Tonglu: A tiny hamlet on Singalila ridge

 
 
Tonglu is a small settlement located on Singalila ridge and between Manebhanjan and Sandakphu. This is usually where the trekkers halt for the first night at the GTA (Gorkha Territorial Administration) lodge. Many tourists also come these days to Tonglu by a vehicle, stay overnight and enjoy the lovely views and nature before proceeding to Sandakphu or returning to Darjeeling. 
 
 
 
Tonglu is actually one of the peaks of Singalila range and located at an altitude of 10,130ft. Earlier in 1800s, Tonglu was part of Sikkim and known as Mount Tonglo. This was during the time when Sir Joseph Hooker came here and went to several other places in Sikkim on his expedition to discover and study the vegetation of the area. 
 
Road to Tonglu from Meghma 
Meghma to Tonglu Road 
 
NOTE: The above picture of the gravel road to Tonglu was taken in 2016. Now it has been converted into a concrete road where vehicles can move smoothly. In fact, the entire road from Manebhanjan up to Gairibas passing through Tonglu and Tumling is now a concrete road. 
 
While approaching Tonglu, you can get the first sights of flowering Rhododendrons in spring (in the picture above, see the red flowers at the turning of the steep road). 
 
Masterji, a knowledgeable man who I met at Manebhanjan told me that these days perhaps due to global warming you can hardly see rhododendrons blossoming at the lower altitudes along Sandakphu route. Once you go past Gairibas, you can start seeing lots of them as the temperature becomes cooler there. In fact, earlier due to exceptionally low temperatures at the higher reaches of Singalila range, the flowers could be mostly seen at the lower reaches. Now it has reversed. 
 
GTA Lodge, Tonglu 
GTA Lodge at Tonglu 
 
Tonglu is about 11kms from Manebhanjan (the base) and 2kms from Meghma which is another small settlement before Tonglu. It takes nearly 1 hour trek from Meghma to reach the GTA lodge at Tonglu. A vehicle takes only about 30-35 minutes to reach Tonglu from Manebhanjan. 
 
The road for vehicles (which is also the trek route) comes here from Meghma and continues ahead to a village called Tumling which is another 2kms away and at a lower altitude. There is another shorter trekking trail that branches off just before the GTA lodge which too leads down to the village Tumling. 
 
A view point, Tonglu (near the GTA Lodge) 
A view point, Tonglu 
 
Although it's an uphill climb all the way from Meghma, the last stretch of the route to Tonglu is quite steep. However, from Tonglu to Tumling is a quick descend. 
 
The GTA lodge at Tonglu has 5 rooms as well as dormitory beds. The rooms are large and each can accommodate 4 to 5 persons easily. The lodge is located in a lovely spread out area with nice views. You need to visit a GTA Tourism Office to book rooms. Visit GTA Tourism Info to know the addresses and contact information of GTA booking offices at various locations including in Kolkata and Darjeeling. 
 
Right outside its premises is a viewing point (in fact, two of them nearby) that are excellent vantage points to watch the Kanchenjunga snow peaks during a clear day and the lovely mountain landscapes around. The GTA Lodge compound too has great views. At night, you can also see the lights of Darjeeling and Kurseong towns. And far below you can also trace the Koshi river. 
 
DM's Bungalow, Tonglu 
DM’s Bungalow, Tonglu 
 
There is also a District Magistrate's (DM's) Bungalow which can also be booked through DM's office in Darjeeling and Siliguri, unless there are any official bookings. It is located next to the GTA lodge and has nice rooms. It offers great views from the rooms. The cook prepares nice meals for the guests.  
 

How to visit Tonglu

 
If you are visiting Tonglu by car, then note that only Jeep type vehicles that are old British Land Rovers are only permitted on the route between Manebhanjan and Sandakphu where Tonglu lies. You need to hire one such Land Rover from Manebhanjan - the settlement located at the base. The taxi you take from NJP or Bagdogra will drop you at Manebhanjan and won't go any further. 
 
Darjeeling to Manebhanjan is 25kms and you can reach in about 1 hour 15 minutes by car. NJP station or Bagdogra airport to Manebhanjan is about 85kms via Mirik and takes about 4 hours by reserved taxi. 
 
From Manebhanjan, Tonglu is 30-35 minutes by Land Rover. I have mentioned vehicle fares from Darjeeling, NJP and Bagdogra to Manebhanjan as well as fares from Manebhanjan to the places along Sandakphu route under Visiting Sandakphu by Car. Fares to Tonglu will be similar to Tumling. 
 
Farming activities at Tonglu 
Farming at Tonglu 
 
If you are planning a visit or trek to Tonglu, although you can do everything on your own and reduce the cost of your trip, it is better to go through a reputed operator because there are several logistics involved. And that includes GTA lodge booking, Land Rover booking from Manebhanjan (for tours), guide/porter booking (for trekking), getting vehicle and individual permits to enter Singalila National Park etc apart from transportation from/to NJP, Bagdogra or Darjeeing. 
 
If your train or flight arrives in the afternoon, then you can not make it to Tonglu on the same day. You will need to halt for a night at a place like Mirik or Lepchajagat (Manebhanjan doesn't have great accommodations) and this will require separate lodge or hotel booking. 
 
Tour operators in Darjeeling are best positioned to handle these tours or treks because of their proximity and experience. Ashmita Treks & Tours of Darjeeling is one of the best in business when it comes to such tours and treks. Additionally, some of them including Ashmita offer attractive discounts on such tours and treks if you have Darjeeling Tourism Card
 
Go through The Best Darjeeling Operators to get details of the top operators in Darjeeling including their main offerings and contact information. 
 
 
 

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Visitors' Reviews/Comments

 
 
Swati Ganguly (November 2020) 
Hello Mr Raj, Hope you are well. Please let me know the fare price from NJP to Tonglu. & another question i want to visit Tonglu with my 10 years daughter in the month of Jan  to have the experience of snow fall, is it the right time to travel? any precautions do I have to take for my daughter? 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) November 2020 
Hello, You won't get a direct taxi from NJP to Tonglu, you will need to change over to a Land Rover at Manebhanjan. January is not a good time... it will be biting cold out there. December is better. You will get the fares at this Sandakphu visit link
 
Dipankar Das (February 2020) 
Sir, is it possible to reach Tonglu via Manebhanjan from NJP on the same day? Thank you sir. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) February 2020 
If you reach NJP early, it is possible to get to Tonglu on the same day via Manebhanjan (you need to change a vehicle and take a Landrover at Manebhanjan, same vehicle from NJP won't be allowed). 
 
Abhijit Sarkar (November 2018) 
Dear Raj, As per your advice we had a tour to Tonglu from Darjeeling. Luckily we met Sukhraj (a Maneybhanjan based Max driver), who picked us up from Darjeeling and drove us up to Tonglu. We were astonished. The journey had been amazing. The GTA lodge was simply superb. The weather was clear and sunny. The momos at Tumling were yummy. The best vacation I have ever spent. Thanks Raj, once again. 
 
Abhijit Sarkar (July 2018) 
Mr. Raj, I do really follow your answers and suggestions when I visit Darjeeling. This Nov 5th, 2018 we have planned to visit Tonglu from Darjeeling. How will the temperature expected to be? Which is the best tourist lodge and from where to book? Waiting eagerly for your suggestion. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) July 2018 
GTA Lodge is basically the only tourist accommodation in Tonglu which is a budget lodge, but nice. You can book from Gorkha Bhawan at Salt Lake, Kolkata. Nearby Tumling has several lodging choices (Sikhar Lodge, Siddhartha Hotel etc) and has better motorable road from Meghma onwards. 
 
Pyali Chakraborty (May 2018) 
I follow your website religiously. It is indeed extremely helpful. I am planning to visit Tonglu from Darjeeling and back on same day on 1st July. How are the visibility and roads during that time? Can I hope to enjoy scenic beauty of the place during that time? 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) May 2018 
The route up to Meghma has been converted to a concrete road in recent times and the journey to Tonglu will be smooth except the last stretch of about 2kms. But you need to change to a local Land Rover at Manebhanjan (they don't allow other vehicles to ply on that route). July is in peak monsoon time... so expect heavy showers. Visibility is likely to be quite low. You can still enjoy the drive. 
 
Sasikiran (October 2017) 
Hi Raj, Is it possible to visit Tonglu and come back to Darjeeling on same day?  Usually how much time it takes?  And what would be appropriate tax fare for that? Regards, 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) October 2017 
Taxis won't go all the way. You need to take a Land Rover from Manebhanjan - a jeep type vehicle. Darjeeling to Manebhanjan takes 1 hr 15 minutes, from there another 1 hr 40 minutes to Tonglu... you can also consider visiting Tumling (near Tonglu). 
 
D J Ghosh (October 2016) 
Dear Mr. Bhattacharya, I have been touring all over India and especially North Bengal and Sikkim in a self  driven car with my family for a long time. Please let me know whether it will be possible to visit Tonglu in the last week of February,2017 in a self driven vehicle, how is the GTA Lodge? will there be snow during that period? Since you are an expert in this field I would request you to kindly answer these queries at your convenience. Thanks. Your reply will help me in planning my tour. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) October 2016 
There is high probability of heavy snow, and routes may not be accessible. I found knee deep snow in end Feb. And you must have a Jeep type sturdy vehicle. Tonglu GTA lodge is otherwise good.