Darjeeling India Tour

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Tour Package for Darjeeling

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Tea Harvester in Darjeeling
Darjeeling owes’ its grandeur to its natural beauty, its clean fresh mountain air and above all, the smiling resilient people for whom it is a home. Known for its natural splendor, Darjeeling’s best gift to its’ visitors is the dawn of a new day. The mountains awaken first with a tentative peeking of the sun. A steep ride, five kilometers from Ghoom, or an invigorating walk up a steep incline, leads sun worshippers to Tiger Hill. The air is chilly with darkness and damp. To the east, a dull orange sun emerged painting the sky with brilliant strokes of magenta, gold, orange and fuchsia. The snow capped Everest, Kabru, Kanchenjunga, Jannu and other peaks slowly emerge from slumber to start a new day. The sun worshippers gasp at the magnificent sight. As the fog lifts in the slowly penetrating sun, the town gradually comes alive. Amidst brewing of tea, the sing-song Gorkhali which is the local dialect, rises and falls like music.

The best time to visit Darjeeling is from March-May or September-November. The rains which start by May end are heavy downpours making living conditions cold and dreary. In winter there is a drastic fall in temperature from the summer’s 15 to 25 degrees centigrade to 2 to 10 degrees in winter.

The people of the region – Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Mirik – consist of the Gurungs from Western Nepal, other Gurkhas races from eastern Nepal, Bhutias and Lepchas from Sikkim and Dukpas from Bhutan. People from the plains have also settled here. The local fare is rice and meat curry and momos which are steamed dumplings, and of course, chow, the locally made noodles. This generally accompanied by chhang, a locally brewed wine made from millet or the jaad which is made from fermented rice. The Gurkhas are staunch Hindus and celebrate all Hindu festivals with equal dedication. But Dussehra is the most popular Gurkha festival.

No visit to Darjeeling is complete without a visit to Ghoom which is 6 km away from the main town. The hillock is dominated by the famous Yiga Choeling Monastery which has 15 images of the Maitreya Buddha. Belonging to the yellow hat sect, the monastery contains many ancient palm leaf and paper manuscripts in Tibetan script. The Museum of Natural History is where one can see a fine collection of Himalayan animals, reptiles, birds and insects. If flora is what one enjoys, then Llyod Botanic Garden is the place of interest. It has a marvelous collection of alpine flora and orchids.

Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park is the only center in India for the breeding of the rare snow leopard. The Ussurian tigers and the Himalayan black bear are also among its attractions. Neighboring the zoo is the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute established in 1954 by the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in the wake of the conquest of Everest. Tenzing Norgay was its first Director and Advisor till his demise. A kilometer from the zoo is the Darjeeling-Rangit Valley ropeway. Considered the longest in Asia, it is a thrilling ride with splendid views. If one is looking for souvenirs, then the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center. It produces excellent Tibetan crafts like carpets, wood and leather work. Established in 1959 after the Dalai Lama and his followers fled Tibet, it is a haven for ethnic Tibetan art.

Across the river, Teesta lies lush Kalimpong. The road weaves lazily up a steep incline to suddenly open up to an unexpected panorama. The first sight to greet the eye is the steeple of the Mac Farlane Church. Once the headquarters of a Bhutanese Governor, the word kalim means king’s minister and pong, the stronghold. It is also called Kalimpong or the black spur by the locals. However, the meaning that is popularly accepted is the Lepcha translation of the name which is “the ridge where we play” as the local tribesmen used to organize field sports here. At an altitude of 1250 meters, it has an area odd just 3.5 square miles with an approximate population of 40,000. Its rolling meadows are as yet untouched by tourism.

Prominent amongst the places of interest is a school, Dr. Graham’s Homes which was founded by Dr. John Anderson Grahman in 1900. This has been built on the slopes of Delo Hill, three kilometers from the town. For a bird’s eye view of the picturesque place, one has to go to Durpin Dara, an observatory point atop a hill from where one can get an awe-inspiring view of the mighty Himalayan ranges. Numerous monasteries dot the area among which the Pedong monastery and Thongsha Gompa are the oldest. Another monastery of interest is the Tharpa Choling Monastery constructed in 1937 by the Yellow Hat sect which is situated at Tirpai Hill at a distance of two kilometers from town.

About 4 km from town towards Teesta is located Kalimpong’s famous Swiss Welfare Dairy. It was set up many years ago by a Swiss missionary, father Andrea Butty. Cheese, butter and other dairy products of this center are in great demand and the quality is comparable to the finest that is imported. The visit to Kalimpong won’t be complete unless one spends several hours at the two bazaars. One on the main road, the other near 10th mile. It is a unique experience to see villagers turning up in their local costume at the bazaar on weekly market days to sell their farm products.

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Monk blowing Alpenhorns
Set in idyllic surroundings, Mirik is the place for those seeking peace and tranquility. At an altitude of 1967 meters, the climate is cool and temperate. The Sumendu Lake at the bottom of Mirik Spur is the most dominating feature reflecting the magnificence of the eastern Himalayas. The lake is 1.2 kilometers long and is fed by perennial streams. Riding on the colorful boats or crossing the lake over an artistic bridge, leads one to a charming path through forests on the other side. Fishing is a popular past time here.

Mirik is also almost completely surrounded by some of the best tea gardens of the region. It is also the largest producer of oranges in West Bengal. The orchards are on a spur two kilometers from Mirik. Tourist cottage constructed from locally available material have been constructed in the dense forest and provide all modern facilities for a comfortable sojourn. The DGHC Tourism (Tourism Deptt. of the Darjeeling Gurkha Hill Council) organizes conducted luxury coach tours from Darjeeling to Mirik and back on the same day during the tourist season.

Darjeeling’s traditional promenade, the Chow Rasta, bustles with the increasing tourist influx and is the throbbing heart of Darjeeling with restaurants and shops lining the way. It has famous eating joints, known especially for milk shakes, pastries and scrumptious patties. At certain studios one can buy the most fascinating photographs of the snow capped mountains that surround Darjeeling, and portraits of locals in traditional attire are souvenirs worth buying. Walking down a countless flight of steps, past colorful vendors, one will come to the lower bazaar. It is a more traditional and lively bazaar filled with a jostling melee of people.

There are flights from Calcutta to Bagdogra which is 90 kilometers from Darjeeling. The nearest railhead is Siliguri. The Toy train runs from New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri. There are taxis available from Bagdogra, Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri. If one has never been to Darjeeling and believes that real holidaying lies in the enjoyment of experience, then one should take the mini train from New Jalpaiguri. Completed way back in 1881 by Franklin Prestage, the mini train is the best way of traveling to the old Gurkha station of Darjeeling.

Hotels abound in Darjeeling. Besides the International Youth Hostel, there are more recently opened resorts as well. There is a hotel which boasts as the place where Jinnah met his wife whom he courted and married soon after. Many of the old villas and estates that passed into Indian hands once the British left have been converted into hotels. Hotel Shangrila which is built along the main promenade, Chowrasta, is typical of the traditional pagoda style architecture. It also houses a travel and trekking agency.

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