Suprisingly, some of the major districts which fall in the region of North Bengal in the Indian side (within the state of West Bengal) are Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Alipurduar etc. Lets talk about the Himalayan part of North Bengal and look into 5 Himalayan villages here, because of which tourism in this region has increased a lot in the 21st century, because of extraordinary natural beauty and biodiversity.
Siliguri and its famous Bagdogra Airport is the easiest way to get into North East India. After you land at Bagdogra airport, the vehicle leaves the limelight of urban life to reach its destinations where the true human spirit breathes again. Depending on the climatic conditions outside, the 5 Himalayan villages take maximum of around 3 to 4 hours to reach. They are enumerated as below:
Chatakpur: The small settlement of Chatakpur is an eco-village set on an elevation of almost close to eight thousand feet above sea level amidst the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary of Darjeeling district, which makes it a bio-diversity centre of desirable nature. This village is so lush green that sometimes it seems that this place is the very embodiment of Mother Nature who has bestowed all her precious pearls to this small settlement. There are various paths of jungles from this village, one which leads to a small holy water body called the Pokhri and the other important one is hiking through the Senchal Forest to which leads to Tiger Hill of Darjeeling. Chatakpur also offers out casting views of the Eastern Himalayas (especially the Kanchenjunga peak). The forests around have variety of wildlife. Therfore, it is necessary to take a proper guide while moving through them.
Lamahatta: This is another trivial Himalayan hamlet primarily known for its roadside tourism park which is a beautiful forest area laid out on the hill steps organised in a way so that it easy for tourists to hike and reach its end point. The name ‘Lamahatta’ means a hermitage for a Lama (i.e., a monk’s hermitage). This tourism park of Lamahatta is breathtaking and on top of it is a water body which is considered holy by the locals.
Suntaleykhola: Suntaleykhola is another small Himalayan village which may not have same altitude like other mountain villages of this region, but the atmosphere of this place is nothing short of what one experiences in the Eastern Himalayas - eerily quiet, calm, trembling freezing with various trails of trekking to the Neora Valley National Park. The name of this village has come from Nepali words which means ‘orange stream’. Another gorgeous location near to this village is ‘Samsing’ which is known for its attractive tea plantations.
Lava and Rishyap: These twin Himalayan settlements are located close to each other and can be trekked from one to the other in a short period. Both these places have altitude of well over seven to eight thousand feet above sea level and are covered in lots of greenery. Lava and Rishyap are both on the top list with tourists nowadays, as they provide a peaceful environment together with many hiking options. Tiffindara is a view point that can be reached from both these spots through thick woodland. A guide is necessary in this trek as the area is filled with wildlife and may pose a threat to the inexperienced. There is also a beautiful monastery in Lava.
Rangaroon: This village is known for its rolling tea gardens and one of its exclusive character is that we can get a complete view of the Darjeeling city and the Kanchenjunga in one view from this place on a cloudless day. Some of the places to stopover in this village are ‘Mata Singha Shrine’, an old colonial bungalow and many hiking routes to its tea estates. The place is peaceful and there are several homestays here which give travellers a very cosy ambience of warmth and solidarity. Our Himalayan villages are indeed part of our rich tradition.