Popularly known as The Queen of Hills, Darjeeling is a city in the Indian state of West Bengal in the Lower Himalayas at an elevation of 2,042.2 m. Spread over a municipal area of 10.57 km 2 , it is a very popular hill station famous for its views of the world’s third-highest mountain Kangchenjunga, its tea industry, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, and many other places of tourist interest. The varied culture of the town reflects its diverse demographic fabric comprising of many mountainous tribal and other mainland Indian ethno-linguistic groups.
Darjeeling belonged in ancient time to the kingdom of Sikkim and came under the British colonial administration in the early 19th century. The British set up a sanatorium and a military depot in the region and as the climate provided excellent tea-cultivating conditions, they soon began to grow tea on the hills of Darjeeling. Later, tourists started to folk around and a toy train connected the hill station with the plains. The Bagdogra airport which is only 3 hrs. drive from Darjeeling, is also the gateway to other hill stations like Gangtok, Kalimpong, Mirik and many other touristic destinations of the region.
The name Darjeeling comes from the Tibetan word Dorje (the thunderbolt sceptre of Hindu god Indra), and ling (place or land). The hill station is famous for Tibetan Buddhist monasteries but the main attraction here is a very early morning view of Kangchenjunga from the Tiger Hill.
There are two options to reach Darjeeling from the plains. The quickest option is a three hours surface route from Bagdogra airport. The other option is to board a day long toy train from New Jalpaiguri which itself is a real experience. It is a 88 km train ride climbing from 100 m. above sea level to 2,200 m through six zig zags and five loops to gain altitude passing by Ghum – India’s highest railway station.
There is no dearth of good hotels in Darjeeling suiting to all pockets. The sightseeing here needs two days. If you arrive by surface and arriving by midday, you may visit The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute whose first director was Tenzing Norgay. The museum of the institute is really good for information about the Himalayan mountaineering. Later, in the late afternoon take a walk in the Mall Road to observe the life styles of the locals and to buy some provisions and Tibetan curios before returning to your hotel.
On the second day, leave with packed breakfast in the dark to reach Tiger Hill before sunrise. The place is at an altitude of 2590 m. and has a panoramic view of Mt. Everest and Mt. Kanchenjunga together. Below the Tiger Hill the Ghum monastery of the Tibetan community. It is the most visited monastery in the region where Maitreya Buddha is venerated.
In the afternoon, your destination will be one of the many tea garden of Darjeeling with prior arrangements. Here you will experience how tea leaf and bud are plucked, the tea is processed and packing is done. It is the right place to buy Darjeeling tea.
Your two days Darjeeling trip over, you can take the route of either Sikkim or Bhutan. For Sikkim, foreigners need special entry permission. Bhutan is another country.