Darjeeling & Sikkim
Know The Road Routes Between Places
Darjeeling & Sikkim - Roads & Transports
This page will help you understand how Darjeeling and Sikkim hill areas are laid out and where are the important tourist destinations relative to each other. This is vital to plan your trip itinerary that can involve visiting several places in this area. Otherwise you may end up making unnecessary travels or taking longer routes and waste precious time of your vacation.
Darjeeling itself is a large north-eastern district and part of the state of West Bengal. It covers Darjeeling hill town as well as several other important places including Siliguri, Kurseong, Mirik etc.
However Sikkim which is located adjacent and north of Darjeeling, is a separate state all together. But due to proximity of the two hill areas, many tourists make a combined visit for few days. And it is quite easy to get to one place from the other. Various places of Darjeeling and Sikkim are well connected through a network of road routes. There are of course check posts at the border areas of Sikkim, but it hardly takes any time if you have the required Sikkim Permit
Road transports include private taxis (which is most common and convenient), shared taxis (available between several places but not all), and even public buses between few places.
Road transports like taxis (and also buses wherever available) are the main mode of transport between any two places in Darjeeling and Sikkim. Public helicopter service (daily two flights subject to weather conditions) is also available between Bagdogra airport and Gangtok.
Toy Train (of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway) is available only in Darjeeling district, not anywhere else. In order to visit Darjeeling or Sikkim, most tourists first get to Bagdogra by flight or New Jalpaiguri by train (some also come by long distance buses or even personal cars to the adjacent city of Siliguri). And then take a vehicle to go up the mountains and reach the destination.
Note that in the mountains, a taxi can travel an average distance of 22-25kms per hour compared to more than double the distance on the plains.
If you are making a combined trip of both Darjeeling and Sikkim, you can visit any place first and then move to the other one. However in order to minimize your travel time within this region (i.e. Darjeeling district and Sikkim) and avoid unnecessary time & money, you need to carefully understand the location of the places that you plan to visit in the hills and sequence your trip accordingly.
If you are visiting Darjeeling, then go through this Road routes to Darjeeling
to see a pictorial map and understand the various ways you can reach Darjeeling from NJP or Bagdogra, and the intermediate places along with time and distances between the various places by car.
If you are combining or visiting Gangtok or Sikkim, go through this Route Map of Sikkim
as well to see another pictorial map and understand the various routes & destinations in Sikkim and how they connect to Darjeeling, NJP and Bagdogra.
Return to this page after you have gone through the above links and look at the interactive map below. Each icon on the map represents a popular tourist destination in Darjeeling or Sikkim which you would have seen in the links. Zoom the map if necessary. You can click on an icon and get to know about the place it represents including its altitude, distance, main attractions etc. Expand the map (use the zoom buttons) and move the map around to see more details around the places.
Here are the few things to note:
From Bagdogra or NJP, there are two ways to reach Darjeeling - via Kurseong or Mirik. Kurseong route is shorter and steeper (takes about 3 hours) while Mirik route is longer and more scenic (takes over 4 hours). Both routes merge at Ghoom. However for reaching Manebhanjang for onward travel to Sandakphu, the shorter route is via Mirik.
Darjeeling to Kalimpong is about 2.5 hours and the route goes via Lamahatta which is a scenic place with great Kanchenjunga views and a roadside manicured garden. Here you can halt for a while if you are travelling along this route. The places such a Tukdah, Tinchuley, Chota Mangwa & Bara Mangwa are also located near Lamahatta. So a day trip covering these small places that are full of lovely tea gardens, orchid centers and views can be done from Darjeeling or Kalimpong.
Darjeeling to Gangtok takes about 4.5 hours. As you can see in the map, Kalimpong requires a small diversion along the way from Teesta Bazaar area (about 45 minutes after crossing river Teesta over a bridge). So Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Gangtok (in that order or reverse) can be a good route.
Shortly after Teesta bazaar and along NH-31A, the route bifurcates, one goes towards Gangtok (in East Sikkim), while the one on the left goes towards Pelling (in West Sikkim) via Jorthang and Geyzing. From both Darjeeling and Gangtok, it takes about 4.5 to 5 hours to reach Pelling along this route.
However there is another route that goes from Darjeeling to Jorthang. This road (which is bad in several patches) requires a larger vehicle but is much shorter. Foreigners can't avail this route. Once you reach Jorthang from Darjeeling (in about 1 hour 45 minutes), Namchi (located in South Sikkim) is a short distance away. Another route from Jorthang leads to Pelling (about 2 hours). From Pelling, a route goes all the way to Gangtok via Ravangla (about 4.5 hours). So another route plan could be, Darjeeling - Namchi - Pelling - Gangtok (via Ravangla) or in the reverse order.
Tsomgo Lake, Baba Mandir and Nathula Pass in Sikkim require a day trip from Gangtok. Only Tsomgo can be covered in half a day. You need to get permit to visit these places. There are tour operators in Gangtok that offer packages for day trips that includes permits. Foreigners are not permitted to visit Nathula which is at the border with China.
Lachung/Yumthang Valley as well as Lachen/Gurudongmar Lake are located in North Sikkim. You need to plan to stay overnight at Lachung or Lachen (depending on where you are going). There are tour packages offered by many operators in Gangtok to visit these places. Lachung takes about 5.5 to 6 hours from Gangtok.