With towering snow-clad Himalayan peaks and serenity abound, Darjeeling is one of the most popular hill stations in India. It is nestled at an elevation of 6,700 ft (2,000 m) in the Lesser Himalayas. The top tourist places in Darjeeling are an exhilarating mix of natural beauty as well as man-made wonders. Here is a rundown of the 10 best places you must visit during your Darjeeling trip.
A Quick Glance Through
- List of Tourist Places
- How to Reach Darjeeling
- Best Time To Visit
- Where To Stay
List Of Tourist Places in Darjeeling
1. Tiger Hill
The highest peak in the Darjeeling-Kurseong range, Tiger Hill is a famous vantage point in Darjeeling. Sitting at an altitude of 8,442 ft (2,573 m), the summit offers resplendent views of Mt Kanchenjunga at sunrise.
When the sun rises, its orange light hits the snow-capped peak in a dazzling way. If you look far away, Mount Everest is also visible from here if the sky is considerably clear.
It is one of the most charming tourist places in Darjeeling that you should not miss visiting. For witnessing the sunrise, you need to start as early as 4 o’clock in the morning.
Tourist cars queue up near the summit and the place gets crowded as the sunrise approaches. So, it is better to reach there beforehand and secure a place in the observatory.
Tiger Hill summit is located around 11 km from the main town. It is accessible by car and is about 45 minutes’ drive from Darjeeling town.
2. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
A famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) is the oldest of the three Mountain Railways of India. The other two are Nilgiri Mountain Railways in Tamil Nadu and Kalka Shimla Railway in Himachal Pradesh.
It was constructed between 1879 and 1881 to connect the Darjeeling Hills with the plains. DHR runs on a 2-feet gauge track and is fondly known as the Toy Train.
From New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling, the 88 km long track passes through fantastic loops and zigzag reverses. It is approximately a 7 hour train journey through the Darjeeling Himalayan hill region.
They also offer a 2-hour Joy ride between Darjeeling and Ghum, India’s highest railway station at 7,407 ft. The train halts at Ghum for about 30 minutes when you can take an amble through the DHR museum.
3. Observatory Hill
Adorned with coloured prayer flags, Observatory Hill is home to the famous Mahakal Temple of Darjeeling. It is considered sacred by Hindus as well as Buddhists.
Devotees visit the temple to offer prayers to the deity Mahakal. It is believed that the oldest monastery in Darjeeling, Bhutia Busty monastery, was first built atop the Observatory Hill in 1765. The monastery was later moved to Bhutia Basti.
Apart from the shrine, the Kanchenjunga viewpoint is also a major attraction here. It offers panoramic views of the mighty peaks of the Kanchenjunga when the sky is clear.
The relaxing vibes and the stunning vistas of the mountains earn it a mention in the top tourist places in Darjeeling. You can reach the hilltop from Mall Road. It is around 15-20 minutes walk uphill.
4. Darjeeling Rock Garden
Located in a lush green valley, Barbotey Rock Garden lies some 10 km away from Darjeeling town. It is teeming with picturesque landscapes, featuring a natural waterfall, numerous flowering plants and tiny bridges over the streams.
There is seating space at various levels of this terraced rock garden. You can relax and soak up all the scenic beauty. For nature lovers, it is undoubtedly one of the amazing tourist places in Darjeeling to visit.
You can also visit Ganga Maya Park which is 3 km further down the rock garden. In addition to tranquil environs, enjoy paddle boating in a beautiful lake here.
Also Read: 15 of The Most Magnificent Gardens in India.
5. Ghoom Monastery
Stationed at an altitude of 7,000 ft, Ghoom Monastery is well known for housing a 15 ft statue of Maitreya Buddha. This monastery is counted amongst one of the top tourist places in Darjeeling.
It belongs to the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism and is also referred to as Yiga Choeling Monastery.
The monastery was established in 1850 by a Mongolian monk, Sokpo Sherab Gyatso. Within the premises, you can see beautiful images and wall paintings depicting Tibetan Buddhism.
Adding to the charm of the monastery are beautiful bells and drums. Several Buddhist manuscripts are also kept here.
From the hilltop, the spectacular views of the mountains are a visual treat for the eyes. The monastery lies approximately 8 km away from the main town.
You can conveniently visit this place on your way back from Tiger Hill. It stays open for visitors on all days of the week.
6. Batasia Loop
Located right below Ghoom Railway Station, Batasia Loop is a train halt point on Siliguri to Darjeeling route. It is an engineering marvel of British period which was commissioned to counter a steep fall after the train crosses Ghoom station en route to Darjeeling.
Witnessing the toy train move around the loop is a fantastic experience. In the center of the Batasia Loop, there is a Gurkha Soldiers war memorial surrounded by a garden. If you are not up for the toy train ride, it is easily reachable by a car from Darjeeling town.
7. Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
Founded in 1954 by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) is a renowned institution for promoting mountaineering as a sport.
It was set up in honour of mountaineers, Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary, who successfully climbed the summit of Mount Everest in 1953.
There is a well-maintained museum and an activity zone in the premises. A great collection of mountaineering tools is a major draw for visitors.
It is one of the must-visit tourist places in Darjeeling for those interested in learning about mountaineering activities. HMI offers several mountaineering courses ranging from basic to advanced.
The best way to reach here is to hire a taxi from Chowk Bazar and get off at the Lebong Cart Road. From there, it is roughly a 5 minutes uphill walk to the HMI gate. The museum remains closed on Tuesday. On all other days, it is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
8. Japanese Temple And Peace Pagoda
Nestled on the Jalapahar Hill, the Japanese Temple and Peace Pagoda stand as a symbol of world peace and harmony. Both the structures are located in the same complex. The temple is also known as Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple.
A Japanese Buddhist monk, Nichidatsu Fujii, laid the foundation stone of the pagoda in 1972. Inside the pagoda, there are four images of Lord Buddha depicting the four avatars.
Visitors are given drums and sticks to join rhythmic drum beating during prayer time. It is absolutely otherworldly experience when you can feel divine vibes all around the place.
From the center of the town, it takes roughly 15 minutes to reach there by car. It remains open from 4:30 am to 7 pm for tourists.
9. Happy Valley Tea Estate
Happy Valley Tea Estate is the closest tea garden to Darjeeling town, situated about 3 km from Chowk Bazar. It was established as Wilson Tea Estate in 1854 by a Britisher. Later in 1903, a Bengali gentleman, Tarapada Banerjee took over the tea estate.
It was renamed as Happy Valley Tea Estate in 1929 after being merged with a neighbouring tea garden. Perched at an altitude of 6,900 ft (2,100 m), it is one of the highest tea gardens in the world.
A visit to this tea estate gives opportunities to learn about the entire process of tea processing from leaves plucking to drying. For tea connoisseurs, it is one of the best tourist places in Darjeeling to visit. As you take a tour of this garden, the special tea aroma fills the senses.
It is open from 8 am to 4:30 pm, 5 days a week (Tuesday to Saturday). During winters, it is usually closed for visitors when plucking and processing are not taking place.
10. Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
Zoological gardens are normally off the itinerary for me. However, Zoological Garden in Darjeeling is really worth a visit.
Officially known as Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, it was established in 1954 for the conservation of endangered high-altitude animals. In 1975, the park was renamed in the memory of late Padmaja Naidu, former governor of West Bengal.
A well-kept zoological park, it houses numerous Himalayan animal species including red panda, snow leopard and Himalayan wolf.
So, if you have not sighted these rare species in the wild, you can see them here. Red pandas and snow leopards are the star attractions for visitors.
The park also runs captive breeding initiatives for many such animal species of the Eastern Himalayan region. It is definitely one of the amazing tourist places in Darjeeling to visit for the wildlife admirers.
If you are interested to know where you can see snow leopards in their natural habitat, check this post: 10 Best National Parks to Spot Snow Leopards in India.
You can combine your visit to this zoological park with Himalayan Mountaineering Institute since both are located in the same complex. Besides Thursday, it is open on all days from 8:30 am to 4 pm.
How To Reach Darjeeling
Darjeeling doesn’t have its own airport. Bagdogra Airport, located some 90 km away, is the closest airport. It has direct flights from cities, like Kolkata, Delhi and Guwahati. It is around 3 hours’ journey by taxi to Darjeeling from Bagdogra.
The two nearest broad gauge train stations are in Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri. You can hire a taxi from there to reach Darjeeling or take the toy train from New Jalpaiguri.
Road trip from New Jalpaiguri is much faster than the train journey. It takes approximately 3 hours by road while the toy train ride is 7-hours long.
If time is not a constraint then you can take the toy train as it takes you through gorgeous landscapes featuring winding hills and valleys.
Best Time To Visit
I would recommend the Summer season, from March to May, for visiting Darjeeling. The weather stays pleasantly cool and skies are clear during these months. So, you can see the imposing peaks of the Himalayas from various viewpoints.
With the onset of monsoon in June, it starts to rain heavily. Incessant rains sometimes cause landslides in the region. Avoid traveling to Darjeeling in the rainy season from June to September.
The next best season is right after monsoon from October to November. Winter (December to February) is harsh and the temperature drops significantly, making it freezing cold. Owing to mist and fog, you might not be able to see the Himalayan mountain peaks.
Where To Stay
Darjeeling boasts a range of lodging options, from basic to luxury. Magnolia Residency and Shangri-la Regency are some of the reasonably priced hotels near the Mall.
Besides budget hotels, there are some really nice and affordable homestays in Darjeeling. Check out Happy Valley Homestay, located in the heart of the town on the Lebong Cart Road.
If you are looking for a luxurious stay, Mayfair Darjeeling is a great choice. It is a heritage hotel located right opposite Governor’s House.
Over To You Now…
This was my pick of the top 10 tourist places in Darjeeling. Would you like to share your thoughts and experiences? Please leave a comment below!