Adventure tourism, ecotourism and cultural diversity all in one! Oh… did we forget to add breathtaking scenic beauty? That’s the beautiful Darjeeling, one of India’s favourite summer destinations tucked away at the foothills of the Himalayas! Literally translating to “the Land of Thunderbolt”, this charming hill station has been given the nickname ‘the Queen of the Snow laden Himalayas’!

A destination known for its breathtaking views, sprawling tea gardens, spectacular waterfalls, Darjeeling is most known for its breathtaking views of the Kanchenjunga (the world’s third highest mountain). Situated at an altitude of 2590 meters (8482 ft.), 13 kilometers from town, the Tiger hills is one of the most visited viewpoints for its spectacular views of the sunrise over the Kanchenjunga and the great eastern Himalayan Mountains. It is said that from the Tiger Hill one can even view Mouth Everest (Nepal) the world’s highest peak from here. The views of the sunrays slowly revealing the ice-capped peaks of Khangchendzonga is said to be a spectacle of a lifetime!

Quite close to the Tiger Hill is the Senchal Lake, an ideal picnic spot, a water reservoir known not just for its spectacular beauty, but also for supplying drinking water to Darjeeling. Gushing down from a height of 100 feet over a precipitous crag and rushing down the valley below, the beautiful Victoria Falls can be dubbed ‘Beauty with a Purpose!’ The waters of these falls are harnessed for generating the electric supply for Darjeeling and its suburbs; it is also known to be the first Hydel Project in India.

Located just below the Eden Sanatorium, is Darjeeling’s famous Botanical Gardens, one of the oldest Botanical Gardens in India; the Lloyd Botanical Garden in Darjeeling covers 40 acres of sheer beauty and is also home to two living fossils!

Other impressive parks here include the Rock Garden and Ganga Maya Park, the Nightingale Park/Srubbery Park. Known not just for its attractive natural waterfalls but also for its boating facilities, the Rock Garden and Ganga Maya attracts visitors from all over, while the Nightingale Park / Srubbery Park apart from its beauty is known for various cultural programs held here. It is also known for a giant Statue of Lord Shiva and a temple housed here.

Another must visit when travelling with little kids is the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling. Established in 1958, this zoo is considered as one of the best zoos in the country, and is the only centre that breeds the Tibetan wolf in captivity. Other animals found here include endangered species like the Red Panda, Snow Leopard, Himalayan black bears or Siberian tiger.

Darjeeling being a place known for its tea plantations, can a trip here be complete without a walk through these carpeted gardens? Situated along 18 Lebong Cart Road, the Happy Valley tea is one such tea estate that allows tourists to do just that!  If you’re travelling with kids, try the pony ride from Chowrasta, a wide promenade atop a ridge lined with shops and restaurants. A place free from vehicular movements, tourists can watch the scenic beauty of the mountain range, or enjoy lazing by its open cafes basking in the sun and enjoying the peace and quiet the Mall provides.

Just a few minutes’ walk from Chowrasta, the Observatory hill is situated on the highest ridge of the town. Known to locals as the “Holy Hill”, atop the hill, is the interesting Mahakal temple where one can see both a Hindu priest and a Buddhist monk share a common altar. Also found here is the Dhirdham temple, modeled on the lines of the famousPashupatinath temple of Kathmandu.

Being home to mostly a Buddhist populace, Darjeeeling is also known for its many monasteries, the Druk Thupten Sangag Choling Monastery (Dali Monastery) situated at Dali, is one of the most famous monasteries here, as it is the headquarters of Drukchen Rimpoche XII, the supreme head of the Kargyupa lineage.

Another well known monastery here situated on the Old Military Road is the Mag-Dhog Yolmowa Buddhist Monastery. As its construction coincided with the beginning of the First World War in 1914, it is dedicated to the cause of world peace, the name Mag-Dhog translating to ‘warding off the war’. While one can find statues of Lord Buddhadepicting different forms, this monastery is also known for its statue of Padma Sambhave. While this monastery is known for its valuable ancient scriptures, the paintings on its walls are also fascinating, said to be done with the help of herbs.

Another must visit monastery here is the ancient monastery Ghoom Monastery, built in 1875, by Lama Sherab Gyatso. Blessed by the renowned Tomo Geshe Rimpoche of Tibet, it is known to house some well preserved rare handwritten Buddhist manuscripts as well as the statue of the ‘Future Coming Buddha’ known as Maitreye Buddha.

Showcasing four avatars of the Buddha, the Japanese Peace Pagoda established by Nipponzan Myohoji, a Japanese Buddhist order, on the slopes of the Jalapahar Hill is another must visit and is known to be the highest free structure in town.

Other interesting attractions here include the War Memorial constructed in memory of the brave martyrs of Darjeeling who laid down their lives in the different wars since the independence of the nation.

Like other hill stations, Darjeeling has something for its adventure lovers! Try the Darjeeling-Rangit Valley Passenger Cable Car, also known as the Ropeway; it is India’s oldest passenger ropeway, connecting Darjeeling with Singla Bazaar at the bottom of the valley. From here tourists can get a breathtaking view of the valley and Darjeeling’s lush tea plantations.

Give the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute a try too, the oldest mountaineering institute in the country for its various mountaineering courses and museum. It was built following the successful ascent of the Mount Everest, by local hero Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary. Apart from Tenzing, this institute is also linked with legendary mountaineers like Nawang Gombu (the first man to climb Everest twice) and Lattoo Dorjee Sherpa.

And no mention of Darjeeling is complete without a mention of its delightful toy train, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A journey delighting kids and adults alike, known for its breathtaking views of the Kanchanjunga Range, the highlight of the journey being the Batasia loop situated almost 5 km away from the town – a gigantic railway loop where the Toy Train makes a 360 Degree turn. This loop besides the views is one of the greatest attractions of the Darjeeling, for it is here the railway line descends 1,000 ft in altitude making a circle.

Looking at taking home some souvenirs? Try the Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre, a centre set to help rehabilitate the exiled Tibetans, it is known for its excellent carpets, woollen goods, woodwork, etc, which is famous across the globe.

If you’re looking to be in harmony with nature then this is the perfect getaway for its spectacular beauty, ecotourism & much more!