The Complete Traveler’s Guide to Darjeeling: Top Things to Do and See

It’s that time of the year when classic mountain weather and a steaming mug of hot cocoa sounds dreamy. How about a road trip to the quaint Himalayan town of Darjeeling – the land of toy trains, tea gardens, and snow-capped peaks? As one of the oldest mountain settlements in the country, it’s hard not to fall for the unique Victorian charm of the Queen of Hills.

Get to know the town a bit

Darjeeling city

At an impressive elevation of 6709 ft., Darjeeling is nestled in the Lesser Himalayas on the Darjeeling-Jalapahar Range, originating in the south of the Ghum district. The hill station gets its name from the Tibetan words dorje meaning thunderbolt and ling’ meaning land. In the 1800s, Darjeeling was a health resort of sorts for the British troops and Europeans. On your trip here you are sure to run into Gorkhas, Bengalis, Nepalis, Lepchas and Tibetans.

Best seasons to visit Darjeeling

Every season affords an entirely different vibe in Darjeeling. The peak tourist seasons though are March to May and October to November. Spring and summer here offer a pleasant respite from the scorching heat, the best views of Kanchenjunga and rhododendrons in full bloom.

Darjeeling tea garden

Darjeeling in monsoon though serene can get a bit risky with landslides, road closures and poor visibility. Autumn is splendid with vibrant colours and enthralling white mountains. Darjeeling in winter is sure to open up a treasure trove of experiences and all you need is a ready mind and perfect planning.

Must-visit places in Darjeeling

Darjeeling will prove to be a sanctuary to break away from your daily grind. But picking the right time is key to unlocking the true magic of this place. Here are the top places to visit in Darjeeling:

  • Tiger Hill – Enjoy the hike of a lifetime up the hill and watch the sunrise. The best sunrise views are in autumn and winter. 
  • Dooars – Explore the sprawling tea plantations or even take an interesting tribal tour.
  • Sandakphu – This highest point of West Bengal is the best spot for trekking and adventure sports.
  • Kalimpong – The beautiful and peaceful Zang Dhok Palri Phodang monastery is among the top 10 places to visit in Darjeeling and shouldn’t be missed. 
  • Japanese Temple – Behold the magnificent Kanchenjunga from this two-storeyed Japanese-style temple, which is a delight to see if you’re visiting Darjeeling in summer.
  • Barbotey Rock Garden – A terraced garden cut through a rock with a waterfall, flower garden, fountain and lake boating.
  • Chowrasta – This open promenade is one of the most happening places in the town. From curio shops, tea bars, book cafes, cultural shows and clothing stores to eateries; there are several things to do in mall road Darjeeling.
  • Ghum Monastery – The major attraction is the 15-foot-high statue of Maitreya Buddha or future Buddha and the 108-volume Kangyur – Tibetan Buddhist Gospel.
Ghoom Monastery interior

Must-do things in Darjeeling

Darjeeling is so much more than just a hill station with nature spots and historical structures to tick off your travel itinerary. Here are the top-rated things to do in Darjeeling:

  • White water rafting – Darjeeling’s Teesta River promises some of the most exciting series of rapids in the upper reaches. This can be enjoyed safely by both beginners and professionals except in the monsoons. 
  • Toy train ride – The views awaiting you on this narrow-gauge mountain train ride are sure to take your breath away.
  • Explore the ropeway – Ride on India’s first cable-car system from 1968 over scenic valleys, tea gardens and waterfalls.
  • Shop and eat local – Shop for local crafts, trinkets, or woollens and sample churpi, momos, thupkas, or Nepali cuisine.
  • Learn rock climbing – The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute has courses for all levels.
  • Camp in a jungle – Stay in a secluded retreat amidst the lush forests of the Singalila National Park located 2300 meters above sea level.
Siliguri Darjeeling Road Trip

Best ways to reach Darjeeling

The steep terrain here makes it difficult to have a railway station though it is quite well connected to West Bengal. The nearest station to make the trip by rail is via New Jalpaiguri. If flying is your preferred mode of transport, then the nearest airport is in Siliguri at Bagdogra. You can fly in from any major city in India. There are regular state-run and private buses to Darjeeling from Kolkata, Haldia, Asansol, Malda, Siliguri, New Jalpaiguri, Kalimpong, and Kurseong.

Lava view point

Taking a road trip from Siliguri to Darjeeling by car is no doubt the most scenic way to reach Darjeeling. One of the most popular and fastest routes is via Matigara – Kurseong Road and NH10. With Zoomcar, self-drive car rental services, convenience and independence will be your road trip buddies. You can opt to either rent a car in Kolkata or rent a car in Siliguri and be in the mountain town in 3 hours.

To conclude, a trip to Darjeeling is like taking a stairway to paradise with a multitude of experiences! Taste some of the country’s best teas, surrender to the allure of the majestic Himalayas, get a peek into the remnants of colonial lifestyle, explore the vibrant culture, or switch on your adventure junkie mode. Plan that long-postponed road and make the process super easy by booking self-drive cars in Kolkata. Nothing compares to lowering your car window and taking in a whiff of that pine-scented mountain air.

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