Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), is a unique attraction. It was only the second railway in the world to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999 for being a unique hill passenger railway system. An engineering marvel, instead of tunnels, it has zigzags and loops. Mistakenly called by many as the Toy Train, it is actually a Joy Train. An integral part of the Darjeeling Culture, a ride is a must. Because of a massive landslide, the train does not do a complete run. But have a taste of its unique joys by taking the tourist trip from Darjeeling to Ghoom and back.
There are stops at Ghoom – the highest narrow gauge station in the world at 7407ft. – and visit the Rail Museum. There is also a stop at the Batasia Loop for taking in the breathtaking views, clicking photographs and visiting the War Memorial.
Do please also check for other services which are operational currently.
Also, for groups, trains can be booked for exclusive charters.
Even though change is inevitable, yet a great deal of Darjeeling’s charm is through its historical buildings. Many old buildings have disappeared but some of the fine examples of the ‘Raj-style’ are still there. Many of these English/Scottish/Gothic structures are well preserved and exude the glory of the times past. Important old buildings include:
RAJ BHAWAN − is the summer residence of the Governor. The original house, ‘Solitaire’, was built by Sir Thomas E.Turton. It was taken by the Maharaja of Cooch Behar and he in turn sold it to the British Government in 1877. It was renamed ‘The Shrubbery’, in 1880. It became the residence of successive Governors who made many changes. The building collapsed in the earthquake of 1934. A palatial building set in a manicured garden and with a distinctive bright blue dome was the replacement. It is one of the most distinctive landmarks of Darjeeling. Legend says that, angry for some reason or the other, the Maharaja of Burdwan decided to build his own replica and a smaller version of Raj Bhawan is visible, way down on the left of the road, just before one enters the town proper.
Other heritage and impressive old buildings well worth a look include:
The Planter’s Club, Town Hall, Old Bellevue Hotel, Windamere Hotel, New Elgin Hotel, Lal Kothi, Step-Aside, Bishop’s House, Government College, Natural History Museum Building, St Robert’s School, Loreto Convent, North Point School, St. Paul’s School and the Bengal Secretariat Building.
The PWD Inspection Bungalow houses a small museum with valuable material relating to old buildings in town.
GARDENS AND PARKS
LLOYD BOTANICAL GARDEN − is named after William Lloyd who donated the land in 1878. It has a fine collection of East Himalayan flora, a hothouse, an Orchidarium and medicinal plants.
PADMAJA NAIDU HIMALAYAN ZOOLOGICAL PARK AND SNOW LEOPARD BREEDING CENTRE − has same rare wildlife specimens like the Snow Leopard, Red Panda, Tibetan Wolf, Siberian Tiger, Himalayan Black Bear and other animals and birds. Nearby is the successful Snow Leopard Breeding Centre.
NIGHTINGALE PARK/SHRUBBERY PARK − is a short walk from the Chowrasta. This beautiful park has good views, photo spots and cultural programs during the tourist season.
JAWAHAR PARBAT (BIRD’S HILL), behind the Raj Bhawan, offers good views of the Kanchenjunga and the Singla Range.
ROCK GARDEN AND GANGAMAIAH, 10 km from the town, is a popular picnic spot with the rock garden, a waterfall and a beautiful park.
RANGEET VALLEY ROPEWAY- Offers a unique and thrilling experience with fantastic mix of up/down movement over tea gardens and fabulous views.
TIBETAN REFUGEE SELF HELP CENTER − has on offer high quality Tibetan handicrafts and hand-woven carpets.
HAYDEN HALL – is a social service centre with a section selling handicrafts to help the local poor.
MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY − near the Chowrasta, established in 1903, has a fine collection of 4,300 specimens of Bengali and Himalayan fauna, including the Estuarine Crocodile.
HIMALAYAN MOUNTAINEERING INSTITUTE – was established in 1954 after the successful ascent in 1953 of Mt Everest by local hero, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary. This pioneering institution runs mountaineering courses and also has a museum and historical climbing archives. You can also view the Himalayan peaks through the Zeiss Telescope given by Adolf Hitler to the Nepal Maharaja.
TEA COUNTRY − When one says “Darjeeling,” to the world it means great tea – the most fragrant and uniquely flavorsome teas anywhere. So, a visit to a tea garden is a must. There are options including the not so far, HAPPY VALLEY, TUKVAR, and the farther afield historic and great tea gardens like MAKAIBARI, CASTLETON, THURBO, MARGARET’S HOPE AND RUNGLI RUNGLIOT. Bonuses are the stunning Teascapes and excellent accommodation for tourists offered by Glenburn, Makaibari and others. In case you do not have the time a visit a tea garden, do taste these finest of teas at a number of very good tea boutiques in town. Taking some of these fine teas back with you is an absolute must.
GOODRICKE TEAPOT, MARGARET’s DECK, , overlooking the Margaret’s Hope Tea Estate - located on the main road near Tung DHR Railway Station, is an excellent contemporary tea lounge. Opened on 30 November 2016, it offers a great Tea Experience – Teas to drink/buy, tea lore and superb views. It should be included as a MUST.
A visit to Darjeeling should not only be a matter of sampling the delights that the town has on offer. To get the Total Experience, time must be found to explore the charms of places like MIRIK- with its beautiful lake, orange and cardamom groves, KALIMPONG – the home of a great many flower nurseries (all run by people named “Pradhan”) and KURSEONG with its renowned tea gardens and the town-social-hub Railway Station.
Many years ago, I coined the word “Drive away,” to depict stretches of road in the Darjeeling region where there is such abundant natural beauty that the destination becomes quite unimportant. Just the act of travelling is a great joy!
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), is a unique attraction. It was only the second railway in the world to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999 for being a unique hill passenger railway system. An engineering marvel, instead of tunnels, i
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