Lovingly called the "Mecca of Tea" and the “Queen of Hills”, Darjeeling in West Bengal is one of the most sought after hill stations in India. Well-known for its tea plantations and toy train ride, there is more to the hilly town that just that. Here are five things you must absolutely try while in Darjeeling.
- A trip to the Tiger Hill: A trip to Darjeeling is incomplete without climbing all the way up to Tiger Hill to enjoy the mesmerizing view of the mighty Kanchenjunga at the crack of dawn. Tiger Hill lies at an altitude of 2590 meters and tourists who visit Darjeeling throng the summit all year to watch the snow-clad peaks of Kangchenjunga gets illuminated by the rays of the sun. The immaculate beauty of the hill, the fresh and crisp morning air, the floating white clouds above you, and the view of the bright sun before it is seen anywhere else in Darjeeling is an experience that will stay with you all life long. Some of the best hotels in Darjeeling close to Tiger Hill are Summit Grace Hotel & Spa, Hotel Pineridge, and Hotel Villa Everest.
- Toy Train Ride in the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway: We have seen many famous personalities enjoy the toy train ride in pictures and movies. So while you are in Darjeeling, enjoying the same is an opportunity you should not miss at any cost. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was constructed in the period between 1879 and 1881. The railway line is 88 km long and runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling. The slow moving toy train that passes through various alleys and valleys of Darjeeling has a lot to offer to its passengers. Enjoy the view of the green mountains and village scenes right from your seat as the train passes by small and colorful villages, catch glimpses of children smiling and waving at you and let the cool breeze calm your soul. So, while in Darjeeling do not miss out on taking a ride in this prestigious toy train that was the first mountain transportation in India.
- Visit the Darjeeling Zoo: Also known as the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park, the Darjeeling zoo is one of its kind in India. Situated at 7000 feet above sea-level, it is the largest high altitude zoo in the country. Enjoy sights of rare species of animals and birds that you shall not get to see anywhere else such as the Yak, Blue Sheep, Royal Bengal Tiger, Asiatic black bear, Himalayan Monal, blue Macaw, Lady Amherst, Siberian wolf, Temminck's Tragopan, Himalayan Tahr, leopards, Pheasant, Red Jungle Fowl and Siberian tiger here. It has also successfully completed captive breeding programs for the Himalayan wolf, the red panda and the snow leopard. Another feather that was added to the zoo’s cap was being awarded the prestigious award of "The Earth Heroes" among the 300 zoos worldwide in the year 2014. So, even if you are not a wildlife lover or photographer, do spend some time in the well-organized Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park and you shall never regret it.
- Taste of local cuisine: You shall be spoilt for choice when it comes to food in Darjeeling. There is everything you can probably want – from Bengali cuisine, Naga cuisine to Chinese and Gujarati thaalis. You name it, there is an eatery selling it. However, do try the local Tibetan cuisine that includes Momos, Thukpa, Channg, and Tongba while sipping a cup of piping hot Darjeeling Tea. While the food is available in the local street food shops, some of the Budget hotels in Darjeeling where you can get to taste some amazing Tibetan dishes are Sinclairs Darjeeling, Dekeling Hotel, and Mayfair Darjeeling. You can also try the popular restaurants such as Keventers, Kunga, and the Park.
- Shopping in local market: From pretty souvenirs, winter garments to Darjeeling tea packets, there is a lot that you can shop in the local markets of Darjeeling at affordable rates. It is indeed a shopper’s paradise. Some of the best shops in Darjeeling can be found at the Chowrasta, also known as the Mall and the Bhutia Market.
So, go ahead and enjoy a relaxing holiday in Darjeeling!