Darjeeling, derived from 'Dorji Ling' or the God of Thunder, is fondly known as the "Queen of Hills". Nestled in the cool hill-tops, the Elgin greets you with a warm glow in the sparkle of cherry liquor and a silken khada, draped around your neck as a part of its traditional North-Eastern welcome. The residence throbs with a palpable feeling of the rich history dating back to the early days of the Raj, illuminated in its various nooks and crannies with Douglases and Daniells painted over fireplaces and dining spaces. The charm of the place is attested by royalty like, the Crown Prince of Sikkim, Tenzing Namgyal, the royal family of Bhutan, the US Ambassador Galbraith and writers like Dominique Lapierre and Mark Tully.
It is the oldest Botanical Garden with varieties of flora and is famous for two living fossils. It is located on an open slope covering an area of about 40 acres. Lloyd Botanical Garden is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for the main conservatory which is closed on Sundays. There are no entrance fees. A popular tourist attraction of more recent origin is the Rock Garden which is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The oldest Himalayan Mountaineering Institute was set up, following the successful ascent of the Mount Everest-the highest peak in the world by the local hero Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edumund Hillary. The institute is presently under the purview of the Ministry of Defence, Government of India and its museum is worth a visit. It is open to the public each day of the week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. except on Thursday.
Established on the 14th of August, 1958, the zoo was dedicated to the memory of Padmaja Naidu, former Governor of West Bengal on the 21st November, 1975. Considered as one of the best zoos in the country, it is the only centre that breeds the tibetan wolf in captivity. Breeding programmes for the endangered red panda, snow leopard and the siberian tiger are also carried out at PNHZP. The zoo is open each day from 8:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m except on Thursday and other national holidays.
Tea garden is located just a kilometer away from the main town and is situated along 18 Lebong Cart Road (very near to the District Magistrate's Office) and offers tourist a refreshing ambience far from the otherwise noisy town. One can soak in the ambience of the tea garden and take a walk through the carpeted garden. You can take a pony from the Chowrasta or merely walk down the hill to reach the factory.
Monasteries in around Darjeeling generate tremendous interest among visitors, be it in the form of architectural extravagance or the spiritual message embodied in them. Bhutia Busty Monasteries and Samten Choling Monasteries are some of the famous monasteries in Darjeeling.
A ride on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), is for those who believe the journey is the destination. The DHR balances on two-feet tracks moving at a maximum speed of 15-km an hour. It is two feet narrow gauge railways. It is a masterpiece of 19th century engineering, a product of the world's First Industrial Revolution. In 1999, UNESCO declared the DHR a World Heritage Site. It takes all of nine hours to reach Darjeeling from Siliguri and at quite a reasonable sum.
Batasia means airy space. As you stand on one side of the garden and see the toy train making a complete loop while hooting its whistle along the way and trying to negotiate the spiral track with a double loop, it's a fabulous experience. There are seating areas as well to enjoy the views. The entire area along with the gardens and an approach bridge that leads to the garden is about 50,000 square feet. It has been covered with grass and beautified with both seasonal and perennial flowers and shrubs.
Ghum Railway Station of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, is the highest railway station in India. It is situated at an altitude of 2,225.7 m (7,407 ft). It is 6 km from Darjeeling. Sampten Choling Gompa, is more popular as Ghum Monastery. It enshrines an image of the Maitreya Buddha. The place is the home of the Ghum Monastery and the Batasia Loop, a bend of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
This is one way you can be part of special diverse offerings from the nature and all in one place. From the ropeway of Darjeeling which is also known as the Rangeet Valley Passenger Cable Car, you can have mind blowing view of the valley below, see the spread of lush tea gardens, dense forests, mountain streams in their full flow, waterfalls, and the awesome snow peaks at the background. Get off at a lower station and enjoy the tea estates, walk through the tea gardens, or just relax and enjoy the view around. It's hard to find all these together in one place.
A leisure walk from Darjeeling Railway station, this temple shines like a golden crown under sunshine and has a Tibetan inclination to it. The statue of Lord Shiva outside the main shrine, with a visible third eye and his serene face expressing five different emotions, is a wonderful work of art and worth a visit. Built pre-independence in 1939, the Temple sits pretty in the centre of the city and is visited by thousands each tourist season owing mainly to its catchy architecture in vibrant colours.
Senchal Lake is part of the Senchal Sanctuary which is one of the oldest wildlife sanctuaries of Darjeeling hills. The lake is fed by a mountain spring and is the main reservoir for water supply to the town. It is surrounded by trees of different kinds and plantation including oak forest, pines and Birch. There are over 350 types of flowering plants in this area including Rhodendrons and Orchids. It's about 11kms (7 miles) from Darjeeling town and can be reached via Ghoom and Jorebunglow. Senchal is at an elevation of about 8,160ft (i.e. 2,490 meters). However the sanctuary spreads across elevations of 1500 to 2600 meters.
Situated at an altitude of 2590 meters (8482 ft.) and 13 kilometers from the town, this spot is famous for the magnificent view of the sunrise over the "Kanchenjunga" and the great eastern Himalayan Mountains. On a clear day, the sight of Mt. Everest is just enthralling. 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 serenity anytime during the day.
The Chowrasta or the Mall is the town center in Darjeeling. This is a lovely little flat area, a public square where four roads meet. This public place is where you would like to lounge & bake in the sun, sit and watch the wonderful views of the mountain range and see many locals and tourists hanging around. One side of the mall is lined with pine trees through which you get wonderful mountain vistas, the other side is lined with lovely boutique shops of different kinds. And all around the mall, you have benches to sit and relax.