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HERITAGE SITES

There are several happening heritage sites in Darjeeling: natural, cultural, mechanical, rural, historical etc, which needs to be experienced while in the Darjeeling Hills. It is an incomplete heritage experience without adding the West and South districts of Sikkim. The same is being discussed in brief. The first to mention would be the World Heritage Site, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR).

The DHR has evolved to be the pilgrimage for Steam Lovers from all over the world. Recently, the 125th birth anniversary was celebrated and several national and international organizations dedicated to DHR from around the world confirmed their active support for this Railway, so that it survive atleast a few more centuries. The Darjeeling Steam Tramway Company started the construction in 1879. Other than helping to improve the viability of the growing tea industry, the 2 feet (610 mm) gauge would help to reduce the haulage rates of essential commodities. This was destined to run all along the Hillcart Road starting from the Siliguri Town Station. 1880 saw a lot more action with eight steam locomotives arriving from Messrs Sharp Stewart, Manchester, England. Lord Lytton, the Viceroy of India visits the line in March and the section between Siliguri and Kurseong opens to public in August the same year.   On 3rd July, 1881 the line officially opened to Darjeeling covering 82 kms (51 miles) with its highest point being Ghoom, 7407 feet. The company was renamed the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Co. Four loops and four zigzags (reverses) were created between Sukna and Gayabari to ease the gradient. A branch line from Siliguri (Panchanai) to Kishanganj was opened in 1915 and another line from Siliguri Road Station (opposite the Help Tourism, Siliguri office) to Kalimpong Road (Geille Khola) was opened in the same year. Railcar was introduced in 1920 to compete with the bus service, but was soon abandoned as it could carry only 9 passengers. In 1947, the old station building of Darjeeling made of wood was replaced by a modern concrete building and in 1948, 20th October, the DHR was purchased by the Government of India and was absorbed in the Railway organization of the Government. In 1962, the line was extended another 6 kms from Siliguri Town Station to New Jalpaiguri Station (NJP) and the loco shed and carriage depot was relocated from the Siliguri Junction Station to NJP. The ‘World Heritage’ status was awarded by UNESCO in 1999, describing it as “An outstanding example of the influence of an innovative transportation system on the social and economic development of a multi-cultural region which was to serve as a model for similar developments in many parts of the world. Since then there has been no looking back for DHR, and Help Tourism is the only organization with its office in Siliguri and base in the Swiss Hotel, Darjeeling confirms to provide the most authentic heritage experience on the DHR and its abandoned branches.

Similarly, the road journeys too in the Darjeeling Hills and the adjoining areas has the old charm and can be termed heritage too for its age, terrain and people. A trip to Darjeeling remains incomplete without traveling on the old roads, specially Pankhabari, Old Military Road, Hillcart Road, Singla Bazar Road, Takdah Road, Lopchu Pesoke Road, the several routes from Ghoom to Bijanbari, Mirik, Rimbick etc. Sir J.D.Hooker traveled the whole of Darjeeling Hills and several places in Sikkim of which Darjeeling was a part. He followed several traditional trade routes which was later named by Help Tourism as “the Hooker’s trail”. 

The Tea Estates, the land rovers, the buildings, the Mall (Chowrasta), the parks etc all carry the charm of Darjeeling’s past which the local people have preserved as their heritage. Darjeeling is an ideal combination of past and the present lives in their full form. The specially designed itineraries for all visiting travelers to the Darjeeling, originating from the Swiss Hotel are all designed to give an experience of Darjeeling’s past which brings peace and happiness to the visitor.


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