Darjeeling
Darjeeling's location so enchanted Lloyd and Grant, two British officers who visited the area in 1829 that they decided to establish a sanitarium for employees of the Raj to escape from the heat and dust of the Calcutta Indian summer. Initially the property was leased from the Raja of Sikkim for 3,000 rupees but by 1835 it came to be a part of the British Indian Empire after the king of Sikkim gifted it as the treaty says, " Out of friendship." Now at a mellow age of around 170 years since it's founding, Darjeeling, Queen of hill stations, entices thousands to its fairy tale environs and leaves none displeased.

Driving up from the plains of Bengal into the lofty green hills, one enters a different domain altogether. Brilliant red rhododendrons, charming white magnolias, and majestic pine trees welcome you to the land of Darjeeling. And all the while, the slopes gently flow down in waves of green tea bushes. All around you are lonely vales and dales, rushing streams and gasping gorges, and tiny lakes that reflect the turquoise hue of the sky. An intoxicating experience to be cherished forever.

You have the choice of getting there by car or by the famous Toy Train. The train huffs and puffs its way up the steep incline without the aid of cogged wheels that some other hills trains use. Conceived and completed in 1881 by Franklin Prestage, these lilliputian locomotives haul their coaches through sweeping scenes of the extensive plains way down below - perhaps the most romantic railroad in the world. The train exerts its way up to Ghoom, the highest point of the railway at 2,258 meters, and then glides down to Darjeeling town, first traversing the Batasia Loop, an engineering marvel of the 19th century, from where visitors get the first enchanting view of Darjeeling town. Elegant and enduring stands the Queen Of The Hills, her gaze fixed on the shimmering white countenance of Khanchendzonga, which looms impressively on the horizon. Darjeeling perches among the clouds at 2,134 meters above sea level hugging the crests and slopes of a long ridge. The town's name is shrouded in indistinct origins, but now is generally accepted as being derived for Dorje Ling meaning 'Abode Of The Thunderbolt', which was the name of the shrine on its hill top. Around this hub grew a town, now a bustling beehive of color, culture, beauty and gaiety.

Sites Around Darjeeling
Observatory Hill

The hilltop above Darjeeling main bazaar from where one can view into the horizon north, east and west. It is also the site of the Buddhist shrine, Dorje Ling. However, with the overwhelming Hindu population in the area, it's presiding deity is now Lord Shiva though the original Buddhist shrine sill remains. Devotees throng the hill all the year round. Himalayan Mountaineering Institute

Established after the conquest of Everest by Hillary and Tenzing, the HMI is a mountaineering school and has a fine museum with historical climbing archives.