Darjeeling is one of the prettiest hill stations in India located in northern part of West Bengal. It's all about magnificent views of snowcapped Kanchenjunga, torrents flowing down the mountain slopes, lovely tea gardens, landscapes with firs, pines & ferns, and all that combined with friendly people and modern yet colonial charm. The average altitude of Darjeeling Town is 6,710 ft (i.e. about 2,045 meters). While approaching Darjeeling by road or toy train, you will need to cross the highest point of the route at Ghum (7407 ft or 2226 meters). However the highest point or the summit in the whole of Darjeeling district is Sandakphu (close to 12,000 ft) which also happens to be the highest altitude point in the whole of West Bengal.
While we always talk about the sweeping views of sunrise from Tiger Hill and the view of the colossal Kanchenjunga with many other snow clad eastern Himalayan peaks from here, but we hardly talk about the summit of Tiger Hill itself. True that the blaze of rapidly changing colors of the snow peaks as the sun strikes is an awesome view, but Tiger Hill is great even otherwise. It's a destination by itself offering not just great views during sunrise, it's a place where you can soak yourself with Himalayan beauty anytime during the day.
If you are taking a toy train ride from Darjeeling, you will pass by this magnificent loop. Otherwise, take a cab from Darjeeling town and visit the Batasia Loop. It's located on Hill Cart Road (i.e. National Highway 55) and takes 20 minutes by taxi from Darjeeling town. There is no better place to get a 360 degree view of Darjeeling's landscape including the hill town and the snow covered peaks of the Eastern Himalayas with the majestic Kanchenjunga on one side. And all this from the middle of a lovely flowering garden around which the toy train track is laid.
Located in Dali which is about 5km away from Darjeeling Town, although this monastery is popularly known as the Dali Monastery, it's actual name is Druk Sangag Choling Monastery. This is the name which is prominently written on its outside wall as you approach it from the road and walk through its arch gate. When you look at the monastery from a little distance standing on the Hill Cart Road, it looks awesome. Its one of the largest monasteries with white buildings built in typical Tibetan style and perched on a steep hill.
Earlier the car could enter through the main gate of the temple premises and park right below the temple. These days you will need to walk for about 5-6 minutes from the main gate along a narrow road that first goes downhill and then uphill. On the way you will notice a few small houses on the right with prayer flags fluttering in front of them. As you walk along, you will reach another gate. Right next to the gate and on the left are some flights of stairs that lead to the Japanese Temple.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is the first, and still the most outstanding example of a hill passenger Railway. Open in 1881, it applied bold and ingenious engineering solutions to the problem of establishing and effect rail link across a mountainous terrain of great beauty. It is still fully operational and retains most of its original features intact. While Darjeeling was growing, Rowland Macdonald Stephenson was crusading his battle for railway extension in India. In 1849, he was able to extract favourable conditions including a guarantee of return on the capital. He promoted East Indian Railway Co. (EIR).
Mall is like the town center or the social center of Darjeeling. This is where some of the old and heritage stores are lined up on one side, and there is open view on the other with many pine trees all around. If you want to feel the real vibe of Darjeeling, watch people and activities, this is the place to come. Another thing that you won't miss here. There are lots of young local lads with their ponies offering horse rides to children. So why is the place known as Chowrasta Mall? The word 'Chow' means four and 'rasta' stands for roads. So it essentially means that the Mall is where four roads meet.
Bengal Natural History Museum
A small building in the Botanical Garden was constructed at a cost of Rupees 14,000 to display only the butterflies and birds of the area. However it was too small and not good enough for the students and researchers to study the whole bird and animal life in the region. Therefore the present building was constructed in 1915 at a cost of Rupees 55,000 to satisfy such requirement. In 1923, Bengal Natural Museum Society was formed that took charge of the management of the museum. It continued until 1976 after which the management was taken over by the Forest Department of Government of West Bengal.
Following the conquest of Mount Everest in 1953 for the first time in history, Edmund Hillary was knighted by the Queen of England. And in India, the nation built the HMI in Darjeeling to commemorate the success of sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Tenzing was the only other companion of Edmund Hillary to the summit. Himalayan Mountaineering Institute was built as a tribute to Tenzing so that he could impart his skills to all those who pursued climbing activities in the Himalayas.
Darjeeling Himalayan Zoological Park
Darjeeling Zoo is now amongst the best zoos in the world. This is the first zoo in India to receive the prestigious international award "The Earth Heroes" 2014 out of over 300 zoos worldwide. This annual award is given away by Royal Bank of Scotland in collaboration with the British Government. Reason for selection for this award? It has done a superb job of conserving Himalayan animals and plantations while specializing in breeding animals that are used to Alpine conditions.
Lloyed Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden in Darjeeling is named after William Lloyd who was the owner of the Lloyd's Bank during the British India days. He gave as a gift this sprawling 40 acres of area on an open hill slope for making one of the best gardens in Asia. The land was handed over to Sir Ashley Eden and the garden was established in 1878. Eden was then the secretary to the Government of Bengal. The great attraction here is the Orchiderium that has some 2,500 orchids on display and showcasing some 50 varieties.
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