Ringeet Vally Ropeway of Darjeeling
The rope way was started in 1968 by the forest development department and comprised only a single car which ran one way. Later, it was upgraded to 16 cars and went to and fro. From an elevation of 2,134 m (7,001 ft) in Darjeeling’s North Point (Singamari), this bicable ropeway descended to 244 m (801 ft) at Singla on the banks of the Ramman river, which with Little Rangeet river, meets the Great Rangeet. Stopping at Tukver, Burnesbeg and Singla tea estates, it took 45 minutes to reach Singla Bazar, 8 km away. The rope way passed over dense forests, mountain ridges, water falls, flowing rivers, green valleys and tea gardens.
The Great Rangeet flows from the glacial elevation of Kabru, in the lower regions of the Kanchenjunga, meeting first the Ramman and then the Little Rangeet further down. Singla offers is a fascinating view of the lovely valleys of these two streams. The Little Rangeet flows across the lush green Bijanbari valley. While the Little Rangeet is overflowing with trout, the valley has wildlife, flowers and butterflies.
The passenger rope way was operated as a joint venture of the West Bengal Forest Development Corporation and the Conveyor and Rope way Services Private Ltd. It had been revamped in 1988.
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Himalayan Mounteneering Institute
This is a must visit place while in Darjeeling. Situated near Darjeeling Zoo,this is one of the most visited spot in Darjeeling. This institute was created by the late Tenzing Norgay. He was a Sherpa who climbed the Mount Everest on 29th of may 1953 with Sir Edmund Hillary. All the equipments used in that climb are still a highlight in that institute.
They also impart training by highly qualified climbers on Rock Climbing ( I did that too!), mountain climbing, trekking but their main specialty is climbing very high and difficult mountains.
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The Observatory Hill or The Mall
Observatory Hill is a hill near Chowrasta square, or The Mall as it is popularly known, in Darjeeling, West Bengal, India. Magnificent views of snow-clad peaks, including Mount Kanchenjunga, are visible from the Observatory Hill. The Bhutia Busty monastery was originally located here. Now the hill has the temple of Mahakal. Two important arteries of the town, Nehru Road and Bhanubhakta Sarani, meet at Chowrasta.
Chowrasta and The Mall around Observatory Hill are the main centres of tourist attraction in Darjeeling. They spread on hill slopes at an altitude of 2,134 metres (7,000 feet). In clear weather, one can see Mount Kanchenjungha and twelve other peaks, all above 20,000 feet.The view is clear during October to November. At other times of the year, it is a matter of luck, with clouds engulfing the entire area and some portions of the view available at opportune moments.
In spite of the high tourist flow, The Mall is the cleanest area in Darjeeling. Apart from the mountain views, tourists flock to the Chowrasta for pony rides (mostly by children) and collecting souvenirs. There are benches for tourists to sit and enjoy the "show". Vehicles are not allowed in The Mall, except for a small stretch near Raj Bhavan and Windamere Hotel.
The place if full of locals and tourists as well throughout the day. There are several family owned shops here since British days selling Tea, Souvenir, paintings or handicrafts. You may buy Darjeeling souvenirs from mone of these shops.
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The Mahakal Temple
Just up the Mall the temple of Mahakal ( Lord Shiva) is very sacred place for the locals and tourists as well. This place is visited by many throughout the day! We sat here on the New Year's Eve of 2001 ( 1st January). We also offered our prayers to Lord Shiva.
Rising abruptly from Chowrasta is the hilltop. Situated atop is the ancient temple of Mahakal, a form of Lord Shiva. There is a cave sacred to worshipers in the temple. In Sanskrit, the word "Durjay Ling", means "Shiva of invincible prowess, who rules the Himalayas." There is a suggestion that the name Darjeeling could have emanated from this name. The place where the Mahakal Temple stands was once occupied by the Buddhist monastery. It is still a place of great sanctity for the Bhutias. Bells ring in the midst of fluttering flags, which are used to pray in the shrine. Monkeys are seen in plenty at the Observatory Hill.
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A zoo was established on August 14, 1958 in the Birch Hill neighbourhood of Darjeeling under the Department of Education of the Government of West Bengal with a goal to study and preserve Himalayan fauna. Its first Director and founder was Dilip Kumar Dey. Mr. Dey, who belonged to the Indian Forest Service was on deputation to the Department of Education for the express purpose of establishing a high-altitude zoological Park specializing mainly in Himalayan flora and fauna. The Park's prized possessions were a pair of Siberian (Ussuri) tigers presented to the Government of India by Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev in 1960. Over the years famous names in the world of Conservation have been attracted to and have visited the HZP. The zoo now contains endangered animals like snow leopards, red pandas, gorals (mountain goat), Siberian tigers and a variety of endangered birds. However, there has been concern regarding the fact that the Himalayan animals may face a threat due to rising temperatures in the hilly area.
It specializes in breeding animals adapted to alpine conditions, and has successful captive breeding programs for the Snow leopard, the critically endangered Himalayan wolf and the Red panda.
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St.Andrew's Church, Darjeeling.
This is an English Church and a burial ground for the small community of Darjeeling Christians. It was started in 1840 by then British East India company as the final resting home for their officers and soldiers.
One of the most famous graves here ,belongs to an extraordinary Hungarian, Alexander Csoma de Koros, a philologist who mastered the Tibetan language, compiled a dictionary of it and went on to serve as the librarian of Calcutta's Asiatic Society. In 1842, he died in Darjeeling en route to Lhasa.
Every year a high ranking Hungarian official travels to Darjeeling to lay wreathe on his grave along with Indian Government.
One tier up, a white pillar marks the final resting place of George William Aylmer Lloyd, who died in Darjeeling in 1865 at the age of 76. It too is well kept although if anyone has come to pay their respects recently, they've left behind no indication of it.
This place is must visit for nostalgic tourists!
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Ghoom Monastry at Ghoom.
After visiting Ghoom Rail Loop, please walk down to Ghoom Monastry. It is said Buddha's eyes are made of very large size Diamond. The Monk in the picture also confirmed this fact.
Ghum Monastery or Ghoom Monastery is the popular name of the Sampten Choling Monastery or Yiga Choeling Monastery located at Ghum at an elevation of 8,000 feet, 8 km from Darjeeling in the state of West Bengal, India.
The monastery follows the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. There is a 15-feet high statue of "Maitreya Buddha" (Coming Buddha) in the monastery. It contains images of Buddha’s disciples, Chenrezi and Chongapa.
It was built in 1875 by Lama Sherab Gyatso and is the largest of the three monasteries in Ghum.
Amongst the Buddhist texts available are the Kangyur, the Tibetan Buddhist canon, running into 108 volumes. The monks fly prayer flags in the Tibetan tradition
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Breathtaking Beauty of Darjeeling
If you are in Darjeeling by any chance, please treat this queen of hills with great respect. Please try to visit all the corners of the city, you shall find all the corners of the city not only beautiful but extraordinarily breathtakingly beautiful! Please give a full day just to appreciate the beauty of the nature and to love the nature!
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- Jungle and Rain Forest
Darjeeling Gymkhana Club.
Darjeeling Gymkhana Club Ltd. was established in the year 1909 and occupies an important place in the tourism map of Darjeeling,”Queen of Hills.” One of the most well equipped Clubs of the region with facilities of Indoor and Outdoor games, it is prominently located above the Mall Road next to Raj Bhawan. At present, it has a membership strength of around 400 permanent members and 49 special members (mainly 1st Class Gazetted Officers).
The club also offers temporary membership to the tourists.
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Himalayan Mountain Railway
Visiting Darjeeling? The first thing comes in mind to board in the Toy Train, now an Unesco Heritage Site. I have boarded this Toy train at least 20 times since childhood. The first time I traveled with my father from Siliguri to Darjeeling in 1973 perhaps, since then several time. Many Indian movies were also shot with this train, the most famous being Aradhana and Jhuk Gaya Asman in 1969! Those were the glory days!
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, nicknamed the "Toy Train", is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge railway from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling in West Bengal, run by the Indian Railways.
It was built between 1879 and 1881 and is about 86 kilometres (53 mi) long. The elevation level is from about 100 m (328 ft) at New Jalpaiguri to about 2,200 metres (7,218 ft) at Darjeeling. Four modern diesel locomotives handle most of the scheduled services: however the daily Kurseong-Darjeeling return service and the daily tourist trains from Darjeeling to Ghum (India's highest railway station) are handled by vintage British-built B Class steam locomotives.Since 1999 the train has been a World Heritage Site as listed by UNESCO.
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Himalayan Mountain Railway Darjeeling-Ghoom
There are several services for the local people, which now runs on Diesel Engine. But there is special service for the tourists, which starts at 2.00 PM and takes you from Darjeeling to Ghoom at 8000+ feet to Gorkha Memorial and back. it takes Rs.200/- per person. But the journey is guaranteed to give you the feeling of Raj days as the train is run by British Built Steam engine.
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Yiga Chholing Monastery
The Yiga Chholing Monastery, also known as Ghoom Monastery is one of the most famous monasteries in the area. It sits at an altitude of almost 7,500 feet a few kilometers from Darjeeling. It was established sometime between 1850 and 1875.
It is a Yellow-hat Buddhist Monastery - a school of Buddhism founded by Tibetan religious leader and philosopher, Tsongkhapa - although its most influential figure is the Dalai Lama.
The inside is colorful - reds, yellows, blues - and ornate. A photograph of the Dalai Lama is prominently displayed. It houses Buddist scriptures and the 15 foot high sacred statue of Maitreya Buddha (Future Buddha).
There were also musical instruments used during prayer services, dozens of monk’s cloth covered prayer books and a table full of candles. Feel free to light a candle. Take time to take in all the fine details - it was fascinating. Don't miss the prayer wheel out front (as you recite a prayer you turn the wheel and it is supposed to bring purification).
You'll need to find someone to ask permission to enter and you may take photos. A donation is customary.
See my Darjeeling travelogues for additional photos of the monastery.
Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Center
This was one of my 2 favorite places/experiences in Darjeeling.
Thousands of Tibetan refugees - including the Dalai Lama - settled in Darjeeling after the Chinese invasion. The center was established in 1959 which gave the refugees the opportunity to continue practicing (or learning) their skills (woodwork, carpet weaving, etc.) and provided a sales outlet.
The complex today, consists of an orphange, school, clinic, home for the elderly, the crafts workshops and showroom, and a gompa (Buddhist temple), and there are over 750 people living there.
We spent time walking around the center and visiting the workshops. The people were so friendly, especially the children, who were absolutely delightful. I spent time photographing two little children (I just fell in love with them!) while Sandy played basketball with some older kids.
We made some purchases in the showroom (a beautiful wallhanging, among other things). The prices are similar to stores outside of the center but all of the money goes back into the Tibetan community (one of the reasons I wanted to visit in the first place) as the center is self-funded.
The center also takes donations and has opportunities for volunteers (teachers, medical staff, childcare and geriatric workers). Those interested in volunteering should contact the head office at the center or call 91 354 225 5938.
The center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Only the stores are open on Sunday.
I would not miss an opportunity to visit the center while in Darjeeling!
See my Darjeeling travelogues for additional photos from the center.
Padmaja Naidu Zoo
The zoo was actually established to conserve and preserve Himalayan fauna. I had read that Padmaja Naidu Zoo had a breeding program for snow leopards and this was my reason for wanting to visit the zoo. Sadly, the program was inactive when we visited and we only saw one very unhappy snow leopard. The program was unsuccessful due to the disturbance of visitors and the leopards were moved. However the zoo is a well-known center for captive breeding of other endangered species and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
I was very disappointed with the animal enclosures. The cages were too small - and the large cats especially - paced aimlessly. I found it to be a little distressing and surprising for a zoo that has the types of programs that this one does.
The setting was very green, peaceful and clean(!) and there were some wonderful animals including Tibetan wolves, red pandas, Himalyan bears, and other rare alpine animals. India's only Siberian tigers are here as well. The wolves were very playful and the red pandas were very cute.
If in Darjeeling, it's worth a stop to see some animals that you might not otherwise see. Hopefully the snow leopards will be back.
See my Darjeeling travelogues for additional zoo photos.
The zoo is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Entrance fee is Rs 100, with an additional small charge for cameras.
Also known as the Nipponjan Myohoji Buddhist Temple, the Japanese Temple is located near the Peace Pagoda. The temple, built in 1972, was designed in traditional Japanese architectural style by Dr. M. Okha. The inside is not very large but it is very colorful with several smallish statues of Buddha, flowers, and a large prayer book.
The philosophy of the temple is peace and spirituality. And you definitely feel that both inside the temple and outside where it is beautifully situated with a spectacular view of Mount Kanchenjunga and the Darjeeling city line.
Spend some time enjoying the garden and the view before heading to the Peace Pagoda.
The temple is open from 4:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. You may enter and take photographs except fduring prayertime. Shoes must be removed and left outside.
See my Darjeeling travelogues for additional photos of the temple.
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