular destination in the time of the British Raj. The
wonderfully cool climate, clear brisk air and the breathtaking views of the Himalayas drew the British here to escape the stifling heat of Kolkota.
It is still a very popular place for honey-mooners, trekkers and others seeking to escape from the oppressive build up of heat on the plains before and after the monsoon season: the climate is temperate with temperatures ranging only between 12 and 25 in the summer and between 1.5 and 10 degrees during the winter.
The two high seasons are between April and June, and from October to December. During these months the mountains are clearly visible especially if you are an early riser! You will need to bring warm clothes throughout the year but particularly from November onwards when the temperature starts to drop, although it rarely gets below freezing. However there is a wide range
of cold weather gear for sale everywhere in Darjeeling, from hand-knitted Tibetan sweaters to
imported down jackets.
The history of tea in Darjeeling goes back some 150 years and although it has declined considerably since it’s hay day it still produces 10-11 million kilograms a year. There are over seventy tea gardens in the region with the nearest being Happy Valley Tea Estate about 1km away which is open to tourists. There are also many shops in Darjeeling where you can sample and buy tea. For more information on Darjeeling tea go to www.darjeelingtea.com.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway:
The Darjeeling Himalayan railway nicknamed the "Toy Train", is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow guage railway from Siliguri to Darjeeling in West Bengal, run by the Indian Railways. It was built between 1879 and 1881 and is about 86 kilometres (53 mi) long. The elevation level is from about 100 m (328 ft) at Siliguri to about 2,200 metres (7,218 ft) at Darjeeling. It is still powered by steam locomotives. Since 1999 the train has been a World Heritage site as listed by UNESCO.
Batasia loop is 5km from Darjeeling. It was built to enable the train to descend the 1000ft drop in altitude between Darjeeling and Ghoom, and is a real feat of engineering . In the middle of the loop is a war memorial to Gorkha soldiers. For more information on the Toy Train go to www.dhrs.org.
The best way to enjoy the fabulous scenery around Darjeeling is to go Trekking. There are many
Trekking companies around who arrange Treks to suit you. Two of the most popular treks are
Sandakphu and Phalut, The shorter trek to Sandakphu passes through the forests of the Singelila
National Park, with breathtaking views of the Kanchenjunga range. Continuing on to Phalut the trek
takes in views of passes into to Tibet, and views of the Everest range. White water rafting is also
available on the nearby Teesta River.
Many people travel to Darjeeling to find out more about Tibetan Bhuddism and Culture. The
approach road to Darjeeling is enhanced by the many beautiful monasteries with their distinctive
Tibetan Architecture, red and gold paintwork, and fluttering prayer flags. The most famous one is at
Ghoom, about 8km south of Darjeeling, which is open to visitors.