Travel

Holiday By The Jaldhaka River

Enjoy a trip to these off-beat destinations in West Bengal known for their scenic beauty and bird life

Jaldhaka River near Jhalong
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Originating from the depths of the Kupup Lake in Sikkim, the Jaldhaka River flows down the hills to be joined by the Bindu Khola and Dudh Pokhri, at a place called Bindu, near the Indo-Bhutanese border in Kalimpong district of West Bengal.  A large hydel power project was built on the fast-flowing river. The dam was built at Bindu and the hydel power project was housed in Jhalong. Gradually the area turned into a tourist attraction.

Although there is not much to see or do, the region would please nature lovers and bird-watching enthusiasts. Mostly uncrowded through the year, the place is known for its scenic beauty - the view of the Himalayan snow peaks, the green hills of Bhutan in the distance, and the river dancing over boulders and rocks. The forests and the river banks are home to many bird species. The region is also known for its medicinal plants as well as orange, cardamom, and ginger plantations. There are several viewpoints from where you can catch a panoramic view of the hills and valleys.

From Siliguri, the transport hub which connects the plains of West Bengal with the state’s districts up north and with Sikkim, Jhalong is about 100km by road. The drive to Jhalong is also part of the journey as it cuts through the tea gardens of Dooars and the Chapramari Forest. Based in Jhalong, you may explore Paren (about eight km away) and Bindu (about five km away), both connected by motorable roads. Accommodation is limited so it is advisable to book your stay in advance.

Jhalong is a fairly busy town with schools, offices of the hydel project, living quarters, a market, and a Buddhist monastery. Paren is at the end of a hill road that forks away from the main road to Bindu from Jhalong.  Forests of pine, fir, and oak surround the hills of Paren. The weather can be moody, changing from sunny to misty without notice. Veteran trekkers may opt for a visit to the Rachela Pass via Lava and Alubari. 

Bindu is said to be the last Indian village at this end of the international border. If possible, do include a Wednesday or a Thursday in your itinerary because these are the days when the weekly markets are held at Jhalong and Bindu, respectively. It is not strange to find people from Bhutan also coming down the hills to the weekly market in Bindu. Since this is a border town, it is better to carry an official photo ID. Also, you will need permission from the electricity board to explore the project areas. If you have some time to spare, you may trek a km to Godak village from Bindu and also see the cardamom curing center on the way.

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