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DARJEELING SIGHTSEEING

 

Straddling a ridge at 2134 metres and surrounded by tea plantations on all sides, Darjeeling has been a very popular hill station since the British period. Outside of the monsoon season the views over the mountains to the snowy peaks of Kanchenjunga and down to the swollen rivers in the valley bottoms are magnificent. Darjeeling is a fascinating place with Buddhist monasteries. It has the unique attraction of the famous toy train which loops and switchbacks its way up the steep mountainsides from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling. Tiger Hill : It is the highest spot at 2590 metres, about 11 km. from Darjeeling. The hill is famous for its magnificent dawn views over Kanchenjunga and other eastern Himalayan peaks. On a clear day even Mt Everest is visible. Senchal Lake : It is close to Tiger Hill and is a scenic area and a popular picnic spot. Kanchenjunga : It is at 8598 mtrs. and is the world's 3rd highest mountain. From Darjeeling, we can have the best views from Bhan Bhakta Sarani. Ghoom Buddhist Monastery : It is the most famous monastery and is about 8 km. from town, just below Hill Cart Rd and the railway station near Ghoom. It enshrines an image of the Maitreya Buddha (the coming Buddha). Foreigners are allowed to enter the shrine and take photographs. Aloobari Monastery : This monastery, near to Darjeeling on Tenzing Norga Rd, welcomes visitors. The monks often sell Tibetan and Sikkimese handicrafts and religious objects.


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Observatory Hill : Situated above the Windamere Hotel this viewpoint is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. There is a Kali shrine here. Butia Busty Monastery : This is a colourful monastery, with Kanchenjunga providing a spectacular backdrop. There is an old library of Buddhist texts upstairs. Dhirdham Temple : It is the most conspicuous Hindu temple in Darjeeling and is just below the railway station. It is modelled on the famous Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu. Natural History Museum : It contains collection of Himalayan and Bengali fauna which includes estuarine crocodiles. Zoological Park :The zoo houses India's only collection of Siberian tigers, and some rare species, such as the red panda. Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and Museums : Entered through the zoo, on Jawahar Rd West about 2 km. from the town, the HMI runs courses to train mountaineers. There are a couple of interesting museums. The Mountaineering Museum contains a collection of historic mountaineering equipment,specimens of Himalayan flora and fauna and a relief model of the Himalaya. The Everest Museum next door traces the history of attempts on the great peak. Passenger Ropeway : At North Point, about 3 km. from town, this was the first passenger ropeway to be constructed in India. It is 5 km. long and connects Darjeeling with Singla Bazaar on the Little Ranjit River at the bottom of the valley. Botanical Gardens : Below the bus and taxi stand near the market, these gardens contain a collection of Himalayan plants, flowers and orchids.


DARJEELING SHOPPING

 

Curio Shops : The majority of these are on Chowrasta and along Nehru Road. The things sold here are - thankas, brass statues, religious objects, jewellery, woodcarvings, woven fabrics, carpets etc. Woodcarvings are excellent. There is also a market off Hill Cart Road next to the bus and taxi stands.Here you can get excellent and relatively cheap woollen sweaters. For Tibetan carpets, the cheapest place in the area is at Hayden Hall, opposite the State Bank of India on Ladel La Road. It is a women's co-operative, excellent value and well worth checking out. West Bengal's Manjusha Emporium, on Nehru Road, is a shop selling Himalayan handicrafts, silk and handloomed products. About 2 km. from town on the way to Ghoom is the Ava Art Gallery, featuring embroidered pictures.


DARJEELING SIGHTSEEING 2

 

Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre : A 22 to 30 minute walk from Chowrasta brings you down to this Tibetan centre. The centre produces superb carpets, woollens, wood carvings and leatherwork, and has various Tibetan curios for sale. The viewing and dyeing shops and the wood carving shop are particularly interesting. Tea Plantations : Tea is Darjeeling's most famous export. The most convenient garden to visit is the Happy Valley Tea Estate, only 2 km from the centre of town. If you are buying tea, Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (unbroken leaves) is the top quality. Other Activities : In the autumn and spring you could go the races. A lap round Lebong race course may only be 440 metres but it is the world's highest race course, 1809 metres above the sea level.


DARJEELING - GETTING THERE AND AWAY 1

 

Other Places Deluxe buses are also available to Calcutta, Patna, Gawahati, Shillong, Silchar and Agartala. TRAIN New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri is the railhead for all trains other than the narrow-gauge toy train. TOY TRAIN The journey to Darjeeling from New Jalpaiguri or Siliguri on the famous miniature railway is a superb experience.


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TREKKING IN THE DARJEELING REGION The best months to trek in this region are April, May, October, and November. In planning what cloths to take, bear in mind that you will be passing through valley bottoms as low as 300 metres and over mountain ridges as high as 4000 metres, so you will need clothing for low, tropical climates and high mountain passes. Sandakphu/Phalut Trek : This trek to the Himalayan viewpoint at Phalut is the most popular trek in the area. It involves a short bus trip from Darjeeling to Manaybhanjang from where you walk steadily towards the mountains via Sandakphu. Here you can turn back or continue to Phalut and walk down to Rimbik for a bus to Darjeeling. Day one : Darjeeling to Jaubari - From Darjeeling take the 7 am bus to Manaybhanjang. The first 30 minutes walk out of Manaybhanjang is steep but after about 3.5 hours you reach Meghma, a good place for lunch. Jaubari, about 3 hours further on, is the night halt. There are three places to stay here: the Everest Lodge, the Indira Lodge and Teacher's Lodge. Day two : Jaubari to Sandakphu - There are good views for most of the 2nd day. Start with a half hour descent to Gairibas then climb up to Kalimpokhari. This is about 3.5 hours from Jaubari. A further 3 hours takes you through Bikhay Bhanjang to Sandakphu ; the last few km are steep. Day three : Sandakphu to Molley - Between Sandakphu and Sabarkum, it is a two hour walk to Phalut. There are superb views from here of Kanchenjunga. From Phalut it is an easy 3 hours down to Gorkhey for a night halt.There is a new Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council Trekkers' Hut and also private houses


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where you can stay. Day five : Gorkhey to Rimbik - A 2.5 hour walk through the forest brings you to Raman where there is the friendly Sherpa Hotel, a nice place to stay. From here it is a level 3.5 hour stroll through a number of small villages to Rimbik. Day six : Rimbik to Darjeeling - You can catch the early morning bus from here to Darjeeling (five hours). Alternatively you can walk on for 5.5 hours to Bijanbari where buses also run to Darjeeling. Shortcuts : If you don't have time for a six day trek, there are a number os shortcuts you can take. You can go just as far as Sandakphu where there are good views. Sandakphu is actually slightly higher than Phalut, although further back from the mountains. From here you can backtrack to Bikhay Bhanjang and cut strait across to Rimbik in 5 to 6 hours for a bus to Darjeeling. The other shortcut is between Molley and Raman (3.5 hours).


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