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Tour Destinations - India - Darjeeling

Darjeeling:
Darjeeling conjures visions of snow peaks, serenity of vibrant green hills steeped in splendor, a land of breathtaking beauty crowned by the majestic Himalayas. Darjeeling is one of the most magnificent hill resorts in the world. This heavenly retreat is bathed in hues of every shade. Flaming red rhododendrons, sparkling white magnolias, 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. The crest of Kanchenjunga shining in the first dawn light truly supports the title.

Darjeeling beckons thousands today for a leisurely respite from the bustle of the madding crowd. The traveller - whether a tourist or a trekker, an ornithologist or a photographer, a botanist or an artist - will find in Darjeeling an experience which will remain etched in the memory - forever.
Tiger Hill-Tiger Hill is the best point in Darjeeling for watching sunrise. Located at a height of 7,407 feet above sea level, the hilly trails through the mountains lead to the hill top. On a clear day, the entire Himalayan range can be seen. It is at a distance of 11 km from the main city of Darjeeling.

Sunrise tours to Tiger Hill are arranged by hotels. Normally, the pickup time from the hotel is around 4 am. It is better to reach a little early in order to secure a place. There are tea stalls selling flavored Darjeeling tea along with snacks. There are also shops from where one can pick up souvenirs like hand crafted items or picture post cards of Kanchenjunga and Darjeeling.

     

Tiger Hill:
Tiger Hill is located 11km (6.8 miles) from Darjeeling town and above Ghoom. It's the highest point in the Darjeeling area at an altitude of 8482 feet (or 2590 meters). The best season to see the dazzling snow covered peaks as the sun rises is between Mid October to December. March to April is also a good time. For sunrise, you will need to start by 3:30am in the morning so that you reach by 4.15am. Some taxi drivers will insist that you start even earlier. There is a reason why. As you reach close to the summit, particularly during the high season there would be a huge queue of cars lined up. Hundreds of tourists come here every day for the sunrise view during this time. As a result, you may have to walk uphill quite a bit as your vehicle may be parked much below the top. And if the tower-house from where people watch the sunrise gets full by the time you reach, then you will probably need to watch the sunrise standing on a meadow little below the summit. Remember, Darjeeling's weather can change anytime. The fog and the mist play a mystical game here all the time. They can come from nowhere and put a white blanket all around. You can't predict that. In fact, looking at the weather and the sky from Darjeeling Town is almost no indication of how the weather may be at Tiger Hill. Cloud and fog in this area lie at various levels of the mountains; sometimes they may be above you, other times you may be above them. So no one can guarantee a perfect sunrise view from the Tiger Hill. In many occasions, tourists are able to see the sun after it has risen quite a bit in the sky and not when they want to see it rising over the horizon and spreading its multicolor hue on the snow capped peaks. So, be prepared to experience the magical play of the sunrise the way the nature offers you. Just before the sun comes up, the peaks begin to emerge. It’s hard to take your eyes off the dazzling snow peaks of Kanchenjunga that has vive treasure peaks of the snow, the highest of those being 28,169 ft (or 8,586 meters) which is the third highest peak of the world. On a clear day if the mist doesn’t play foul, you can even see the world’s highest peak Mount Everest 29,029 ft ( 8,848 meters) which lies about 225 km away and also the Mount Makalu 27,769 ft ( 8,464 meters). About 135 km away is the Tibet’s Chomol Hari Mountain which is said to be world’s most beautiful peak. And then the sun rises above the horizon a little away from the peaks.

     

Japanese Peace Pagoda:
Japanese Peace Pagoda is one of the most popular attractions in the Darjeeling city of West Bengal. It is one of those Peace Pagodas in the world that have been established with the aim of creating a special niche for enlightening people from all religions, creeds and origins, to come together and work for world peace. It was build under the supervision of a Buddhist Monk, Nichidatsu Fujii, who was also the founder and preceptor of Nipponzan Myohoji, a Buddhist order for world peace.

The foundation stone of the Japanese Peace Pagoda in Darjeeling was laid down by Fujii himself, on 3rd November 1972. However, this Pagoda was inaugurated after his death, in 1992, by his senior most disciples. Nichidatsu Fujii, popularly known as Fujii Guruji, was also a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. Perturbed by the tragedy that followed the dropping of atom bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in 1945, Nichidatsu Fujii pledged to teach the world the importance of non-violence, goodwill and harmony.

Japanese Peace Pagoda of Darjeeling comes across as one of Fujii's efforts to teach world a lesson of spirituality and peace. It was designed by Dr M Ohka of Japan. This pagoda, which is 28.5 meters long and 23 meters in diameter, still stands as a sacred symbol of harmony and brotherhood, inspiring the entire world. The only motive of this sacred testament is to establish unity, harmony and goodwill amongst people belonging to different sects of society. Whenever you happen to visit Darjeeling, make sure to pay a visit to this 'peace monument'.

     
Ghoom Monastery:
This monastery is situated just opposite to the Batasia Loop or the War Memorial. Nearly 8 kilometers from Darjeeling is the Ghoom Gompa. Here a very beautiful statue of the Maitriyia Buddha is established. The Monastery has also preserved some of the rare handwritten Buddhist manuscripts. There are three other Gumpha like Samdenchoeling, Sakyachoeling and the Phin Sotholing. Midway between Ghoom and entry of Darjeeling town is the Thupten Sangachoeling Gompa. Tourist and Guest interested in Tibetan Buddhism often visit or study here. A little closer to Darjeeling on the same road is the Sonada Gompa.This place also has a very good market where you can buy the purses, bags and other decorative items made by the local women at very reasonable price The monks or many Buddhist women sells Tibetan handicrafts and religious objects. If the monastery is closed nearby cottages will definitely please you with their ware. It is advisable for the guest to visit this area either early morning or late evening to get a glimpse of the beauty of the Himalaya and the rising or setting sun. At Ghoom one can spend more than a day. The Monastery, The highest Railway Station of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, The War Memorial, Batasia Loop and the scenic beauty is worth enjoying.
     
Batasia Loop:
The Batasia Loop is a spiral railway created to lower the gradient of ascent of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in Darjeeling district of West Bengal, India. At this point, the track spirals around over itself through a tunnel and over a hilltop. The Batasia loop situated almost 5 km away from the town is a gigantic railway loop where the Toy Train makes a 360 Degree turn. It was basically built to make it possible for the Toy Train to cut the deep ascend. Strategically located the Batasia Loop offers a panoramic view of the Kanchanjunga Range. A War Memorial constructed in the memory of the brave sons of the soil who laid down their lives in the different wars since the independence of the nation adds to its attraction. There is also a well furbished market where visitors can buy locally made purses, bags and other decorative items.
     
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute:
The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute was set up following the successful ascent of the Mount Everest-the highest peak in the world by the local hero Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir EdEdumund Hillary on 28 May 1953. The oldest mountaineering institute in the country carries out various mountaineering courses every year. Apart from Tenzing, legendary mountaineers like Nawang Gombu(the first man to climb Everest twice) and Lattoo Dorjee Sherpa have helped build the reputation of this pioneering institute.
     
Himalayan Zoological Park:
Established on the 14th of August, 1958, the zoo was dedicated to the memory of Padmaja Naidu, former Governor of West Bengal on the 21st November, 1975. Considered as one of the best zoos in the country, it is the only centre that breeds the tibetan wolf in captivity. Breeding programmes for the endangered red panda, snow leopard and the siberian tiger are also carried out at PNHZP. The zoo is open on all days except on Thursdays and other national holidays.
     

Tenzing Rock:
Tenzing Rock, a gigantic natural rock in Darjeeling is named after Tenzing Norgay, the man who created history by climbing the Everest first time along with Edmund Hillary in 1953.

Opposite to this is the Gombu Rock named after Nawang Gombu, nephew of Tenzing who was the first person to climb the Everest twice, once in 1963 and then in 65. He took over as the Director of Field Training at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute after Tenzing retired in 1976.
Both these rocks are used for rock climbing training by HMI.

There is a board right on top of the Tenzing Rock that says “HMI Rock Climbing Training Area”. While facing the Tenzing Rock, the left side or the left face of the rock is used by the professional rock climbers and the trainees. Most tourists make a mistake of going over to the right side where the approach to the top of another parallel rock is quite shorter.
Actually the right face of the rock can be used by amateur climbers or even tourists for climbing. However one needs to take help of guides and pay some nominal fee. The gradient of the right face is gentle and surface is easier for climbing.

The steep and almost vertical rock comes up from far below and rises high above the road level. Tenzing himself used to practice climbing on this rock. During a visit of erstwhile Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Tenzing demonstrated a climb on this rock without any safety equipment.

During and after the monsoon, the surface of the both rock get covered with slippery moss that makes it even more difficult to climb. Often the moss is cleaned up and powders sprayed on the surface to circumvent this problem. There are many temporary stalls put up by the local Nepali vendors on that side selling tea, momos (dumplings) etc. They set up tables under a large shade.

     

Tibetan Refugee Centre:
This complex was setup by the Tibetan refugees in Darjeeling on October 2, 1959 after they followed Dalai Lama and escaped from Tibet. The refugees adopted the principle of self help so that they could become self-independent and completely rehabilitate themselves in a foreign country, which they did gracefully.

They received the site “Hill Side” measuring some 4 acres of area from the state government to build the center. It’s located on a hill top that can be approached from Lebong Cart Road by car. Initially they started raising funds through donations, subscriptions, charity shows and even through exhibition soccer match. Soon they started receiving some funds from domestic and international voluntary organizations as well.

     

Happy Valley Tea Garden:
The estate was established in 1854 making it oldest tea estate of Darjeeling, and at a height of 6,800 feet, it is also one of the highest tea factories in the world. David Wilson, an Englishman, had named the garden Wilson Tea Estate and by 1860 had started cultivation of tea. In 1903, the estate was taken over by an Indian, Tarapada Banerjee, an aristocrat from Hooghly. In 1929, Banerjee bought the Windsor Tea Estate nearby, and merged the two estates under the name of Happy Valley Tea Estate. G.C. Banerjee was the next owner of Happy Valley Tea Estate. He with his wife Annapurna Devi and three daughters (Nonimukhi, Monmaya and Savitri) lived there for some time. Annapurna Devi was related to the Ganguly family of Khandwa; her maternal uncle was Kunjalal Bihari, father of the famous cine Gangulys.

In March 2007, after remaining nearly dormant for nearly four years as the tea industry had experienced a slump, the estate was bought over by S K Bansal, of Ambotia Tea Group, which established a new factory within the premises, and started modernization process, replating and switching to organic farming. Finally, the estate reopened to public in 2008, with the original factory turned into a working museum. It also displayed single piston slow-speed engines, and the shaft machines and sells tea-related mementos. The tea estate is spread over 437 acres, at a height of 6,800 ft. (2,100 m). The bushes in the garden are very old — the minimum age is 80 years, and some are 150 years old. Very little re-plantation has been done in the recent past. Situated around 3 km north of town, below Hill Cart Road, accessible via Lochnager Road from Chowk Bazaar, this tea estate is the closest tea estate to Darjeeling town, and tourists often visit the garden. The months of March to May are the busiest time here, when plucking and processing are in progress. It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There are seasons for different types of tea. Green and little bit of White Tea are plucked during March to May. June to August is the season for Black Tea. September to November is again the season for Green and White Tea. During the other months (December to February), teas are not plucked and the machines do not operate. The teas produced at the Happy Valley Tea Estates are all exported. Harrods in London is the main distributor of the tea.

A committee with 10 members was formed that was responsible for the development and management of the center. Ms Gaylo Thondup was the first President of the center. One of the prominent members of the first committee was Tenzing Norgay who climbed the Everest in May 1953 with Edmund Hillary.
A small center that started with only 4 workers with the objective of self rehabilitation and helping the under-privileged Tibetan community in the area has now grown to accommodate more than 650 Tibetan refugees. You will see Tibetan men and women making exquisite hand crafted items like woolen shawls & carpets, carved wooden crafts, leather jackets, coats and lots of other items. They have a training center that imparts skills to the new workers.

Here you will see all the hand crafted items on sale. There are many ladies jackets, carpets, gloves, woolen aprons, bags, various types of curios, small models of Buddha, cards, pouches, carved wooden items, hand painted scenery and pictures of Tibetan women on cloth pieces, and many other items.
There is a small counter where two Tibetan women help with the transactions. There is a board that says “Fixed Price” which essentially means no bargaining. A Hindi music usually plays here in the background.

The factory of the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center where the all the handicraft items are made, is located at a place known as Hill Side. From Lebong Cart Road opposite to the Rangeet Valley Tea Estate, a narrow steep road on the right goes uphill. This winding road leads to the center. From Darjeeling town center, it takes about 20 minutes to reach the center by car.

     

Mirik:
Mirik is famous for its scenic beauty, its beautiful Sumendu Lake, the monastery and other activities like horse riding and boating. This hill station serves as a great place for complete relaxation for those who want to escape from the city madness. Situated at an altitude of 1767 meters, Mirik is widely covered by cardamom and pine forests. Besides, there are many other plantations and orchards in Mirik that attracts a lot of nature lovers from all over the country. You can walk down the gardens of Mirik and enjoy the natural surroundings. Don’t miss the Sumendu Lake, which has a bridge over it that spans 80 meters and enters a dense pine grove.

Places to see in Mirik: Perhaps, the biggest attraction of Mirik is the Mirik Lake, which is a great place to take a horse ride around it. Besides, there is the coffee and tea plantation that makes it a good spot, especially for nature lovers. Religious people will have a pretty good time visiting some places of religious importance like Shri Mangal Dham, a temple that was built in 1933. Devi Sthan or the Singha Devi Temple located on the western bank of the Sumendu Lake is another place of religious importance. Rai Dhap, another beautiful spot overlooking Mirik is apt for picnics. This place is the main source for water for the people of Mirik. There are a few viewpoints located all around Mirik, which offers panoramic views of Mt. Kanchenjungha too.

 
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