Darjeeling, a hill station with its colonial charm and majestic views of the snow-capped peaks of Khangchendzonga and pine trees must have been the place you’d want to escape to as a child during every summer holiday. Popularly known as the queen of hills, Darjeeling is a place with a heart, soul, and a vibe of its own. When you visit Darjeeling, you don’t run out of things to do; rather you struggle to tick off everything on your checklist. Apart from visiting the major attractions that Darjeeling has to offer to its guests, there is so much more that is yet to be explored and talked about. While many of you may have visited Darjeeling already, there is a great probability that you have limited yourselves to visiting the conventional places and have missed out on the ones that are untrodden and unexplored. So whether you’re planning your first trip to Darjeeling, or considering a second visit, here comes a list of places around Darjeeling that you should include in your itinerary to add on to your experiences and camera reels.
Within the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary lies Chatakpur, a quaint village inhabited by less than 100 people. Chatakpur has come into the limelight of tourism in the recent past after conscious efforts of eco tourism was made by the forest department while providing the residents with an alternative means of livelihood. From Darjeeling, you have to travel a distance of about 26 km via Sonada to reach this pristine village. Chatakpur offers unobstructed views of Khangchendzonga that many claim to be even better than the one you witness from Tiger Hill. A mere 10-minute’s walk will take you to a watch tower from where you can enjoy the sunrise. From the watch tower, which is also known as the sunrise point, you can even get a clear glimpse of Sandakphu, a trekker’s favourite destination. The forest is just about 100 metres away from the cottages, and you can opt for a hike through the forest trails. For the ones who prefer a calm escape, there is a beautiful pokhri (a pond, in local language) between the woods where you can sit and admire nature’s craft. The forests in Chatakpur are a home to species like the Barking Deer, Great Himalayan Black Beer, leopard, and antelopes. You might even spot a Red Panda occasionally. All of these add up to be the best reason why you should add a day to spend in Chatakpur while visiting Darjeeling.
A bright day in Chatakpur
If engaging with nature in its unaltered form is your jam, then a stopover at Lepchajagat is a must when you visit Darjeeling. Located about 19 km away from Darjeeling is Lepchajagat, it is tucked in between beds of oak trees and shades on rhododendrons. Away from the hustles of commercialisation, Lepchajagat is a quaint hamlet that will compel you to enjoy the picturesque views of Khangchendzonga. Take a walk through forest trails, spend hours to spot beautiful birds, or simply soak the beauty of the serene landscapes.
The name Tinchuley has a very interesting meaning. The term can be said to have come from “tin chulha,” meaning “three ovens.” The reason being so is the three mountains that encompass the village take the shape of three ovens. Located close to the border of West Bengal and Sikkim and at a distance of 26 km from Darjeeling, Tinchuley is now an urban eco village that runs several self sustainable projects. Covered in alpine forests, Tinchuley offers breathtaking views of the Himalayas. You could visit the Tinchuley monastery where a monk meditated for 17 years and the sunrise point from where you can witness a gorgeous sunrise as well as spot the Teesta Valley, parts of Kalimpong, and East and West Sikkim. Triveni, the confluence of Teesta and Rangeet rivers also happens to be situated close by and worth a visit.
Takdah, previously a cantonment area during the British era and now boasting of heritage bungalows, is situated about 28 km away from Darjeeling. Vast stretches of tea gardens, luscious pine and cedar trees, and the Orchid Centre makes Takdah a place not to be missed while you’re visiting Darjeeling. The Dechen Pema Tsholing Monastery and the Mata Durga Caves are sacred places that you can visit while you’re at Takdah. Another place of interest could be the 100-year-old Barbatey Suspension Bridge, which deserves a peek. A walk through the meandering roads covered in fog, sounds of waterfalls setting a sense of rhythm in your mind, and clouds playing hide and seek with the dense pine forests in Takdah will make your trip to Darjeeling even more memorable.
A heritage bungalow in Takdah
If you’re looking forward to experiencing a day in a high altitude place, Tumling is where you need to be. Tumling is situated about 36 km from Darjeeling and lies on the trekking route of Sandakphu. You can choose to travel by the iconic British Land Rover or trek the 10 km stretch from Manebhanjan provided you have the time and interest. Tumling is a little hamlet with very few houses and only basic amenities. During the months of winter, Tumling is usually covered in snow. The snow-capped peaks are clearly visible from here, and a walk to the view point will let you enjoy a clear panoramic view of the same. The entry to Singalila National Park is about 1 km from Tumling and definitely worth a shot if you want to spot the Red Pandas in their natural habitat. Interestingly, Tumling falls in the territory of Nepal, but the borders are a blur, and there are no restrictions to go to Tumling. If you’re visiting Darjeeling in winter and want to take back home some pictures of you playing in the snow, a visit to Tumling will make sure you do not go back disappointed.
A view of sunrise from Tumling
Now that you have a list of offbeat places near Darjeeling, you must add in a day or two to your Darjeeling itinerary to catch a sight of the tranquil landscapes that these places are full of. After all, who doesn’t want to stand out?