Darjeeling is fondly named the “Queen of Hills”. Few can escape its quaint appeal- the pleasant temperatures, rolling lush tea gardens, peaceful monasteries, powerful rivers and stunning gorges have been well-loved for decades.
The hill station was developed by the British, and the colonial elements are starkly evident even today and exploring them forms an important part of Darjeeling Tour Packages. The quiet intimacy the city offers makes Darjeeling Packages for Couples extremely popular.
Moreover, the many heritage hotels that have been converted from erstwhile colonial homes are major tourist attractions of their own.
Even in a country like India, which is home to some absolutely stunning hill stations, what makes Darjeeling stand out enough to be titled the Queen? Read on!
Emerald Tea Estates
No one needs an introduction to the world-famous Darjeeling Tea. The black tea is considered to be ‘the champagne of teas’ by connoisseurs and is one of the most loved beverages globally. Darjeeling’s sprawling, verdant tea gardens have attracted people for a long time, and visiting the stepped fields and trying on traditional outfits are a favourite tourist activity.
Tea estates are increasingly becoming popular for exploring the gardens while staying in the lap of luxury. Typically, a mansion on the estate is converted into a stay, often retaining its grand, colonial charms and furnishings.
Surrounded by the lush gardens almost always means that the views offered are stunning- some estates overlook the staggering mountains, while rivers gush by the others. However, what unites them is that all of them bring one close to nature.
Guests are welcome to enjoy walks around the estate, and understand the process of production, plucking and packaging the leaves. Most estates do not offer amenities like televisions and air conditioners, but rarely are they missed. The food prepared often follows local recipes and uses freshly plucked ingredients.
The estates are also a great way of witnessing the culture of Darjeeling. Traditional music and dance performances are often staged in the stays. Guests like trekking on the trails surrounding the estates, and guided sightseeing tours are also popular.
The tea estates are the flavour of Darjeeling, and Tea Tourism is increasingly becoming popular. However, the Estates ensure intimacy and solitude, as most of them do not host a large number of guests at once. Staying in the estates, enjoying cups of the finest tea amidst bustling bountiful gardens is sure to be a relaxing vacation.
Darjeeling is one of the first places in the country where trekking took an organised form. The town itself is small, but the district of Darjeeling is quite big and has some extremely scenic trails to explore.
The difficulty level of these treks ranges from gentle, beginner-friendly routes to more rugged and difficult ones suited for advanced trekkers. Being rewarded despite the difficulty with stunning views of Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Lhotse is what draws countless people to the trails every year.
Tonglu is one of the popular trails in Darjeeling, which leads to unmatched views of Mount Everest and Kanchenjunga. It is one of the good day-long treks, and it passes through dense forests filled with Darjeeling’s famous rhododendron flowers. It falls within the Sandakphu Trail, so visitors are free to extend their journey.
Sandakphu is a peak in the Singalila Range, and the four to five-day trek is fairly beginner-friendly. Passing through the Singalila National Park affords chances of sighting the Red Panda, the Black Bear, the Snow Leopard and the Barking Deer. A further extension from Sandakphu is to the Phalut Peak. Along with Sandakphu, Phalut is one of the tallest peaks in the range, and the hike between the two is gentle and easy.
Trekking in the trails around Darjeeling are not only remarkable for the views they afford, but they are also a great way to witness the culture of the area up close. Many of the treks move through villages that are filled with homestays and opting for them allows one to understand local life and customs better. Watching the sunset and the sunrise, moreover, are even better after one has trekked to the peaks.
The charming hill station offers some of the best adventure sports in India.
The undulating hills of Darjeeling are fed by two gushing rivers- the Teesta and the Rangit, which are increasingly gaining popularity for their premier rafting options.
The waters of the Teesta have rapids ranging between Grade 2 and Grade 4, meaning that there is something for everyone regardless of their rafting skills. The Rangit, on the contrary, has turbulent currents and only seasoned rafters should attempt the sport here.
Melli is the most popular place to enjoy rafting on the Teesta. Fit for non-swimmers and rafting beginners, the course runs between Melli Bridge and Gheil Khola. It takes around 2 hours to raft through the stretch, and the waters are gentle. A slightly more challenging stretch is the one running between Tarkhola and Melli Bridge. Fit for experienced rafters, the course takes around 3 hours to complete.
Another popular way to enjoy a rafting excursion is to combine it with overnight camping.
Darjeeling is one of the premier destinations in India for paragliding. Views of the snow-capped peaks of the Kanchenjunga in front and the lush tea gardens below greets paragliders. Mount Everest is also visible on clear days. Jalpahar, around a 30-minute walk from Darjeeling’s Mall Road, is where most visitors try their hand at the sport. Jamuney, a short distance outside the city, is also a good option.
Mountain biking and rock climbing are fast gaining popularity. These challenging sports test one’s strength, stamina and fitness. Kurseong, Manebhanjan and Lamahatta have been favourite mountain biking destinations. However, the opening of the Mountain Biking Park that passes through the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary is quickly becoming more and more popular.
The trail is said moderately difficult. The course ends in the village of Chatakpur, and many bikers prefer spending the night in the cottages set up by the government. Passing through the sanctuary means that spotting rare Himalayan fauna like the Black Bear and the Barking Deer is possible. The views of the Kanchenjunga are also stunning from the trail.
Tenzing Rock, named after Tenzing Norgay, is the famous rock climbing destination in Darjeeling. The rock is divided into two faces- one suitable for amateurs, while the other for professionals. The side for the amateurs is gentle and can be attempted by beginners trying the sport even for the first time, but the side for the professionals is steep, almost perpendicular.
Directly opposite the Tenzing Rock is the Gombu Rock, is another favourite for the sport.
Darjeeling is a delight for those who like these exhilarating sports. The services offered are of premier quality, and the range of difficulty levels of each activity ensure that there is something for everyone. The thrill is made greater because of the panoramic views of the hills and gorges.
The Iconic Attractions
Darjeeling’s colonial history has made its mark on the city, and till date, the elements left behind by the British draw a lot of tourists. The famed Darjeeling Toy Train is considered to be a legacy of the city, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The train track ends at Ghum, one of the highest railway tracks in the country.
As the train travels up to Ghum at a slow pace, running through curves and undulating land, visitors get a chance to soak in mesmerising views of the Himalayan hills.
The Batasia Loop is part of the toy train ride running between Ghum and Darjeeling. The steep descent right after Ghum would have been impossible for a train to traverse, and that is why the Batasia Loop was constructed. The circular, looped course softens out the sharp fall to a gentle slope, and is considered to be one of the greatest construction wonders.
Today, the Loop has been beautified with countless flowering plants, and the bright gardens along with the stunning views of Darjeeling town and the Eastern Himalayas are one of the most mesmerising sights. Visitors and locals alike spend time relaxing amidst the blooms, watching the toy train pass by, or walking along the stoned pathway.
The Loop also has a War Memorial, constructed to show respect to the Gorkha soldiers. The Batasia Loop is one of the most mesmerising places that one can add to their Darjeeling Tour Package.
There are hardly any visitors to the city who do not visit Tiger Hill. It is one of the highest points in Darjeeling, and the views of the sunrise from here are unrivalled. From the observatory on the summit of the hill, panoramic views of Kanchenjunga and Mount Everest can be seen. Most people stop by the Batasia Loop on the way back from Tiger Hill for breakfast.
Darjeeling has absorbed a lot of cultures seamlessly- Tibetan, Nepalese, British and Indian elements co-exist peacefully in this quaint city. The confluence of these cultures is starkly evident in the food of the hill station.
The Tibetan Thukpa is perhaps the most popular dish served here. The soupy noodle bowl is loaded with meat and vegetables, and is lightly seasoned. Along with thukpa, momos are also an iconic dish of Darjeeling. Gundruk is a Nepalese dish made of green leafy vegetables like spinach.
It is immensely popular with tourists as it is flavourful and nutritious. Aloo Tama, an aromatic, spicy curry made with potatoes and bamboo shoots, is another great vegetarian option in Darjeeling. Sekuwa is one of the most popular foods for meat lovers. Lamb, chicken or pork meat is barbequed and tangy spices and sauces are added to it, making it a delicious dish.
Pork curry and stir-fried cauliflower are also loved. Kheer is by far the most popular dessert here, made with rice, milk, spices and nuts.
While in Darjeeling, one must visit the favourite local restaurants, some of which have been standing for nearly a century and whose patrons include residents as well as returning tourists. Glenary’s Restaurant has been serving quality Continental, Chinese and Indian food since the colonial times and is considered to be a landmark.
Another restaurant of the same league is Keventer’s, which serves the finest Continental breakfast in the city. The Park restaurant is famous for its Thai food, while Shangri-La serves delicious Chinese and Tibetan fare.
Most of these heritage restaurants have a warm, charming and elegant ambience and offer gorgeous views of the hills and valleys, or of the busy Mall Road on which they stand.
One of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in Darjeeling, the Old Ghoom Monastery, also called the Yiga Choeling Monastery, belongs to the Gelupka sect of Buddhism. The massive 15-feet statue of Future Buddha is one of the biggest in the city, and draws a lot of devotees. The monastery holds a collection of Buddha’s manuscripts, including the Tibetan Buddhist Gospel Kangyur. From the premises, the views of the Kanchenjunga are also stunning.
Another Buddhist temple in Darjeeling is the Nipponzan Myohoji Temple. Attending the prayers that are held twice a day is a humbling experience, and allows one to connect to their spirituality. The white-domed Peace Pagoda stands near the temple, and according to Buddhist teachings, Peace Pagodas bring peace and non-violence to the land and people surrounding it. The Pagoda stones have beautiful engravings of the stories of Buddha. The views from the Temple are stunning too.
The Tea Estates of Darjeeling are lush and produce the finest tea in the world. Happy Valley is the closest garden to Darjeeling, and tourists find it convenient to visit it because of its accessibility. Take a guided tour to understand how Darjeeling Tea is made, and witness the process first hand, from plucking, to drying and packaging. The Happy Golden Café is a tea shop adjacent to the estate where visitors can have a cup of the finest tea from Happy Valley.
Spend an evening at the Mall Road and shop for local products, including woollens and curios
Visit the tea estates and experience how tea is made
Take a trip back in time by boarding the Toy Train
Enjoy the scenic views of the valley and the hills from the Darjeeling Ropeway or a Hot Air Balloon Ride
Get an adrenaline rush by rafting on the rivers of the city
Darjeeling Ropeway, the first ropeway in India, has consistently been ranked the top tourist attraction in the city. The cable starts from Singamari, which is close to the Mall Road. The ropeway moves slowly, allowing guests to fully absorb the stunning vistas- the dense tea gardens, the meandering course of the rivers, the waterfalls, and of course, the snowy peaks of the Eastern Himalayan Mountains. The cable car stops at many points, allowing passengers to climb on and get off easily. Most tourists make a stop at Tukvar and explore the tea gardens.
The Senchal Lake falls inside the premises of Senchal Sanctuary, which is an extension of the Singhalia National Park. The spring water fed lake supplies water to the whole of Darjeeling. A great place to enjoy a picnic among peaceful, natural surroundings, the Lake’s proximity to Tiger Hill means that visitors usually club the two attractions together. The Sanctuary is home to the beautiful rhododendrons and orchids of Darjeeling, and the forests have a considerable population of Himalayan Black Bears, Scaly Ant Eaters, Barking Deers and Flying Squirrels. One can spend a lazy picnic day here, or go on a guided hike to explore the unique flora and fauna of the area.
The Lebong Race Course is the smallest and the highest race course in the world, and it is an oft-visited tourist attraction. Catch a race if you are in the area during May to June or October to November.
No trip to Darjeeling is complete without riding the famous Toy Train. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the hooting train passes through the area at a pace just perfect to allow people on board to soak in panoramic views of the hills and valleys. The Joy Ride between Darjeeling and Ghum uses a steam engine, allowing you to experience the history of trains. Passing through the Batasia Loop, the steam engine also makes a halt at the viewpoint offering unmatched views of the Kanchenjunga.
We at Flying Squirrel Holidays aim to make your vacation as close to your dream as possible. Personalised Darjeeling Tour Packages help to make sure you get the best out of your time spent in the queen oh hills.
The following Darjeeling Tour Packages are samples, and we craft your itinerary to your exact wishes.
Charming Darjeeling- 4 Nights 5 Days
Darjeeling Tour Packages for Couples: 7 Nights 8 Days
Weekend in Darjeeling: 2 Nights, 3 Days
Charming Darjeeling [Please note that this is a sample itinerary. We specialise in personalising your Darjeeling Tour Guide for you]
DAY 1Arrive in Darjeeling and check in to your hotel. Spend Day 1 leisurely, head to Chowrasta Mall and soak in the bustling energy. Enjoy dinner at the iconic restaurants, like Shangri La or Glenarys.
DAY 2Early in the morning, start for Tiger Hill to catch the mesmerizing sunrise. On the way back, stop at the Batasia Loop for breakfast and visit the War Memorial. Head to the Old Ghoom Monastery for a peaceful time and stunning views. After lunch, head to the Happy Valley Tea Estate and see how Darjeeling Tea is made. Return to the hotel for dinner.
DAY 3After a hearty breakfast, head to ride the Darjeeling Ropeway. Enjoy the scenic views from the oldest cable car ride in the country, and do not forget to take pictures. The afternoon is for trying your hand at white water rafting or paragliding. Head back to Mall Road for dinner.
DAY 4After breakfast, enjoy a relaxed picnic at Senchal Lake and go for a hike around the forests. Spend a few peaceful hours at the Japanese Temple and Peace Pagoda. Head to the Lebong Race Course, which is the smallest and highest course in the world. Return to the hotel for dinner.
DAY 5After breakfast, check out of the hotel and head back to the airport to board your flight back home.
Please email me a copy of the sample itinerary
Cost of a trip depends on places you plan to visit, the duration of the stay, the class of travel and accommodation and the inclusions you seek. We have years of experience in conducting the tours. Let us at Flying Squirrel Holidays get the best deal for you.
When is the best time to visit Darjeeling?
April to June is an ideal time to visit Darjeeling. Honeymooners prefer to visit during the winter months from October to December.
Which are some of the must-visit places in Darjeeling?
Singalila National Park, Rock Garden, Nightingale Park are some of the must-visit places in Darjeeling.
Which are the best places to visit in Darjeeling with family?
The best places to visit in Darjeeling with family are Tiger Hill, Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park, and beautiful tea plantations.
If Darjeeling were to be described in one word, it would be charming. The hill station has a range of charms- the memories of the colonial era preserved in its buildings and landmarks, the quiet spirituality of the Buddhist Monasteries, the bustling energy of the Mall Road, the exhilarating sports, the fragrant tea estates, and of course, the incredibly scenic views of the Eastern Himalayas. If a vacation replete with a range of activities is what you want, Darjeeling is where you should head! The charms of the Queen of Hills will stay with you forever, and make you want to come back again and again.
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