Gangtok is a beautiful hill town and the capital of north-eastern state of Sikkim. This is one place which many tourists like to combine along with a visit to Darjeeling. In fact the combined trip of Darjeeling-Gangtok is a common recipe when people think about visiting this part of the country. This is mainly because of the proximity of the two places as well as easy access. And while in Gangtok, tourists visit several other places including the wonderland of Yumthang valley in north Sikkim, and Tsomgo Lake, Nathula Pass in East Sikkim, Pelling in west Sikkim etc.
Deorali Rope Way :
If you are at Gangtok you must experience ropeways or cable cars located at Deorali market. This rope way of about less than 1 km long has three entry points or stops. The lowest point is at Deorali market and the highest point is at Tashiling (below the state secretariat). There is a midpoint stop at Nam-Nang. One can enter from any point and return to same point after touching other two points. Cable car journey provides spectacular view of Gangtok market, valley and State Assembly hall of the state of Sikkim on its 15 to 20 minutes journey. The ticket fee for adult is Rs 50 and Rs 30 for kids below 6 years. One can carry a video camera by paying a fee of Rs 50. No extra charge for normal still camera
About 25 kilometres east of Gangtok and at an altitude of 5,800 feet is Sikkim’s biggest monastery, the Rumtek Monastery. Built in 1740 and rebuilt in 1979, the monastery features a golden stupa containing the relics of the 16th Karmapa, with several other sacred Buddhist artifacts.
Surrounded by beautiful gardens, the waters of Banjhakri Falls are a treat to the eyes and senses. This is an ideal spot for a delightful picnic with family and friends.
Locally known as the Lingdum monastery, this monastery is run by the Sikkimese Gharwan Rimpoche. Known for its architecture and aesthetic value, this monastery has a collection of colorful Tibetan paintings called Thangkas that adorn the walls. Visitors can spin the long row of prayer wheels for good luck. A huge gold plated Buddha statue sits in the lotus position inside the sanctum.
Do Drul Chorten:
Arguably the most popular stupa (a dome-shaped Buddhist shrine) in Sikkim, Do Drul Chorten was built in 1945 by a Tibetan Buddhist named Trulshik Rinpoche. Surrounded by 108 prayer wheels on which Buddhist mantras have been engraved, monks and tourists swirl the wheels, which is equivalent to completing 108 beads of recital. The gold plated steeple atop the Chorten is what Do Drul is famous for.
The Tashi Viewpoint is one of the best places to go to with a pair of binoculars, water and some sandwiches. From the Tashi Viewpoint, you get the perfect view of the snow covered peaks of Kanchenjunga.
This is a wonderful waterfall located on the North Sikkim Highway towards Tashi View Point and about 3kms from Gangtok town. While visiting Tashi View point or returning, it's worth stopping at this roadside waterfall for sometime. While the height of the fall isn't much, it's the width of the fall that makes it so beautiful. The source of the water is at Ratey Chu.
Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology:
Perched on the top of a beautiful hill, the Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology was established in 1958 to promote research into the Mahayana sect of Buddhism and Tibetan language and culture. The institute was initially known as the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology after Late Palden Thondup Namgyal (the Chogyal of Sikkim). The institute also plays host to one of the world’s largest collection of Buddhist books, rare manuscripts and Tibetan cloth paintings called thangkas.
Gangtok Handicrafts & Handlooms centre:
Directorate of Handicrafts & Handlooms (DHH) was established in 1957 in order to promote manufacture and sale of various handicrafts, carpets, furniture etc. It's located at the zero point and about 1km from MG Marg. If you take the Tibet road from MG Marg, go straight up and at the end you will find the Handicraft center at the crossing. The main building in front houses the training centers for various handicraft items. It also has a museum which was opened in 2007 to showcase many artworks and items which are created in this center by local artists and artisans. Behind the main building, there is a 2-storey Sales Emporium where you can buy various products created at the center. Admission ticket is Rs. 10 per person. DHH is open from 10am to 4pm daily except Sundays and Government holidays.
Hanuman Tok Overview:
On the road to Nathu La at 7,200 feet, this temple is managed by the Indian Army. The views of Gangtok and the nearby lush hills from here are spectacular.
Ganesh Tok is a small temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh, located at an altitude of about 6,500 metres above sea level. It is situated next to the television tower on the hillock on Gangtok–Nathula Road. This is a really tiny temple with place only for one person at a time and you would have to crawl to get into the temple. But one you are in, you will get a nice panoramic view of Gangtok and the surrounding areas.
Himalayan Zoological Park:
The Himalayan Zoological Park is a stunning lush forest reserve that overlooks the majestic Khangchendzonga range and is spread across a total area of 230 hectares. The objective of the park is the conservation of rare and endangered species by providing them a safe and natural habitat. Two of the highlights of the Red Panda which is also the state animal of Sikkim, and the Snow Leopard, the apex predator of the Himalayas, figure prominently.
The Enchey Monastery was established in 1909 above Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim in the Northeastern Indian state. It belongs to the Nyingma order of Vajrayana Buddhism. The monastery built around the then small hamlet of Gangtok became a religious centre.The location was blessed by Lama Drupthob Karpo, a renowned exponent of tantric (adept) art in Buddhism with flying powers; initially a small Gompa was established by him after he flew from Maenam Hill in South Sikkim to this site. The literal meaning of Enchey Monastery is the "Solitary Monastery"
Flower Exhibition Centre-Deorali:
A beautiful tropical greenhouse, the Flower Exhibition Centre in Gangtok is a paradise for plant lovers. The location is a beautiful stretch of green and is an absolute treat to the eyes.
This is also the venue of the famous Sikkim Flower Show, usually held around March, when the orchids around the region are in full bloom. People from around the country especially travel to Sikkim around this time to attend this colourful event.
Located at a height of around 10,100 feet on the rugged terrain of the lower Himalayas in East Sikkim, Zuluk or Dzuluk is a small village beside a winding road. It was once a transit point to the historic Silk Route from Tibet to India. It is relatively an emerging and offbeat destination in East Sikkim. This small village accommodates a population of around 700 people. There is also an Indian Army Transit base camp of Cloud Warriors at Zuluk, which has been used as a transit camp for the army movement to the Chinese border, a few kilometres away. It is the very first village within this whole Silk Route circuit to offer home-stay facilities for tourists.
The sunset view from Zuluk helipad will surely overwhelm you. The Sarba Dharma Sthal at Army Transit point is a place to visit here. A morning walk to the Zuluk Shibalaya offers a freshening start of the day. Zuluk itself does not offer views of the snow peaks but only 14 kms away the Thambi View Point offers a panoramic view of the entire Mt. Kanchenjungha range.Zuluk is a hilltop and a transit point within the Silk Route. The road through Zuluk makes almost 32 hairpin turns to reach Lungthung, which makes it a unique engineering feat. There is a local Nag Temple here. The temple has a cave like structure and the deity of King Cobra or Nag, famous Hindu mythical god is
worshipped in the temple.
Another great attraction of Zuluk lies in watching the sunrise over Mt. Kanchenjungha and its allied peaks from Thambi View Point (around 14 kms away) at 11,200 feet. The glittering rays of the rising sun kisses the snow clad peak of Mt. Kanchenjungha, which slowly turns crimson and then golden and finally silver. The spectacle is truly breathtaking. While staying at Zuluk you can cover Padamchen, Lungthung, Nathang, Kupup Lake, Tukla Valley and all other spots in the Silk Route circuit in day trips. Zuluk has high diversity of Himalayan fauna. The place shelters variety of birds like Monal Pheasant, Blood Pheasant, Khaleez Pheasant, Snow Pheasant and others. You may also catch a glimpse of Himalayan Weasel or A Martin. Sighting of Red Panda, wild dog and deer in the high hills have also been recorded.
During August and September, Zuluk is drenched is a riot of colours of wild flowers. The whole region is covered in various wild flowers. From January to April Zuluk is covered in snow. The rainy season of May to July is usually foggy but the rest of the year it has nice sparkling weather. At 11200 feet, Thambi View Point offers a panoramic view of Mt. Kanchenjungha. Located at a distance of 14 kms from Zuluk on the famous zig-zag road (locally called Bhulbhulaiya for its 30 hairpin turns) Thambi is a roadside viewpoint that opens up suddenly to Mt. Kanchenjungha. Named after the Civil Engineer who constructed this amazing road, Thambi Viewpoint truly honours the extra-ordinary feat achieved by the engineers and workers who constructed this road. On a clear day on your way to Thambi viewpoint, you would also catch a glimpse of the zig zag road from Zuluk. The village of Lunghthung-Dhupidara located at almost 11,500 feet is perched on a hilltop with panoramic views of Mt. Kanchenjungha on one side and the winding roads of Zuluk on the other.
Thambi View Point which offers a great bird’s eye view of Mt. Kanchenjungha and the whole of Eastern Himalayas is within a kilometre of Lunthung–Dhupidara village. From January to April the whole of Lungthung–Dhupidara is virtually buried in snow and the only colour you can see is white. The mountain slopes and valleys are drenched in a riot of colours around Lungthung–Dhupidara from July to September when the wild flowers bloom. You can see a mesmerising sunrise over Mt. Kanchenjungha range just walking down from your
room. Lungthung–Dhupidara village is very near to the famous Thambi View Point and offers one of the best views of Eastern Himalayas with Mt. Kanchenjungha on one side and the winding roads of Zuluk on the other The surrounding forests of Lungthung–Dhupidara is home to numerous species of birds and even the Red Panda. Wild flowers, rhododendrons and ferns bloom during the seasons around Lungthung. Lungthung–Dhupidara shelters some of the rarest birds like Pheasants.
Padamchen... Perched on a hill slope at 8000 ft and covered in dense forests, Padamchen is a small village on the Silk Route circuit just 14 kms from Rongli and 4 kms from Zuluk. Padamchen experiences a very pleasant weather throughout the year and this is one of the main reasons for its popularity. If you are not used to biting cold and snowfall but want to experience the mesmerizing sunrise, excellent views and winding roads and valleys of this Silk Route circuit, then staying at Padamchen could be a choice.
Padamchen has some of the best views of the valleys and forests of this part of Sikkim and Himalayan foothills. The forests around Padamchen support a wide variety of bird population and bird watchers would love to spend a few days here. There is a heritage Forest Resthouse at Padamchen too. You can visit this forest resthouse to see the wooden floors, fireplace, verandah and wooden furniture from the forgotten days of the lonely Forest Officers and Sahibs who used to travel this way.
Dense temperate forests surrounding the Padamchen village is home to a huge bird population like Laughing thrushes, Fulvettas, Honey Buzzards, Steppe Eagles, Babblers, Tits, Wrens and others. The deeper regions of the forest have occasional visitors like Himalayan Black Bear, Red Panda and Leopards. While staying at Padamachen, you can go to watch the sunrise over Mt. Kanchenjungha range from Thambi View Point (around 18 kms away) at 11,200 feet.
The beautiful Kewkhola or Kuekhola falls is just a few minutes drive from Padamchen. Kuekhola Falls derives its name from "Kue", which in Nepali language means potatoes and "khola" means small rivulet. Thus, during earlier times there was huge plantation of potatoes and locals use to wash potatoes under this fall, and thus, was it was named Kuekhola Falls.
You also can take a small walk across the road to reach Nimachen, a small hamlet indeed. With lots of colorful flowers, a small trail will take you to the Nimachen Gompa, small, but worth to Visit. You can also take a short trek in the forests of Padamchen and discover the trail of the original Silk Route through which the traders used to travel on horseback for thousands of years.
Menmecho Lake is one of the most serene and tranquil lake of Sikkim at an altitude of 13000 feet. Surrounded by untouched pine forests and deep slopes, Menmecho Lake is said to change colours every minute.
It is a beautiful lake located 20 KMs. ahead of Tsomgo Lake. It lies cradled between the mountains below the Jelepla Pass and is source of river Rangpo-chu. It derives its water from melting snows around. The lake is famous for its Trout and a farm to cultivate these fish also exist nearby. As it is a important trout breeding centre, it is a tourist restricted spot. You need permission from the Gangtok Fisheries Dept. to visit and stay at the cottage near
The lake is fed by the waters of the surrounding mountains of Jelep La Pass and stays frozen from January to August. A narrow bumpy ascending winding road 4.5 kilometers beside Baba Mandir would take you near to Menmecho Lake.Most of the year, due to weather conditions, cars would not be able to reach Menmecho Lake but you can trek these 4.5 kms to reach the lake. There is a viewpoint on the banks of the lake for the trekkers to rest and watch the beauty of the lake unfold before them. Apart from its mystic beauty, Menmecho Lake is also famous for its trout population. The lake is one of the best Trout cultivation centres of Sikkim and the Fisheries Department even maintains a cottage here.
This high altitude lake is surrounded by virgin forests and fed by the glacial waters brought by gurgling rivers and water falls. The sandy banks of the river gives it an appearance of a sea beach. The crystal clear water teems with trout and the high mountain walls guard the secrets of this lake. Apart from its mystic beauty, Memencho Lake is also famous for its trout population. This lake is one of the important trout breeding centres of Sikkim.
Its a different world out here – the mountain streams meet the lake skirting through a sandy beach surrounded by pine forests inhabited by Ghorals and Himalayan Bears. Just before the winters in November, you would find migratory birds resting on these placid waters. There is a bungalow overlooking the forest and streams just 10 mins walk from the lake. Special permits are required to reach this bungalow and the lakeside because the road leading to this lake is guarded by the Indian Army. There is a viewpoint on the bank of the lake for the trekkers to rest and watch the beauty of the lake unfold before them. However, you really need to stay overnight in this lakeside bungalow to stand witness to some of the most amazing moments of your life.
Imagine! – a moonlit night – you are sitting in the bungalow’s terrace amidst deep forests – the sound of lake water lapping on its shore – the gust of wind through forests and gorges making an eerie sound and the sandy beach of the lake seems like a silver lace all around the lake. To top it all – the caretaker and his wife serves you some local delicacies. Yes..fairies come alive here..at MenmoiTso…
There is something about high altitude lakes – you climb up the mountains, struggle through the hairpin bends and at the end you will greeted by a gleam of water body, a brilliant spectacle indeed. The Silk Route tour has several such high altitude beautiful lakes and one of the most beautiful is surely the Kupup Lake. Locally called Bitan Cho, it is one of the most sacred lakes of Sikkim, with high mountains and valleys bordering it. Owing to its resemblance to elephant, Kupup Lake is also known as Elephant Lake.
The amazing view of the lake will make you feel that nothing could be more peaceful and serene on earth. You just could not stop admiring this wonderful lake. The lake nestles at an altitude of 13,066 feet, on the way to Jelepla Pass, bordering area with China and India. It is the second highest mountain in Bhutan. The shape of the lake resembles an elephant. The right side of the lake looks like an elephant trunk and on the left, it looks like tail. The lake is also accompanied by a stunning valley. A small village called Kupup, which has only few houses and a police check post is located at the lake coast. Kupup is one of the highest villages in the region, which was a recognized transit point during the silk trade between India and Tibet. Kupup has also earned recognition in the world map, due to the Yak Golf Course, highest of its kind across the globe. This 18-hole golf course, affiliated to Indian Golf Union since 1985 nestles at an altitude of 13,025 feet from the sea level and has been included in Guinness Book of World Records.
After crossing Kupup Lake, you would find a place marked “Younghusband’s Track”. A beaten track starts from here which was used by the British Army to conquer Tibet. Led by Lt. Col. Francis Younghusband in 1903 – 1904, this was the first expedition to conquer Tibet by any European Army. The British troops began its journey from Siliguri, moved up to Rangpo, Nathang and crossed through Jelep La Pass into Chumbi Valley in Tibet and finally reached Lhasa traversing a distance of 520 kms.
Lord Francis Younghusband reached Jelep La Pass on 13 December 1903 and stepped on Chumbi Valley. It took 25 days for the troops to cross Chumbi Valley and on 07 January 1914 they reached a small outpost in Tibet called Tuna crossing the infamous Tang La, where temperatures dipped below – 30 deg C at an altitude of nearly 3 miles above sea-level. Far above the tree line, the troops had to survive in Tuna inflicted with frostbite for 3 months.Fierce battles were fought in these high mountains and the British were ruthless in killing the monk armies of Tibet. In the first major battle at Chumi Shengo, 628 Tibetan monk soldiers were killed with no casualties on the British side. Soon more skirmishes took place at Gyantse and Changlo and at the end nearly 3000 Tibetan monk soldiers were killed. Finally, on 7 Sep 1904, Lhasa surrendered and the Lhasa Convention was signed. Lord Francis Younghusband became the first European to conquer Tibet.
Located at 13025 feet above sea level, the Yak Golf Course has been listed as the World’s highest Golf Course by the Guinness Book of World Records. Initiated in 1972, the Yak Golf Course received its first makeover in 1979 by Brigadier J M Singh. However, it was completed as a complete 18-hole Golf Course under Brigadier Ranbir Singh and Col. T K Murali. Affiliated to the Indian Golf Union (IGU) since 1985, the Yak Golf Course measuring 6025 yards in length features fairways across natural mountain streams and ponds as hazards.The Golf Course arranges for Yaks for its senior members to move around. The members are also allowed to use ‘preferred lie’ to prevent their clubs from getting damaged and help them complete within the score of 72. The Saragarhi Cup was the first tournament held here in 09 Sep 1979. Also, the famous Kalimpong Cup was held here in 1988.
Jelep La is a high altitude mountain pass at 13,999 feet linking Lhasa to India. It nestles between India and Tibet in the eastern part of the Sikkim in India. The word Jelep La is of Tibetan origin and it means “the lovely level pass”. It is truly the most level among all the passes between Sikkim and Tibet.The beautiful Menmecho Lake flows below the Jelep La Pass. One can savor the awesome sight of the pass, while coming from New Baba Mandir to Kupup Lake, just after crossing the Menmecho Lake on the GN Road. There are some small military settlements at the Jelep La Pass. The complete trail from Jelep La Pass to the Kupup Lake is visible. The route is quite spectacular, admired with forests of rhododendron, which in spring are in full bloom. A number of pristine hamlets dot the panoramic surrounding. On the Tibetan side, the path stretches towards Chumbi Valley of the Tibetan Plateau.
From ancient time, Jeep La Pass is playing a major role as a trade route with the flourishing trade relation, between India and Tibet. When British started to rule India, they built roads in Sikkim around 1884. In the year 1886, a small Tibetan armed force occupied the area around the pass. In May 1888, the British were attacked by the force but were warded off. However, late in the same year, in the month of September the British reoccupied the area around the pass. With the rising influence of Russia in Tibet, the British sent an expedition in 1904, via Jelep La to Lhasa, headed by Colonel Francis Younghusband. This expedition was confronted by formidable Tibetan forces. However, the British defeated them. In the absence of the 13th Dalai Lama, who had escaped to Mongolia, a trade agreement was forced on the Tibetans.
In 1947, when India gained independence, Sikkim was a monarchy. During this time, Sikkim was granted a special protectorate status and India owned the status of a suzerain nation. From that point onwards, the defense and foreign affairs of Sikkim are managed by India. After the invasion of Tibet by China in 1950, the passes in Sikkim were used by the refugees coming from Tibet. However, after the Sino-Indian War in 1962, the Jelep La Pass was closed down permanently. In the early phase of 1975, following a referendum, Sikkim became a part of India. Again, with the recent development in relation between India and China, there are possibilities in reopening the Jelep La Pass (following the reopening of the Nathu La Pass on July 6, 2006). There is a huge expectation that the opening of the pass, will lead to an economic boom in the region.
If you do not like Gnathang Valley, you would not like paradise. Located at an altitude of 13,500 feet, this lush valley was the home to traditional yak herders who came from Tibet. Few
streams crisscross the valley, and prayer flags flutter on the mountain edges on this vast plain of nothingness. Gnathang Valley appears in different colours in different times of the year. In autumn it looks golden when the grass dries up, in rainy season it’s covered in flowers and in winter it is buried in 5 feet of snow. Gnathang Valley is also visited by migratory birds just before the onset of winter. There’s a monastery, a temple and a small bridge over a small stream in the distance dotting the valley. Gnathang falls in the middle of the Silk Route circuit and is the most scenic place to stay. It is also nearest (just 20 mins) to the best sunrise viewpoints like Lungthung , Salami view point and Eagle’s Nest Bunker.
You would find a Hindu temple and a small Buddhist Monastery in the valley on the fringes of a small village. You would also find few streams snaking through the valley and makeshift bridges built on the stream. And there is nothing more except endless stretches of grassland, surrounded by high mountains. The valley is devoid of any trees and it seems out of this world. Just 5 kms away, you would find the famous Eagle’s Nest Bunker from where you can get a 360 degree view of the whole range of Mt. Kanchenjungha, West Bhutan, plains of Bengal, China, Tibet and the beautiful River Bramhaputra meandering across in the horizon. Sunrise over Mt. Kanchenjungha from Eagle’s Nest Bunker is beyond human description. Another nearby sunrise point Salami View Point is just 20 mins away from Nathang Valley. While staying at Nathang you can cover Padamchen, Genmochen, Thambi View Point, Kupup Lake, Tukla Valley, Baba Mandir and all other spots in the Silk Route circuit in day trips.
Laxman Chowk is wrongly called Luxmi Chowk by most. From Laxman Chowk, the RN Road divides into two – one goes to Old Baba Mandir and the other goes to Nathang Valley. Located at 12800 feet, Laxman Chowk was built in the fond memory of Lt. Col. Laxman Singh (Commanding Officer, 5 Mahar Borders) under whose command the unit pre-emptively secured the water shed opposite Chinese in General Area Dokala in 1965.A memorial was inaugurated by the Commander, 164 Mountain Brigade on 23 Mar 2013 here on the 65th Raising Day of the Battalion during Unit’s Second tenure in Nathang. You would get a panoramic view of Mt. Kanchenjungha from Laxman Chowk.
India Lake in the Silk Route is located very near to Laxman Chowk at around 12500 feet, the water of this lake is so dark that it has earned its name Kalpokhari. Kal means Kaala or Black and Pokhari refers to pond or lake in Sikkimese. Kalpokhari is tucked within a valley which is a yak grazing land. From an angle. this lake looks somewhat like India’s Political Map, so some prefer to call it India Lake too.It is a sacred lake, which is said to contain sacred fish within its deep waters. The surrounding valley of this lake makes a sheer drop of thousands of feet from where the clouds peep and then slowly cloak this lake.
Gnathang Valley looks beautiful in every season, so you can visit the place from June to September when the valley is veiled behind wild flowers. From September to January, the valley gains back a golden hue after the snow thaws from the grassland. From January to April the valley remains under the cover of snow, so if you are looking forward to experience snowfall in winter, this is the ideal time for you.
Aritar Lake or Lampokhari lake This 1120 feet long and 240 feet wide boot-shaped lake is one of the oldest natural lakes in Sikkim. A pathway has been recently constructed all around the lake for the tourists. You can also do boating in the Lampokhari lake. Located at an altitude of 4600 feet, Lampokhri lake also known as Aritar Lake is surrounded by verdant green pine forests. Although Mt. Kanchenjungha is not visible from Lampokhri or its adjacent village – Aritar, still Lampokhri holds its charm as an emerald green lake amidst an untouched pine forest. Children can feed the fish and swans of Lampokhri too. The jungle path that connects Mankhim to Lampokhri Lake is a very popular bird watching trail. This two-kilometer walk with viewpoints is an ideal place to rejuvenate with nature. There is a small temple dedicated to Guru Padmasambhava on the banks of Lampokhri Lake. Boating is also allowed in this lake.
A narrow jungle path connects the lake from the nearby mountain top called Mankhim. This 1.5 km trek from Mankhim to Aritar Lake (Lampokhari) through forests is perfect for first timers, birdwatchers and even children. This downhill trek starts from Mankhim and passes through some forested areas with glimpses of the Lampokhari lake and Mt. Kanchenjungha accompanying you. Mankhim Rai Temple is a main attraction here. Temple Located at an elevation of 1982 m, the temple is situated at Maity Village, Kheselakha. The temple comes under the ordinance of the Rai community, who were the believers of nature and wildlife. Twice in a year, Mankhim temple celebrates Sakewa puja in order to sow more plants. During the puja, colourful dance and musical recitals are performed in the temple premises. Near to Mankhim temple is the Hattipailay village which is famous its numerous rocks which carry footprints of elephants. Mankhim temple offers panoramic views of Mt. Kanchenjunghaand the "boot-shaped" Lampokhri Lake at the same time. Among the other attractions of Aritar, Aritar Monastery is the prime. It is one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim, Aritar Gumpa is the perfect epitome of the finest yet traditional architecture.
The monastery belongs to the Kagyuapa order of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery houses someof the most best craved architecture, painted murals artefacts, ancient manuscripts, and monastic arts. Aritar Gumpa is famous for its beautifully carved traditional architecture. Another attraction here is Aritar Dak bungalow, which was built by Sir James Claude White, the 1st political officer of Sikkim in 1895. The mansion is renowned by the name of Ari-Bangla and was constructed during the reign of the British rulers. This is the place where Sikkim's first treasury was built, Sikkim Police was raised, and the first outpost started functioning in the year 1897.
The true beauty of the Tibetan Highlands can be experienced at Tukla Valley. Located at an altitude of around 12500 feet above sea level, Tukla Valley in Sikkim offers a majestic panoramic view of Mt. Kanchenjungha and its allied peaks.
You would also find a war memorial built in memory of the British soldiers who fell at the Battle of Tukla. The Tukla Valley is covered in snow during winter and in September-October, the whole valley becomes red due to the growth of a local flowers. Tukla Valley is around 16 kms from Kupup Lake. The Jelepla Pass is also located nearby.
At a distance of 60 km from the majestic Gangtok city towards the legendary Nathula, you will find a road leading towards the Kupup valley up to Tukla. A bifurcated road from Tukla would connect to the Old Baba Mandir (Bunker). At this place; the samadhi of Baba Harbhajan, famously known, as Old Baba Mandir has been built.
Harbhajan Singh was born in the Sadrana village of Gujranwala district (Presently in Pakistan) into a Sikh family on August 30, 1946. On 9th February 1966 he got enrolled into the Punjab Regiment of Indian army as a sepoy. The year 1968 brought havoc misfortune for the states of Sikkim and North Bengal, as they were under the fury of natural disaster. Floods, landslides and heavy rainfall claimed thousands of lives in the two states. Sepoy Harbhajan Singh made an immense contribution during this time in helping the sufferers to sustain. On October 4, 1968, while he was escorting a mule column from Tuku La, his battalion headquarters to Donguchui La, Harbhajan Singh suddenly slipped and fell into a fast flowing nullah and unfortunately drowned. Strong water current carried his body for about 2 kms from the site of the accident. He was searched with all efforts, but his body went missing. On the fifth day of his missing, his fellow Pritam Singh had a dream, where Harbhajan Singh himself informed him of his tragic death and he also mentioned that his body is lying underneath the heap of snows. Harbhajan Singh also expressed the strong desire to have a samadhi made after him. However, Pritam Singh did not pay much importance to his dream. But later, when Harbhajan Singh’s body was discovered at the very place, which he had mentioned in the dream, all were taken aback. And, to honor his wish, a samadhi was built near Chhokya Chho at an elevation of around 4,000 meters, which gained popularity as the Old Baba Mandir. This samadhi is less visited by tourists. Visitors need to climb 50 stairs to reach the bunker, the site where the samadhi has been built. This was the place where Baba was posted during his service period in Indian army.
Reshikhola is a riverside destination just 37 km from Kalimpong and very near to Pedong. The little village of Reshikhola received its name from the Reshi River running along this small place. In Nepali language ‘Khola’ means ‘small stream’. The place falls in between West Bengal and Sikkim creating a division between the two states.
Like all other rivulets crisscrossing the sub-Himalayan range, the Reshi river coast is strewn with rocks and boulders with stream waters gushing around them. The river valley is surrounded by forests which are home to numerous birds and occasional bigger visitors like bears. Some basic homestays with nice modern facilities have come up along the Reshi riverside. These homestays overlook the river and promote eco-tourism where tourists can enjoy fresh caught fish and short treks around the forests. Reshi River is also believed to be a part of a popular travel route where, caravans used to stop for water.
Take a dip in the Reshi River and drown yourself in the sound of gushing water. At Reshikhola, you can do some basic angling too. If you are a birdwatcher, then you can take a walk in the surrounding forests too. The nearest tourist destinations of Reshikhola are Pedong, Sillery Gaon, Kaagey Village, Mankhim, Aritar, Lingzey and Kalimpong. As Reshikhola is a much warmer place just 2000 feet above sea level, it is favoured by some tourists as the final retreat in the Silk Route.
It’s a perfect stopover for tourists intending to visit "The Silk Route"; as it is a nice picnic and camping ground for tourists to have fun and chill out on the banks of the river rishi. It is also an idyllic spot for romancing the moonlight with a light barbecue and bonfire. Tourists can also indulge in luxury of bathing in the crystal clear river water and to cast the net for a light barbecue. Tourists can also get a feel of staying in pitched tents and test their wilderness streak.For trekkers and adventure lovers, Reshi offers innumerable opportunities for rock climbing and light treks.
Enveloped with tranquility, Sillery Gaon is a picture-perfect Himalayan hamlet, which nestles at a height of around 6000 feet. Sillery is located 96 kms from New Jalpaiguri via Kalimpong [25 Km from kalimpong, 25 Km from lava]. The scenic beauty of the place is undoubtedly eye appealing. Gorgeous view of the mighty Mt. Kanchenjungha can be savored from Sillery Gaon. The music of wilderness, the chirping of the birds and the fragrance of nature of this pristine hamlet will soothe your senses and refresh your mind. This intimate village adorned with pine trees is nowadays lovingly called New Darjeeling. This charming village is the haven of varieties of exotic bird species, which makes it an ideal place for passionate bird watchers. Enjoy a nature trail, while enjoying the beauty of the picturesque landscape of the destination.
An excellent and outstanding tourism spot, Sillery Gaon boasts immense travel potential. There is a fascinating hilltop near Sillery Gaon, famously known as Tin Chuley. You can enjoy a 360-degree view of the mighty Himalayas from this site, along with the town of Sikkim, Jeep La and Nathu La. This place can be reached by car or you can also trek to Tin Chuley. Another amazing site near Sillery Gaon is Ramitey Dara, a famous vantage point, which offers a panoramic view of the winding River Teesta, with around 14 turns along the legendary Himalayas. A visit to the Damsang Fort, located 4 km away from Sillery Gaon is also worth a visit. The fort was constructed in 1690 by the Lepchas. However, only the ruins of the fort exist now, since it was destroyed by the British, post Anglo-Bhutan War of 1864. Wind up your day by appreciating the breathtaking beauty of the Silence Valley, a small stretch of forest with grassy land, shrouded with ultimate serenity. There is another Pins covered beautiful hidden Green Valley,locally known as Silent valley.
Sillery Gaon is encircled by Pedong, Rishi and Aritar. The village is the home to the highly revered Sanghen Dorjee Monastery, located near Pedong. The origin of the monastery can be traced back 300 years ago, during the rule of Bhutanese in Pedong. The old section of the monastery is decked with some beautiful wall paintings, depicting Tantrik Buddhism. The center of attraction of the monastery is the mummified body of a holy Bhutanese priest.
If you are visiting the place in April-May, do not miss the “Chyam” dance held at this place. Tourists also visit Cross Hill near Pedong, built by Fr. Augustine Desgodins in 1882. It is highly revered as a site of Pilgrimage for the local Christian community. Shahid Park is another “must visit” location of the destination, located 2 km from Pedong bazaar. A memorial stone has been laid at the park, to honor the memory of a local young soldier of Indian army, Late Palender Raj, who sacrificed his life at Thangdhar Jammu & Kashmir sector (Kargil War). Panoramic view of Sikkim can be viewed from this park.
Gurudongmar Lake , Situated at a height of 17,800 feet, it is considered one the most sacred lakes by the Buddhists and Hindus alike. The beautiful and awe inspiring lake (190 kms from Gangtok) remains milky in colour throughout the year. According to a legend, since the lake used to remain frozen most of the year, it was not possible to use its water for drinking purposes. When the Guru Padmasambhava passed by, while returning from Tibet, the local residents are reported to have approached him for providing source of water.The Guru obliged. A portion of the lake touched by him does not freeze in extreme winter. Since water of the lake is considered sacred, visitors carry the 'blessed' water in bottles.
There is no proper tourist accommodation beyond Lachen. So almost all tourists, visiting Gurudongmar Lake stay at Lachen overnight before proceeding to the lake next morning. And along with the lake, a typical tour also combines a visit to Chopta Valley, a beautiful valley located in-between Lachen and Gurudongmar which gets covered with flowers in spring and with snow during winter.
Lachen is a small village located in north Sikkim at an altitude of 8,838ft with about 250 village families and few hotels & small shops. Its original inhabitants are known as Lachenpas who are a Sikkimese Buddhist community. They are mostly ship and yak herders. Although the distance to Lachen is only 121kms from Gangtok, it can easily take 6 to 7 hours to reach the place by car depending on road conditions. Tourists usually come to Lachen on the way to the famous & picturesque high altitude Gurudongmar Lake which is located further up at an altitude of 17,800ft near Indo-China (Tibet) border.
From Gangtok, you need to take the North Sikim Highway. The road passes through villages like Phodong, Mangan, Tong etc before reaching Chungthang a village which is about 95kms from Gangtok and takes about 5 hours or more to reach. The road at Chungthang bifurcates. The one towards right goes to Lachung which is about 22kms towards north and onward to Yumthang Valley. The road on the left known as Lachen road goes to Lachen which is about 26kms from Chungthang and takes over an hour. Since boath Lachen and Lachung are close to each other, many tourists make a combined a visit of Lachen/Gurudongmar lake with Lachung & Yumthang Valley.
Lachen means "Big Pass". This small village at an altitude of 8,838ft is a valley with grassy land and scattered forests of Rhodendrons and conifer. The mountain stream Lachen Chu flows through it in deep gorges and on the other side of the river are large mountains with pine forest and snow peaks. While tourists get to Lachen mainly to visit Gurudongmar Lake, there are reasons to spend some time in Lachen itself. Lachen Monastery is one of the oldest in Sikkim and built in 1858. It was then a small hut like structure with only 6 monks. But later in 1977 with financial aid from Sikkim Government, it was reconstructed to its current form. The Monastery follows Nyingma Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Couple of noteworthy artifacts in the monastery includes a stone in a casket having footprint of Kham Gomchen who stayed at the monastery, another stone looking like a decorative container which has been kept on the altar and preserved by the monks as a religious artifact. You should also visit the Handicraft Center of Lachen located in the market area. The original residents the Lachen pas have been weaving carpets, shawls, blankets, bags etc since ages. They are made of yak and ship wool. This is a great place to see many such samples and watch some of the local ladies weaving them. There are wood crafted items as well like Buddha's idol. Gurudongmar Lake , the largest lake in Sikkim, one of the highest in the world and considered very sacred by both Buddhists and Hindus. You should start from Lachen early in the morning (by 4am) because you need to be back by lunch time. The weather near Gurudongmar usually starts becoming bad as the day progresses, so you need to leave the lake area and start for Lachen by around 9:30am. But the early start is not a problem because the daylight here breaks very early too.
Your first stop is at Thangu, a tiny hamlet with only handful of villagers and a large army base. Thangu is a valley with lush meadows located at an altitude of 13,000ft and about 27kms north of Lachen. It takes about 1hour 15 minutes to reach Thangu from Lachen. Within an hour or so the altitude changes by over 4,000ft. So you can imagine how steep the road is. There are a few stalls here where you can take tea and have your packed breakfast. You can distinctly see the change in foliage as you get to Thangu. From green forests or large trees, the foliage changes to mostly smaller bushes. If you visit during May/June, you can see the valley full of beautiful alpine flowers. From November onwards, the valley gets covered with snow till March.
From Thangu the distance to Gurudongmar is about 40kms (i.e. 67kms from Lachen). Although the distance looks short, it will require about 4 hours to reach Gurudongmar from Lachen (so about 3 hour from Thangu). From Thangu onwards you are on high alpine plateau, there is hardly any vegetation and you will see rocky mountains all around other than some scarce rhododendron bushes. Thangu in fact is the last Civilian Settlement along this route.
This road known as Gurudongmar road eventually splits. A narrow road on the right goes uphill to the Gurudongmar lake, while the other one continues to Tso Lhamo lake which is about 5kms away. From there the main road continues further north-east to the Indo-China border (another 4kms from Tso Lhamo). Tso Lhamo lake is fed by glaciers and is one of the main sources feeding River Teesta. Gurudongmar lake is located at an altitude of 17,800ft (5,430m) and covers an area of 290 acres making it the largest lake in the whole of Sikkim. It's surrounded by snow clad mountains making it a stunningly picturesque site. During winter, the lake freezes except for one small area. The Buddhists and Hindus believe that this specific area is blessed. In fact the whole lake is considered holy and is believed to be having many healing powers. You will see Buddhist prayer flags fluttering on the sides of the lake. The Gurudongmar lake has been named after Guru Padmasambhava (an 8th-century Indian Buddhist master) who came here on his way back from Tibet. There is a legend associated with him and the lake. Since the lake used to completely freeze during winter and could not be used as a source of drinking water during such time, the locals pleaded to Guru for a solution. Guru agreed and placed his hands on one point of the lake, and it is this point where the water never freezes any longer. Since then the lake is considered holy and
devotees collect sacred water in containers. On one side of the lake there is a small temple of Guru Padmasambhava.
On your way back from Gurudongmar, stop at Chopta Valley located at 13,200ft near Thangu. It's only 2kms from Thangu towards Gurudongmar. So while returning, Chopta Valley will come first and then Thangu. This is a picture perfect valley. During summer and monsoon (May to September) the valley is carpeted with flowers such as primula, rhododendrons and several different kinds of wild flowers.
How to visit
You can visit Lachen and Gurudongmar lake only through tour operators who are registered with Sikkim Tourism Department. Being a protected area, you need to get Protected Area Permit which the registered tour operator can arrange. But you need to get that done in Gangtok at least one day before you start for Lachen. Foreigners are not allowed in Gurudungmar Lake, they can go only up to Chopta Valley. The permits are usually checked at Mangan and then again at Tong.
Suggested Tour Plan from Gangtok (Only Lachen/Gurudongmar)
Day1: Reach Lachen from Gangtok, overnight stay at Lachen.
Day2: Start early (by 4am), visit Gurudongmar lake & Chopta Valley, return to hotel, have lunch and
proceed to Gangtok. Overnight stay at Gangtok.
Combined tour of Lachen & Lachung
Day1: Reach Lachen from Gangtok, overnight stay at Lachen.
Day2: Start early (by 4am), visit Gurudongmar lake & Chopta Valley, return to hotel, have lunch and
proceed to Lachung. Overnight stay at Lachung.
Day3: Star early, visit Zero Point, Yumthang Valley, return to hotel, have lunch and proceed to
Gangtok. Overnight stay at Gangtok.
Best time to visit Lachen/Gurudongmar
April to May is a great time to go as the rhododendrons are in full bloom during this time. Beginning of December is also a great time to see snow covered Chopta Valley, walk over frozen river, and if roads are open then onwards to Gurudongmar to see the frozen lake circled with snow mountains.
Yumthang, situated at a height of 11800 feet is popularly known as "Valley of Flowers", Located at a distance of 148 kms from Gangtok, it is a paradise for nature lovers with a fascinating blend of flora and fauna and breathtaking scenic beauty. In spring season, wild flowers such as primulas and Rhododendrons bathe the landscape in rich colours, making it a tourist hot spot. The Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary over here has 24 species of Rhododendron flowers which bloom from April to May end.
hot spring located on the right side of Yumthang river is a popular tourist attraction. In addition to a vast green meadow, lush green forest abounding in Pine and silver fir trees throngs the place. While driving towards the valley, one can see cascading waterfalls and streams.
Situated further up at a distance of 16 kms, at an altitude of about 16,000 feet is Yumesamdong. The rugged vegetation- free mountains, especially in the months of November-December and March- April over here present a breathtaking scenario. The approach to Yumthang is from Lachung valley, situated at a height of 8000 feet. It is at a distance of 120 kms from Gangtok. It has a unique self-governing body called the Dzumsa, which substitutes the modern Gram Panchyat. The village, spread out on the either side of Lachung Chu, has managed to retain its unique culture and tradition. If you are visiting Sikkim and don't think that you will make it again in a long time to come, then do pursue a visit to Lachung, Yumthang Valley and Zero Point. Why? Because you may not again see such stunning views of snow mountains and rivers anywhere else.
Dr. Joseph Hooker in his "Himalayan Journal" of 1855 mentioned that Lachung and Yumthang are the two most picturesque places in the whole of Sikkim and had even compared them to valleys of Switzerland.
You should plan your visit to Lachung and onward to Yumthang valley and Zero Point from Gangtok. It requires an overnight stay at Lachung before you can return to Gangtok next day. From Gangtok, after 66kms drive you will reach the small township if Mangan, and then Chungthang which is only 22kms before Lachung and is the nearest town. Along the way the river Teesta will be by your side and you can see a number of waterfalls and mountain springs.
Lachung means the "Small Pass" (so there must be a "Big Pass" as well? Yes, it's another place called Lachen. From Chunthang a road bifurcates and leads towards Lachen). Lachung is a small mountain village at an altitude of 8,610ft and located about 118kms from Gangtok. Although the distance looks easy, it takes about 6 hours by car to reach Lachung from Gangtok, and the road although very scenic, is often not in good condition. Lachung is part of North Sikkim.
Although most come and stay at Lachung to visit Yumthang valley and Zero Point the next day before returning to Gangtok, you should not miss out on the opportunities which Lachung itself offers. Start early in the morning from Gangtok so that you can reach Lachung by 12noon and have enough time to explore the nearby area. The residents of Lachung who are mostly Bhutias call themselves Lachungpas. They have their own self governing body known as "Dzumsa" to settle all social and other disputes through consensus.
One of the nice places to visit here is the Lachung Monsatery (or gompa). It has wonderful wall murals and also several ancient statues. The monastery holds religious dance on 28th and 29th day of 10th Buddhist month (December). You should also visit the Carpet Weaving Center where you can see the local ladies weaving exquisite woolen carpets.
On your way to Lachung, you had crossed the town of Chungthang which is about 22kms away. You should take a halt here and watch the lovely confluence of the rivers Lachung and Lachen chhus which then join the river Teesta.
You should stay overnight at Lachung, and start early next morning. Yumthang valley is about 25kms from Lachung located at an altitude of 11,800ft and takes about 1.5 hours of drive. The name Yumthang Valley means "Valley of Flowers". So you know what to expect. But the name would have been more appropriate if it said "Valley of Rhododendrons". Because here as the tree line ends and the vast stretch of flowering valley exposes a dense bed of rhododendron flowers for miles and in many different colors like purple, blue, red, pink etc.
The rhododendrons bloom between March to May. Visit the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary which spans across 34 square kilometers area here near Lachung and has over 38 different varieties of rhododendrons. The sanctuary beats out its competitors like Dzongro, Barsey, Zema in Lachen because of its sheer variety and spread of colors. You can see some great species such as arboretum, grande, nivale, the state flower etc. State Forest Department holds International Rhodendron Festival here annually between March to May during the peak flowering season. Other than the wonderful views of vast valley of flowers, Yumthang also offers lovely views of the mountain peaks such as Pauhunri and Shundu Tsenpa forming the backdrop of the river Teesta.
Before entering the Yumthang Valley, a pedestrian pathway goes over a small bridge and reaches Yumthang Hot Spring. You will need to walk for few thousand yards to reach the hot spring. In such a cold climate, this surprisingly natural warm water comes as a pleasant surprise. The water is rich with sulfur and said to have good healing and medicinal value. The spring water here is directed to a hut and couple of pools inside so that one can take a healing bath here.
Further up and about 23kms from Yumthang at an altitude of over 15,000 ft is the place Zero Point (also known as Yume Samdong). It takes another 1.5 hours from Yumthang by vehicle (about 3 to 3.5 hours from Lachung). This is where the civilian road ends and you can't drive any further and hence the name Zero Point. A short distance away from here is the border with China and tourists are not allowed to go any further beyond the Zero Point.
So what do you expect in Zero Point? While the road is quite treacherous, the rewards are awesome. Zero Point or Yume Samdong is the place where three rivers meet with surrounding snow-clad mountains and offering marvelous scenic views. You can often see yaks grazing in the snow. There is hardly any vegetation in Zero point other than some stretches of grassy land which becomes visible when the snow melts. Zero Point is the place which remains snow covered for most part of the year. So if you want to see and enjoy snow, then visit Zero Point and you won't likely be disappointed. There are also Hot Springs in Yume Samdong at the river called Sebu chhu. How to visit Lachung, Yumthang Valley and Zero Point Only vehicles from tour operators who are registered with Sikkim tourism are allowed. Visit to Zero Point requires additional cost for vehicle. You need to take a tour package from an authorized tour operator of Sikkim.
Suggested Tour Plan from Gangtok (Only Lachung / Yumthang Valley)
Day1: Reach Lachung from Gangtok, overnight stay at Lachung.
Day2: Star early, visit Zero Point, Yumthang Valley, return to hotel, have lunch and proceed to
Combined tour of Lachen & Lachung
Day1: Reach Lachen from Gangtok, overnight stay at Lachen.
Day2: Start early (4am), visit Gurudongmar lake & Chopta Valley, return to hotel, have lunch and
proceed to Lachung. Overnight stay at :Lchung.
Day3: Star early, visit Zero Point, Yumthang Valley, return to hotel, have lunch and proceed to
Best time to visit Lachung / Yumthang
April to May is a great time to go as the rhododendrons are in full bloom during this time, and Yumthang valley lives up to its name - the valley of flowers. Another good time is during Losar festival (held between February to March). This is when the locals in their full traditional costumes eat, drink and perform many cultural shows. Beginning of December is also a great time as you can see the monks performing mask dance at Lachung monastery. Permits As the China border is nearby, the whole area is under army control. Visitors require protected area permits (PAP) to visit Lachung/ Yumthang/ Zero Point. It can be made at Gangtok Tourism Office, District Administrative Center at Mangan, or at Chungthang Sub-Divisional Magistrate's Office. However it's best to leave it to the tour operator. What to carry If you are heading for snow in Zero Point, then rent an overcoat, a pair of gloves and snow boots from Yumthang market. Also carry enough warm woolens in all seasons as it can be biting cold at the higher reaches. Carry all your medication particularly for any high altitude sickness. There are no ATMs here, so carry enough cash.
Nathula located at the Indo China border at an altitude of 14,100 feet asl is a favorite hotspot place of visit for visitors coming to Sikkim. It is 56 km East of Gangtok and connects the
Indian state of Sikkim to Tibet Autonomous Region in China.
Nathu means "listening ears" and La means "pass" in Tibetan. It is one of the highest motorable roads and is covered with rich alpine flora and fauna. Special permits are required to visit this site and excursions are organized by registered tour operators only. The Nathula Pass was re-opened for border trade after a gap of 44 years in 2006. The road to this pass is breathtaking and the landscape is dotted with army settlements. This pass has historical importance and in 1904, Major Francis Younghusband, serving as the British Commissioner to Tibet, led a successful mission through Nathu La to capture Lhasa. It is guarded on both sides by the Chinese and Indian soldiers.
Nathula Pass was the place through which the famous Silk Route used to operate until 1962. This used to be a trade route between India and Tibet. Lines of mules used to carry silk, gold and many other items from Tibet to India and take daily essentials back to Tibet. The route in Tibet goes down the Chumbi Valley to Yathung, a place about 30kms away which once used to be a major trading township (no longer so). In fact on a clear day you can see this route winding down the valley. If you look at the eastern horizon, you can see the magnificent peak of Chomolhari of Bhutan. On a clear day you can even see the road winding down the Chumbi valley. Tourists are allowed to go close to the international border from where you can see Chinese soldiers on the other side of the barbed wire.
The fenced Indo-China border is also few meters away and you can see both Indian and Chinese soldiers guarding the border. The guards are friendly. A stairway leads to the border. There is no "no mans land"; here. Even today, mails are delivered across the border on certain days of the week. There is an engraved stone here called Nehru Stone which marks the visit of former Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru who visited in 1958. When the war broke out between India and China in 1962, the Indo-China border at Nathula was relatively quiet. But in 1965 a firing across the border took place because of a dispute around the location of the fenced border. In 1967 a major confrontation took place here between the two countries and many lives were lost on both sides. You will find a memorial here constructed in honor of the Indian soldiers who lost their lives in this battle.
On the way to Nathula, you will come across a place called Thegu which has an ATM. This is the highest altitude ATM in the world. It operates with a generator and a special fuel that does not freeze in such high altitude. You can take cash or just check your balance and take the slip as souvenir.
A note of caution
Because of the high altitude at Nathula, oxygen level in the air is quite low. Few (adults or children) can face breathing problems at Nathula. If you already have breathing or other health problems, you should consult a doctor before the visit. You can take Acetazolamide Tablets (consult doctor for dosage) while visiting Nathula. It helps retaining oxygen in the body. You may also consider carrying portable oxygen cylinders. They come at various sizes. Larger ones last continuously for 3-4 hours. There are also small cylinders. Each small one lasts for about 15 minutes. If you start having breathing problems, you should immediately come down. You will get portable oxygen cylinders in Gangtok at Medical shops.
How to reach:
You can take a round trip tour package from an authorized tour operator in Gangtok. It will require a full day trip from Gangtok to visit Nathula. It is usually combined with visits to Tsomgo Lake and Baba Mandir. The road condition is not good. Only Jeep or SUV type vehicles (like Bolero, Scorpio etc) should be taken to approach Nathula. Sometimes due to snow, landslides and other road conditions, traffic gets held up for hours on this route.
Permits for Nathula:
Note that Nathula is a protected area. Foreign tourists are not allowed here. Indians require a valid Protected Area Permit to visit Nathula. Permit is issued by the Sikkim Tourism Department in Gangtok. You can get it through a registered tour agency or ask your hotel to get it. You will need photo ID proof (PAN card not accepted) and two passport size photos each. You should apply for the permit at least one day before your planned visit. If you plan to visit Nathula the very next day you arrive at Gangtok, you should then send your documents and photos to your tour operator in advance to get the permits done before you arrive. Permit cost is Rs. 200/- per person. Permits are not required (or issued) to children below 4 years.
When to visit Nathula:
Nathula is open for Indian nationals on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays. The visitors have to get the permit to visit the place by applying to the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department through a registered and recognised Travel Agency. Foreign nationals are not allowed to visit Nathula. Photography is strictly prohibited. Good time to visit is between May to October when the temperature hovers around 10 to 15°C. On a clear day you can see the entire pass and the landscape with towering mountain peaks in the background. You won't usually get any snow during this time.
Winter starts from November and peaks between December to February. This is when heavy snowing takes place and the temperature can easily go below -25°C. Often the route to Nathula remains closed during winter when it snows heavily. However if the route is open and you make a visit during the winter, pick up snow boots and heavy winter-wears along the way. There are stalls that offer such snow gears on rentals. The two months - November and March are good time to see Nathula covered in snow. The route usually remains open on these two winter months. However from Mid December till third week of April you can get snow at Nathula. From may onwards the snowing usually stops although there can be exceptions on certain days.
Tsomgo Lake or Changu Lake is perched within mountains at an altitude of 12,400 ft. Located at Gangtok – Nathula Highway only 37 kms. from Gangtok, the Changu Lake is one of the most spectacular landscapes of Sikkim. The lake is highly revered by the local Buddhists and Hindus as a sacred lake. With a depth of around 48 feet and spreading over 1 kilometre, the magnificent Changu Lake romances with its picturesque surrounding. The water of the lake comes from the melting of the snow of its surrounding mountains, which is why, this lake never dries up. In fact, Changu Lake is also the place of origin of Lungtse Chu River. This azure blue lake remains completely frozen during winter.
This oval-shaped deep blue lake is a treat to the eye from a distance. You would get the best panoramic view of the lake after crossing it on the way to New Baba Mandir. During winters the lake remains wrapped in ice, along with its surrounding region. The spectacle is truly breathtaking. The lake remains frozen up to April. In late spring, the lake is surrounded with wild flowers, which create a riot of colours. The rhododendrons, blue and yellow poppies, various species of primulas, irises create a breathtaking effect. The journey to Changu Lake from Gangtok is also quite enchanting, where you can view a number of waterfalls en route.
A small bridge just at the entrance of the lake will take you to a viewpoint cum cafeteria, from where you can view the complete lake and its surrounding mountains. There is also a small temple dedicated to Lord Shiva built at the lakeside. You can trek along the lakeside in deep snow during winter or even take Yak rides along the coast of the lake. There is a small rustic market before entering the Changu Lake which sells yak cheese, trinkets and local curios to the tourists. Adventure seekers can also enjoy trekking at the surrounding Kyonqnosla Alpine Sanctuary. You would also get snow boots and gumboots on hire from here. There are few eateries too selling Momos and tea in this area. The Gangtok – Nathula Highway skirts the Changu Lake and reaches the New Baba Mandir and Nathula Point from Serathang.
Changu Lake is shrouded in myths and legends. It is said that in ancient times, the Lamas (Buddhist Saints) used to predict the future by observing the lake’s colour. If the water of the lake had a dark tinge, they predicted the future to be dark and gloomy, full of unrest. The faith-healers of Sikkim, popularly known as Jhakhris also visit this lake during Guru Purnima to offer prayers. But humans are not the only visitors to this lake; it is also home to Brahmini Ducks and a favourite stopover to other species of migratory birds.
Accommodation in Changu Lake:
There is no accommodation option at Changu Lake.
Best time to visit Changu Lake:
During winters (From January to mid May) Changu Lake is complete covered in snow and you can enjoy trekking as well as Yak ride on snow along the coasts of the lake. From October to December, the lake is partly covered in sheet ice and migratory birds can be seen waddling in the lake’s water. From April to July, you can witness a good bloom of flowers. Most of the year, Changu Lake experiences a sparkling weather.
How to reach:
You can take a round trip tour package from an authorized tour operator in Gangtok. It will require a full day trip from Gangtok to visit Tsomgo Lake. It is usually combined with visits to Nathula and Baba Mandir.
Baba Mandir is a distinguished sightseeing place of Sikkim. This “mandir” or shrine is dedicated to “Baba” Harbhajan Singh, who was a soldier of the Indian Army. He died near the Nathula Pass in eastern Sikkim, India. Two shrines have been built to show reverence to Baba Harbhajan Singh. The old one has been built at the site of the bunker, where Baba Harbhajan was posted during his tenure in the Indian Army. The new one has been built at close proximity from Changu Lake.
Old Baba Mandir_______________________________
At a distance of 60 km from the majestic Gangtok city towards the legendary Nathula, you will find a road leading towards the Kupup valley up to Tukla. A bifurcated road from Tukla would connect to the Old Baba Mandir (Bunker). At this place; the samadhi of Baba Harbhajan, famously known, as Old Baba Mandir has been built. Harbhajan Singh was born in the Sadrana village of Gujranwala district (Presently in Pakistan) into a Sikh family on August 30, 1946. On 9th February 1966 he got enrolled into the Punjab Regiment of Indian army as a sepoy. The year 1968 brought havoc misfortune for the states of Sikkim and North Bengal, as they were under the fury of natural disaster. Floods, landslides and heavy rainfall claimed thousands of lives in the two states. Sepoy Harbhajan Singh made an immense contribution during this time in helping the sufferers to sustain. On October 4, 1968, while he was escorting a mule column from Tuku La, his battalion headquarters to Donguchui La, Harbhajan Singh suddenly slipped and fell into a fast flowing nullah and unfortunately drowned. Strong water current carried his body for about 2 kms from the site of the accident. He was searched with all efforts, but his body went missing. On the fifth day of his missing, his fellow Pritam Singh had a dream, where Harbhajan Singh himself informed him of his tragic death and he also mentioned that his body is lying underneath the heap of snows. Harbhajan Singh also expressed the strong desire to have a samadhi made after him. However, Pritam Singh did not pay much importance to his dream. But later, when Harbhajan Singh’s body was discovered at the very place, which he had mentioned in the dream, all were taken aback. And, to honor his wish, a samadhi was built near Chhokya Chho at the spot of his own bunker, at an elevation of around 4,000 meters, which gained popularity as the Old Baba Mandir. This samadhi is less visited by tourists. Visitors need to climb 50 stairs to reach the bunker, the site where the samadhi has been built. This was the place where Baba was posted during his service period in Indian army.
New Baba Mandir_______________________________
However, for the tourists’ convenience,as the Bunker of Baba Harbhajan Singh is not accessible for tourist all over the season specially during winter times for heavy snowfalls, the samadhi of Baba Harbhajan Singh has been reconstructed at the junction of Kupup Gnathang road and the trail leading to Menmecho Lake, on November 11, 1982. And this shrine is popularly recognized by tourists as New Baba Mandir.
Hoards of devotees visit the shrine of Harbhajan Singh every year. The shrine features three room structures. There is a large portrait of Baba in the central room, which has been placed with other Sikh Gurus and Hindu deity. At the right of the central room, there is the personal room of Baba. The room houses all essential household belongings, needed for daily livelihood, starting from clothes, slippers, shoes to a clean sleeping camp bed. Neatly ironed uniform and polished boots are also kept. The bedsheets are reportedly found crumbled each morning and the boots become muddy by evening. There is another small room, which is used as office cum storeroom. The room is filled with unused slippers, water bottles, toothbrushes and other items that are offered to Baba. The salary of Major Harbhajan Singh has not been stopped and he is also granted his annual leave. There is a strong belief that water kept in the shrine of Baba gains healing property and turns into sacred water that can cure all possible ailments. This blessed water is needed to be consumed within 21 day and in this period, no family members of the ailing person is supposed to have non-vegetarian food. It is also believed that the slippers kept in the temple, help to cure gout and other foot problems. Followers, who cannot reach to Baba’s temple, are allowed to send letters to Baba, which are opened by Baba’s associates. It is believed that Baba Harbhajan Singh guards the international boundary between India and China, over the last three decades and he is accomplishing this task alone. Even the Chinese army also confirms that they have noticed a
human figure, guarding the border at night, riding on a horse. It is also said that Baba Harbhajan Singh foretells any dangerous activity on the border through the dreams of the fellow army men and safeguards the force.
Baba Mandir is usually included during a day trip to Tsomgo lake and Nathula Pass.
So fancying a trip to Darjeeling? You must be lured by the dazzling snow peaks of Kanchenjunga overlooking the hill town? And the beautiful tea gardens on the slopes of rolling hills, the orchids, pines & rhododendrons, the cute Himalayan toy train whistling its way through the mountains? And you want to combine all that with great sightseeing tours, food, shopping and other exciting activities. Right?
Just to give you a head start about the place, Darjeeling hill town is located at an altitude of 6,710 ft. in north east India and is part of the state of West Bengal. The nearest airport is Bagdogra and the nearest major railway junction is New Jalpaiguri (NJP).
It takes about 3 hours to reach Darjeeling from both these locations by car. Private taxis (available at NJP and Bagdogra), shared taxis (available at NJP) and bus (from Siliguri bus stand, only 8 kms from NJP) are the main public transports to reach Darjeeling from NJP station or Bagdogra airport. Alternatively, you can take the fascinating toy train from NJP or Siliguri all the way up to Darjeeling soaking in the Himalayan beauty over some 7 hours.
NOTE: Only private taxis are available at Bagdogra airport, no bus service, shared taxis or toy train. Unlike in Gangtok, there is no helicopter service from Bagdogra to Darjeeling. You need to go by road and negotiate steep & winding mountain roads.
You will see numerous sprawling tea estates in Darjeeling that produce world's best tea, as well as the amazing narrow gauge Toy Train - an engineering marvel which could overcome the steep gradients and curves of the mountains and provided a scenic railway transportation in the hills. Residents are mostly immigrant Nepalese (predominantly Gorkhas), Tibetans, as well as some Lepchas and Bhutias from Sikkim. Nepalese are mostly Hindus while Tibetans follow Buddhism. When you compare them with the people of lower plains, they are quite different both in looks and culture. It's an amazing world out there. But they are warm and tourist friendly.
The town center of Darjeeling is known as Mall or Chowrasta, which is a flat open public square, a pedestrian only zone free of vehicular traffic and surrounded by colorful stores with backdrop of mountains and valleys. Mall or Chowrasta is the town square.
Most tourists try to stay near the Mall area to be close to hub of all activities, restaurants and shops. So due to high demand, numerous hotels of all types have mushroomed near the Mall area. Alternatively you can stay a bit away, enjoy nature & views, and a location relatively free of crowd. During spring, summer and autumn, the weather in Darjeeling is pleasantly cool and perfect for city dwellers who flock in volumes during such time. Many come to enjoy the rains in monsoon and chill in the winter as well. And when such visits are combined with wonderful views of snow peaks and valleys, tea gardens, forests & flowering plantations, amazing sightseeing tours & activities, great food & stays, and all at affordable prices... won't you love a vacation like that?
Darjeeling Tourist Attractions___________________________________________
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) and the amazing Darjeeling Zoo:
HMI is a destination by itself and a said to be a pilgrimage for all climbing enthusiasts of the world. It was established in honor of Tenzing Norgay after he and Sir Edmund Hillary climbed the Everest in 1953. It has a well stocked museum with mountaineering displays and many expedition artifacts, a boarding school for mountaineering students, houses for the trainers, a restaurant, a souvenir shop and more. HMI is located on Jawahar Road or the Birch Hill that can be accessed from the Mall Road and Lebong Cart Road. One can actually walk down Mall road & then Jawahar road to reach HMI.
The main entrance to Zoo and HMI are the same and both should be covered at the same time. The unique feature of this zoo is, it houses animals of high altitude and mostly from upper Himalayas. You can see some rare animals here like Red Pandas, Snow Leopards, Tibetan Wolf and lot more.
Located at the highest point in Darjeeling area, Tiger Hill is best known for the dazzling sunrise view of the Kanchenjunga and the snow covered peaks of the entire eastern Himalayan range. On a clear day you can even see the mount Everest from here. Tiger Hill is located 11km from the Darjeeling Town and takes about 40 minutes to reach by car.
Located 5km from Darjeeling Town and just below Ghoom, Batasia Loop as the name suggests, is a loop or a spiral of a narrow gauge railway track where the Toy Train negotiates a sudden sharp descent from Ghoom. It's a wonderful viewing place with manicured gardens, streams and falls, from where you can get a wide range view of the Darjeeling's landscape, Kanchenjunga and the other Eastern Himalayan peaks.
This is one way you can be part of special diverse offerings from the nature and all in one place. From the ropeway of Darjeeling which is also known as the Rangeet Valley Passenger Cable Car, you can have mind blowing view of the valley below, see the spread of lush tea gardens, dense forests, mountain streams in their full flow, waterfalls, and the awesome snow peaks at the background. Get off at a lower station and enjoy the tea estates, walk through the tea gardens, or just relax and enjoy the view around. It's hard to find all these together in one place.
Darjeeling Mall (Chowrasta):
The Chowrasta or the Mall is the town center in Darjeeling. This is a lovely little flat area, a public square where four roads meet. This public place is where you would like to lounge & bake in the sun, sit and watch the wonderful views of the mountain range and see many locals and tourists hanging around. One side of the mall is lined with pine trees through which you get wonderful mountain vistas, the other side is lined with lovely boutique shops of different kinds. And all around the mall, you have benches to sit and relax.
Rock Garden & Ganga Maya Park:
These two are scenic parks in wonderful settings located a few miles away from the Darjeeling town. Rock garden is about 10km and Ganga Maya is another 3km from there. Rock Garden is all about terraced gardens at different levels that have been cut through the rocks having a waterfalls with nice seating arrangements. Ganga Maya is more spread out and has a beautiful stream flowing through it on a valley, has flower gardens, fountains and more.
Japanese Temple & Peace Pagoda:
About 10 minutes by car, you will reach a wonderful area that is symbolic of peace and tranquility. Located in the Jalapahar hill, the Japanese Temple is built in traditional Japanese style where you can join the prayers and feel the spiritual peace amongst humming and chants. Close to it is the Peace Pagoda where there are four large avatars of Lord Buddha. The view from the top is magnificent. You can see the snow peak range from here including the Kanchenjunga.
Bengal Natural History Museum:
What started as a modest effort in 1903 to display butterflies and birds of the Darjeeling district, has grown to house a large collections of mammals, birds & nests with eggs, reptiles & fishes and even insects of wide varieties. The displays are actually specimens of real creatures that had been captured, stuffed and preserved. The Bengal Natural History Museum can be reached by few minutes walk from the Chowrasta Mall.
Observatory Hill and Mahakal Temple:
Rising from behind the Mall, Observatory Hill is an ideal place to get a 360 degree view of Darjeeling and the peaks surrounding it. The Mahakal Temple, the central temple of Darjeeling of all faiths is located on top of the hill where the original Dorjeling Buddhist Monastery once stood.
Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center:
This center was established on October 2nd, 1959 for rehabilitation of Tibetans who followed Dalai Lama and escaped their homeland during the period of mayhem. In order to sustain living, they adopted the principle of self help. The center is located on a hill top that can be approached from the Lebong Cart Road. You can see Tibetan men and women making exquisite hand crafted items like woolen carpets, shawls, carved wooden crafts, leather items and more. There is an outlet at the center from where you can buy these items.
Happy Valley Tea Estate:
It is time to enjoy the sprawling tea estate that is spread across 437 acres. Your trip to Darjeeling remains incomplete till you visit the Happy Valley Tea Estate, which is Darjeeling’s oldest tea estate and was established in 1854. If you are touring Darjeeling between March and May, then you are likely to see the plucking process. The Happy Valley Tea Estate is approximately 3 kilometers away from Darjeeling town and I must say that tea lovers are surely going to like this place… because of the sweet flavour blending with the atmosphere.
Tenzing and Gombu Rock:
A memorial to Tenzing Norgay and Nawang Gombu, the Tenzing and Gombu Rock are said to be a pilgrimage for mountaineers. Located approximately at distance of a 20 minutes drive from Darjeeling, these two are massive natural rock formations where rock climbing training is given by the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. Tenzing himself used to practice on the one named after him.
The largest monastery in Ghoom, which was built in 1875 by Lama Sherab Gyatso and belongs to the Gelug sect, the Ghoom Monastery is one of the major Buddhist pilgrimage places in Darjeeling district. It is approximately 8 kilometers from Darjeeling town. Besides the prayer hall, the monastery houses a 15 feet high statue of “Maitreya Buddha”, images of Buddha’s disciples, and many Buddhist texts.
Perched on a steep hill and approximately 5 kilometers away from Darjeeling town, the Dali Monastery which was originally named as Druk Sangag Choling Monastery, is yet another important Buddhist pilgrimage center belonging to the Kargyupa sect. It was built in 1971 during the time of Kyabje Thuksey Rinpoche. It houses a prayer room, a Tibetan school, a coffee shop and residences belonging to over 200 monks. The monastery also maintains huge cylindrical golden coloured drums.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway_________________________________________
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the DHR or "Toy Train", is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow-gauge railway that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal, India. Built between 1879 and 1881, the railway is about 88 km (55 mi) long. Its elevation level varies from about 100 m (328 ft) at New Jalpaiguri to about 2,200 m (7,218 ft) at Darjeeling.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is the first, and still the most outstanding example of a hill passenger Railway. Open in 1881, it applied bold and ingenious engineering solutions to the problem of establishing and effect rail link across a mountainous terrain of great beauty. It is still fully operational and retains most of its original features intact.
The Darjeeling line was built to a gauge of 2 feet (600mm) to enable the line to traverse the tightly twisting route through the hills. In 1886, though, the well tanks and under cylinder wings were retained, a narrow saddle tank was inserted between the dome and the chimney, partly to get increased water capacity and partly to get better balance between the axle loads with the pull on the draw bar. Regarding the Official opening date of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) are, from Siliguri to Kurseong is 23-08- 1880, from Kurseong to Sonada 01-08- 1881, Sonada to Jorebunglow 05-04- 1881, Jorebunglow to Darjeeling 04-07- 1881 and from Darjeeling to Darjeeling Bazar is 16-06-1886. Usually the construction stage, light engines are worked on the section much before the official date of opening.
The DHR was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999, later two more railway lines were added and the site then became known as Mountain Railways of India. To be nominated as World Heritage site on the World Heritage List, the particular site or property needs to fulfill a certain set of criteria, which are expressed in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention and its corresponding Operational Guidelines.The site must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. The protection, management, authenticity and integrity of properties are also important considerations.
Toy Train Joyride - Darjeeling to Ghum & Back:
Toy train joy rides operate from Darjeeling Railway Station. It's a 2-hour round trip from Darjeeling up to Ghum and back covering a total distance of 14kms. There are four such round trips in a day, two in the morning half and two in the afternoon. The train stops for 10 minutes at the Batasia Loop. At Batasia the train makes a loop around a wonderful manicured garden. The view of Darjeeling town and the snow peaks of Kanchenjunga from here are unparalleled. The War Memorial built in honor of the Gorkha soldiers who sacrificed their lives is located at the center of the Garden. Ghum is the highest altitude station on the Darjeeling Himalayan Rail track. Altitude of Ghum is 2225.7 meters (7407 ft). Here the toy train stops for 30 minutes for a visit to Darjeeling Himalayan Railway museum. The DHR Museum is located at the station premises. The highlight here is the oldest toy train engine - The Baby Sivok. The entree fee to the museum is included in the ticket price. DHR sends by post a certificate validating your ride on the toy train so that you can cherish the memories of your ride.
Kalimpong is a virgin hill station in West Bengal renowned for its panoramic valley views, Buddhists monasteries and churches and Tibetan handicrafts etc. Kalim in local dialect means King's Minister and Pong means Stronghold. So the name Kalimpong actually means Stronghold of King's Minister and has originated from the time of king's dynasty in the region. Some say that the name has been derived from the word Kalibong (locals call it Kaulim). It's a type of fiber plant used for making paper. This plant is found in abundance in Kalimpong and hence the name.
50 minutes east of Darjeeling, Kalimpong is a hill station on the foothills of Shivalik ranges at an altitude of 1250 m overlooking the Teesta Valley. People say that the area was ruled by Bhutanese kings and was a forward post of the Bhutanese Army till the 19th century. Dotted with ancient Buddhist monasteries, centuries old churches and exquisite revered temples Kalimpong marks the Bhutanese history till it was wrested by British rulers. The Jang Dong Palriffo Brang (Monastery), Thongsa Gompa (Bhutanese Monastery) are some famous places to visit. Also make sure to visit the flower markets famous for its orchids and lovely bright flowers.
Kalimpong is an excellent location to base your vacation in North Bengal. Several great tourist destinations like Lava, Loleygaon, Rishyap, Pedong and Rikkisum are part of Kalimpong district and well connected by road. You can easily make day trips to these places. In fact you can also make day trips to places like Darjeeling, Mirik, Kurseong and even Gangtok. And in case you plan to make onward holiday trips to any of these places, Kalimpong can be an excellent starting point.
Dr Graham's Homes:
This missionary school was set up by Dr. J A Graham in 1900 as an orphanage cum school for the destitute Anglo Indian children. It started only with one cottage that accommodated up to 35 children. Over the years it has grown as a well known multi religious and co-educational school spanning over 500 acres of lush landscape and having some 50 cottages. It is located on the way to Deolo Hills. You can walk across to various parts of the school.
Lord Buddha Statue:
Close to Deolo there is a small rock garden in which you will find this nice statue of Lord Buddha sitting in a lotus position. This is only a quick stop over point and a good place to click a picture.
Sherpa View Point:
This is a watershed near Buddha statue from where you get great views towards both north and south. You get excellent views of Sikkim hills and Mount Kanchenjung if you look north, towards south is the beautiful view of a valley and the Relli river flowing through it as well Loleygaon (Kafer) and also the hills of Samthar plateau. This view point is unfortunately not well maintained.
This is a Hindu temple of Goddess Durga located near Sherpa View Point. A nice garden full of flowering plants and a viewing gallery. The temple is small but quite nice. Good place
to relax for a while.
Right after Durga Mandir is a huge statue of Lord Hanuman perched on the hill. Climb several flights of stairs to reach up to the temple.
This is the major attraction in East Kalimpong. The tourism department has created an 8-acre lush parkland with manicured flower gardens and several view points with breathtaking views of Kanchenjunga, Durpin hill, Kalimpong Township and the valley with rivers flowing through them. Deolo hill is the highest point of Kalimpong with an altitude of about 5,500ft. There is a GTA (erstwhile DGHC) lodge here and a multi cuisine restaurant. Children can also take pony rides. At one corner of the lawn are stalls offering coffee and snacks. Overall a great place to have a picnic or just relax. Entry fee: Rs. 10/- for day visitors.
An excellent temple complex built in the memory of late Guruji Mangal Dasji and dedicated to Lord Krishna. Devotees come from far away places.
This is the oldest monsatery in Kalimpong which was built in 1692. It's also known as the Bhutan Monastery and located close to Mangal Dham.
Nature Interpretation Center:
This is a museum run by the forest department. It has many pictures and paintings of flora & fauna explaining the nature and environment of Kalimpong area. It's located close to the town.
Army Golf Course:
A scenic 9-hole golf course which was conceived and laid by the army authorities. You can see the golf course from the roadside Watershed View Point. From here you also get splendid views of the mountains as well as Loleygaon. It's located close to the Circuit House.
This used to be an old British property and reflect a typical colonial architecture with sprawling garden and views of Kanchenjunga. It has been converted into a hotel and now run by West Bengal Tourism Department. You can enter the premises and walk around, but can not go upstairs in the building where most rooms are located. Morgan House is located opposite to the Army Golf Course.
This Tibetan monastery is located on the Durpin hill and hence such name. The actual name is Zang Dog Palri monastery. It was built in 1972 and has some rare Buddhist scripts that were brought here by Dalai Lama from Tibet. From the upper terrace of the monastery, you get magnificent views of Kalimpong town with Kanchenjunga in the background, the valley and the plains, Teesta & Reang rivers flowing down, and lovely tea estates of Peshoke area.
Jelepla View Point:
You get spectacular view of Jelepla Pass which once used to be a route for regular trade with Tibet. You can also see the confluence of river Teesta, Reang and Relli. The view point is maintained by the army.
Pratima Tagore House:
This house with nice garden and lovely views was built by Pratima Tagore in 1943, daughter-in- law of the poet Rabindranath Tagore. You will find original furnishing, lot of memorabilia and poet's verses in this house. It is located on Atisha road close to the Pine View Nursery.
Pine View Nursery:
It has great collections of cactus and ornamental plants. You get great view of Kalimpong town from the backside lawn. Entry fee: Rs. 10/- per person.
Shopping in Kalimpong
You can shop around in the few touristy shops in the main bazaar. Don’t hesitate to bargain, you can haggle quite a bit if you want to. Its fixed price, but you won’t get a better deal anywhere else in town. To buy clothes all you have to do is to visit R.C, Mintri Don’t leave Kalimpong without tasting locally made lollipops.One can shop for variety of wares from China, Tibet and Bhutan. The local items like thankas, daggers, tea cups, footwear and lanterns are abundantly available here.
Kurseong is a sub-division of Darjeeling district. In 1835 it was handed over to the British by the King of Sikkim. It was a small village then. However it gained importance when the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) Toy Train service was extended to Kurseong in August 1880. It then became the Head Quarter of the subdivision.
So is Kurseong a place worth a vacation stay for tourists? We would certainly say yes. Although from the face of it, it looks like a congested township which has grown predominantly along the Hill Cart Road that passes through the mountains. But if you start exploring the spreads of Kurseong, it starts exposing its charm.
The Name Kurseong means "The place of white orchids". So as expected, white orchids grow in abundance in this area. The area is also full of beautiful tea gardens, forests and year round vegetation on the hill slopes. From some parts of Kalimpong, you get magnificent views of Mt. Kanchejunga, Kabru and Jannu, and the meandering rivers Teesta and Mahananda flowing downwards to the lower plains & medows.
The toy train track runs on level with the road. The whistling sound of the steam engine can often be heard from your room and you can come out to see the mini train negotiating its way through the mountains. Overall a very romantic feeling.
Kurseong is located in Darjeeling district and is on National Highway NH 55 (I.e. Hill Cart Road) that originates from Siliguri and goes all the way to Darjeeling. It's about mid way to Darjeeling and you can easily combine a couple of nights stay here when you plan a vacation in and around Darjeeling. The altitude of Kurseong is moderate 4,864 ft and therefore the climate for most part of the year also remains temperate. However it can get quite cold during the winter.
From Siliguri, the distance to Kurseong is 51kms. From New Jalpaiguri (NJP) station, the distance is about 57 kms and from Bagdogra airport Kurseong is 60kms. From Bagdogra the usual route is via Matigara and Rohini. From NJP and Siliguri, the public transports would usually take the Hill Cart Road unless it's closed for some reason. It takes about 2 hours to reach Kurseong from both Bagdogra and NJP. Darjeeling is about 33 kms from Kurseong and takes about 1 hour 15 minutes to reach.
Kurseong Attractions & Local Tours______________________________________________
Many of you may not be familiar with Kurseong and think this might be another small roadside village on the way to Darjeeling. Well many years back it was actually a small hamlet, but over the years its has grown into a bustling township. Today it's a subdivision of Darjeeling district. Spread of Kurseong is much more than what it may seem.
And the spread is beyond the township to lovely tea gardens along the mountain slopes, forests with many different flora & fauna, quaint villages and so on. And expectedly, there are many view points, tea estates, temples & churches, museums, as well as famous historic schools that were setup during the British colonial days.
You can easily spend two to three days in Kurseong and remain immersed with its attractions. There are plenty of local taxis available near the station and market area all of who will be willing to take you for local sightseeing tours. There are half day and full day local tours depending on what you want to cover. Talk to a couple of local drivers before you finalize one ... the rates vary and some can and do ask for too much.
This is a lovely view point and a garden on top of a hill. You can actually take the narrow lane next to Kurseong station and walk up to Eagle Craig. It will take about 25 minutes of walk. The view point and the park land is located at the end of the road which is the highest point on this mountain.
A small concrete stairway leads up to the garden above. The garden is full of hedges and flowering plantations. There is also a watch tower on one side of the garden. The views of the mountains on the opposite side and also that of the lower plains from here is awesome. You need a clear day though to get great views.
There is a concrete altar here and a Khukri (traditional Nepali knife) placed on it. It serves as a monument which was constructed by the erstwhile DGHC in memory of the Gorkhas who lost their lives in 1988 agitation in the hills. . Eagle Craig is open on all days from morning till sunset. There is no admission fee.
Kurseong is spread across several hills of mountains. Dow Hill is one of them. A large section of the hill is covered with dense forest and the locals will vouch on the fact that there are leopards in the forest. While no lives have been lost, the leopards seem to be targeting the sheeps and goats. The hill is also famous for its many attractions including forest museum, excellent views, historic schools, parklands etc. Some of the attractions of Dow hill are described below.
Dow Hill Park:
Earlier this was known as Deer Park since you could see lot many deers here. However with deforestation, such sights are now rare and hence the change in name. In the adjacent forest there is a large fenced area where you can still see some deers. But venturing into the forest is not allowed, you can only look for the deers from outside the fence and often they can be seen moving around, but not in the park.
Dow Hill park is located on top of Dow Hill. The fenced park itself is quite small. There are hedge and other different kinds of plantations. There is a gazebo in the park where you can sit and relax. There is also a small children playground with swings and slides. The park is open from 10am to 4pm. Closed on Thursdays. A nominal entry fee needs to be paid to enter the park.
Dow Hill Forest Museum:
It's a large two-storeyed museum in Dow Hill that stores many exhibits of flora and fauna of the region. It has been recently renovated and restored.
Next to it is the Forest Training School. The museum is open daily.
Dow Hill Forest Rest House:
Close to the Forest Museum in Dow Hill is the Forest Rest House. You can book this rest house through the forest department in Kurseong and stay amidst the nature and surrounded by dense Dhupi forest ... all you can hear is the chirping of the birds.
Dow Hill Girls School:
This is a heritage boarding school on Dow Hill with a lovely colonial architecture. It came up during the British era when Governor Sir Ashley Eden had set up this school in 1879 for children of government officers. Initially it was a small school for boys only. Later the boys section was shifted to Victoria School and it became a girls school. Apart from its attractive architecture, the school is also located in a scenic setting with wonderful view of the Himalayan range and surrounded by lush vegetation. The school runs under the state government and offers a good standard of education.
Victoria Boys School at Dow Hill:
This is the boys school in Dow Hill which was also set up during the British colonial time. Very well known for its high standard of education and run under the state government, the school has both boarding and day students. Currently there are about 350 students in the school out of which about 200 are boarders.
One of the great features of the school is its large play fields for the students. The play field at the lower level is the largest in Kurseong.
There is a chapel in Victoria School premises just nest to the entrance. It has been lying closed for many years, a clear indication of the fact that there are hardly any Christian students or staff left in the school who require services of the church.
Dow Hill Water Reservoir:
There is a large reservoir in downhill where rain water is stored. It acts as a water source to many areas of Kurseong sub-division. The setting is picturesque as you can see in the picture. The reservoir is surrounded by lush pine and coniferous trees. There is also a picnic area here at an elevated level. The view of the water from here is great.
Giddapahar View Point:
One of the other hills in Kurseong is Giddapahar. This view point is located few kilometers from the town (takes about 15 minutes by car) along Hill Cart Road towards Siliguri. The view point is accessible by stairway right from the roadside. You will need to enter through a gate and then climb the stairs.
The view of the mountains, the snow peaks (including Kanchenjunga) and the valley is awesome. However it should be a clear day to get good views.
If you look towards the Hill Cart Road below, you can see the road winding down side by side with the toy train track. Giddapahar view point is open daily during the day time and there is no entry fee. You can park the car by the road side.
Giddapahar Seti Mata Temple:
This is a Hindu temple of goddess Durga. The idol is an ancient carved stone. The temple can be accessed by a stairway from the Hill Cart Road and is located at a higher level from the road. It's considered very sacred and quite popular with the locals.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Museum:
This museum is located in Giddapahar area. It was originally a private house purchased in 1922 by Sarat Chandra Bose, the writer and veteran freedom fighter. Later between 1933 to 1935 Sarat Chandra and subsequently Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose were kept here by the British under house captivity.
With lush greenery and gardens all around, the atmosphere is tranquil and serene. It has been now converted into a museum. You can see many original furniture used by Netaji including bed, chairs, tables etc. This is where Subhash Chandra Bose wrote his speech which he delivered as the president of Haripura Congress in 1938. The museum also stores many articles, letters and artifacts that reflect the story of the leader.
Ambootia Tea Estate:
This is a sprawling tea estate with lovely gardens on the mountain slopes that produce black, green, white Darjeeling teas. It's located about 10kms below the Kurseong town and takes about 35 minutes to reach by car. This is usually not a part of standard sightseeing tour. You will need to pay extra to the driver to get there, but it's worth the money. The estate spans across an area of 350 hectares and employs over 900 workers. It has been operating since the British time of 1850s. You can get wonderful view of Kurseong township from the tea gardens here.
Ambootia Shiv Temple:
Further down from the tea estate and along steep dirt road through the forested area you will reach the famous and one of the most revered temples. It takes another 20 minutes or so. It feels like a long bumpy ride on a treacherous road. This is a Hindu temple of Lord Shiva. The idol (i.e. the Shiv Linga) is an old dead trunk of a tree. While the temple has many devotees who are mostly garden workers families, the driver mentioned that this temple is a wish fulfilling temple and one who offers prayers, gets blessings of Lord Shiva that helps solve one's problems in life.
Makaibari Tea Estate:
This is one of the most famous tea estates in Darjeeling district. It's located 3kms from Kurseong town and on Makaibari road. This is one of the oldest tea estates in the district producing some of the finest tea varieties and also one of the first to set up a tea processing factory. Owner Rajah Banerji is also the first in the area to introduce organic farming. With his support, the tea garden workers and their families have extended their homes and now offer homestays for tourists. This is an excellent opportunity to experience tea garden life and the local village culture of Kurseong. You can visit the factory and also the tea gardens below.
Castleton Tea Estate:
This tea estate is owned by the Goodricke Group and is one of the most well known ones that produce fine black, green and white Darjeeling tea from authentic Chinese bushes. The estate was set up by Dr. Charles Graham in 1885. It spans over an area of about 170 hectares. The factory gate is near Kurseong town and on Pankhabari Road. You can visit the factory and observe tea processing.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Museum:
This is one of the three DHR museums of Darjeeling district which is located in Kurseong station premises. You will need to first visit the station office and buy the entry ticket. A staff will then come with the keys and open the museum room next to the platform. It's all yours then. What do you see in the DHR museum in Kurseong?
The museum houses many treasures, historical artifacts and exhibits of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, how the toy train was created to overcome the steep mountain gradients, pictures of the loops & engines, and parts of the original rails as well as machinery and accessories used to set up the tracks.
Toy Train ride between Kurseong and Darjeeling:
From Kurseong station, you can make a day trip to Darjeeling. One of the best ways to do so is by taking a toy train from Kurseong station. There are two trains every day between Kurseong and Darjeeling. One leaves Kurseong in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Both take about 3 hours to reach Darjeeling and then return. You can also take the train one way (up or down) and use a private or shared taxi the other way for saving time. It only takes little over one hour by taxi between Kurseong and Darjeeling. For Toy Train schedule, train numbers etc, check Toy Train Service and refer to the section under Route #3.