If you meet any locals in Siliguri and ask them what’s so special about their city, they’d certainly tell you about the three Ts- tea, timber, and tourism. Need to go to the northeast region? Then you’re surely going to traverse Siliguri. And that’s why it has been nicknamed "The Gateway of Northeast India”. Situated at the foothills of the Himalayas, and located in the district of Darjeeling, this gem of a place bursts with many surprising adventures in its bustling streets and awe-inspiring monuments.
And if you think you’re ready to visit this side of West Bengal, then keep reading our Siliguri travel guide to know all its ins and outs.
India is decked with a variety of traditions and cultures, all thanks to its deep historic roots. Every city has a story to tell and just like the many, Siliguri has a vibrant one of its own as well. Siliguri was once an agricultural town that was ruled by the Gorkha Empire. That’s why when you visit Siliguri, you’ll still find a sizeable amount of Nepali population residing as well.
In 1815, the Treaty of Sugauli was signed between the East India Company and the Gurkha Chiefs of Nepal and that was when Siliguri’s emergence from a small town to an important transportation hub began. The British successfully populated Darjeeling and the Dooars region just so they could rear tea plantations on its favorable soil. The tea was then exported to England and to make the process easier for themselves, they constructed the Siliguri Town railway station. Quite a ‘big brain’ move by the British Raj, we must say!
Today, Siliguri is one of India’s largest and fastest-growing cities. It established itself as an international transportation and logistics hub after India signed a treaty with China to trade via the Nathu La Pass. Known as one of West Bengal’s largest cities, Siliguri is big fish in generating the state’s economy and it has to be visited at least once to experience its bustle.
When you’re walking in the streets of this bustling city, don’t forget to grab some lip-smacking street food. Momos or dumplings are the signature street food snack and can be customized according to what you prefer: veg or non-veg. Along with that, you can finish your street food escapade with some northeastern tea and Chhang, famously known as the relative of beer since it’s made out of barley. In addition, you can tickle your taste buds with Siliguri’s non-vegetarian delights such as Potoler Dorma (gourd stuffed with meat), Bhapa Ilish (steamed Hilsa fish), Chital Kaliya (fish curry variant), and Chital Muitha (fish meatballs).
To bring in the Bengali New Year, the Baishakhi Mela is held. Here you’ll find all sorts of colorful antiques, people in rich traditional attire, and sweet stalls emitting the sweetest of aromas cutting through the bustling crowd in the mela. Other significant gatherings you should watch out for are Hosto Shilpo Mela, the book fair, and Lexpo fair. All fairs and gatherings are held in the Kanchenjunga Stadium, so keep that in mind.
Last but not the least, we come to the language. Siliguri’s population is so diverse and vibrant that basically, there is no language barrier. Apart from the state language (Bengali), many locals speak regional languages such as Nepali, Bihari, Marwari, Assamese, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Gujarati, and Tibetan, in addition to Hindi and English.
Getting to Siliguri is quite a breeze because of the city’s well-connected roadways, airways, and railways. Another reason why you should visit this city.
Two railway stations mainly serve Siliguri: New Jalpaiguri (NJP) and Siliguri Junction (SGUJ). You have Siliguri Town as well, but it’s a smaller station and served by local trains mainly.
New Jalpaiguri is the primary station for trains from other parts of the country to come in, especially from the Northern, Eastern, and North-Eastern cities such as New Delhi, Guwahati, and Kolkata. Siliguri Junction has trains from Kolkata, New Delhi, and serves nearby places such as New Jalpaiguri, Jalpaiguri, Kishanganj, Alipurduar Jn, Sevoke, etc.
Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminus is the main bus depot that serves private and local buses in North Bengal. So, if you are traveling by bus to Siliguri, chances are high that you’re going to be getting down at this station. The Sikkim Nationalized Transport Bus Terminus operates buses from various parts of Sikkim to Siliguri, and P.C. Mittal Memorial Bus Terminus adheres to only local travel.
Where air travel is concerned, Bagdogra International Airport, which is approximately 12 km away from Siliguri, is the nearest airport you will find. It has daily flights from major cities such as Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, etc. From there, you can book a cab or hop on a bus to reach Siliguri.
If you want to do touristy stuff in Siliguri, you need to visit this city during the winters. The weather is perfect for sightseeing and it doesn’t get too cold in the evenings as well. Average winter temperatures range between 9°C to 26°C. So, you’ll need a light jacket or two to protect you from the light cold.
Summer temperatures (March to May) elevate to around 40°C during the day and rains bless Siliguri with heavy showers all throughout the monsoon months. You can still visit Siliguri during those seasons, but if you want to enjoy the outdoors, winters in Siliguri are your best bet to travel around the place.
Also Read: Best Homestays In Darjeeling
The best part about getting around Siliguri is the ease of access to public transportation you have at your disposal. There are a wide variety of rickshaws, buses, and taxis to help you get around the city in no time, and they’re pretty reasonable as well. Cycle rickshaws dot the streets of Siliguri and they’re best for short-distance travel. Also, the city is pretty walkable as well since restaurants, supermarkets, and boutiques are just a stone's throw away. So where getting your basic amenities is concerned, you won’t have to travel very far.
Bengal has a pretty prominent Tibetan and Buddhist culture and it won’t come as a surprise if you spot a monastery or two in its cities as well. If you want to experience what being a monk feels like, you must visit the Salugara Monastery in Siliguri. It’s on the outskirts of this city and also goes by the name of The Great International Tashi Gomang Stupa. Built by the ardent followers of the Dalai Lama, this Tibetan monastery is a one-stop place of devotion for those traveling to Siliguri.
Upon reaching the place, you can’t fail to notice the 100-ft. stupa that stands tall to guard the monastery. If you walk a bit closer to the stupa, you’ll notice the intricate patterns carved with finesse on its surface, thus making you marvel at what the human mind is capable of. If you ever need a breather from the complexities of life, then pop into Salugara Monastery and rejuvenate yourself.
ISKCON Temple, also known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is one of Siliguri’s most prominent sites to visit. This beautifully designed goliath structure embedded in the middle of an expanse courtyard overflows with immense serenity and tranquility. In the whole of Northeast India, the ISKCON temple is the biggest Krishna center anyone can find and many devotees from far and near come just to seek Lord Krishna’s blessings.
Enter the wide halls of the temple and you’ll find an idol of Lord Krishna and Radha sitting comfortably waiting for devotees to come. In addition to them, the temple is also home to idols of Advaita Acharya, Lord Narasimha, and Lord Chaitanya, all of them visually stunning in their own right.
The place has an auditorium, a guesthouse, and a restaurant (Govind’s Restaurant) as well, thus portraying that it’s an establishment that goes beyond just being a place of worship.
Science City was established in 1997 and is the sole science center for Siliguri. Popularly known as the North Bengal Science City, Science City is dotted with a generous amount of gokul and hazel trees amidst the infrastructure it has. You can visit the planetarium and the Nature Interpretation Center to feed your inquisitive minds about the workings of mother nature.
Along with that, the campus lawns have various swings, seesaws, and pendulums explaining the laws of physics. And if you have a couple of spare peanuts in your bag, you can try feeding the rabbits and guinea pigs that roam freely across these lawns. Before heading home for the day, don’t forget to click a picture or two with the giant T-Rex model situated at the gate’s entrance.
What Is The Famous Food Of Siliguri?
Siliguri’s cuisine is diverse and we’re sure you won’t feel bored trying out the city’s various dishes. For street food, momos are pretty famous and you’ll find a variety of momo eat-outs spread all around town. If you want to try your hand at fine dining, try Potoler Dorma (gourd stuffed with meat), Bhapa Ilish (steamed Hilsa fish), Chital Kaliya (fish curry variant), and Chital Muitha (fish meatballs). They’re spicy and great hits among locals and tourists alike.
Is Siliguri Worth Visiting?
Siliguri is filled with a plethora of historical monuments, lush landscapes, and delicious cuisine. The public transportation is cheap and efficient and the languages spoken are diverse. Keeping all these points in mind, we’d say that Siliguri is definitely worth visiting.
How Can I Go To Siliguri?
Which District Is Siliguri In?
Located at the foothills of the Himalayas, Siliguri resides in the plains of Darjeeling District, just near the river Mahananda.
What Is The Speciality Of Siliguri?
Siliguri is known for its abundant tea and timber production and for being a popular city in the North-East to attract tourism.
What Is The Best Time To Visit Siliguri?
With the temperature stooping to a low of around 3°C, winters are the best time to visit Siliguri and spend some quality time with your family or partner.
How Far Is Gangtok From Siliguri?
It takes about 2 and a half hours to reach Siliguri from Gangtok, with a distance of about 114 km. Whereas if you travel by flight, you will have to cover a distance of 71 km to get to Siliguri.