Darjeeling is a hill town in the state of West Bengal. It is located in the Mahabharata Range or Lesser Himalaya at an average elevation of 6,710 ft (2,045.2 m). It is noted for its tea industry and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Darjeeling is the most notable and populated town and the administrative headquarter of the Darjeeling district, which has an autonomous status within West Bengal. The favourite summer retreat of the Colonial era, and now the favourite summer holiday destination of all plain people exasperated and exhausted by the hot boiling plains.
The erstwhile majorly Lepcha settlement started growing into a town in the middle of the nineteenth century, when the frontier British organization set up a sanatorium and a military depot.
Darjeeling for its location and temperature was the natural choice for tea plantations and was the place where the early planters started developing a new blend of roasted tea, black and different from what China tea used to be, new fermentation techniques, and the distinctive style of brewing resulted in what is now the most popular brand of black tea, and the name Darjeeling Tea now is trademark of the highest quality of black tea, all over the world.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway connects Darjeeling with the last plain railway station at New Jalpaiguri and is an example of ingenious engineering, that made it possible for the old small steam engines to pull the train up steep inclines and impossible bends. The DHR still has a few of those old steam engines in action and is a must part of your travel plan for the Darjeelings.
Darjeeling boasts of some very old British schools and colleges, some still under missionary supervision or under private administration and some have been converted to state funded schools, these renowned schools attract students from all over India and neighboring Asian countries, and boasts of several regents and regalia as ex-students.
The multi-cultural society of Darjeeling reflects its demographic milieu consisting of Nepalis, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tamangs and other mainland Indian ethno-linguistic groups.
Darjeeling, along with it’s neighboring town of Kalimpong, was the center of the Gorkhaland movement in the 1980s and is still the center of the movement now headed by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha under Bimal Gurung’s leadership.
The town’s delicate ecology has been put under tremendous stress, rapid urbanization and unplanned constructions along the slopes and Darjeeling once was seriously affected by landslides due to excessive use of plastic bags and resulting clogging of water channels and blocking of the slopes by concrete buildings, since then the administration has strictly banned any kind of plastic bags in the town although even during a recent visit new buildings with more than four stories were seen to be under construction.
Although there is a recent perception that Darjeeling is now too congested and concrete wrapped and has lost its earlier beauty, we as die hard Darjeeling lover from the plains would differ, yes, modernization has taken its toll, but a populous hill town needs to develop too, needs the Malls and Theaters, that we plain cities are so habituated with, and we can’t expect them to stay behind to keep our mountains pristine. Yes there are areas that are congested, the Hill Cart Road and the Bazaar area particularly, the Gandhi Road and Robertson Road too, but in Darjeeling where the North horizon is always lit up with the beautiful Kanchenjunga range, there are plenty of space still left to find that serene spot you want.
Modern Darjeeling is a blend of modern amenities and heritage, and you would love this town if you select the location of your stay wisely.
To learn more and plan your visit, and to select the best hotel or other staying options we recommend the following resources.
Darjeeling Tourism is a pretty authority site on Darjeeling and you can gather as much information from it here.
Rangan Dutta writes here about DHR, a very interesting read.
How to Reach Darjeeling
BY BUS : Both Calcutta State Transport Corporation (CSTC) and South Bengal State Transport Corporation (SBSTC) runs regular Buses from the Esplanade Bus Depot. Known Private Bus services like Royal Cruiser have services from the same Bus Depot to Siliguri too. You have to hire a cab from Siliguri to reach Darjeeling.
BY AIR: The nearest airport is Bagdogra and can be reached from anywhere in India, although it doesn’t serve international flights yet, so you would need to fly via Kolkata. Fro Bagdogra prepaid cabs are available to take you to Darjeeling in about 3 hours.
BY TRAIN : Darjeeling has to be reached by train via New Jalpaiguri Station, and trains to NJP are available from all over the Indian Railways Network. Get the list of trains from your location to NJP here.
BY ROAD : From Kolkata driving to Siliguri and then to Darjeeling, a long road but there are enthusiasts who indeed take this road often. NH34 is in a very poor condition so experts take detour via Jharkhand too.
For an expert discussion on better routes and experience for your drive from Kolkata to Siliguri, you can refer to this discussion here on Team-BHP, a forum for driving and riding enthusiasts.
Hotels or other Accommodations in Darjeeling
Darjeeling Hotels are very well represented in Booking.com and other travel portals. Look for both hotels and B&B too, and as a thumb’s rule, to get the best view and serenity, either choose hotels on Gandhi Road around hotel Sinclairs, since this slope faces the Kanchenjunga directly, or go for Hotels on C.R.Das Road and along the street from the right turn from the Governor’s House Square.
When you walk along the Mall Road towards HMI from the Mall, the left slope has the top hotel of Darjeeling, the MayFair but the view from this slope is largely blocked by the rising slope to the right of the Mall, the Observatory Hill, the Gymkhana and St.Andrews. The Gandhi Road is slightly crowded by many hotels and the approach road to Sinclairs is in a very poor condition but still the view from here is astounding and the Mall too is just a few minutes walk from here.
On the Observatory Hill is the heritage property of the Windamere hotel, a hotel that mostly caters to foreign tourists.
Below the Gandhi Road lies the Big Bazaar Departmental Store and further down the Inox theatre along the Ladenla Road, so if you stay around Gandhi Road or around the Mall Chowrasta, you stay close to everything and still get to see the mountains in the morning from your bedroom if you select the North facing open rooms. But in my opinion anything along the C.R.Das Road is even better, its just below the Mall and the street is quiet and the slope below is beautiful.
However the best view is from the aforementioned street that you get into if you take the right turn from the Governor’s House, there are two streets here, the Hermitage Road and the Lebong Cart Road both facing the windward North slope with the Lebong Tea Garden spread below them, and the hotels here are simply worth trying, if you want an undisturbed view of the mountains.
Important Sources of Information for travelers
- For Security, Traffic, Safety Tips and other Emergency Services, visit Darjeeling Police.
- For Emergency or general health services, the Darjeeling District Hospital is a moderate hospital on Cart Road just below the Mall Road and you can see it from the Chowrasta or from the Windows of Glenery’s Pub near the Mall, if you look down the Western slopes, along the Mall road the Hospital is just below the RJ Resorts.
Festivals and Events of Significance
Darjeeling being a blending pot of different hill people, the events are of myriad hue too, get some of them listed here.