The highest spot in the area at 2590m, Tiger Hill
is near Ghoom, about 11km from Darjeeling. The hill is famous for its
magnificent dawn views over Kanchenjunga and other eastern Himalayan peaks. On a
clear day even Mount Everest is visible.
Every day a large convoy of battered Land
Rovers leaves Darjeeling at 4.30am, which means that in the smaller lodges
you get woken up at this time every day, whether you like it or not. It can be
very cold and very crowded at the top but coffee is available. There is a view
tower. Halfway down the hill a temple priest causes a massive traffic jam by
anointing the steering wheel of each vehicle for the return trip. Many take the
jeep one way and then walk back - a very pleasant two hour trip.
Close to Tiger Hill is Senchal Lake, which
supplies Darjeeling with its domestic water. It's a particularly scenic area and
popular as a picnic spot with Indian holiday-makers.
At 8598m, this is the world's third
highest mountain. From Darjeeling, the best uninterrupted views of it are from
Bhan Bhakta Sarani. The name Kanchenjunga is derived from the Tibetan Khang
(snow), chen (big), dzong (fortress or treasury) nga (five) - big five peaked
snow fortress, or big five peaked treasury of the snow.
Not far from Chowrasta is this colourful
monastery, with Kanchenjunga providing a spectacular backdrop. Originally a
branch of the Nyingmapa sect's Phodang Monastery in Sikkim, it was transferred
to Darjeeling in 1879. The shrine here originally stood on Observatory Hill.
There's library of Buddhist texts upstairs which houses the original copy of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
More correctly known as Yogachoeling
Gompa, this is probably the most famous monastery in Darjeeling and is about 8
km south of town, just below Hill Cart road and the train station near Ghoom.
It enshrines an image of the Maitreya Buddha. Foreigners are allowed to enter
the shrine and take photographs. As Ghoom is frequently swathed in mists, and
the monastery is old and dark, it is often affectionately called Gloom monastery
There are three other gompas in Ghoom: the very
large but relatively uninteresting Samdenchoeling, the nearby and
smaller Sakyachoeling, and the Phin Sotholing.
Nearer Darjeeling, on Tenzing Norgay Rd, Aloobari Monastery welcomes
visitors. The monks often sell Tibetan and Sikkimese handicrafts and religious
objects (usually hand bells). If the monastery is closed ask at the cottage next
door and they'll let you in.
Halfway between Ghoom and Darjeeling is the Thupten
Sangachoeling Gompa at Dali. Westerners interested in Tibetan Buddhism often
study here. A little closer to Darjeeling on the same road is the opulent Sonada
Situated above the Windamere Hotel, this
viewpoint is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. There is a Kali shrine here
and the multicoloured prayer flags double as trapezes for he monkeys. Watch out
for them as they can be aggressive.
The most conspicuous Hindu temple in Darjeeling,
this is just below the railway station and is modelled on the famous
Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu.
Established in 1903, a comprehensive but dusty
collection of Himalayan and Bengali fauna is packed into this interesting
museum. Among the 4300 specimens is the estuarine crocodile, the animal
responsible for the greatest loss of human life in Asia. The museum is open
daily except Thursday, from 10am to 4pm.
This zoo was established in 1958 with the objectives of study, conservation and
preservation of Himalayan fauna. The animals are well cared for by dedicated
keepers. To protect and breed the dwindling stocks of wild animals, to educate
the public and instill in them a sense of the worth of these wonderful creatures,
it is necessary to keep them in pseudo-natural habitats. The zoo houses India's
only collection of Siberian tigers and some rare species, such as the red panda
and the Tibetan wolf.
Entered through the zoo, on Jawahar Rd West about
two km from the town, the HMI runs courses to train mountaineers, and maintains
a couple of interesting museums. The Mountaineering Museum contains a
collection of historic mountaineering equipment, specimens of Himalayan flora
and fauna and a relief model of the Himalaya. The Everest Museum next
door traces the history of attempts on the great peak.
Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who conquered Everest with Edmund Hillary in 1953,
lived in Darjeeling and was the director of the institute for many years.
He died in 1986 and his statue now stands beside cremation spot just above the
A 20 to 30 minutes walk from Chowrasta through leafy glades and tea plantations,
brings you down to the Tibetan Refugee Centre. Established in 1959, the centre
comprises a home for the aged, and orphanage, school, hospital and craft
workshops that produce carpets of pure ladakhi wool, woodcarving, leather work
and wool items. The weaving and dyeing shops and the wood carving shop are
The word gymkhana is actually derived from the
Hindi gendkhana (ball house). Games on offer include tennis, squash, badminton,
roller-skating, table tennis and billiards.
At north point, about 3
km north of the town, is
India's oldest passenger ropeway. It is 5 km long and connects Darjeeling with
Singla bazaar on the little Ranjeet river at the bottom of the valley.
Below the bus and taxi stand near the market,
these gardens contain a representative collection of Himalayan plants, flowers
and orchids. The hothouses are well worth a visit.