Are you planning a trip to Darjeeling? Welcome to this blog post then where you will get all the information you will need about planning a short trip and about all the best things to do in Darjeeling.
I visited Darjeeling in 2018 and found it to be a very romantic place with lots of things to do. Darjeeling is perfect as a weekend getaway and you can also combine it with a visit to nearby Kalimpong to make a proper holiday out of it.
I took a break from the point to point itinerary planning that I usually do and decided to go with the flow for once. This place deserves it. The only planning involved should be for booking your flight/train tickets. So let’s begin !
DARJEELING TRAVEL GUIDE
WHEN TO GO
October-April is the peak season here. November is a bit quieter as the post festival holiday crowd is gone. The weather in mid-November is also pleasant, a mix of foggy and clear skies; the cold just right- enough to style those winter layers but not that much to turn on your hibernation mode! If you prefer travelling during shoulder season, you might want to avoid the festive time of October.
Avoid June-September for the rains and landslides that may occur in this route.
HOW TO REACH
The nearest airport is Bagdogra. From there it takes 3-5 hours (depending on road and weather conditions). Book taxis from the prepaid taxi counter. Taxi from Bagdogra Airport will cost Rs 2000-3000 approximately.
Stop at Kurseong Tourist Lodge for a meal.
There is no local transport in Darjeeling apart from walking. All sightseeing is done via car tours which have 3 point and 7 point itinerary tours. Choose one that suits you.
WHERE TO STAY
If you are looking for a relaxing stay, avoid accomodations that are situated on the mall road. It’s the busiest part of Darjeeling and also the noisiest. You don’t need crowds or noise to mar your peaceful vacation. Book your accommodation a little away from the mall. There are quite a few reasonable options located within 10 minutes of the mall. We stayed at a fantastic little resort called “Little Tibet Resort” which played a huge role in making our stay memorable.
Read our tripadvisor review here➡ Little Tibet Boutique Resort Review
To enjoy Darjeeling the way it should be, I have compiled a little guide for you and your loved one in order to maximize your time there and get the most out of it without making it tiresome and exhausting.
THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN DARJEELING
- RIDE THE TOY TRAIN
It’s a cliché but also a fun, unique experience. Seeing the steam engines bring back a lot of old world charm. Bring out your inner child and revel in nostalgia!
PRACTICAL INFO ABOUT THE TOY TRAIN RIDE
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway offers rides To/Fro Siliguri and Kurseong. But these are long journeys of 7-8 hours. If you lack the time, the best option is taking the ride upto Ghoom station and back. The journey takes 2 hours and includes a stop at Batasia Loop for 10 minutes along with a 30 minute stop at Ghoom station to view the Railway museum. Pretty much everything you need to see there.
Use the Indian Railways website/app to book your tickets. Put the Starting station as Darjeeling and the destination code as DRZ. Both Steam and Diseal rides are available. Steam ones cost Rs 1300/PP and Diseal ones cost Rs 800/PP. The rides get full pretty quickly so make sure to book your tickets beforehand.
2. CHECK OUT THE HISTORIC GHOOM STATION
Make use of the train halt here to see more of this quaint little town. The halt is for 30 minutes and you can visit the museum. There is also the Ghoom monastery to see.
3. WATCH THE SUNRISE OVER KANCHENJUNGA AT TIGER HILL
There will be many people who will put this activity at the top of this list. But I did not simply because its not necessary to wake up at 3 am on a holiday to view the sunrise. We did not. We went around noon but the day was very foggy and so missed seeing the peak. If waking up that early in the cold is not your thing, you can always go later during the day (like we did) and try your luck at catching a glimpse of the peak. We failed this time but are planning to try our luck in Sikkim!
KANCHENJUNGA AND THE WEATHER DILEMMA
Getting a glimpse of the fabled Kanchenjunga is a bit of a lottery. The weather here is erratic, with cloud covers changing positions every 5 minutes. If viewing Kanchenjunga is at the top of your list, the most important thing is to check the weather forecast during planning and before booking your tickets. Check the weather conditions on the day of your trip or else your pre dawn wake up call will be in vain! If your schedule is flexible, opt for another day if the conditions are not right. Wait for 15-20 minutes at Tiger Hill. A lot of luck is involved here so try next time !
4.VISIT THE MAHAKAL MANDIR
Whether you are a believer or not, if there is one place I would suggest it is this. I usually avoid temples but this one was special. This lovely little temple dedicated to Shiva, is a fusion temple where Buddhist Mandalas and prayer bells coexist peacefully with Hindu idols and rituals. Such a beautiful example of our syncretic culture. Make sure to enter the temple via the back entrance (route explained in the above point) where you will come across numerous colourful Tibetian flags fluttering and no one around to disturb you.
5.VISIT THE DALI MONASTERY
How can a visit to Darjeeling be complete without visiting a monastery? Most people visit the Ghoom monastery which we found to be very uninteresting and average. Instead visit the Dali monastery which has a beautiful building and interiors. Turn one of the giant prayer bells and make a wish. Play with some of the little monks in training. Admire the colorful art and the giant Buddha.
6.TAKE A DAY TRIP TO NEARBY LAMAHATTA OR MIRIK
There are quite a few day trip options from Darjeeling. Lamahatta is one of the best. Lamahatta literalky means ‘Monk’s hermitage’. It is located only 23 kms from Darjeeling and can be reached in an hour. The best attraction here is the Lamahatta Ecological park with stunning vistas and tall pine trees all around.
Mirik is 50 kms from Darjeeling and is a popular destination for hikers looking to view the Kanchenjunga.It also has a lake.
7. HAVE SOME SPECIAL FOODIE EXPERIENCES
We enjoyed some amazing meals in Darjeeling, be it having breakfast in our balcony amidst fog and clouds; rooftop lunches or candlelit dinners and created some amazing memories.
Enjoy authentic Tibetian food at Kunga’s. Situated on the mall, this little joint produces delicious food at reasonable prices. Look beyond wantons and Thukpas and try your hand(and mouth!) at other dishes like Thenthuk.
Have a rooftop meal at Glenary’s, the iconic restaurant famed for its food and the view. Enjoy some house wine and chilli pork in their amazing ambience.
We also wanted a special candlelight dinner which our wonderful hotel planned and arranged in our balcony (No, it wasn’t our anniversary/birthday!)That was one experience I will cherish.
8. VISIT A TEA PLANTATION
Make some time during your trip to visit one of the many tea plantations dotting the landscape. Some of them include Glenburn tea estate, Makaibari tea estate and Happy valley tea estate.
9. VISIT THE PEACE PAGODA
A popular tourist spot is the peace pagoda which is located just 10 mins from the main town, on the foot of the Jalpahar hills.
10. CHILL ON MALL ROAD
Spend the evenings lounging on mall road amidst the hustle bustle of normal life. Mall road is the perfect place to get a feel of Darjeeling where you can people watch, shop for souvenirs and just spend time doing nothing !
Let me be honest. The sightseeing in and around Darjeeling is average. If you are well traveled, you may not be very impressed. Do not be over ambitious and try to cover all. So select a few places to explore and junk a few. This is the perfect place to explore slow travel.
Most tours offer 3 point and 7 point itineraries for day trips. To make your choice easier, these are some tips.
Do not make separate car tours for viewing the Batasia Loop. View it during your toy train ride itself (more on that below)
Skip the Japanese Pagoda. Its pretty average.
The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the Zoo remain closed on Thursdays. If you plan to visit these places, make your schedule accordingly.
Make a day trip to Mirik if you have the time. It takes around 2 hours to go there.
I hope you all enjoyed this handy little guide on the best things to do in Darjeeling and found it useful to plan a future trip !