Top 5 Museums in Darjeeling: Location, timings, entry fees

Planning a tour to Darjeeling? The town has much more to offer to the tourists apart from tea gardens, monasteries, and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways. Visit Darjeeling's top museum and catch a glimpse of its history, heritage, culture, religion, language, flora and fauna, and much more!

Darjeeling has many tales to tell. Once a small Lepcha village under the Sikkim Raj, Darjeeling has been conquered and ruled by the monarchs of Sikkim, then Nepal in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and finally at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the British people took an interest in the place. The location of Darjeeling was politically tactful for the British – they could watch over Sikkim from here which was a buffer state between the kingdoms of Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, and British India. The colonial period of Darjeeling properly began after East India's company's acquisition of the town. The British then set up a sanatorium and later a hill station here, to escape the intolerable heat of the Bengal plains in the summer months. Darjeeling became the winter capital of the Bengal province. Even today the Governor of West Bengal holds his office from Darjeeling for a short duration in the summer.

Throughout the colonial period, the town has witnessed many ups and downs, and several people have visited it, Englishmen and Indians including. Almost all the stalwarts of the Bengali Renaissance as well as several other notable persons from all over India have visited Darjeeling. After the independence of India in 1947, Darjeeling has gradually evolved as a prominent tourist spot. Many people from all over the world come to see the lush green tea gardens, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, several Buddhist monasteries, and even a wide variety of cuisines in Darjeeling Restaurants. The town thus boasts a vast repertoire of history, silently preserved for the posterity in its many museums.

Yes, there are several great museums in Darjeeling and the surrounding area to cater to the history buff, alongside some photographic studios that are nothing short of museums themselves. In this article, we will talk about some of the best museums of Darjeeling, their locations, timings, entry fees, and other information you might want to know. Please note that in hill stations, timings may greatly vary during off seasons including monsoons and winters. It is quite normal that a certain point of attraction may not remain open for a single hour if the weather is bad. Late openings and early closures are frequent too, so use your own discretion regarding the opening hours of museums in Darjeeling if it is not a proper tourist season.

1. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) Museum, Darjeeling

The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute of Darjeeling, alias HMI, was established after Tenzing Norgay's successful ascent to the Mount Everest as a Sherpa with Edmund Hillary in 1953. Tenzing was himself the first Director of the institute. The Museum followed in 1957, the first of its kind in the country. The ground floor of the institute has a general gallery, and the first floor displays objects and memorabilia related to Mount Everest and Mount Makalu. The HMI is much more than just a museum – it is the ultimate pilgrim spot for mountaineers in India. The institute has a full-fledged residential mountaineering school, quarters of Sherpa trainers, a souvenir shop, and a restaurant of the tea corner apart from the museum. There is also a rich library containing various books on mountaineering as well as the local flora and fauna of the Eastern Himalayas.

The museum is located in the same complex as the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Garden and the Bengal Natural History Museum. The combined ticket price is Rs. 60 per head and there is a separate camera charge of Rs. 10. The visiting hours of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute Museum, Darjeeling, is 10 am to 1 pm and then 2 to 5 pm. In the tourist season, the museum remains open all around the week, but in the offseason, it is usually closed on Tuesdays.

2. Bengal Natural History Museum, Darjeeling

Located in the same complex as the HMI, the Bengal Natural History Museum is one of the oldest museums of Darjeeling, set up in 1903 by the British administrators. Initially, it was a small building located inside the Botanical Garden which only had some birds and butterflies. Later, step by step, both the colonial British government as well as the Indian government after 1947 added to the collection of the flora and fauna of the Darjeeling area. Today, the museum exhibits wide varieties of birds, reptiles, fishes, mammals, insects and more. The location, timing, and entry fees of the Bengal Natural History Museum of Darjeeling are the same as those of the HMI.

3. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) Museum, Ghoom, Darjeeling

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway acquired its UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1999, and in the following year, a rail museum was established in Ghoom to exhibit that heritage. Located at the altitude of 7400 feet, Ghoom is also the highest railways station in India. The location of the DHR Ghoom Museum is just opposite to the platform of the station. There is a small garden after the gate, and on your right-hand side you can find the oldest DHR rail engine at the display – the Baby Sivok – which hauled the first ever train to Darjeeling. Then ahead you will find a wooden building which is actually the museum. The opening hours of Darjeeling Himalayan Rail Museum at Ghoom, Darjeeling, is from 10 am to 4 pm. However, there is a lunch recess for half an hour between 1:30 pm and 2 pm when the museum is momentarily closed. The entry fee is about 20 rupees per person. However, please note that if you book a Darjeeling – Ghoom – Darjeeling Joy Ride on the DHR, the train will stop for some time at the Ghoom station and all the passengers will be allowed free entry to the Ghoom Rail Museum without any extra ticket cost.

Apart from the Ghoom museum, DHR operates two other museums too at Kurseong and Sukna. Read more about Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Museums including locations, timings, and entry fees.

4. Step Aside: Deshbandhu Museum, Darjeeling

Located in the C R Das Road which beings from the Chowrasta Mall, the Deshbandhu Museum situated in a house called 'Step Aside' is just 4-5 minutes downhill walk. It is very easy to locate as everybody probably knows this house and there is also a Café Coffee Day (CCD) nearby. This is the house where Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das spent his final days and breathed his last. This is also the house where the Prince of Bhowal allegedly died and was then cremated, only to reappear later as a sage, which initiated the famous judicial case called the Bhowal Sanyasi Case. The house is a museum now which exhibits several memorabilia related to C R Das. The timings of the Deshbandhu Museum of Darjeeling is 10 am to 4 pm in all days of the week except for Sunday. However, in off seasons you may find the museum closed for longer durations. Entry to the museum is free.

5. Himalayan Tibet Museum, Darjeeling

The Himalayan Tibet Museum is a new addition in the list of museums in Darjeeling as this has been established just in 2015, on the occasion of the 80th birthday of the Dalai Lama. It is situated on the Gandhi road at a short walking distance of 4-5 minutes from the Clock Tower /Keventer's area. However, the road is a little uphill. This is different from other Tibetan museums of the country as the emphasis is not limited to only the religious aspect. Instead, the Himalayan Tibet Museum of Darjeeling seeks to offer a holistic representation of the Tibetan history, heritage, language etc. The entry fee of the Himalayan Tibet Museum is just Rs. 10 per head and it open every day except Wednesday from 10 am to 5 pm.


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