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Travelwell Leisure

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DARJEELING

Darjeeling is a small town and the salubrious climate means walks around town are an extremely enjoyable means of getting around. For longer trips, taxis are available in stands near the entrance to the Mall.
Taxis and travel agents sell various tour packages based on "points" which are simply the number of attractions covered. A 7-point package includes seven places to visit such as the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute/Zoo, Cable Car, Peace Pagoda, etc and takes about 5 hours to complete with the driver waiting at each attraction. Price in April 2014 was Rs. 1,200 for a dedicated car. Numerous taxis also sell "Local Sightseeing" trips on a shared basis with up to 10 travelers, in a Tata Sumo or Mahindra Bolero SUV.

Point-to-point dedicated taxi rides start at Rs. 150 for even short distances. The most economical way is to flag a shared taxi. Rides are Rs. 10 for short distances and Rs. 20 for longer distances. Traffic jams are common especially around the mall and bus station areas. It may be easier to walk rather than sit in a crowded taxi.

A great way to spend a day is to take a shared-jeep to Ghoom (the next town up the ridge), visit some monasteries there and walk back to Darjeeling via some of the villages.
Originally just a cluster of villages that was administered intermittently by Nepal and Sikkim, Darjeeling grew in prominence during the mid 19th century when, because of its climate, the British first established a hill station there after leasing it from the Chogyal of Sikkim and later discovered that the area was particularly well suited for tea plantations. In 1849, the British annexed the area and Darjeeling became a part of British India. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was opened in 1881 (it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the town became the de-facto summer capital of India during the days when the Raj was governed from Calcutta.

Because it was a popular hill station during the days of the Raj, a lovely Victorian town was built among the Himalayan foothills, the remnants of which are still visible around the Chowrasta and Darjeeling remains a popular summer and fall resort for the natives of Kolkata today. For foreign tourists, the main attractions are the cultural diversity (many Tibetan refugees moved here after Tibet was annexed by China and they co-exist with the descendants of the many Nepali and Bihari laborers brought to work in the tea plantations), the beautiful views (including the wonderful vista view of Kanchenjunga), a variety of trekking options, and the opportunity to cool down after a stint in the plains. The town is also a jumping off point for travelers heading to Sikkim. 4 Days Queen of Hills Sightseeing in Darjeeling.

There has been intermittent political action from Gorkha groups demanding an independent state (Gorkhaland). In June 2008 a strike paralyzed the area, with closed hotels, restaurants and shops, and the accompanying protests even turned violent a couple of times. Though inconvenient, tourists generally are not at risk, but recently they do check the status before going there.

 

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