Spread in ribbons over a steep mountain ridge, surrounded by emerald-green tea plantations and with a backdrop of jagged white Himalayan peaks floating over distant clouds, the archetypal hill station of Darjeeling is rightly West Bengal’s premier attraction. When you aren’t gazing open-mouthed at Khangchendzonga (8598m), you can explore colonial-era architecture, visit Buddhist monasteries and spot snow leopards and red pandas at the nearby zoo. The steep narrow streets bustle with an array of Himalayan faces from Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet and when energies start to flag a good, steaming Darjeeling brew is never far away.
Most tourists visit after the monsoon (October and November) and during spring (mid-March to the end of May) when skies are dry, panoramas are clear and temperatures are pleasant. This is considered high season. Winters can be cold here, so bring an extra jumper if visiting from December to February.
Darjeeling sprawls over a west-facing slope in a confusing web of interconnecting roads and steep flights of steps. Expect an uphill hike to your hotel if arriving at the train station or jeep stand. The two main squares are Chowrasta, near the top of town, and Clubside junction, which are linked by pedestrianised Nehru Rd (aka The Mall), the main shopping street. Hill Cart Rd (aka Tenzing Norgay Rd) runs the length of the bustling lower bazaar and is Darjeeling’s major vehicle thoroughfare.
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