Kurseong is a sub-divisional town in Darjeeling district situated on the National Highway 55 connecting Siliguri town with Darjeeling. At an altitude of 4900 feet (1500 mtr), the town is located 37 kms from Siliguri and about 31 kms from Darjeeling.
Most tourists visit Kurseong on their way to Darjeeling. But the town has its own attractions where a couple of nights can easily be spend amongst the beautiful tea gardens and pine forests. Kurseong is not as famous as Darjeeling but still has a few surprises for the tourists. It is not a town full of sightseeing options, but rather a town where you would spend some leisurely time taking walks amongst its peaceful natural environment. The views of the Kanchenjunga is also very attractive from here.
From New Jalpaiguri Rail Station or Bagdogra airport, Kurseong is about 1.5 hour (40 kms). You may either drive through the Rohini road or Pankhabari road, Pankhabari road is quite steep and for someone new to the hills, sometimes it may seem a little dangerous as well. You may also travel to Kurseong by Darjeeling Himalayan Railway train (the world heritage Toy Train), but the train track is often damaged by landslide and you must get update on the latest status before planning to take the train.
Being at an altitude of 4900 feet, the town is neither very cold nor hot. This makes the town ideal for visit any time of year. Winter months in the upper ridges of the town can be colder but snowfall is quite rare. Summer temperature rarely crosses 30 centigrade. Average annual rainfall is about 160 inches (400 cms).
Siliguri – The entry point to the region is 37 kms and 1.5 hours drive
Darjeeling – The famous hill station is 32 kms and about 1 hours drive
Kalimpong – Via Ghum about 70 kms and 2.5 hours drive
Gangtok – The Sikkim capital is about 120 kms and about 4.5 hours drive
Eagle's Craig - This is a cliff offering panoramic view of the plains including Siliguri town, Tista river and Bagdogra airport. The views of sunset and the sunrise from here are especially mesmerizing. It is about 1 kilometer from the Rail Station.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway – The station is located at the heart of the town and is difficult to miss. The board outside says “Welcome to the most tourist friendly hill railway in the world”. Visit the station to see some engines that are more than a hundred years old.
Tea Gardens – Kurseong is surrounded by some of the best tea gardens including Makaibari, Castleton, Ambootia, Goomtee, Margarets Hope, Salim Hill and others. These gardens produce some of the best Darjeeling Tea in the world. It is worthwhile to visit tea gardens and tea factories to learn about tea production and life in Tea garden. The view of tea gardens in the hill slope is also quite fascinating.
Giddapahar Mandir - This is a holy place for the local. This temple of the God Shiva is situated 2 kilometers away from the town. In every Shivratri a fair is organized there.
Deer Park - The Deer Park or the Forest Museum is 4 kilometres from the town on the Dowhill. This is an attractive amusement park.
Tea at Tourist Centre – The Kurseong Tourist Centre of West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation is famous for excellent cuisine it offers. Try the Darjeeling Tea here even if you are just passing through the town.
Momo and Thukpa – These are traditional Tibetan food very popular in the hills. You can get them in almost any road corner stalls. The best Momo-Thukpa stalls are nondescript small shops on steep hill staircases. Ask a local to show you a good stall and they would be happy to help.
Walk on the Old Cart Road – You may find the town itself a little congested and noisy. But walk a few hundread metres uphill and you will be greeted with calm and peaceful alpine forests. The Old Cart Road is an ideal area for a walk. If you have half a day free; walk towards Chimney, a small village on the old cart road. You will be surprised by the view and the total tranquillity of the place.
People and Culture
The literary meaning of Kurseong is 'The Land of White Orchids'. The original inhabitants of the land were the Lepcha who form a minority now. The people now belong to a number of hill tribes together who are called the Nepalese or Gurkhas. Total population of the town is about 1,00,000. Nepalese is the most widely spoken language although almost everyone understands Hindi here. Bengali and English are also widely spoken and understood.
Dasain or Vijaya Dashmi is the most important festival which is celebrated around October – November with Durga Puja festival in the plains. Different Tibetan ethnic groups celebrate Losar which is the Tibetan new year, celebrated around January – February. Other festivals are not very different from the rest of the country.
Behind this energetic and modern Kurseong town is a history of transformation. In 1835 the King of Sikkim yielded this small province to the British Government. The small village came to common notice when the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) extended its railway tracks up to Kurseong on 25th August, 1880. DHR set up the Headquarters of the Sub-Divisions here. In 1879 it became one of the first few municipalities of West Bengal.
The town has traditionally attracted people from the plains as a summer sojourn. It has served a number of Indian and foreign artists, poets, social reformers and patriots. The list includes Rabindra Nath Tagore, Subhash Chandra Bose, Sister Nivedita, Atul Prasad Sen and many more.
The century-old-schools of Kurseong are also famous for providing excellent standard of education. Schools like St. Mary's School, St. Helen's School for Girls, Victoria Boys' School and Himali Boarding School (Co-education) are the most reputed ones. Even today students from all over India including neighbouring countries such as Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh flock here to study in these reputed schools.