Inspite of being one of the popular hill stations of India, Darjeeling is still untouched by many travelers across India It is very famous destination for travelers from abroad. The place is called the second home for people from the city of joy, Kolkata. During the summer holidays you will find many people from Bengal visiting the destination. The main reason is accessibility. Darjeeling is only 16 hours away from Kolkata by bus or train. It is 5 hours by Flight plus car and you can get the view of Himalayas with the touch of cold. Many travelers across India usually have dilemmas of going there because of the time required for the trip. If you have the same thought then please read the whole article and decide.
Routes and Rates:
One can plan a trip to Darjeeling with a budget of Rs.8000/- per head including stays in decent hotels. My first trip costed me only Rs.8500/-. Here you can choose between the options depending on your budget and duration of the trip.
Train : From Kolkata – New Jalpaiguri (NJP) or Sliguri Station : Rs. 360/- for SL and Rs. 945/- for AC 3 Tier.
Bus : From Kolkata – Sliguri Station : Rs. 500/- for Non A/C seater and Rs. 1000 – 1200/- For A/C seater.
Flight : CCU to IXB (Bagdogra airport) – Rs. 1650/- to Rs. 3000/- (Try to book at least 1 month before to get the lowest price on fights)
After reaching the Railway station or bus stop one can get shared taxi and bus to reach Darjeeling city. Cost will be around Rs.250- 300/-. For personal cabs it will be around Rs. 1500/-.
From Airport one can book prepaid taxi which will cost you around Rs. 1700/-. You will not get any shared taxi from there, at least I could not find any.
All the cars will take around 3:30 to 4:00 hours to reach the city. Buses will take around 5 hours.
There is another option to reach Darjeeling from NJP if you have time and excitement for the famous Toy Train. It starts from the NJP station at 10:00 a.m. and reaches Darjeeling at 5:20 p.m. You can enjoy the scenic beauty of Himalaya hills enroute.
Cost : Rs.1285/- for First Class (FC) and Rs,1535/- for A/C CC.
For saving time one can take overnight bus or train to NJP or Siliguri and reach at around 7:00 – 8:00 a.m. and reach Darjeeling by 12:00 a.m. Else you can take the Toy train to reach by evening.
Bagdogra being a defense airport have flights arrival from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. only.
Inside the city try to stay near the Mall road. Mall road will give you access to various places and restaurants. The cost of staying in a good hotel beside Mall road will be starting from Rs. 1500 – 2000/-. One can book luxurious stays at various resorts around the place. There are very cheap hotels charging around Rs.500/- but you have to walk a bit inside from main roads.
Once you reach Darjeeling you can explore the city shops view points by walking only. But there are places of interests where you have to go by booking a tour taxi. One can finish all the places in a single day also. But it is better to plan for 3 days at least to enjoy the beauty of the place. There are tourist points available from where you can book taxi or else you can ask the hotel to provide one. Usually a 7 point tour will cost you around Rs. 2500/- but it varies depending on the season. The entire itinerary of our trip is given below.
Day 1 :
I visited the place twice and used different transports. First time I went by Train and the 2nd time by Flight. But both the times I reached the place around 12:00 p.m. After reaching there we checked out at the hotel. My hotel was already booked online so did not have to do much. Oh! One thing I forgot to tell.. I did not book any travel agent for the trip and planned the trip by myself. You can get enough information on the city after reaching the place. Anyways, we had our lunch at the hotel itself and just after finishing the meal we went outside to enjoy the view. It was month of March and the peak season was about to come in 2 weeks’ time. Though the city was crowded enough. We went straight to mall road and sat there for an hour and tried the find out places where we can visit in 2-3 hours time by walking only. We then headed to Mahakal mandir situated at the Mall itself but on top of the hill.
While returning we visited some shops to buy some suvenirs. You can visit some Curio shops where you can find exclusive old items. We came back to Mall road and sat on the bench for to enjoy some cultural programs like music and dance being performed at the center stage. No vehicles are allowed in Mall road, so you can’t take any vehicle to reach the place. Before returning to hotel we tried some road side fast foods which tasted awesome. Upon returning to hotel I asked the manager to get us a car for the next day.
The next day we had to start early as we wanted to see sunrise from Tiger hill view point to enjoy the beauty of Mt. Kanchenjunga, the 3rd highest mountain of the world. We started at 3:30 a.m. in the morning. It took us around 30 minutes to reach The Tiger hill. But one should reach early to get a view otherwise it becomes very crowded off late. You have to be very lucky to get the clear view as most of the time it will be covered by clouds. I have heard from many who went there for 3-4 consecutive days but failed to get a view. We were very lucky to get the view on the first go amidst chilling cold in the morning.
Upon returning we visited Batasia loop. It is a spiral railway track to give elevation to the railway line. The place has made like a park and another view point of Mt. Kanchenjunga.
View From BATASIA Loop
After that we visited Ghum Monastery. It is the most famous Monastery in Darjeeling and it is quite big also. The view from the top is amazing,
After visiting the places we went straight to Darjeeling station to have a ride of famous toy train. We booked the ticket from IRCTC site to reach to Ghum station, the highest railway station of India situated at 2258 meters height from the sea level. The Ghum station is also having one railway museum where we had visited the history for around an hour. You can also have a look at the famous steam engine at the backyard of the station.
Many people face difficulty in booking the Joyride of Toy train from IRCTC site. Please select from station as DARJEELING and to station as TO DARJEELING. You will be able to find the trains and book it easily online.
The Toy Train
After spending the day we headed back to the hotel and had dinner. At the hotel.
I planned this day to cover other famous tourist spots. We started from the hotel at 7:00 a.m. to have breakfast at the very famous Keventer’s.
And after finishing the heavy breakfast we went straight to Japanese temple – peace pagoda. You have to walk through some big pine tree trails from the car drop point to reach to the temple. Again you can get a solid top view of the city from here.
After that we went to rock garden. It is beautiful man made garden on the steps of the hills. You will be also able to get some streams flowing down the hills, flowers. When we reached there it was raining and the view was much better.
After returning from the rock garden we went straight to the great Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI). All details of mountaineering, trekking you can get from here. You can get the history of Himalayan expeditions, Mt Everest expeditions, accessories used by the mountaineers when you visit the museum.
After returning from HMI we went to the Zoological Garden of Darjeeling. You can get to see various species along with some exclusive Himalayan species.
After that we went to a tea garden. You can go inside the garden and get some photographs wearing the local dresses worn by the people working in the garden. You can also get the view of mountains sitting in the middle of the lush green tea plants. Just outside you can test some tea before buying them. You can also visit the ropeway station to have views from the top. We could not go there as it started raining again. On the way back we visited the Tenzing rock.
We went back to hotel for just to get freshen up and again went outside to explore more places around. There are many other places if you want to visit. There is a botanical garden just outside the city which takes only 30mins walk. There are many small shops selling winter special clothing, hats and bags, but you have to walk and find them.
After having breakfast at the hotel we started for return journey by our private car. The day was very clear and the Mt. Kanchenjunga was visible almost from everywhere. Keep ample amount of time while returning as the hilly roads can have heavy traffic due to some problems like car breakdown, small landslide etc. I had a similar experience and lost 2 hours extra though I had enough time and did not face any trouble. Please be careful about this. Also as Bagdogra airport is very small you need to reach at least 1:30 hours before the schedule departure of the flight.
The trip which I explained above is for the main tourist locations around Darjeeling city. If you have more 3-4 days time then you can also plan for other places which are little far from the main city but falls in the district of Darjeeling. Here are some places around the city :
Mirik, Makaibari tea estate, Margaret’s deck, Kurseong, Lepcha Jagat, Sillery Gaon, Rishop, Lolegaon.
This places are comparatively less crowded but take 2-2.5 hours drive from the main city. One can spend days in leisure in these places. If you plan for 7-8 days trip then you can enjoy these places too. Some people also opt for a trip to Gangtok, Sikkim which is around 3-3.5 hours drive from Darjeeling. So before planning the trip think about the number of days and which areas you want to cover.