Spread in ribbons over a steep mountain range, encircled with emerald green tea estates and towered by the majestic Kanchenjunga, Darjeeling is the name of an emotion. It is not just a hill station for tourists of the eastern Indian states. It is a premier tourist destination for travellers from across the globe. Darjeeling is famous for several features, including the colonial era architecture, monasteries, toy trains, tea plantations, and of course the snow-capped mountain peaks that hail you almost from the sky.
Here, in this article, we will let you know about the overall climatic conditions of the hill station so that you get a bird’s eye view of the weather in Darjeeling before visiting the place. Bordering Bhutan, Sikkim and Tibet and Nepal across the mountain ranges, Darjeeling not only shares the cultural similarities of these countries, but weather-wise these regions are also identical.
Overall climactic atmosphere of Darjeeling
There are mainly two best times to visit the hills. March to May and October to November are the two seasons when you can enjoy the hills at its best. Between March to May, the temperature remains pleasant, slightly cold, and the sky remains mostly clear, giving you a perfect ambience to view the mountain peaks clear and unhindered. The summer is short here, just between May and June.
End of summer and beginning of monsoon: By June end, the summer starts to evade, and the skies gather clouds, heralding the onset of monsoon. Till September, Darjeeling receives on and off spells of showers. Sometimes it drizzles all day long, making all roads wet and thus risky. The monsoon sometimes lingers on and does not end before October beginning.
It is very difficult to predict the local weather of Darjeeling, especially if you are a tourist and not a native person. Here you see the clouds play hide and seek with the sun quite often, sometimes all day. The weather in Darjeeling does not follow the climactic situations of the plains. You will also see how the regional weather differs from places to places. For example, Kalimpong, and Terai, the two most important neighbouring areas of Darjeeling experience difference of weather, while Sikkim or its capital Gangtok, located not very far from Darjeeling also have slightly different weather.
Serene springtime: March to April – One of the best times to visit Darjeeling. If this is the finest time to watch the Kanchenjunga and indulge in other recreational activities in Darjeeling, remember that this is the shortest span of time as well. Spring lasts for a flickering time here, and if you want to conduct your Darjeeling trip during this time, you need to plan much in advance.
You shall see the hills in its bounty of colours at this time with all mountain trees covered with rich-coloured blossoms. Barring a few occasional hailstorms, the skies this time remain clear. The daytime temperature hovers around 15 to 17 degrees of Celsius while at night it becomes 6 degrees Celsius, giving you perfect overall weather to walk, trek, shop and eat and pursue other touristic activities.
It goes without saying that the hill station experiences a surge of tourists during this time. All the hotels go full, especially from April beginning. Ensure your bookings are done well in advance if you are planning to come to Darjeeling this time. Look for homestays that, unlike hotels and resorts, are easy to find and do not get instantly filled up.
Balmy summer retreat: Darjeeling can be your perfect summer getaway. Away from the unbearable humidity of cities and coupled with rising temperature, this is an ultimate respite from all these. Summer her starts in May, and it ends in July. The average temperature this time remains between 11 degree Celsius to 19 degree Celsius, which is very pleasant for tourists and visitors. Many tourists across the world wait for this time to pack their bags and head for Darjeeling. Sometimes tourists are surprised by the weather God with occasional one or two spells of showers. The skies start turning grey, and the atmosphere begins to become hazy from the end of June.
If you are planning to your trip in summer, you shall witness bright sunlight along with fresh winds filling up your lungs, giving you the perfect boost to enjoy your vacation here. With the sky remaining mostly clear, you will have the ultimate opportunity to watch the majestic Kanchenjunga and other famous peaks of the region to your heart’s content. This is the perfect weather for shutterbugs as well with bright natural light in abundance in every nook and corner of the hills.
Meddling monsoon: Proper monsoon remains in Darjeeling from June end to September. Though sometimes the spell of rains continues to lash the hills till mid-October, from then the weather starts improving. But if you ask any renowned tour planner or agency, nobody will advise you to visit Darjeeling during monsoon. The incessant rains in the hills are mostly irritable to many travellers. During this time, most of the day the weather remains foggy and misty and the roads wet and precarious. As a result, being a tourist, you cannot roam around and mostly remain confined in your hotel. Transportation services are also hit during this time with many private and government operators running only the required number of vehicles because of poor road condition and also to avoid anything untoward.
Landslips or slippery roads are a massive headache even for local residents here. Supply of groceries and other resources remain also crippled if faced with an emergency situation. The local temperature during daytime remains around 19 degree Celsius in monsoon whereas at night the weather gets quite cold with 13 or even 11 degrees Celsius. This time the humidity reaches its highest level. In case you are planning to visit Darjeeling in monsoon, beware of the weather conditions and keep your plan B ready for the detour and other arrangements. Often road communication gets cut off, and flights to the hills get cancelled. So, prepare for all these hazards if you must visit Darjeeling between June and September.
Auspicious autumn: Darjeeling turns into a paradise for tourists in the autumn. The time between October and November is lucrative for many tourists to visit the hills and spend a vacation in the lap of nature. Unless the rains are stretch till mid-October, the weather this time remains mostly perfect. Clear sky lets you watch the snow-capped mountain peaks unhindered. The daytime temperature remains around 18 degrees Celsius this time, while the night temperature remains around 6 degrees Celsius. Both domestic and international tourists start pouring into Darjeeling during this time if you are planning to come here with all your family members then no better time than the autumn.
Wonderful winter jaunt in Darjeeling: This is the time of the year when the hills wear its most gorgeous avatar. Winter in Darjeeling is something every traveller should experience at least once in his or her lifetime. It is altogether a different charm to witness the hills with the cheers of festivities like Christmas and New Year in the air.
The winter in Darjeeling stays for around three months, from November to January. Sometimes it lingers till mid-February as well. In the month of December, the sky remains mostly crystal clear, and thus mountain views become awesome. Early mornings can be really cold, but this is perfect for those who wouldn’t mind stepping out for a chilly morning walk followed by a hot cuppa at the roadside tea stalls. As the day progresses, the sun shines nice and bright, and it is quite pleasant. The daytime temperature remains anything near 10 degrees Celsius. The night temperature can be freezing and as low as 2 degrees Celsius. Tourists who enjoy chills with a bunch of clouds hover over the valley around the day would love their stay in Darjeeling during this time. But if you are planning to travel to the hills in December, you must pack all the essential woollen garments and other heavy-duty stuff to make the most of your much-desired vacation.
In January, the temperature gets even lower. While during the day the temperature remains around 9 degrees Celsius and at night it becomes 2 degrees Celsius or decreases even down further. But this is sheer a joyful experience if you happen to catch a glimpse of snowfall while staying in Darjeeling. Only a handful of lucky tourists get to witness this when the entire valleys and mountains and towering pine trees remain wrapped up in a blanket of fresh white snow. It is an ecstatic sight for local residents as well as visitors.
Hotel check: If you already have finalised your plan to come to Darjeeling in winter, then you should be aware of some basic information. Virtually, no hotel in Darjeeling is equipped with the central heating system. So, make sure that you already know about the facilities. If you have booked your stay in budget hotels, then you can opt for blowers and small coil heaters but remember that those may not be adequate if the weather gets really freezing. But if you enjoy chill and have enough warm clothes with you, then you don’t have to worry. A little of the chilling atmosphere will add more joy to your vacation.
Where to see and play with snow in Darjeeling: If you are a winter buff and love to visit a wintry place when it snows, then you must come to Darjeeling in December or January. The good news is all the high-altitude places here witness a good amount of snowfall during this time. But the bad news not all places of Darjeeling, located at around 6700 ft altitude, receives equal snowfall. Within the town limits it hardly ever snows. But there have been exceptions as well.
Tourists who are really lucky have seen the Chowrasta and Mall Road being covered with snow in the recent past.
It is most likely to snow in Darjeeling from December end till February middle. So, if you want to catch that experience, book your tickets accordingly. But having said that you should also remember that Darjeeling is not just a town, it is a district. There are places in Darjeeling which are at a much higher altitude, and this is where you will get several opportunities to watch the snowfall.
Sandakphu, which is known as the trekkers’ paradise, is one such region. It is located over 12000 ft altitude. This place will definitely reward you with snowfall if you come in the winter. From here you can also watch the stunning Kanchenjunga and other famous peaks of the mountain terrain.
Best places to cover in Darjeeling
Batasia Loop: Located around 5km from Darjeeling, Batasia Loop is a spiral railway track where the famous and heritage Darjeeling toy train takes a 360-degree turn. It is a large circular area that has been nicely decorated with garden and blossoming trees. Many tourists come to Batasia Loop to get a panoramic view of the entire Darjeeling town and click beautiful pictures. Tourists taking the toy train journey pleasure are bound to visit Batasia Loop as their journey completes here.
Toy train: A trip to Darjeeling will be incomplete without a ride in the famous Himalayan toy train. It is a heritage train service in Darjeeling for which tourists from across the globe flock here. The madness to take a ride amidst the verdant tea estates sitting on a train that passes through the meandering tracks is also no less. Famous film sequences have been shot in many areas of Darjeeling and the toy train is one of them. The train here moves at a snail’s pace and thus gives you the chance to witness all the beautiful mountains and other scenic beauties here.
Kanchenjunga: There are some devout tourists who won’t budge from Darjeeling without catching a clear glimpse of Kanchenjunga, the famous peak of the Himalayan mountain range here. If you are a first-time visitor to Darjeeling, then try to view the peak at dawn. It is the lifetime’s experience to view the Kanchenjunga peak when the first rays of the sun touch the top. When the golden array of lights falls on the peak, hundreds of tourists and photographers and plain viewers try to capture the moment in the best way they can.
Darjeeling ropeway service: Darjeeling ropeway is a cable car circuit through which you can experience various exquisite landscapes here. The glorious mountains to lush green tea estates all the scenic surprises of the hills can be viewed from this amazing cable car service. If you are in Darjeeling, keep half a day for this thrilling experience. It’s worth it.
Nightingale Park: It was earlier a private courtyard. But the place was opened as a park for public viewing since 2011. There is a giant structure of Lord Shiva in the middle of the park. It is nicely decorated with an artificial garden. A musical fountain is also located at the park. A visit to Nightingale Park is rejuvenating. If there are elderly members in your travel group, take them to this place. It is a perfect place for a family get together or a picnic.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute: This institute was established in 1954 primarily to promote mountaineering or climbing as an adventure sport in India. Fulfilling its objective, the institute encourages young climbers to pursue the sport. It also teaches them the basic nuances of mountaineering. Both professional and amateur trekkers find a lot of assistance at this school. Expert trainers and climbers often visit the institute to impart lessons on climbing. If you a climbing enthusiast and love everything about the mountains, then visit this place and you will be thrilled.
Darjeeling Rock Garden: Located around 3km from the city centre, this garden has been designed with various rocks cut in different shapes and sizes. Beautifully planned and decorated trees and bushes adorn the garden, which is a perfect place for a morning or evening walk.
Singalila National Park: Singalila National Park is located along the Singalila Ridge at the height of 700 ft above the sea level. It is a national park of India in Darjeeling. The park is well known for trekking and various other adventure sports.
Other spots: Apart from these, there are places like Peace Pagoda, Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park, Tinchuley among others which are equally famous and worth visiting. Darjeeling has several famous monasteries, so visit at least one of them. River rafting in Teesta and shopping is also a must when in Darjeeling.
Conclusion: Darjeeling is a must-see place of the eastern Indian Himalayan terrain. No matter whether you like hills, or tea estates or monasteries or simple lazy walks around book shops or wildlife, Darjeeling has something for everyone. Figure out which time suits you and your family best and chalk out a plan to come to the hills that hail thousands of tourists every year.