Darjeeling, once just a village cluster under the dominion of Nepal and Sikkim bloomed as a 19th British hill station destination. The colonial legacy, inherited from its status as the summer capital of British India, and its own authentic blend of cultures is very much alive here. Along with the colonial legacy, it is the beautiful panoramas, and wildlife that attracts visitors throughout the year. Here are some Darjeeling destinations that a nature lover must visit.
In winters, slow sunrise over snow peaked mountains is a treat to the eyes. During spring, visitors come here for Tiger Hill’s great treks. Tiger Hill is the region’s highest point, as early as 3 am in the morning, cars line up to spot a spectacular sunrise. Many choose to wait at the tower-house, which has paid seating facilities. A trek to Tiger Hill takes you through some of the Darjeeling’s oldest tea plantations and gives you soaring panoramas of Kangchenjunga and the Mt. Everest.
As the name suggests, Observatory Hill (near Chowrarasta square) is a well known point to observe the Kangchenjunga (the world’s third highest peak) and 12 other peaks, all above 20,000 feet, in all their glory. Those spiritually inclined must also visit the Bhutia Busty monastery, Darjeeling’s oldest monastery.
The Shiva temple is visible on the hilltop that rises above Chowrasta and features a sacred cave. You’ll spot plenty of monkeys here. Visit between October to November for this great view. Kids will love pony rides nearby.
Happy Valley Tea Estate
One of Darjeeling’s biggest tourist attractions is the 437-acres tea plantation which is 2,100 meters above sea level and is also one of Darjeeling’s biggest tea plantation. It is home to the world’s highest tea factory and a visit here promises stunning vistas of valleys in every direction. The original factory has been turned into a museum and the tea from this estate is sold across the world. It is crowded between March and May, a peak season for tea leaf plucking and processing.
Neora Valley National Park
The 159 square kilometer Neora Valley National Park is one of the richest hubs of wildlife in the North East. Almost 30 years old, it is popular for being home to one of India’s biggest Red Panda settlements. Other endangered flora and fauna also consider it home due to its undisturbed natural habitat, the inaccessible hilly terrain makes it an important sanctuary. It therefore offers incredible adventurous travel opportunities as some parts of the forest are relatively not mapped. You’ll spot exotic animals like clouded leopard, sloth bear, and the Himalayan flying squirrel.
Mirik is a beautiful tourist spot, it offers easy accessibility and unparalleled serenity. You must visit Sumendu lake, which is bordered by a garden and pine trees on either sides, connected by an arching footbridge. A road with Kangchenjunga soaring at the horizon borders the lake and is great for beautiful walks. You can also try shikara rides and pony riding and buy souvenir at the colorful Mirik Bazar. You can get here by air (Bagdogra airport) and by rail (New Jalpaiguri adjacent to Siliguri). Rai Dhap is a great picnic spot, in case you want to relax in the sun.