Hidden Gems of North Bengal

Hidden Gems of North Bengal
The picturesque landscape of Lava, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Everyone knows about Darjeeling and Kalimpong. But what about the many other hills around? Sleepy and quaint, the ethereal beauty of this part of North Bengal has a lot up its sleeve

Rangeet Ghosh
June 19 , 2020
15 Min Read

Hidden amidst misty clouds, the tiny hamlet of Lava is often considered the gateway of the pristine Neora Valley National Park. Located about 30 kilometres from Kalimpong and nestled in virgin pine forests, Lava is one of the few places in West Bengal to receive snowfall. From monasteries to waterfalls, from mesmerising views of Kanchenjunga to canopied hanging bridges, from rare red pandas to radiant rhododendrons, there is a lot waiting to be explored in and around Lava.

Lava Monastery enveloped in mist

 

 
 
 
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Lava Monastery

The red buildings of the Lava Monastery

Lord Buddha idols inside the Lava Monastery

 
 
 
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Kagyu Thek Chen Ling Monastery, also known as Lava Monastery, was established by Karma Lodro Chokyi Senge, the third Kongtrul Rinpoche. The mesmerising red buildings of the monastery sits enveloped in the mist at the edge of the Neora Valley Forest. With enchanting views on all sides, this is an abode of peace and a must-visit for anyone looking for unparalleled serenity.

Neora Valley National Park

Neora Valley forest is home to the rare Red Panda

A pair of Satyr Tragopan in the 'Paradise of Birders' - Neora Valley

 
 
 
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Established in 1986, Neora Valley National Park is considered one of the wealthiest biological zones. Often regarded as a paradise for birders, it boasts of numerous species of flora and fauna. Home to the endangered red panda, the national park has a number of other mammals like the Indian leopard, Asiatic black bear, sloth bear, barking deer, wild boars, and the Himalayan flying squirrel. It is also the home to some of the most sought-after birds in India like the the satyr tragopan, rufous-throated partridge, golden-throated barbet, Darjeeling woodpecker, and many others.

Loleygaon

Canopy Walk- The network of interconnected hanging footbridges in the forest

 
 
 
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An hour-long journey from Lava brings you to the Lepcha village of Loleygaon. Located just 24 kilometres from Lava, it has much to offer. The journey from Lava to Loleygaon, through winding forest roads is an experience in itself. There are a number of small treks and trails in and around Loleygaon that one can undertake, the most famous being the canopy walk. Located around a  kilometre from Loleygaon bus stand, the canopy walk is a series of interconnected hanging footbridges in the forest. 

(Insider tip: There are a lot of leeches in the damp forests here, so you might want to carry some salt with you)

Kolakham

 
 
 
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Kolakham is the perfect getaway for those who yearn for pristine mountain wilderness. Nestled in the lap of the Neora Valley National Park, Kolakham offers stunning views of the mighty Kanchenjunga mountain, along with Kabru, Kabru Dome, Pandim, Siniolchu, etc. Just eight kilometres from Lava, Kolakham is a spectacle in its own right. The quaint hamlet offers picturesque views of the numerous valleys created by the mountain ranges. From Kolakham, one can also visit the Changey Falls, just five kilometres away.

Rishop

View of the Kanchenjunga range from Rishop

The quaint hamlet of Rishop is one of the most beautiful villages in Kalimpong

 
 
 
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Perched on top of a hill right opposite Kolakham, Rishop is about nine kilometres away from Lava. You can also opt for an uphill trek through the silent pine forests. A favourite among tourists, Tiffindara in Rishop is renowned for its spectacular views of the entire Kanchenjunga range, along with Jalep-La and Nathu-La, on clearer days. This tiny Lepcha village also provides incredible views of the blue mountains of Sikkim.

Rimbik

 
 
 
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Set atop a hill above the Ramman river, Rimbik is a tiny town in the Singalila National Park region. Often considered as the hub of trekkers travelling to Singalila National Park and Sandakphu, Rimbik is one of the last major hamlets on the Bengal side of the border There are a number of treks that start from Rimbik, including Srikhola and Gurdung. Those looking for a bit of an adventure can also trek to Sandakphu, one of the more hardcore routes in eastern India. Or you could even try trekking to Darjeeling from Rimbik, via Lodoma, Jhepi and Bijanbari, crossing the Rangeet along the way.


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