Chatakpur - Visit & Stay
Worship of nature has played an indomitable role in our country since ages. Many people have foregone the luxuries of city life and settled down in the remotest of places close to "Nature Earth' and worshipped it. Such places are rare but exists within our reach not too far from where you are! Chatakpur is one such small eco friendly village within the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary
in Darjeeling District, West Bengal.
This pristine village is bounded by the Kachenjunga Mountain Range in the North and the river gorge Relly Khola in the south. Chatakpur is only about 64 Kms from NJP or Bagdogra, 26 Kms from Darjeeling and 17Kms from Jorebungalow, Ghoom.
Once upon a time this village was a timber den and people used to rampantly smuggle out the timbers. But the forest department has taken the initiative to remodel it to an eco tourism place where the villagers actively participate in it in order to make tourism an alternative source of livelihood other than just farming.
Located at an altitude of 7,887 feet, Chatakpur is a paradise for nature lovers as one can get a spectacular view of the imposing mountain range of Kanchenjunga and at the same time experience the overwhelming lush green forest in a quiet village setting with a population of only around 90 people and 18 village houses.
Chatakpur (view from backside of eco cottage)
This village promotes organic farming of vegetables through terraced cultivation. Medicinal herbs are also grown and the locals sustain their livelihood through these.
Attractions & Activities in and around Chatakpur
You can view the trekkers' dream destination Sundakphu from the Watch Tower in Chatakpur, 10 minutes walk from the tourist cottages. This view tower is also known as the sunrise point, and as expected the view of sunrise from here is simply awesome. Some argue that you perhaps get better view of sunrise over Kanchenjunga than what you get from Tiger Hill which requires you to travel for 40 minutes from Darjeeling early in the morning. While here, it's only 10 minutes walk to the tower.
Kanchenjunga range will be with you all along on a clear day. And that probably is the main reason why tourists love this place the most.
From the tourist cottages if you go 100 meters or so to the right, you enter the jungle. There are several forest trails here through lush greenery that are ideal for light treks. You should always take a trained guide with you for treks as the forest also harbors wild lives like leopards, barking deer and several other animals. If you are lucky, you can even see a Red Panda.
A trail from the eco cottages leads down to a nice small pond, locally known as pokhri. It's about 10 minutes walk.
As the forest is also a home to a number of lovely colorful birds like Blue Magpie, Bulbul, Verditer, Flycatcher, Pipit, Long tail Shrike, Warbler, Prinia and lot more, it's a great place for the bird watchers as well.
There are only 18 village homes in this tiny place, and the villagers will do everything possible to show you what they have or do. You can pick garden fresh organic vegetables from the farmland, or even feed or milk the cattle if you want. In fact you can buy organic vegetables really cheap and take back home.
And there are those elderly folks in the village who are waiting to tell you the stories about this place, it's history, people and their culture. You will love to hear them on a lazy afternoon as you sit under the sun on the courtyard.
After sunset the locals perform traditional folk dances on request to entertain tourists.
How to reach Chatakpur
From New Jalpaiguri (NJP) station or Bagdogra airport, the shortest route is to go towards Kurseong (either by taking the Hill Cart Road, otherwise through Rohini Road), and then further up (towards Darjeeling) along Hill Cart Road, and at Sonada take a right along the Forest Office Road which eventually meets Chatakpur Road. Chatakpur is only 6Kms from Sonada.
From NJP or Bagdogra, it takes about 2 hours 20 minutes to reach Chatakpur. The section of the road from Sonada passes through forested area and is extremely difficult to negotiate. Although this route is shortest and local drivers tend to take this route, the condition of the road is quite treacherous... you should try to avoid this route.
From NJP or Bagdogra, there is another route... shortly after Kurseong there is a small settlement called Dilaram. From here an uphill road to the right goes to the Bagora village and from there all the way to Chatakpur. However, the last several kilometers on this route is a boulder road and only vehicles like Sumo, jeep, Bolero etc with good ground clearance can negotiate that.
While coming from Darjeeling, the vehicles usually come up to Jorebungalow (about 8kms) and take the Old Military Road which goes through the forests of Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary
. This road eventually meets the Chatakpur Road. Distance from Jorebungalow to Chatakpur is about 14kms and can easily take over 1 hour. The road condition after Jorebungalow is bad and you should take a large vehicle like a Bolero. It takes about 1 hour 30 minutes to reach Chatakpur from Darjeeling town.
Alternatively from Darjeeling, you can come down to Sonada which is about 50-minute drive and then go up to Chatakpur (another 25 minutes).
Note that the route from Jorebungalow through Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary remains closed during the monsoon (June 15th to September 15th). This is the animal mating season. During such time, you can usually take the other routes through Sonada or Bagora.
Entry Permission and Fares
Chatakpur is located within the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is administered under the Divisional Forest Officer Wildlife Division -I in Darjeeling. Entry to the sanctuary requires permission from the Forest Department. However the villagers who run homestays in Chatakpaur have been authorized by the forest department to arrange for the permissions for the tourists who make homestay reservations in advance. They are also authorized to collect the necessary entry fees from the tourists and deposit that at the forest department's office.
So, if you are planning to visit Chatakpur on your own, ensure that you have a confirmed homestay booking made in advance. You can then ask the homestay owner to arrange for the entry permission for you and collect the entry fees. Otherwise, if you are visiting through a tour operator in Darjeeling, they too can handle the logistics. Entering the sanctuary without a permission is illegal.
Wildlife Sanctuary Entry Fees
Chatakpur being part of Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary, there are fees for entry to the sanctuary.
Tourist: 120/- per person per day (Rs. 500 per day for foreigners)
Vehicle entry fee: Rs. 400/-
Indicative Transport Fares (Fare Updated: October 2020)
Reserved small taxi fare from NJP/Bagdogra to Chatakpur: Rs. 2,800/-
Reserved small taxi fare from Darjeeling to Chatakpur: Rs. 2,400/-
Reserved large vehicle fare from Darjeeling to Chatakpur: Rs. 3,200/-
NOTE: Vehicle from Darjeeling will charge up and down fare even if you take a drop. You may consider keeping the vehicle with you overnight (there will be an additional night stay charge though).
Best time to visit Chatakpur
You can visit Chatakpur year round except in the monsoon season (July to mid September) when it is not possible to explore the forest. The tourist eco village resort remains closed during this time. Winter time between November to February can be extremely cold. So bring adequate winter clothing during this time.
Where to stay in Chatakpur
The forest department in association with the village cooperative has set up two Eco cottages. The two wooden furnished cottages have 2 rooms each with double beds in each room. With an extra bed, up to three persons can stay in each room.
The two Eco cottages, Chatakpur
You can cherish the view of Kanchenjunga from the attached balconies of the cottages. There are both front and backside balconies. The rooms are provided with bedding and enough blankets & quilts to counter the cold, but there is no TV.
So unless you are one like me who enjoys the solitude and wilderness, I suggest you travel in groups so that the night doesn't haunt you. By the way, the members of the village community come and cook the food for you, and they leave for home after serving early dinner (by 8pm or so). And then you will be left on your own at the cottage through the night and there is no service after that.
The rooms in the cottages have attached bathrooms with geysers for hot water. Rooms are carpeted. Overall clean but could be better maintained.
An adjacent hut is used as kitchen and dining. This is where the meals are served. The stay package includes bed tea, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Food is fresh and adequate in quantity. They serve eggs in breakfast, chicken in dinner.
The staff (actually all villagers) are very well behaved, helpful and friendly. A small shop run by an ex Gorkha Regiment soldier and his wife sells tea, maggie etc.
Home stays are also available that are extensions of villagers homes and run by the respective families of the village. But this facility is limited to a few houses only. There is proper water supply and electricity in the home stays including room heaters. The bathrooms are fitted with geysers as well, but they are not attached to the rooms but only a few steps away. Although the home stays are few minutes walk from the main road, it's an excellent way to stay close to a village family and understand their culture.
Indicative package cost per night
Eco Cottage room for two persons: Rs. 3,300 + Tax with all meals.
Village Home Stay per person: Rs. 1,100 with all meals.
Contact information for booking inquiry
Binod Rai is the Care Taker/Manager of the Eco Resort that comprises of the two cottages. He is a helpful man and will give you all the information you may need. However he seems to be a bit busy at times. His mobile number: 9609740489.
For booking cottages or home stay, call this Siliguri based number: 9932317299.
Chandan Basu (October 2020)
Hi Raj !! I am always a big fan of this awesome website to understand the Tourism of Darjeeling and always recommend this site to my circle. I am in a plan to stay one night at Chatakpur from Darjeeling town during last week of December. And also move from Chatakpur to Dhotrey which is just other side towards Tonglu as I know. Can you please guide me about the car availability and expected fare. Best Regards.
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) October 2020
Hi, a small car from Darjeeling to Chatakpur can charge around Rs. 1600. Chatakpur to Dhotrey would be around Rs. 2500. You will get taxis in Darjeeling from the stands. At Chatakpur, you need to ask your homestay's host to organize a taxi for you and you should do this in advance.
Pranchi Yadav (September 2020)
Hi Raj, I will be travelling to Darjeeling from Mumbai with 3 of my friends in 1st week of November. Since I will be coming from Mumbai my Train will reach NJP station at 01:15 AM. From there I want to go up to Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary as we have booked our Homestay at Chattakpur. I just wanted to ask about the travel options available for the same and the cost, also will it be safe for us to travel so late at night since we will all be girls alone. Your reply will be of great help. Thank You.
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) September 2020
Hi, It is not safe to travel at such late hours in the hills. You should wait at the NJP station (try getting a retiring room) until morning. You can then take a taxi (there is also a pre-paid taxi counter outside the station which opens around 7 am). If you don't get one at the pre-paid counter, there will be other taxis available. Small cab fare to Chatakpur would be around Rs. 2,700. Alternatively, you can take a shared taxi (a jeep type vehicle) from NJP bound for Darjeeling and get off at Sonada, and then take a small reserved taxi from there to Chatakpur. Although the second option might be less expensive, I would recommend the first option.