Situated in the foothills of the Himalayan mountain range, in the North-East of India, Darjeeling offers subtle landscapes composed of tea plantations, peaks and some architectural pearls. In the heart of this city marked by Tibetan and Nepalese influences, let yourself be tempted by a stay of change and tranquility, away from the hustle-bustle of the big Indian cities.
Etymologically, the name Darjeeling originated from Tibetan expression Dorje Ling, translated from “the city of lights”.
In 1780, Darjeeling was under the control of Buddhist kings belonging to small Sikkim Kingdom before Nepalese disembarked to annex it. However, the rule of Nepal lasted for a very short duration. In 1816, the booming British Empire took over the city. After an agreement with British East India Company, Sikkim regained its authority over Darjeeling. In exchange, British reserved the right to control any future border disputes in the region.
In 1828, British undertook to build the city of Darjeeling, with the permission of the sovereign of Sikkim. Besides its strategic military importance in the region, the project also included the construction of a sanatorium for European troops. In 1835, the hill station of Darjeeling was founded. The following year was marked by the development of the first tea plantations. Until the Independence of India, the region experienced a certain period of prosperity.
From 1980, the tensions between Indian government and Darjeeling authorities likely effected the situation in the region. Since the riots of 1986, the calls for the independence of the region have gradually advanced, forcing the government of the country to grant a large measure of autonomy to the city.
Situated between 2000 and 3000 meters above sea level in the heart of West Bengal, in the north-eastern part of India, the city of Darjeeling has gained popularity across the world for tea, considered as one of the best quality of tea in the world. Great Britain and the former British colonies are among the main consumers of the region’s products since the nineteenth century. “Champagne of Black tea” is the name given to the Darjeeling tea by the amateurs of gastronomy in these countries. Connoisseurs appreciate it particularly for it lightness and its taste amalgamating the floral aromas with a spicy note not reminiscent of Muscat.
The subtle bitterness characteristic of the tannins released at the infusion is completely different. Beside black tea, the area also provides green teas called Oolongs. The tea plantations in the region are divided into gardens, with an area ranging from 80 to 500 hectares each, in an elevated area, which cannot be extended.
Apart from the amateurs of tea, Darjeeling equally allures the great adventurers. This tourist destination is situated at the start of the first peaks of Himalaya where you devote to hiking. It is also a city full of stories and cultures, populated by a mixed population. Buddhists and Hindus, Indians and Nepalese found refuge in this privileged region of the Sub-Continent.
As far as its architectural heritage is concerned, Darjeeling has some atypical monuments waiting to be discovered, to mention only the magnificent Tibetan and Buddhist monasteries. Registered as a World Heritage Site, Toy Train passing through the city of Darjeeling is equally a must-see tourist attraction. This unusual journey offers you the opportunity to admire, in the warm, diversified landscapes of the region. Do not miss visiting the Darjeeling Zoo, which is home to a wide variety of animal and plant species.
Due to its mountainous situation, Darjeeling enjoys pleasant temperatures on sunny days and a more or less Siberian cold during the night. However, the city can also be visited in winters, like in November, because although it’s very cold, the sun will warm you throughout the day.
Situated in the Eastern Nepal, the city experiences monsoon period between May and September. Do not venture there, unless you have a particular inclination for perilous mountain explorations.
How to get there
Darjeeling is situated at two hour drive from the airport of Bagdogra connecting all the major cities of India, like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. The journey to the city is generally done in 4X4.
If you prefer land route over air route, the station of New Jalpaiguri is the closest station from the city. Afterwards, you need about two hours to reach Darjeeling by car.
How to get there
In Darjeeling, hiking is preferred, if you wish to discover the charms of the city. Also, you need to carry hiking shoes, light clothes, and a hat to fully enjoy your city excursions, tea plantations or the surrounding mountains. Nevertheless, if you are not fond of hiking, you can always rent a bike or a rickshaw.
What to do in Darjeeling
- Taste the tea of the region
- Escape in the tea plantations
- Enjoy hiking in the nearby hills
- Visit the architectural monuments
- Go for a train ride
- Enjoy an outing at zoo.