Darjeeling


Darjeeling is hemmed in by Sikkim in the north, Nepal in the west and Bhutan in the east. Darjeeling town, Kalimpong and Kurseong are the major urban centers. Heavily influenced by British India, Darjeeling still carries imprints reminiscent of its colonial past. The toy train is one of the most striking examples of Darjeeling's British Raj influence. Darjeeling conjures visions of serenity, of vibrant green hills steeped in splendour, a land of breathtaking beauty crowned by the majestic Himalayas.

Darjeeling in northeast India provides the perfect ambiance of a hill resort with its mild climate and laid back charm. Its verdant hill and valleys are steeped in color, and are interspersed with vast stretches of lush green tea gardens. Presiding over all these is the 8,586-m Mt. Kanchenjunga looming over the northern horizon, giving a magical aura to the land that entices thousands to its environs and leaves all the senses intoxicated. The flaming red rhododendrons, the sparkling white magnolias, the miles of undulating hillsides covered with emerald green tea bushes, the exotic forests of silver fir - all under the blanket of a brilliant azure sky dappled with specks of clouds, compellingly confounds Darjeeling as the QUEEN OF HILL STATIONS.

Straddling a ridge in the Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalayas and surrounded by tea plantations on all sides, Darjeeling has been a popular hill station since the British established in the mid-1800s. The industrious Brits, not averse to mixing a little business with pleasure, recognized that the quality of the soil and the mild climate were ideal for tea cultivation, and the forested hill slopes were soon denuded of their cover and planted with this most lucrative revenue earner. These days people come here to escape from the heat and humidity of the north Indian plain. You get an indication of how popular Darjeeling is from the 70 or so hotels recognized by the tourist office and the scores of others which don't come up to their requirements. Here you will find yourself surrounded by mountain people from all over the eastern Himalayas who have come to work, to trade or - in the case of the Tibetans - as refugees. Mother Teresa spent her early years as a nun here with the sisters at Loreto Convent, and Lawrence Durrell was educated at the prestigious St Joseph's College.

The place to visit are Chowrasta, a wide promenade atop a ridge lined with shops and restaurants; Mall Road, starting and finishing at Chowrasta, for a leisurely stroll amidst peaceful surroundings and splendid views; Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park which has the Siberian tiger, Himalayan black bear, red panda, snow leopard and many other animal and bird species, and the nearby snow leopard breeding center and the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, a training center for mountaineers which also houses the Everest museum; Natural History Museum, with its fine display of Himalayan wildlife; Observatory Hill which has Hindu and Buddhist shrines; Dhirdham, a pagoda style Hindu temple; Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Center, a major center for the production of Tibetan carpets, woodwork and leather goods; the Buddhist monasteries of Bhutia Busty, Thupten Sangag Choling (Dali) and Yiga - Choling (Ghoom); Batasia Loop, a marvelous feat of railway engineering; Tiger Hill for its renowned sunrise view over Kanchenjunga and the eastern Himalayas; Japanese Peace Pagoda, established by the Japanese order, Nipponzan Myohoji; and Lloyd's Botanical Garden which has a varied collection of Himalayan flora.


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