Darjeeling is a relaxed hilltop city that is synonymous with tea. While a trip to a tea plantation is a popular activity there are many other places to visit in Darjeeling that don’t involve the local drink. Darjeeling is a little difficult to get to meaning it retains a sense of peace and calm despite the groups of local tourists escaping the heat of Indian summer.
Darjeeling makes a perfect weekend getaway from other areas of India or a stop off on the way to or from Sikkim. We recommend having at least 2 days in Darjeeling as the weather can be unreliable and it’s very likely it will rain during at least some of your stay. This is the perfect Darjeeling itinerary for 2 nights including places to stay, where to eat and great places to visit in Darjeeling.
How to get to Darjeeling
Darjeeling is connected by winding mountain roads to Siliguri and further north to Sikkim. There are buses from Siliguri to Darjeeling but the most common means of transport is shared Sumo (jeep) or private taxi. Naturally, we opted for the shared transport which costs 200 INR from the railway station and a little less from town. The journey takes 3-4 hours depending on traffic and stops.
If you plan a little in advance you can also get to Darjeeling by a scenic steam train journey through the hills. The train leaves NJP railway station at 8.30 am and takes 7 hours to crawl its way through the tea plantations to Darjeeling. On a clear day the views are spectacular and the historical train journey has bee listed as a UNESCO attraction. This is a must-do for train enthusiasts and is a really comfortable way to get up to Darjeeling. Tickets sell out a few weeks in advance so make sure you book ahead. Second class costs around 1200 INR and first class A/C around 1500 INR.
If you are arriving from Sikkim you can take a shared jeep direct from Gangtok (4-5 hours , 250 INR) or by transferring at Melli Bazar. Most shared jeeps run regularly in the mornings.
Darjeeling Itinerary Day One
Arrive in Darjeeling, check in to your accommodation and get acquainted with the town.
We stayed at comfortable and clean place with some lovely hosts and just a short walk from the city centre, check it our here - Smriya Homestay. An afternoon of wandering can take you around most of the main attractions in Darjeeling and give you plenty of opportunities to stop for some world-famous tea. Here are the best places to see in Darjeeling that are all within walking distance.
The main square and surrounding markets
This is the centre of the tourist area and takes about 15 minutes to wander around. The streets are pedestrianised making it much nicer to walk through. There’s a small market street on each side of the square selling some basic souvenirs. The path loops around for a peaceful stroll with mountain views on a clear day. Some of the buildings around the main square have kept there colonial look and give the area a small town feel, my favourite was of course the bookshop!
Bhanu Bhawan government office building
On the street below the market is a huge, bizarre structure. Visitors are not allowed inside but the view from the street is enough. It looks like some kind of giant hotel mixed with a parliamentary building mixed with a temple but its actually just the local government office building. There is also a nice church on the opposite side of the road.
Shrubbery Nightingale Park
About 15 minutes walk from the main square is this perfectly manicured, serene garden with some of the most incredible views of Kangchenjunga mountain range. It’s free to enter the park and there is a cafe inside although it was closed when we were there. During the morning we had the park to ourselves.
darjeeling Railway station
This is an historic sight and is well set up for interested visitors. The little station has been restored but is meant to still look like it did when it was originally built in 1879. There are several plaques and photographic displays at the station as well as the locomotive house where the steam engines are parked when not in use. If you time it right you’ll get to see one of the trains arriving from NJP station or just a joy ride from the next town. Both short and long trips can be booked in advance at the station ticket office.
Buddhist temple Dheerdham Shivalay
Opposite the train station is a beautiful monastery which looks particularly picturesque with the views out over the tea plantations. It’s free to go in and look around.
Stop for tea
After all this exploring you'll need to factor in a tea break. Look for a branch of Nathmull's which offer all kinds of tea and sell a range of gifts and souvenirs too. There is one just off the main square and one outside The Rink Mall. There is also a shop without a seating area on Chauk Bazaar street.
Darjeeling Itinerary day two
If you can be reasonably sure of a clear day then arrange a taxi to take you up Tiger Hill in the early morning to see the sunrise. It costs 1500 INR per car so try finding some other people to split the cost. The sunrise views over the mountains are supposed to be really amazing and on a good day you can catch a glimpse of Everest. The hill is located about 13km from the town so it is possible to walk there as a day hike if you’re looking for an active day trip.
The trip to Tiger Hill should see you back in time for a big breakfast. Head to either Glenary's Bakery or Keventers for a full range of proper English breakfast foods. Think baked beans, sausages, eggs and bacon all served with a delicious Darjeeling tea. Glenary's also has a full bakery range if you prefer croissants or baked goods. Both have outdoor seating with great views.
Visit a tea factory
It seems rude to visit Darjeeling and not visit a tea factory. There are plenty to choose from and almost all are organic. Happy Valley Tea Estate is an easy choice as it is walking distance from the town. It is down a very steep hill though so take a taxi if you don't want to walk back up! The factory offer tours every 20 minutes between 9.30 am and 4.30 pm which cost 100 INR per person. The brief but informative tour takes you through the tea factory following the process (which is usually happening) of preparing the tea leaves. The tour ends with a tasting and the opportunity to buy tea and gifts.
Visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the Zoo
Darjeeling was the home of Tenzing Norgay the sherpa who made the ascent with Sir Edmund Hillary to be the first men to climb Mt Everest. He set up a the Mountaineering Institute which serves as a school for climbers but also houses a museum dedicated to Tenzing Norgay's life and various attempts that have been made at climbing Everest.
We don't really support zoo visits but the Darjeeling zoo is included in the same ticket so if you want you can visit on the same day. Both attractions are closed on Thursdays.
Where to stay in Darjeeling
Budget - If you're looking for the cheapest option you might be best to just turn up and ask around as most places online are expensive by Indian standards, although many places are often full. As a comfortable budget option try Happy Valley Guesthouse
Mid-range - Smriya Homestay was super clean and had ensuite bathrooms with hot water, working WiFi and really lovely hosts. Check prices here.
Splash out - If you're travelling on a bigger budget or looking for something special try Cedar Inn