Kurseong, located in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal, captivates with its serene beauty and rich cultural heritage. Known as the "Land of White Orchids," this charming hill station boasts lush tea gardens, mist-kissed landscapes, and panoramic views of the Himalayas. Steeped in colonial history, Kurseong's heritage is reflected in its architecture, including the iconic Dow Hill School and the ornate Giddapahar Railway Station. Visitors are drawn to its pleasant climate and the vibrant Makaibari Tea Estate, one of the oldest in the region.
Known as kurson-rip (meaning land of the white orchid) in the Lepcha language, Kurseong is spread along a forested ridge and surrounded by tea gardens. The small hill station was ceded to the British Empire by the king of Sikkim in 1835. Later, in 1880, the British used the hamlet as a sanatorium. More than a century later, the town continues to rejuvenate all those who knock on its door.
The railway, a British legacy and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is famous for its Toy Train which runs between Siliguri Junction and Darjeeling via Kurseong. An archive on the railway can be viewed inside.
Eagle's Crag, perched on a cliff a kilometre from the railway station, offers sweeping views of the surrounding mountains, picturesque hamlets and lush green slopes around Kurseong. Come here in the evening to enjoy a panoramic view of Siliguri, twinkling with bright lights.
A 4-km walk through the woods leads you to St John's Church on the forested St Mary's Hill. The grotto houses a statue of the Virgin Mary, and has beautiful environs that serve as a viewpoint.
Located along the Hill Cart Road, Giddhapahar Hill holds the Seti Mata Temple, where crowds descend for a big fair around Ram Navami. Also located here is the Netaji Museum, where Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was interned by the British, and where he wrote the famous presidential speech for the Haripura Congress during the freedom movement. His belongings have been carefully preserved.
Check out the Ambotia Shiv Mandir, which is situated amid orange orchards near the Ambotia Tea Estate.
Bagora, also known as Zero Point, is the highest point in Kurseong and offers fabulous views.
The Deer Park in Dow Hill, 4km from the town, was named for the large number of deer found in the area, though there are fewer now. If you are lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the animal. Venturing outside the park and into the forest is prohibited. The Forest Museum is also located in Dow Hill. It will tell you about the other animals that inhabit the forest here.
After you have had your fill of sightseeing in Kurseong, follow the Hill Cart Road towards Siliguri to reach the Selim Hill Tea Estate. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway runs parallel to this route, and to make the most of the views here, try to leave Kurseong town by 3 pm. Follow the road to Gayabari station, and about half a kilometre after the station, look out for a sign that says "Selim Hill Retreat." The retreat is 1.5 km down the road from here.
One of Darjeeling's oldest tea gardens, Selim Hill Tea Estate was founded in 1870. The tea plantation spreads 700 ft down the hillside, bounded by looming peaks. Visitors who come here to enjoy this glorious tapestry of nature are also treated to some of the world's finest Darjeeling teas. Selim Hill is one of the pioneers in organic tea farming techniques. Sip a delicious cup of Darjeeling black, and take a tour to see how the world's finest tea is made. Although the 160-year old estate bungalow was renovated recently, it retains its original character. Spend a night here, and go for a tour of the garden and the factory early the next morning, before heading to Darjeeling. Visitors can explore the tea gardens and learn about the process of tea-making, right from the tea bushes to the factory.
Walking trails make the explorations here quite delightful. Come here at sunrise to soak in the superb vistas of Kurseong and the Himalayan peaks. After an early morning cuppa, set off for the 20th Mile Loop, locally known as Smritiban. Another trail takes you to the boundaries of Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary. Several trekking routes lead out from the estate to the nearby villages. The estate management can arrange for a guide to take you across the hill trails. Within the estate boundary lies Mother Teresa's Santa Bhawan orphanage.
Visit Goodricke Teapot, Margaret's Deck and spend the day enjoying its tea and view of the tea gardens.
Kurseong boasts of a number of reputed residential schools, including Victoria School, Dow Hill School and Goethal's Memorial. There are several soothing walks to be taken here, past the main school camp uses, through the leafy hillsides lined with wisteria and pale-blue hydrangea. An excellent choice is the walk to Nagri Spur, with its stunning views of the tea gardens and forests. Eagle's Crag has a fabulous view of the Teesta River and the plains. You can also hike through the forests up the main ridge to Ghoom.
The Bhangzang Salamander Lake must be visited.
Walk along Kurseong's streets. There are some bakeries selling delicious cookies.
To reach Kurseong, start by flying into Bagdogra Airport, the nearest airport. Hire a taxi or take a shared cab to cover the approximately 50- kilometre journey. Alternatively, you can take a train to New Jalpaiguri Railway Station and proceed by road. The scenic drive to Kurseong takes about 2-3 hours, offering breathtaking views of the Eastern Himalayas.