Exploring Villages of Kurseong - Bagora & Chimney
One of the best ways to explore the villages and local culture in Kurseong is to take a taxi and ask the driver to take you first to Bagora and then to the village Chimney. You will need half a day to explore the two villages.
Bagora is a small village located at the highest altitude (7,150 ft) of Kurseong subdivision.
The taxi will take the Hill Cart Road and go towards Darjeeling for about 25 minutes (10kms) and then take a sharp uphill right turn at settlement called Dilaram. This narrow road leads up to Bagora village in another 10 minutes or so. The total distance to Bagora is about 13kms from Kurseong town.
Dilaram on Hill Cart Road... cars come up and take sharp right here
The uphill narrow road from Dilaram passes through dense forests of pine, dhupi and oak. In between and to the right there is a place where you can ask the taxi driver to stop... there is a lovely trail which goes into the dense forest of old pine trees... it's called Old Pine Tree Forest. Walk into the pine forest, look around and then look up... you will be mesmerized to see how the tree-tops have formed a canopy above.
Old Pine Forest, Bagora (watch the short video)
As you move on from the Old Pine Forest, you will eventually come to a junction of several roads. This is the main Bagora settlement and the market area which has a few small shops selling grocery items and other essentials, several houses and even a Primary School. The quaint village is well known for its variety of birds, forest of oak and pine and of course the rhododendrons. In winter, you can see oranges as well.
The road to the left passes through a forest and leads to Chatakpur
. One to the right, goes to the village Chimney which is described the sections below. The road straight ahead soon bifurcates... one below on the left goes all the way to Sittong Khashmahal
and then onward to Latpanchar
. Keep to your right, the narrow uphill road leads to a nice viewpoint and onward to the Indian Air Force station.
As you drive up this road towards the Air Force Station, you can see quaint village houses along the way perched on the hill. It's a wonderful view all around and the winding uphill road is also in a good condition.
Road to the Bagora Air Force Station
Along this road to the Air Force Station and about 1km from the market area, there is a small viewpoint to the left which offers magnificent view of meandering river Teesta and Mt. Kanchenjunga. This is the Bagora Air Force Viewpoint. You can also walk up to this viewpoint from the Bagora market area in about 25 minutes.
Bagora Air Force Viewpoint
You should turn back from the viewpoint because soon after this and following a sharp uphill right turn you will be reaching the entry gate of the Air Force Station and public entry is not allowed there.
Bagora is an ideal place for trekkers and bird watchers. For bird watching, take the forested pathway that goes towards Chimney village. You can take a 12km trek to Mongpu
, a village well known for Rabindra Bhavan (a bungalow where the poet Rabindranath Tagore stayed during his several visits... it's now a museum). Or alternatively, do a nice modest day trek (about 6 hours) to Senchal Lake
If you plan to stay overnight at Bagora, the State Government operated Bagora Forest Rest House is the best option. You can book through their office at Kolkata (West Bengal forest Development Corporation, KB19 Sector-III, Salt Lake, Ground - Floor, Kolkata-700106. Phone No. - 033 23350064, 23358320).
There is also a nice homestay at Bagora Diki's Homestay run by a lady named Diki. It's a concrete house (only a part of it is two-storyed while the rest is single-storeyed). The rooms are simple but clean with attached bathrooms, there is a front balcony and a nice roof to enjoy the wonderful views of Darjeeling and Kalimpong hills. There is a large grassy lawn in front. The homestay is on a hill and you need to walk a little and climb a few steps to get there (cars won't go all the way). Phone: (+91) 8145723177, (0354) 6201324
As I mentioned earlier, near the market area of Bagora where several roads meet, a road to the right leads to the village Chimney. The road goes through a forest of Dhupi and oak, and then through a place called Chaitapani and then all the way to the small hamlet called Chimney.
If you happen to come on this route in late afternoon (you will need to time it right), the view of sunset from a point in Chaitapani is simply awesome. You see the sun setting on a mountain beyond the forests.
Sunset View from Chaitapani
Along the way at Chaitapani you will also come across a Kali Temple which is well known in this area. The temple has a lush garden setting with many small prayer flags fluttering around. This is where most locals in the area (Bagora as well as Chimney) come to worship the goddess Kali.
Kali Temple at Chaitapani
The forested road continues and all that you can see on both sides is a dense forest of dhupi. There are many different kinds of birds that can be seen here.
Once you reach Chimney Village (in about 30 minutes by car from Bagora, 10 kms from the Bagora market area), spend some time to explore the village, the people and their life & culture. The name Chimney comes from an old tall chimney in the village that has been existing since the British days. The Old Military road passes through the village and by the old chimney.
Chimney Village - Old Military Road
At Chimney village, I met with Yanchu Sherpa, a local villager in his mid 60s. As we chatted for a while, he invited me to his small little house. One of his daughters served us tea as we continued to discuss about the village, its people and their activities. Yanchu has three daughters all of who are graduates from well known colleges of Kurseong town.
He has spent all his life's saving towards education of his daughters. But all three of them had to come back to the village and join him in his farming work. There are no jobs in Kurseong and particularly for ladies. And he doesn't have any money left to send them to other cities to explore jobs. So even after graduation, the only option they have is farming until they get married only to become house wives.
Yanchu Sherpa and his house (green), Chimney Village
Having heard stories after stories from Yanchu, I came out and met the two little girls who stay next door - Bhumika and Yanzee. They insisted and volunteered to show me the tall chimney after which the village has been named. It was getting dark by then, but they still insisted.
It would only take 10 minutes by car to reach Kurseong town on the same route via Dow Hill... so I agreed, and the two little girls immediately jumped into the seat next to the driver. Now I realized their interest & motivation to take me to the Chimney.... actually to get a ride in a motor car :)
Bhumika, Yanzee & a little boy - Chimney Village
On the way it was time to chat with the two kids. I was thinking of how to start. But Bhumika herself took the initiative and asked me in Hindi, where I was coming from, what do I do, where I got the car from, where I was staying in Kurseong ... a barrage of questions.
Once they were satisfied, I asked them if they go to school. I could not believe what I heard. Both almost simultaneously named a missionary school and said they walk two & half hours to go to their school and then more than three & half hours back because it's uphill road while returning.
While I was shocked to hear the physical grinding they take every day to go to school, I was pleased to see how they progressed in their knowledge and outlook. When we reached the spot, I could see an old abandoned chimney in a state of complete despair standing on an elevated platform but accessible from the road.
Yanzee, Bhumika & Driver in front of the old Chimney
Time to get back... it was already dark by then. But the two little girls refused to take the ride back home. Why? Because that would mean I go backward instead of forward towards Kurseong town.
They spoke something with the driver in their local language, didn't give me a chance, and literally started running back, and then disappeared into the darkness. I looked at the driver and he said... "Don't worry Sir, they are smart girls and will safely get back home".
The old defunct Chimney whose picture you saw above, has gone through a miraculous transformation subsequently. This Chimney was recognized as a heritage construction which was built by the British around 1839. The Chimney now has been restored to its past glory and a heritage park created around it.
The Chimney was actually part of a Bungalow... although the Bungalow does not exist any longer, the lone Chimney continues to exist and has lent its name to the entire village around it. And there is now an evidence that renowned naturalist JD Hooker spent a night in this bungalow in April 1848.
The beautiful garden around the Chimney has numerous flowering plantations including varieties of Orchids, Rhododendrons, Magnolia, Camellia and many others. There are benches where you can relax and soak in the views. You can also take a short walk on a forested walkway to a viewpoint located at an extension of the heritage park which offers excellent views of Kanchenjunga and Siliguri plains.
Once an abandoned dilapidated chimney and the space around it has now become a great tourist attraction in Kurseong. For complete information about the park, go through Chimney Heritage Park
Goutam Chowdhury (November 2019)
How to reach Bagora: You will get shared taxi from Kurseong lower market or you can hire full cab. If you are starting from NJP or Siligudi you can get down at Dilaram. It is on the main road towards Darjeeling. From there you will get tracker or if u are going with light luggage you can walk the uphill road, believe me you will enjoy this... it's exactly 3.4km.
Arijit Acharya (November 2018)
Sir I am planing to spend 2 nights at Bagora in December. How can I reach Bagora after reaching Kurseong? Is there any shared service available?
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) November 2018
You need to take a local reserved cab from Kurseong. There is no shared taxi to Bagora.