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darjeeling & kalimpong

Two hill station of “Raj”under the mighty Range of Kanchenjunga (8534m).  Tea Gardens , Mountain view, virgin forest, exotic bazar, orchids, serene & beautiful countryside walks, friendly people.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

March to May/Oct to Dec

Overview

Nestling in the lush green midranges of the Eastern Himalayas, with an incredibly stunning backdrop of towering snow capped peaks; Darjeeling and Kalimpong, are twin hill stations of the “Raj”. Premium tea gardens, colonial bungalows, in one of them, Crookery House , world renowned personality like Russian Painter Roerich and his wife Helena Roerich had stayed  and old churches, Buddhist monasteries, exotic bazars, handicrafts, orchids, and the world heritage “toy” train, are the main attraction. The sparsely populated and least visited areas around Kalimpong are your best bet. These comprise forests, mountain streams and rivers, and the picture postcard valley of Samthar. All this and more, in a land peopled by an amazing ethnic mix, of Lepchas, Tibetans and Nepalese, forming a unique sub culture of their own.
Relax and laze, raft the white waters, explore forests and flora, hike, mountain bike, trek, or Para glide, and take in the breathtaking sunrise and sunset views. Apart from hotels and resorts, the area is rich in home stays scattered around several villages.

Places to visit in Kalimpong and Darjeeling

Kalimpong, is an exotic town of beautiful people, mystical and enchanting. Ruled by Bhutan for 155 years, and annexed by the British in 1865, it was developed as a center of the wool trade with Tibet. This trade flourished until the Chinese took control of Tibet, in the 1950’s The Lepchas, who were the original inhabitants, were subjected to Bhutanese, Tibetan, British, and Nepalese influences. A gentle and docile people, they have almost lost their identity, and are now called “The vanishing tribe”. However history has left behind a fascinating ethnic blend of Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepalese people.

Here Buddhism rubs shoulders with Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Gompas, churches, temples, monasteries, monks and missionaries; all coexist in a jovial and tolerant society.


Located at a comfortable altitude of 1400 meters, it is famous for its panoramic views of the snow ranges, nature walks and flower and orchid nurseries. Colonial bungalows, churches of the “Raj” and Buddhist monasteries are there to explore. A quaint bustling bazar, is a Pandora’s box of surprises.


Kalimpong is a wanderer’s delight. One full day can be  spent by wandering in Kalimpong town locating  Buddhist “tankhas”, hand beaten silver, Bhutanese weaves, Chinese lamps, hand crafted paper in paper factory out of plant bark grown in the area, Lepcha daggers, Nepali Khukaris and Buddhist masks. 

   

The Wednesday and Saturday “Hat” or village market, brings together people from surrounding areas selling amazing varieties of home grown bio organic & exotic vegetables, home made fermentation for local drink out of millet; ‘Chang’, hand woven bags, spices, all kinds of lentils to clothes, shoes beaten pots & pans, local poultry, fish to hand beaten implements to bamboo baskets etc.  It is the market of its own kind and the photographer’s delight.

Kalimpong is centrally located. It is 2.5 hrs from airport, from Darjeeling, 1.5 hrs from Mongpu, and 3 hrs from Gangtok. Famous Tea Estates like Glenburn Tea Estate, Takdah Tea Estate, Singtam Tea Estate & Ranicherra Tea Estate are within 2-3 hrs distance.

Tour K/01 A: 02 Nights : Explore Kalimpong

   

Tour Detail:

Kalimpong Tour gives full historic nostalgic experience of British period, how British traders established in Kalimpong , built beautiful victorian styled house which still stands proudly leaving numerable stories behind. As far as Buddhism influence is concern apart from Ningma buddhist Gumpas, there are other sects like Gyalukpa sect & its age old monastery and Sakya sect community establishments are there.  

    

Beautiful Thakurbari Hindu temple, a Muslim Mosque, wonderful Wood Carved Church and century old Church explains the beliefs of the people of Kalimpong.

Day 01: Pick up from Bagdogra/ NJP/Darjeel;ing/ Gangtok/ West Sikkim/ Phuntsholing. Met by car with driver. Drive to kalimpong. Check in at Gurudongma house/hotel. In the evening walking exploration of fascinating bazaar. Overnight
Day 02: Kalimpong exploration: Car with driver provided for local sightseeing. On request take a guided walking tour. Overnight Gurudongma House/hotel
Day 03: Drive to next destination. Car with driver on request.

Itinerary

K/01 B: 03 nights Kalimpong  Town &  Country Experience: with a Day walk to the village near Kalimpong

Tour Detail:

   

In this tour, after 02 days Kalimpong exploration, on third day  you can take a day walk to nearby village for an nature & Cultural experience.

This is an Eco Village Community Tour project together with Rotary Club of Kalimpong Dist.3240

Bhangey Sangsay is a beautiful village next door to Kalimpong town & we introduced community eco tourism in this village with Rotary Community Corp to develop the place and to create jobs especially to the youth of the village. There are many youth in the comminity without gainful employment while others opt to migrate to the biggest cities leaving behind the older folks in the village. Homestay & tourism activities can certainly help them to sustain and to develop.

   

A day walk to Bhangey Sangsey village gives good easy walk upto 2-3 hrs pre lunch and 01 hour post lunch. The walking trail takes you along the ridge with mighty snow cap mountain view and the view of Teesta river at the bottom through the magnificent forest  and leads you to a beautiful village of hard working & welcoming farmers, who supplies organic milk, milk products & vegetables to Kalimpong.

Here you can take a day trip from Kalimpong or stay a day or two in simple but clean and hospitable homestay for the experience.

Day 01: Pick up from Bagdogra/ NJP/Darjeel;ing/ Gangtok/ West Sikkim/ Phuntsholing. Met by car with driver. Drive to kalimpong. Check in at Gurudongma house/hotel. In the evening walking exploration of fascinating bazaar. Overnight
Day 02: Kalimpong exploration: Car with driver for local sightseeing. On request Guided driving cum walking tour. Overnight Gurudongma House/hotel:
Day 03:  Explore the countryside close to Kalimpong , get a peep into the lifestyle of rural folks.
Take a 03 hrs easy trek to visit a local village at Bhangey Sangsey,home to warm, friendly, hospitable hard working village folks. Get an insight into agriculture & live stock farming, and get to know about the cultivation of ginger, broomsticks & vegetables.
You will walk along a gently descending trail, passing through lovely bio diverse forests. All the way there are magnificent views of the Khangchendzonga Range. (Weather permitting) and the mighty Teesta River winding its way from Sikkim.

   
At the village meet village folks, go round the village and enjoy an ethnic lunch. Stay overnight at a village homestay, or drive back to Kalimpong, for overnight at Gurudongma house/Bird’s Nest or hotel.
Day 04: Drive to next destination. Car with driver on request.

 K-S/01C :06 Nights Town & country : Nature & Culture walking Holiday Experience Tour

Tour Details:

This is a combination of Kalimpong Town & country Holiday Experience Tour with Nature and Culture walk around the scenic countryside of Samthar. 

At Samthar, over the years we have been supporting the community through  integrated Village Tourism Project by homestay & Awake & Shine School aiming at quality education for the children at the foundation level creating special innovative ways and generating income for the community through homestay.

Samthar:

Scenic, and off the beaten track, The Samthar Valley, at an elevation of 1500 Meters, is isolated by river valleys, forests and ill- developed communications. The inhabitants are a blend of various ethnic groups-Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepali. The original Lepcha tribals lived in the valleys. They were woodsman, and utilized the forest resources to live off the land. Knowing no religion, they worshiped nature spirits. When the Bhutanese ruled this land, many were converted to Buddhism. Latter the British rulers brought in Christian missionaries, who converted some of them to Christianity. Hinduism arrived with the Nepalese settlers, who taught the Lepchas to farm the land. Today the ethnic groups are fused together in harmony. They have adopted Nepali as a link language, yet maintained their diverse cultural identity. It is an ideal place to peep into lifestyles of this fascinating hill community. It also has diverse flora, well-developed mountain agriculture, forests, and river valleys, and offers breathtaking views of the Panorama of snows.

Samthar offers high quality homestays at the samthar Farm House and in villages

   
offering comfort, convenience, privacy, and family hospitality at affordable prices, in a rural ambiance. There are a host of activities available ranging from trekking, mountain biking, song & dance, participation in village chores, learning village crafts, visiting local shaman, and spending time with school children & teaching any skill. Part of the earning of Samthar Farm House go to support Awake & Shine School

Itinerary:

Day 01 & 02 : Exactly as Tour no.K/01 A: 02 days Kalimpong Town exploration.

Day 03: After lunch Drive 42 Kms, in 2.30 hrs to Samthar Valley. The road traverses three river valleys and three ridges  through forests, terraced cultivation and ethnic hamlets to reach the picture postcard samthar Valley. Check in at the atmospheric  Samthar Farm House.

OR

Kalimpong, 1400 m – Lava, 2100 m – Lolegaon, 1700 m: drive cum trek to Samthar Farm House, 1400 m

   

Drive 35 Kms, in 1.30 hrs along old trade route from Kalimpong to Tibet passing through virgin forests to Lava, a small bazaar and village, at an altitude of 2100 m amidst forested hills. It originated as a halting place for trade caravans going to Bhutan. It was fortified during the Bhutan rule, and captured and destroyed by the British during the Anglo-Bhutan War. A Buddhist monastery of the same period has been expanded and is active. At Lava you can view the Rachela Pass, which opens into Bhutan, and visit the Monastery. Drive back 4 kms to take the forest road to Lolegaon. Now you have the choice of taking one or both the Nature & Culture walks, described below.

  

 First Leg of walk:  it starts after driving 6 kms from Lava to a village Buddhist gompa, 1700 m. It descends 300 m through forests, to the waist of the hill, continues fairly level with a steady ascent by 100 m through hamlets, terraced cultivation, and cascading streams to terminate at a village bazaar, 1600 m from where your jeeps awaits pick you up & refresh and drive to Kaffer Lolegaon Forest area for the picnic lunch. Walking Time 2.3 hrs.

After a picnic lunch and a visit to over 100 years old heritage forest, take a short down hill trek, whilst your jeep traverses a wilderness trail. You will descend from 1900m to 1600 m. Trekking time is 02 hrs, and you will walk through the heart of the forest, to a Tamang Village, cross a mountain stream.You walk through unspoiled forests, with hardly any habitation. Enjoy nature at its best, and see the incredible variety of flora.

After the second walk   your jeep awaits for you to take you last 06 kms to the Samthar Farm House, 1400 m. Dinner and overnight at The Samthar Farm House.

Day 04: Samthar Valley Village lifestyle Exploration & Awake & Shine School Visit:

Early morning sunrise views ,Weather permitting, you see the entire panorama of snows – Khangchenganga group of peaks, Simvo, Siniolchu, Lama Anden, Chomoyomo, and Paunhari, and then in an easterly arc the passes of Chola, Natula, and Jalepla, leading into Tibet.

   

After breakfast, today we will take it a light walk through Samthar village getting insight into the culture & way of life and visit Awake & Shine School. You may participate in the class & you may teach anything , be the part of it.

Lunch at the school cooked by community. After Lunch walk back to Farm House and relax. Dinner and Overnight at The samthar Farm House.

Day 05Samthar -Yangri -Yang-Mandal-Kabi Lepcha Village:

After Breakfast you may pack lightly for 01 night to go and stay at Lepcha Homestay for the experience. Walk from Samthar visit 100 year old Lepcha Gumpa and walk to Mandal Gaon village and stay with Charles Lepcha & family.

  

Day 06: Kabi-Mandal-Samthar

After breakfast explore the lepcha community & walk back to Samthar Farm House for your last night stay.

Day 07: Samthar-Suruk-Teesta river Dam & Next destination:

After breakfast walk to Suruk village. Visit Awake & Shine School Project 2. and drive to Teesta River Dam site to exit from the area & drive to your next destination.

Bhagya Sangsey Village:

Located next door to Kalimpong, ideal for a day trip from Kalimpong town for any  person to enjoy . A day trip to this village includes 03 hrs of comfortable nature and culture walk through the gentle descending terrain, surrounded by the beautiful forests with varied vegetations and sound of chirping birds. This walk  follows the magnificent view of mighty Kanchenjunga range and undulating green valleys. After 2-3 hrs. of walk you land up at Bhangey- Sangsey village. Untouched, unspoilt, tucked behind Delo hill at northern part of Kalimpong.The Kanchenjunga range runs parallel to the village and the Teesta river view dominates at the bottom. This beautiful village is the home of warm, friendly, hospitable and courteous village folks. Agriculture and live stock farming is their main livelihood sources. Main cash crops are milk products,  ginger, broomstick & vegetables. They supply about 300 litres of milk every day to Kalimpong.

Pedong: located 22 kms at an elevation0f 1500mts, it has a Bhutanese origin Monastery,constructed by Bhutanese in 1837 and first Catholic Missionary established here in 1882.

Near Pedong are the ruins of Damsang Gadi,a historical Fort built in 1690 AD by the Lepchas. From here Lepchas fought with Drupas to save their community and later it was used to ward off the forces of British East India co. After Anglo Bhutan War in 1864 AD the fort fell into decay.It was home to the last lepcha King Gyabo Achuk.

Sangchen Dorjee Monastery is the oldest Bhutanese monastery dates back to 1700 AD.It provides the history and culture of the place.Frescos and paintings of the main chamber depicting Tantric Buddhism.

Another historical highlight of Pedong is the Cross Hill facing Tibet, placed by Fr. Augustine Desgodins in 1882 Ad on his way back from Tibet as the many evangelists lost lives in Tibet so in their memory and with the hope some one may return.

Lava: Lava is located 35 Kms fromkalimpong in a pass astride the old trade route to Bhutan at an elevation of 2000 Mts, it is surrounded by virgin forests. It was fortified during the Bhutan rule, and captured and destroyed by the British during the Anglow-Bhutan War.Now  it is a hub for Kargyu  Buddhism with a monastery which house about 300 monk scholars.The view of  virgin forest of Neora National park & the tri-junction Rachel pass  from Lava is breathtaking.

It is popular for nature exploration and bird watching. It has Kargyu Monastery and a bazaar.

Neora National Park: is situated in the Kalimpong district, West Bengal and was established in 1986. It spreads over an area of 88 sqkm and is one of the richest biological zones in entire Eastern India.It is the land of elegant red Panda in the pristine undisturbed natural habitat with rugged inaccessible hilly terrain and rich diverse flora and fauna making this park an important wilderness zone. (source:Wikip.) Endangered species of birds are found here. It is Bird Watchers’ paradise. It is also trekkers delight to reach Rachela pass on the trek route leading through the park on the trijunction of Bengal & Sikkim. In the past this was the biggest trade route through Tibet, Sikkim, Bhutan. 

Gumpa Dara- Nok Dara: 9 Kms from Lava at an elevation 1600 mts, it is a lush green narrow plateau located on a gently sloping spur, topped by orchid laden forests with ethnic hamlets and cultivation amongst picture postcard countryside of bubbling brooks and dales. an ideal place to explore flora, visit ethnic village  or bird watch.Offers plenty of easy quite walks down to the Git River valley of the village around Git-dabling Budhabare, a lepcha village.

Gitdabling-Budhabare:  16 km by road from Lava or 02 hrs walk from Nok Dara, it is located in the Git Valley and has old lepcha houses , a church, a small bazaar with local pub, in a setting of terraced cultivation ,at an elevation of 1500 mts. 

Lolegaon-Kaffer: A forested region along the ridge line at 1700mts ,it has unusual flora and good mountain views. It is 60 km by road from Kalimpong, 9 kms from Budhabare & 25 Km from Lava.

 

Samthar– Scenic, tranquil and remote, the Samthar Valley, is located 42 Kms from Kalimpong at an elevation of 1400 Meters. It is surrounded by mountain streams, terraced cultivation and forests. The inhabitants are a blend of various ethnic groups-Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepali. The original Lepcha tribal people lived in the valleys. They were woodsman, and utilized the forest resources to live off the land. Knowing no religion, they worshiped nature spirits. When the Bhutanese ruled this land, many were converted to Buddhism. Latter the British rulers brought in Christian missionaries, who converted some of them to Christianity. Hinduism arrived with the Nepalese settlers, who also taught the Lepchas to farm the land. Today the ethnic groups are fused together in harmony. They have adopted Nepali as a link language, yet maintained, their diverse cultural identity. It is an ideal place to peep into lifestyles of this fascinating hill community. It also has diverse flora, well-developed mountain agriculture, forests, river valleys, and offers one of the finest views of Mount Khangchendzonga and the panorama of snows.

To show case the Samthar Valley, home stay tours have been evolved as part of integrated village tourism project Awake and Shine . The project aims at generating earning for the community, through tourism, and providing quality education at the foundation level.

Guests can reach Samthar from Bagdogra/ NJP via Kalijhora and Ponbu in 2.30 hrs, and from Kalimpong via Rilli Valley and Sinji, also in 2.30 hrs. The ride is rough in parts, but is compensated by the refreshing scenery enroute.

We arrange transportation by exclusive vehicles, owned and operated by the local community from NJP, Bagdogra, Kalimpong or any other location in North Bengal and Sikkim.
Several village taxis run daily between Kalimpong and Samthar departing from Kalimpong around mid day.

Ponbu-Yang-Yangri: These are Lepcha Tribal villages untouched and unspoiled. There is a 100 year old Buddhist Gumpa still stands beautiful. We have a good day walk of 2-3 hrs to these villages from Samthar Farm House to experience the Lepcha culture and to visit the 100 year old buddhist Gumpa. (We have our teachers coming from this village to teach in Awake & Shine School, whose we had seen grown)

Samco Ropeway: WAS located at Teesta valley built by Swiss fathers years back, use to run on a span of 1.5 km. over Teesta and Relli Rivers. It was an exciting crossing with breathtaking views.  Now there is a Dam across the Teesta and is our exit point after a hike from Samthar via Suruk Village.

The home stays at Samthar
Samthar offers two categories of home stays. Premium home stay is available at the Samthar Farm Homestay, personally hosted by Gen. Jimmy Singh.

Lepcha Village home stays & Bhujel Homestay :Hosted by Charles Lepcha & Tara Bhujel & family.

Gurudongma Tours & Treks have trained the local community to run the homestays and is providing marketing and organizational support for booking and operations of homestay tours to support project Awake & Shine.

K-s/02D: 08 Days Kalimpong Samthar Experience Holiday with the Village Community

Day 01: Bagdogra – Kalimpong, 1400 m

Arrive Bagdogra ( indicate flight No & timings). Met at airport by car with driver. Look out for your name placard at airport exit.

Transfer by car to Kalimpong, in 2.30 hrs. The drive is along the scenic Teesta Valley and thereafter ascending to 1400 m to the hill town of Kalimpong, perced atop a forested ridge Check in at Gurudongma House for overnight

 

Kalimpong, is an exotic town of beautiful people, mystical and enchanting? Ruled by Bhutan for 155 years, and annexed by the British in 1865, it was developed as a center of the wool trade with Tibet. This trade flourished until the Chinese took control of Tibet, in the 1950’s The Lepchas, who were the original inhabitants, were subjected to Bhutanese, Tibetan, British, and Nepalese influences. A gentle and docile people, they have almost lost their identity, and are now called “The vanishing tribe”. However history has left behind a fascinating ethnic blend of Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepalese people. Here Buddhism rubs shoulders with Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Gumpas, churches, temples, monasteries, monks and missionaries; all coexist in a jovial and tolerant society. Flower and orchid nurseries, colonial bungalows, churches of the “Raj”, and Buddhist monasteries are there to explore. A quaint bustling bazaar, is a Pandora’s box of surprises?

    

Kalimpong is a wanderer’s delight. Buddhist tankhas, hand beaten silver, Bhutanese weaves, Chinese lamps, hand crafted paper, Lepcha daggers, Nepali Khukaris and Buddhist masks, are some of the shopping attractions. The Wednesday and Saturday “Hat”, or village market, brings together people from surrounding areas, selling an amazing variety of products.

Time permitting; in the evening explore the exotic bazaar

 Day 02: Kalimpong exploration

Car with driver + guide will be at disposal for local sightseeing and exploration

Visit churches of the colonial period, Buddhist monasteries, flower nurseries, tankha painters, view points, Daleo Hill & Grahams homes, hand beaten silver makers, hand made paper workshop, and more. Explore the interesting bazaar. Overnight at Gurudongma House.

Day 03: Kalimpong/ Lava/ Lolegaon/ drive cum trek to Samthar Farm House

After breakfast, drive for 35 Kms, in 1.30 hrs along old mule trade route to Tibet ( now a highway). You will pass through Algarah bazaar, once a mule caravan serai, drive through virgin forests to Lava, a small bazaar and village, at an altitude of 2100 m.

  

Lava is a small bazaar amidst forested hills. It originated as a halting place for trade caravans going to Bhutan. It wasfortified during the Bhutan rule, and captured and destroyed by the British during the Anglow-Bhutan War. A Buddhist monastery of the same period has been expanded and is active. It is now a center of the West Bengal Forest Development Corporation, which is dedicated to preserving the forests, and is fast developing as a focal  point for Eco tourism.

Upon arrival at Lava view the Rachela Pass, which opens into Bhutan, and visit the Monastery. Drive back 04 kms to take the forest road to Lolegaon. Start Trek 1, after driving 6 kms to Gompa Dara with its ancient Buddhist gompa, 1700 m. The trail descends 300 m through forests, to the waist of the hill, continues fairly level with a steady ascent by 100 m through hamlets, terraced cultivation, and cascading streams to terminate at the village bazaar, called Budhabare,1600 m Trekking time for Trek 1 is 3-4 hrs.

Drive 45 mins to the heritage forest. Enjoy your picnic lunch and start Trek 2. See nature at its best, with the incredible variety of flora. After a picnic lunch take a short down hill trek, whilst your jeep traverses a wilderness trail. You will descend from 1900m to 1600 m. Trekking time is 02 hrs, and you will walk through the heart of the forest, to a Tamang Village, cross a mountain stream, and reclaim your jeep, for the last 06 kms to Samthar Valley 1400 m.

Upon arrival a 20 minutes down hill walk to the Kabi West Lepcha Village. Overnight at Charles Lepcha’s home stay 

Samthar is scenic and remote, at an elevation of 1500 Meters. It is surrounded by  river valleys, terraced cultivation and forests. The inhabitants are a blend of various ethnic groups-Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepali. The original Lepcha tribals lived in the valleys. They were woodsman, and utilized the forest resources to live off the land. Knowing no religion, they worshiped nature spirits. When the Bhutanese ruled this land, many were converted to Buddhism. Latter the British rulers brought in Christian missionaries, who converted some of them to Christianity. Hinduism arrived with the Nepalese settlers, who also taught the Lepchas to farm the land. Today the ethnic groups are fused together in harmony. They have adopted Nepali as a link language, yet maintained, their diverse cultural identity. It is an ideal place to peep into lifestyles of this fascinating hill community. It also has diverse flora, well-developed mountain agriculture, forests, and river valleys, and offers breathtaking views of the Panorama of snows.

 Day 04: Samthar Lepcha Village exploration

Awake to the breathtaking panorama of the snows, that Samthar Valley offers as the sun rises – Khangchenganga group of peaks, Simvo, Siniolchu, Lama Anden, Chomoyomo, and Paunhari, and the passes of Chola, Natula, and Jalepla, leading into Tibet will be there every morning to see ( weather permitting) Full day to explore Lepcha village with your host. – Archery, Bamboo basket making, Millet beer making, visitin  local Shaman and meeting community members in their homes and fields.. Overnight Charles lepcha’s home stay. All meals

Day 05: Samthar Valley trek

More views of the great peaks at sunrise. After breakfast guided trek through the samthar Valley visiting homesteads of Lepcha and Nepali families, and Awake & Shine School, at Gairi Gaon. .Check in at Bhujel family homestay, In the afternoon explore the Nepali village, Overnight Bhujel family Nepali home stay. All meals

 Day 06: Samthar: Nature & culture trek to Lepcha Gompa

Early morning; another chance to view the sunrise. After breakfast take a full days trek to Yang valley. See flora, birds, terraced cultivation, forests and homesteads, The trek is along a good trail at an average elevation of 1500 m. Walking time is 04.30 hrs. Your destination is a 100 years old Lepcha temple and ancient Chortens. You will also be meeting people in their homes and fields. After a picnic lunch return by a different route to Samthar Farm House. Dinner and overnight at the Samthar Farm House.

 Day 07: Samthar Farm House

A day to relax at leisure. Alternativly another half day trek will be arranged with your guide. Overnight at Samthar Farm House

Day 08:  Trek Samthar – Teesta Valley – drive to Darjeeling

Today you will exit the Samthar Valley by trekking down to the Rilli Valley. The trail descends steeply from 1400 m to 300 m in 04 hrs to reach the confluence of the Rilli and Teesta rivers. Crossing the Rilli over a log / suspension bridge, you will trek through a wooded island between the two rivers to cross the Teesta River over a newly constructed bridge. Transfer to your car and drive to Darjeeling in 2.30 hrs.  Drop at your hotel. END OF GURUDONGMA SERVICES

Tour K-S/02E : Nature & Culture Walking Homestay Holiday in the Himalayas

Routing Itinerary:

Kalimpong, 1400 m –Bhangey Sangsey 1450m-Pedong 1500 mts- Lava, 2100 m -Nokdara-Budhabare– Lolegaon, 1700 m-Samthar-Teesta Dam

Day 01 & 02: Kalimpong: Bagdogra to Kalimpong & sight seeing and exploration of town on foot & car.

Day 03: Kalimpong-Bhangey Sangsey village walk, village experience Tour. Overnight.

Day 04: Bhangey Sangsey- Pedong walk via many villages 4-5 hrs. hike.

Day 05: Day Exploration of Pedong & drive to Pedong to Lava. Lava exploration of Monastery, market, natural interpretation centre to understand the geography & vegetation of the place. Overnight Lava.

Day 06: Day  Hike to the Neora National Park & back.Overnight Lava.

Day 07: Walk to Lolegaon Kaffer via Nokdara-Budhabare. Overnight at homestay at Kaffer Lolegaon.

Day 08: Walk from Kaffer Lolegaon to Samthar.Overnight at Samthar Farm House.

Day 09: Samthar valley exploration and visit of Awake& Shine. Overnight.

Day 10: Walk to Yang-Yangri to visit the 100 year old Lepcha Gumpa.Return to Samthar Farm House ,Overnight.

Day 11: Samthar to Teesta dam via Suruk. Visit Awake & Shine II project. Lunch in the village and drive to your nest destination via Teesta Dam.

Tour S/02 E: 04 nights Paddy Sowing and the monsoon magic
Paddy sowing is the focal point of Himalayan village lifestyles. It is the beginning of the cycle to provide the family requirements of rice – the staple diet of the Nepali and the Lepcha people. Preparations begin as soon as the monsoon rains start. Terraced paddy fields, hewn by generations out of steep mountain sides are manually cleaned free of weeds and mud dykes and water channels rebuilt laboriously, to get them ready for flooding.

As the rains flood the paddies, young men with pairs of oxen plough the flooded paddies, whilst the older generation of men folks level the ploughed paddies wielding hand held wooden leveling tools. This is followed by the women sowing the rice seedlings in regimented unison, singing whilst they sow.. Another group of women work in the family kitchen preparing a feast for the time when the days sowing is done. Whole families work together, mustering additional numbers from the community on a cooperative basis. It is hard work but the ambience is that of a community picnic.
This tour is set up to enable visitors to witness the entire ritual of paddy sowing and to participate to the extent desired

Itinerary:

Day 01. Kalimpong to Samthar

Your tour starts from Kalimpong.
A Car with driver and guide will pick you up from your designated hotel at Kalimpong at 0800 hrs in the morning. Drive to Samthar . It is a scenic journey through the Himalayan foot hills with its isolated hamlets, Buddhist monasteries, river valleys and forests. You can opt for one or two short treks enroute. Arriving at Samthar you will be met by members of the host family and walk down 15 -20 minutes to the Nepali or lepcha family home stay . Dinner and overnight.

Day 02 Explore samthar Valley

Awake to the breathtaking panorama of the snows, that Samthar offers as the sun rises – Khangchenganga group of peaks, Simvo, Siniolchu, Lama Anden, Chomoyomo, and Paunhari, and the passes of Chola, Natula, and Jalepla, leading into Tibet will be there every morning to see from your cottage ( weather permitting) . Today you will take a walking tour of the village visting families in their homes and fields. visit the Awake & Shine primary School. In the evening a session of Nepali and Hindi songs and Bhajans ( devotional songs), as you join the family ” puja” ( prayers) invoking blessings for the paddy crop. . Overnight at Homestay .

Day 03: Paddy sowing


Walk down to the paddy terraces and watch the men working at preparing the terraces for flooding. You will see and may participate in the operation of scrapping and weeding, rebuilding dykes and water channels, as also getting the seedling ready for transplanting. Overnight at the home stay

Day 04: Paddy Sowing

Get up early to join the women folk as they make preparations for the sowing feast. Latter join the family and community members for the actual sowing of the paddy terraces, followed by the sowing feast in the late afternoon.
In the evening singing and dancing with the local folks. Overnight at the home stay

Day 05: Depart Samthar Valley

Choose one of the following options:-
Option 01: Drive to Siliguri or Bagdogra in 4.30 hrs
Option 02: Hike down to Teesta Valley Dam in 03 hrs, and drive to Darjeeling ( 2.30 hrs) / Siliguri ( 02 hrs) / Kal;impong ( 01 hr)
Option 3: Drive to Kalimpong in 3.30 hrs. TOUR ENDS

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Introduction
The setting
Scenic, tranquil and remote, the Samthar Valley, is located 42 Kms from Kalimpong at an elevation of 1400 Meters. It is surrounded by mountain streams, terraced cultivation and forests. The inhabitants are a blend of various ethnic groups-Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepali. The original Lepcha tribal people lived in the valleys. They were woodsman, and utilized the forest resources to live off the land. Knowing no religion, they worshiped nature spirits. When the Bhutanese ruled this land, many were converted to Buddhism. Latter the British rulers brought in Christian missionaries, who converted some of them to Christianity. Hinduism arrived with the Nepalese settlers, who also taught the Lepchas to farm the land. Today the ethnic groups are fused together in harmony. They have adopted Nepali as a link language, yet maintained, their diverse cultural identity. It is an ideal place to peep into lifestyles of this fascinating hill community. It also has diverse flora, well-developed mountain agriculture, forests, river valleys, and offers one of the finest views of Mount Khangchendzonga and the panorama of snows.

To show case the Samthar Valley, home stay tours have been evolved as part of integrated village tourism project Awake and Shine . The project aims at generating earning for the community, through tourism, and providing quality education at the foundation level.

How to reach Samthar ?

Guests can reach Samthar from Bagdogra/ NJP via Kalijhora and Ponbu in 2.30 hrs, and from Kalimpong via Rilli Valley and Sinji, also in 2.30 hrs. The ride is rough in parts, but is compensated by the refreshing scenery enroute.


We arrange transportation by exclusive vehicles, owned and operated by the local community from NJP, Bagdogra, Kalimpong or any other location in North Bengal and Sikkim.
Several village taxis run daily between Kalimpong and Samthar departing from Kalimpong around mid day.

The home stays
Samthar offers two categories of home stays. Premium home stay is available at the Samthar Farm House, personally hosted by Gen Jimmy Singh. and Village home stays, hosted by individual community members.

Gurudongma Tours & Treks have trained the local community to run the homestays and is providing marketing and organizational support for booking and operations of homestay tours to support project Awake & Shine.

Tour S/04: 04 nights Paddy Sowing and the monsoon magic
Paddy sowing is the focal point of Himalayan village lifestyles. It is the beginning of the cycle to provide the family requirements of rice – the staple diet of the Nepali and the Lepcha people. Preparations begin as soon as the monsoon rains start. Terraced paddy fields, hewn by generations out of steep mountain sides are manually cleaned free of weeds and mud dykes and water channels rebuilt laboriously, to get them ready for flooding.

   

As the rains flood the paddies, young men with pairs of oxen plough the flooded paddies, whilst the older generation of men folks level the ploughed paddies wielding hand held wooden leveling tools. This is followed by the women sowing the rice seedlings in regimented unison, singing whilst they sow.. Another group of women work in the family kitchen preparing a feast for the time when the days sowing is done. Whole families work together, mustering additional numbers from the community on a cooperative basis. It is hard work but the ambience is that of a community picnic.
This tour is set up to enable visitors to witness the entire ritual of paddy sowing and to participate to the extent desired

Itinerary:

Day 01. Kalimpong to Samthar

Your tour starts from Kalimpong.
A Car with driver and guide will pick you up from your designated hotel at Kalimpong at 0800 hrs in the morning. Drive to Samthar . It is a scenic journey through the Himalayan foot hills with its isolated hamlets, Buddhist monasteries, river valleys and forests. You can opt for one or two short treks enroute. Arriving at Samthar you will be met by members of the host family and walk down 15 -20 minutes to the Nepali or lepcha family home stay . Dinner and overnight.

Day 02 Explore samthar Valley

Awake to the breathtaking panorama of the snows, that Samthar offers as the sun rises – Khangchenganga group of peaks, Simvo, Siniolchu, Lama Anden, Chomoyomo, and Paunhari, and the passes of Chola, Natula, and Jalepla, leading into Tibet will be there every morning to see from your cottage ( weather permitting) . Today you will take a walking tour of the village visting families in their homes and fields. visit the Awake & Shine primary School. In the evening a session of Nepali and Hindi songs and Bhajans ( devotional songs), as you join the family ” puja” ( prayers) invoking blessings for the paddy crop. . Overnight at the home stay

Day 03: Paddy sowing


Walk down to the paddy terraces and watch the men working at preparing the terraces for flooding. You will see and may participate in the operation of scrapping and weeding, rebuilding dykes and water channels, as also getting the seedling ready for transplanting. Overnight at the home stay

Day 04: Paddy Sowing

Get up early to join the women folk as they make preparations for the sowing feast. Latter join the family and community members for the actual sowing of the paddy terraces, followed by the sowing feast in the late afternoon.
In the evening singing and dancing with the local folks. Overnight at the home stay

Day 05 Depart Samthar Valley

Choose one of the following options:-
Option 01: Drive to Siliguri or Bagdogra in 4.30 hrs
Option 02: Trek down to Teesta Valley Dam in 03 hrs, and drive to Darjeeling ( 2.30 hrs) / Siliguri ( 02 hrs) / Kal;impong ( 01 hr)
Option 3: Drive to Kalimpong in 3.30 hrs. TOUR ENDS

Nature & Culture Walk to Samthar Village with Awake & Shine
Project:
Day 01: Kalimpong-Samthar: Nature & cultural drive cum walk:
Take a guided 80 Kms fascinating journey by jeep with two trek options enroute-
each of 2-3 hrs. Enroute you get to visit Lava Monastery Virgin forests, bio diverse
flora, terraced cultivation, ethnic villages and more. Guests not inclined to walking
can go all the way by car in 4.30 hrs.
Scenic and remote, The Samthar Valley, at an elevation of 1500 Meters, is
surrounded by river valleys, terraced cultivation and forests. The inhabitants are a
blend of various ethnic groups-Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepali. The original Lepcha
tribals were woodsman, and utilized the forest resources to live off the land. Knowing
no religion, they worshiped nature spirits. When the Bhutanese ruled this land, many
were converted to Buddhism. Latter the British rulers brought in Christian
missionaries, who converted some of them to Christianity. Hinduism arrived with the
Nepalese settlers, who also taught the Lepchas to farm the land. Today the ethnic
groups are fused together in harmony. It is an ideal place to peep into lifestyles of
this fascinating hill community. It also has diverse flora, well-developed mountain
agriculture, forests, and river valleys, and offers breathtaking views of the Panorama
of snows. 
The Samthar Farmhouse is an old Lepcha house built of stone and timber,
converted for comfortable living, whilst maintaining its rustic ambience. It has a lovely
nature garden with good views. Income generated from guests goes to run the
Awake & Shine Primary School.

Overnight at the Samthar Farm house. All Meals.

Day 02 : Samthar Valley Nature & Culture walk and vist to the Awake & Shine
Primary School

Get up at sunrise to see the views. Weather permitting, you see the entire panorama
of snows – Khangchenganga group of peaks, and the peaks named; Simvo,
Siniolchu, Lama Anden, Chomoyomo, and Paunhari, and then in an easterly arc the
passes of Chola, Natula, and Jalepla, leading into Tibet.
Take a guided walk along village paths for a exploration of the valley, with its mixed
Christian Lepcha and Hindu Nepali hamlets walk through forests, terraced cultivation
and homesteads.. Meet people in their homes and fields, and get a glimpse of rural
Himalayan lifestyles. Visit the Awake & Shine Primary School which is bringing
quality education to the local community.
Overnight. All Meals.

The Awake & shine Integrated village tourism model, seeks to generate earnings by
developing tour circuits based on home stay holidays, It also provides for
empowering the future generations by teaching spoken English, Started in Feb 2007,
Awake & Shine has built model infrastructure for Village home stay holidays, set up
interesting village tours, and started a path breaking rural English medium Primary
School. Overnight at The samthar Farm House.

Day 03: Samthar Nature & Culture trek & visit 100 years old Lepcha Gumpa at
Yang
Nature & Culture trek with guide through forests, terraced cultivation, and
homesteads, visiting people in their homes and farms, Peep into local lifestyles and
See basket and mat making, blacksmith, shaman and more .

The “Raj” hill station of Darjeeling, created by the British. Darjeeling, the town derived its present name from the Tibetan Dorjee-Ling, meaning Place of the thunderbolt. It is located in the state of West Bengal.Darjeeling is perched amongst the clouds at 2134 m. It has a population of 200 000, comprising an ethnic mix of Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha and some Bengalis. Common language is Nepali.

Until the nineteenth century, it was a part of the kingdom of Sikkim, but was overrun by the Nepalese. The British intervened to broker peace, and in return pressurized the Sikkim raja, to gift Darjeeling, to the British for an annual sum of Rs 3ooo, in 1835. Finally in 1861, after a short war, the British annexed Darjeeling and the adjoining territory upto the Rangit River The British developed Darjeeling, due to its strategic location as a base to develop trade with Tibet. In early 1840’s, tea plantations were developed, extensively, and the Lepcha the original people of the place were unaware of agriculture & plantation, so they could not work on the field so the British open immigration on Nepali boarder to import labours from Nepal as Nepalies are hard working and skilful people with large families. They worked on the barren land made it cultivable and also introduce paddy growing culture and became the people of the land. On the quest of their identity in the country an agitation broke for the formation of a Gorkhaland state. The Bengal government granted the Darjeeling District, autonomy, under a Gorkha Hill Council, with certain powers. Latter the Hill council was converted into The Gorkha territorial Administration (GTA 1), with enhanced powers, and Later became GTA 2 & is functional. There is peace in the region. People are more focused on  towards development & progress. 

 

 Darjeeling retains it colonial flavor, and the region grows the best quality of tea. It is the heartland of premium tea. All round are waves of tea bushes flowing down the slopes, lovely vales and dales, with magnolias and pines.
A ride in the heritage “toy” train through the engineering marvel of the Batasia loop at an elevation of 2557 meters, is an indelible experience.
Close by Tiger Hill provides breathtaking views of the Khangchendzonga , and Everest group of great Mountains. Local sights include the Everest Museum at The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Buddhist monasteries, Peace Pagoda, Zoological park with snow leopards and other animals, Tibetan Handicrafts Center, Botanical gardens, and the exotic bazaar.High altitude trek originate in Darjeeling for walking above 3000m on the Singhalila range.

  Walking sightseeing in Darjeeling gives you real insight into the culture and way of life. Early morning walk to the Mahakali baba’s Temple, a place of worship of all faith or a walk around the Governer’s House and walk to the Himalayan Zoological Park and on to Tibetan Refugee centre and to Chawrastah, the Mall, is fascinating. 

There are few beautiful Tea Gardens around Darjeeling who have open their door to the visitors. 

Itinerary

D/03 A: Insight into Darjeeling Town: Walk & drive 

Day 01: Arrive Bagdogra by air. Met by your Guide with car and driver. Drive to Darjeeling via Kurseong.   The drive takes about  03 hrs. beautiful drive. From the plains of North Bengal we climb to an elev. of 2143 m, passing through, forests , tea gardens, villages and the town of Kurseong.

   

Time permitting we can stop by the famous Bio Dynamic Makaibari Tea Estate .Enroute we also have a chance to see the Darjeeling Railway’s heritage toy train, which was opened in 1881, primarily for the tea traffic. The railway line is laid alongside the road, and to see the tiny steam engine huffing and puffing, uphill with just three carriages, is an unusual sight. The highest point on this line is at Ghoom, at an elevation of 2225 Mtrs, where the ascent is achieved through a double loop. At Kurseong the train runs through the busy bazar

Upon arrival at Darjeeling Check in at Hotel/homestay

Day 02: Full day sightseeing with guide. 

Morning: Toy train ride to Ghoom and back, Himalayan Zoological Park and the Everest Museum. Rangeet River Ropeway.

The Rangeet Valley Ropeway rideThe Rangeet Valley Ropeway ride: This bi-cable ropeway descends fromSingamari ( 3 Kms from Darjeeling) to 244 m at Singla on the banks of the Ramman river,a tributary of the Great Rangeet.River  On the 8 Kms journey , there are stops at Tukver, Burnesbeg and Singla tea estates, The ropeway passes over forests, mountain ridges, water falls, flowing rivers, green valleys and tea gardens. In a span of 45 minutes the ropeway descends from 2134 m to 800 m. The ropeway operates continuously from 1000 to 1600 hrs, and you can hop on and hop off at any of the stations . no advance reservation is required.( closed on 14th every month for maintainnce)

Return to your hotel for lunch.

Afternoon: visit Japanese Peace Pagoda , Observatory Hill, and Kali Temple  explore the exotic bazaar. Overnight at your hotel.

Day 03: Early morning visit Tiger Hill for panoramic views at sunrise of the Everest and Khangchendzonga. Later visit 16th century Ghoom Monastery. Return to hotel for breakfast. After breakfast drive to your next destination.

Tea Garden Experience Holiday :

Many tea gardens have open up their door for the visitors and gives wonderful experience of Tea Plantation stay. The ones we would like to take you  are:

Makaibari Tea Estate Community homestay tourism at Kerseong: This is an effort of famous revolutionary  tea planter Raja Banerjee, who converted his tea garden into bio -organic over the years. He  started homestay with his tea workers. They are clean & simple. it is the best way to get insight into the simple way of life of tea plantation.

Glenburn Tea Estate is a charming elegant tea plantation retreat near Kalimpong , on the way to Darjeeling. It is a perfect place to wander around the hillocks of sprawling tea, sporting birds in their forest or hiking to the River Rangeet  to spend the day or stay in the log cabin overnight. Their age old bungalows has been restored beautifully and furnished elegantly keeping the charm of the past. All these details make it a class holiday retreat to experience.

Singtam Tea Estate : is a beautiful tea estate in Darjeeling near Kalimpong. 

Kurseong – premier biodynamic tea gardens

Kurseong is a peaceful hill town at an altitude of 1458 m (4783ft), set amid forests. Original name, ‘Kharsang’ means The Land of white orchids. It is the first town from the plains, just 53 km from Bagdogra/NJP.  The journey to Kurseong from the foothills is beautiful surrounded by forests , tea gardens and breathtaking views of the plains.

The town has a lively market, the tracks of the toy train run the length of the town, the toy train actually goes through the market which makes it really fascinating.  Toy Train workshop is located in Kurseong. This is the best place to visit for the Train enthusiast provided permission taken from the authorities. 

Kurseong has  Krishna Temple ( Jagadish Mandir with 300 year old Idol), Buddhist Gumpa,St. Pauls Church, Juma Mosque & Grotto & Catholic Church in St. Mary’s Hill.

Eagle’s Craig site provides breath taking view of town and the plains. Downhill in the upper part of Kerseong is surrounded by the forest and the forest department has protected the area for deers. Nearby is a beautiful informative Forest Museum.  From here one can continue to Chimney a walk or ride through the forest leads to the vast open meadows at Chimney. At Chimney one can visit one of the project of  Late Canadian Fr. Murrey Abraham’s   bio-organic vegetable farm. It is remarkable effort of 2 meter farming. He sought the people  in 2 meter land one can produce multiple crop with minimum use of water, the drip irrrigation system. He changed the lives of many people around the neighbourhood.

   

Famous for tea gardens, producing premium Darjeeling tea are around Kurseong.  It offers a chance to explore Makaibari Tea Estate, a tea estate producing bio-dynamic tea for the international market.  You can go round the estate, and the factory, peep into methods of bio dynamic & tea tasting and buy some premium tea. Makaibari Tea estate has encouraged the tea pluckers family to open the home stays to get the insight into the tea garden culture. 

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Homestay in Kalimpong

Exclusive homestayThe home stay is located in the exclusive Hill Top locality , 3 kms from Kalimpong town center.The house commands breathtaking views of the panorama of snows, dominated by Mount Khangchendzonga.

We offer just two Guest guestrooms, in the house. A cottage suite in the secluded garden provides exclusive accommodation . Guests are cared for by the trained ethnic staffs, which provide spontaneous personalized service.

The kitchen serves home cooked food, presented with elegance. Our carefully researched interactive cuisine comprises a blend of Indian, Nepali, Chinese, Sikkimese, and western recipes. Our table service strives to be immaculate and graceful.

The secluded nature garden is a haven to relax -just laze around, and watch the birds and butterflies.

 

For those who want to be lost in nature, and enjoy a secluded holiday, Rinchingpong at elevation of 1500 meters offers, home-stay at a Sikkimese heritage farm, and at the village of Hi Barmoik, There are easy nature walks, in forests of Oak, pine, fir, Rhododendrons and many other flora, bird watching, visits to Buddhist Gompa built in 1730, and a unique heritage Lepcha tribal home. There are superb views of all the great peaks, including Everest and Khangchendzonga group.

We offer several nature treks ranging from 4 to 7 days, traversing the Barsey Rhododendron sanctuary reaches up to 3696 m. The Rhodedendrons bloom in March- April – but the autumn trek in Oct-Nov is equally enchanting with better views. 

 

 

For those who want to be lost in nature, and enjoy a secluded holiday, Rinchingpong at elevation of 1500 meters offers, home-stay at a Sikkimese heritage farm, and at the village of Hi Barmoik, There are easy nature walks, in forests of Oak, pine, fir, Rhododendrons and many other flora, bird watching, visits to Buddhist Gompa built in 1730, and a unique heritage Lepcha tribal home. There are superb views of all the great peaks, including Everest and Khangchendzonga group.

We offer several nature treks ranging from 4 to 7 days, traversing the Barsey Rhododendron sanctuary reaches up to 3696 m. The Rhodedendrons bloom in March- April – but the autumn trek in Oct-Nov is equally enchanting with better views. 

 

Homestay in Samthar

The Samthar Farm House has been set up to provide hospitality skills and earning to the local community and to support the Awake & Shine primary school. This is a non profit hospitality centre.

Samthar Farm House is an intimate eco lodge, favored by visitors seeking unusual places. It was developed by converting an abandoned Lepcha tribal farmhouse into a comfortable country residence, whilst preserving its natural stone and old timber construction. The house nestles in a clump of pines, with a terraced nature garden rising to the rocky outcrop at the top of the hill. The natural landscape has been retained. The view rivals Tiger Hill (near Darjeeling). Sunrise and sunset views can simply be described as breathtaking.

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Guide map for Sikkim

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