If you are searching for an offbeat location for a weekend gateway near Darjeeling that has the beauty and glory of a hill station but is untouched by the tourists at large, Dhotrey or Dhotre can be the one. Situated within the radius of Singalila National Park, it is just 43 km from Darjeeling town. This place can be accessed easily from Bagdogra Airport or New Jalpaiguri Railway Station.
A part of the Eastern Himalayas, Dhotrey is situated at an altitude of 8500 feet above sea level. This hidden Himalayan village is a paradise for bird watchers and nature lovers. It is the place from where the full range of Kanchenjunga is visible. One can experience the majestic beauty of the sleeping Buddha, as these ranges are often referred to. The village is also the base camp for different trekking expeditions to Tonglu, Phalut, and Sandakphu.
What is the best time to visit Dhotrey?
The weather remains best from October to January, and you can expect to gain a clear view of the beautiful Kanchenjunga ranges during this time. Just before the summer from March to early April, is a good time to visit this village. During this time, the air is filled with the smell of rhododendrons and magnolias. These blossoms add to the natural beauty of the place and create a surreal atmosphere.
What to do?
This place is popular among the hikers as they begin their journey to Sandakphu or Phalut from here. The region falls under Singalila National Park and is home to many different species of birds. So, bird watchers get to see wide varieties in this area. It is an ideal place if you are trying to get away from the hustles and bustles of city life. The village with splendid natural beauty and a quiet and calm atmosphere with highly hospitable inhabitants will give you exceptional peace of mind.
Where to stay?
Homestays are the only option available in this place. Most of these accommodations provide all the basic amenities and offer comfortable stays.
Chitre, a small picturesque village in North Bengal, is where the hikers meet to begin their journey to Sandakphu. The trail from Mane Bhanjang to Chitre, which covers a distance of almost 3 km, is one of the steepest in the entire stretch of the Sandakphu trek.
How to reach Chitre?
If you prefer walking, it will take about an hour and a half to reach the place from Mane Bhanjang. However, you can also hire a four-wheeler to cover this distance. It is situated at an altitude of 8340 ft. The road to Chitre is scenic replete with lush greenery of evergreen trees. After reaching the location, it is best to rest in this beautiful Buddhist village before you travel ahead.
The vast stretch of emerald green land and clear blue sky will make you spellbound. Even though most trekkers do not stop here for the night, they start the journey after halting for a few hours. But, there are some who like to spend the night before embarking on a strenuous journey the following morning.
What to see at Chitre?
The main attraction of this place is the old Buddhist monastery and the mesmerizing view of Kanchenjunga peaks that one can have from this place. Even if you have plans to stay in this village for a few hours, make sure to explore the monastery. Along with the main monastery, there are eight small stupas. In the main building, there is the famous 15 ft high statue of Maitreya Buddha.
On a clear day, in the early morning, the travelers are gifted with a fascinating view of Kanchenjunga. At night, they can witness the sky studded with millions of stars. The town of Darjeeling looks like a crown with glittering jewels from here.
Which is the best time to visit the place and where to stay at Chitre?
The best time to visit the place is during the summer months – June to April. However, winters also promise clear skies and remarkably beautiful landscapes.
There are a few homestays and adventure camps where you can stay for the night. A local restaurant near the monastery serves fresh foods, and the travellers have breakfast there before proceeding further.
Kalpokhri is a scared lake located at an elevation of 3170 meters. It is found enroute to the famous Sandakphu peak of Singalila Range from Gairibas. The local people believe it to be the home of the formidable Kalnaag or the huge slithering black snake. Pokhri in the local language means lake and Kaal is derived from Kaalnaag and hence Kalpokhri. The Kalpokhri contains black water and is a rare presence at such an elevation. During spring the region surrounding the black lake is full of the magnificent rhododendron and orchids. The lake doesn’t freeze even during winter because the water is muddy.
Also known as Sandakfu, Sandakphu is located at a height of 12,400 feet. It is the tallest peak in West Bengal and is located in the Darjeeling district. It is situated right next to the Singalila National Park, which is located on the border shared by neighboring states West Bengal and Sikkim. It also happens to be the tallest peak of the Singalila range. The specialty of Sandakphu lies in the fact that the peaks of Everest, Lhotse, Kangchenjunga, and Makalu – which happen to be among four of the five highest mountain peaks of the world – can be seen from its topmost point. It is said that it offers the finest view of Kangchenjunga.
A quaint little hamlet between Maneybhanjan and Sandakphu, Tonglu derives its name from Tonglu peak 3036 meters belonging to the Singalila Ridge in Darjeeling district of West Bengal. Tonglu is a small settlement within the Singalila National Park located close to the Indo-Nepal border. It is basically a halt for the trekkers traveling to Sandakphu through Manebhanjan. Tonglu’s ethereal atmosphere mixed with its solitude is a boon to the trekkers and also to individuals who love to spend some time in isolation far from the daily busy lives. It is an ideal retreat to relax and unwind.
Monsong is a lovely little quaint village located in the charming eastern Himalayan region. It is quite an offbeat destination and a perfect weekend getaway. The beautiful and cool weather, the formidable mountains, the lush green forests of fir, pine, birch shaal, cinchona and cypress, innumerable birds, some endangered animals and hospitable and warm people are some of the characteristics of this charming hamlet, Monsong. It is situated at a short distance of only 8 kilometers from Pedong and 32 kilometers from Kalimpong, the major town. Sparsely populated and far from the din and bustle of city life, this is an ideal place for rejuvenating the senses; tired body, mind and soul.
Rikisum is a beautiful and almost isolated village in the Kalimpong subdivision of Darjeeling District in West Bengal. 15 kilometers to the north of Kalimpong, this quaint hamlet is only an hour’s drive from the main town. The hilltop settlement welcomes you with open arms to savor the unspoiled beauty of the village in its full glory. Since it falls on the Pedong–Lava Road the village enjoys an elevation from which the mighty Kanchenjunga and other peaks are clearly visible. The towns of Gangtok and Pedong also present a panoramic from this village.
Meghma is a mystic village situated at the Singalila Ridge at an elevation of 9,514 feet. Megh means cloud and this mystic village is mostly enveloped by clouds throughout the year. The beauty of the hamlet lies in its scenery and weather. Tourists who have visited Meghma once in their lives love to come back to the land of clouds over and over again. About 9 kilometers from Manebhanjan on the way to the famous peak Sandakphu of Singalila range, Meghma is a pristine beauty. Meghma has a tranquil atmosphere which will make you feel relaxed and sleepy. Continue reading
Kaijlia is a wonderful forest area near Bijanbari which tourists can visit while coming back from Sandakphu. It is 8 kilometers from Bijanbari which is considered as a halt by the trekkers returning from Sandakphu and also by non-trekkers visiting Sandakphu on vehicle. Nature lovers will definitely enjoy a walk through the colorful and enchanting forest full of Mandar, Rhododendron and Chimal trees with thick blossoms. Not only will the flowers fill your senses but also the mountain summits visible through the trail. Various Eastern Himalayan peaks are visible from the trail which will take your breath away. The best part is that very few tourists actually visit this area; so you can have a perfect rendezvous with nature.
Bijanbari is 30 kilometers from Darjeeling and can be reached by buses and cars from Ghoom. After you reach Bijanbari, you can trek to Kaijlia for another 8 kilometers to relish the view. There are no places to stay at Kaijlia. You have to find accommodation in Bijanbari which is aplenty to visit the forest. The road to Kaijlia is steep and not in a good condition. Hence, it is advised to return from the spot as early as possible.
Srikhola is a beautiful scenic hamlet in Darjeeling District which falls in the trekking route from Phalut and Sandakphu towards Darjeeling and Siliguri. The small river following its meandering course bears the name of Sri and Khola in the Lepcha language means small river and hence the name Srikhola. This village is an admirable halt for trekkers coming down from Sandakphu or Phalut. It offers lovely natural beauty and peace and quiet for the tired travelers. Stay here overnight and start for Rimbik the next day to catch a conveyance to Darjeeling or Siliguri.
How to reach Srikhola
For trekkers Srikhola can be reached via Gurdum at a distance of a little over 16 kilometers from Sandakphu. If you are coming from Phalut, then follow the route through the forests of chestnuts, magnolia, rhododendrons and oaks of Gorkey and Ramman to arrive at Srikhola covering a distance of 26 kilometers. For non trekkers hiring a jeep or traveling in a shared jeep is the best option. The jeeps departing between 6-7am and 11-12pm will take you through Srikhola to reach Rimbik. Srikhola from Manebhanjan takes 3.5 hours on vehicle. The road is not in good condition so it is advised to hire a jeep or Tavera or trekker.
Accommodation in Srikhola
Accommodation in Srikhola is aplenty but there is a Gorkhaland Territorial Administration hut situated close to the river. Advance reservation is required to stay in the hut. Book the rooms or a dormitory from the GTA offices. The other lodging facilities include Goparma Lodge run by Tshering Sherpa and Hotel Shovraj. The Goparma Lodge is a budget accommodation with 7 bedrooms with attached bath and hot water provided in buckets. Hotel Shovraj offers a number of rooms for guests. Whether you are traveling alone, in a group or with your spouse only, this hotel provides clean accommodation facilities. The toilets are common however; there is a restaurant inside the hotel offering delicious food for the guests.
Attractions in Srikhola
Enjoy the scenic beauty of Srikhola while you are staying there on your way to return from Sandakphu or Phalut. You can laze around the bank of the meandering Srikhola River or take a stroll on the hanging wooden bridge. Sit outside the cottages savoring the view and fragrance of the flowers in the garden or visit the Singalila National Park to see Red Panda, Barking Deer, and Himalayan Black Bear. Take a walk through the rhododendron, magnolia and orchid forests or fish in the river. The hotel provides angling gears with which you can capture trout which is the most common variety in the river.
Once you are done with fishing, you can concentrate on bird watching. The hills are the best place to watch rare species of birds which are never found on the plains. Blue magpie is very common in this region. Ask the hotel manager for the route to the corn, pea and cardamom plantation. It is a visual treat. You can also trek to nearby villages of Timburey and Gurdum and Jareo Pokhri, the sacred lake.