The Darjeeling Hills are a Himalayan region of West Bengal, consisting of the districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong. Well-known for its tea gardens, the region provides scenic views of hills and mountains, including Mt Kangchenjunga.
Cities and towns
- 1 Darjeeling — a beautiful hill station and the centre of a major tea-growing area.
- 2 Jorepokhri
- 3 Kalimpong — recognised for educational institutions. Most of those were formulated during the British colonial period. The town has many religious sightseeing places apart from beautiful views of mountains.
- 4 Kurseong — home to most expensive teas in the entire world. Some popular tea gardens such as Ambotia, Makaibari and Castleton produce special aromas which are difficult to cultivate elsewhere.
- 5 Lava
- 6 Loleygaon
- 7 Mangpoo
- 8 Mirik — nestled in the serene Darjeeling Hills, It is a picturesque location. Mirik has become a highly famous tourist place because of its natural beauty, climate and easy accessibility.
- 9 Rishop (Rishyap) — suitable for a one-day stint. There is no urban life here, just a small village with spectacular views of the third largest mountain peak in the world (Kangchenjunga) and its range.
- 10 Siliguri — a major commercial and shopping hub at the foothills.
- 1 Deolo Hill (Dello) — a hill with an amazing view of Kalimpong.
- 2 Singalila National Park — a popular trekking destination with Mt Sandakphu, the tallest peak of West Bengal
The region used to be a cluster of villages that was administered intermittently by Nepal and Sikkim. It grew in prominence during the mid-19th century when, because of its climate, the British established a hill station there.
Later it was discovered that the area was particularly well suited for tea plantations and Darjeeling tea is still exported worldwide. In 1849, the British annexed the area and Darjeeling became a part of British India. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was opened in 1881 (it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Many Tibetan refugees moved here after Tibet was annexed by China. They co-exist with the descendants of the many Nepalese who once came to the land as soldiers of Prithvi Narayan Shah and settled down there to work as labourers in the tea plantations.
There has been intermittent political action from Gorkha groups demanding an independent state (Gorkhaland). In June 2008 a strike paralysed the area, with closed hotels, restaurants and shops, and the accompanying protests even turned violent a couple of times. Though inconvenient, tourists generally are not at risk, but you should check the status before going there.
The hills starts abruptly up from the Terai region near Siliguri. The region is further divided into two parts: the Singalila and Darjeeling ranges. The Singalila range is located along the border of Darjeeling and Nepal.
New Jalpaiguri (NJP) in Siliguri is the nearest broad-gauge station on the main inter-city line. Direct trains to NJP run from Delhi several times daily. From Kolkata's Sealdah station, the best train is the Darjeeling Mail running nightly at 10:05 PM. There is also a train from Howrah station called Paharia Express, departing from Howrah at 9:55 PM and arriving at New Jalpaiguri at 8:45 AM.
From NJP, the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) completes the journey to anywhere in the Darjeeling Hills.
- Main article: Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), nicknamed the "Toy Train", is a narrow-gauge railway from Siliguri to Darjeeling, run by the Indian Railways. It was built between 1879 and 1881 and is about 86 km (53 mi) long. The elevation level is from about 100 m (328 ft) at Siliguri to about 2,200 m (7,218 ft) at Darjeeling. There are both steam and diesel engines serving the route.
The steam 'Joy' train operates from Darjeeling to Ghum via the Batasia Loop, four times a day – enquire at Darjeeling station. Steam trains cost ₹2200 and diesel trains cost ₹1200. See the DHR website.
There is also a daily 'School Train' departing Kurseong at 6:15AM and arriving at Darjeeling at 8:45AM. It leaves Darjeeling at 4PM and arrives at Kurseong at 6:30PM. This is still hauled by a steam engine and is one of the world's last 'day to day' steam trains. Its schedule is frequently changed and it often runs hours late.
Bus services in this region are offered by North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC), operating daily bus services to all the cities and villages. The prices are very low and for long distances, online booking can also be done.
See and do
The Darjeeling Hills are known for the picturesque beauty of the Himalayas.
There are also plenty of trek options in North Bengal. The most popular one is the Singalila Ridge Trail. Bookings for articles, porters and accommodation on the trail can be made in Darjeeling or in the nearby town of Manebhanjang, which serves as the trailhead. From July to mid-September the Singalila park is closed, but because of the rain, clouds and fog it is less enjoyable anyway. Paragliding is available in Kalimpong providing breathtaking views of the mountainous landscape. Every city has parks that are well equipped with recreational types of equipment.
- Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (Toy Train) — a narrow-gauge heritage railway service from Siliguri to Darjeeling, run by the Indian Railways. It was built between 1879 and 1881 and is about 86 km (53 mi) long. It is powered by steam and diesel engines and offers panoramic views while climbing up the mountains. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this route is popular with tourists as it passes through picturesque mountain scenery.
- Sandakphu–Phalut Trek — Sandakphu (3,636 m) is the highest point in West Bengal and Phalut (3,600 m) is the northernmost point of West Bengal. The trek combines both these points offering great views of Kangchenjunga and several other snow peaks including Mount Everest.
All the better hotels have their own restaurants. And of course, there is so much of that street food called "momo" that you can find just about anywhere in the Darjeeling Hills.
The Darjeeling Hills are famous all over the world for their teas, which are very aromatic and have a delicate taste.
There has been a surge of tourists visiting the Darjeeling Hills in the last few years. Earlier, there was continuous turmoil and political disturbance in the hills. But since the establishment of the new state government in 2011, political stability has been restored and life came back to normal.