Darjeeling Travel Blog
Know what's happening in the hills
This page captures the latest & major updates related to tourism and other important matters in Darjeeling, Sikkim and surrounding areas in North-East India. You can also get to know about my latest additions of articles and new sections on this website. Stay tuned...
Updates: February 2022
Darjeeling Toy Train fares getting reduced 😊
Effective March 2022, DHR Toy Train fares are set to get reduced by up to Rs. 200. This will be applicable for New Jalpaiguri (NJP) to Darjeeling (DJ) trains as well the 2-hour roundtrip joyrides that take place from Darjeeling to Ghum on Steam and Diesel engine hauled trains.
For NJP to Darjeeling train, the AC Chair Car fare was Rs. 1700. It is now getting reduced to Rs. 1500. The First Class fare is changing from Rs. 1600 to Rs. 1400. For Joy Rides that take place from Darjeeling, the Vistadome fare is reducing from Rs. 1600 to Rs. 1500.
Finally some good sense prevailed within the Indian Railway Authorities, who eventually realized that the toy train fares skyrocketed sometime back and it is prudent to reduce the fares in order to attract more tourists instead of letting the trains run empty.
Updates: November 2021
Ghum Festival by DHR
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) has organized a 3-week long festival known as the GUM FESTIVAL starting from 13th November 2021 and ending on 5th December 2021. The objective of the festival is to promote the DHR Toy Train Rides
which holds the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage status, and also to showcase the culture and heritage of Darjeeling Hills. The festival will mainly take place at Ghum and Darjeeling stations.
The entire festival has 3 different themes or verticals... Culture, Adventure and Tourism. Under the Cultural theme
, there will be folk music and dance, musical bands, talent shows, standup comedy, plays etc. These will be mostly held at the two stations and Chowrasta (Mall)
stage. Local performers along with internal staff of Indian Railways will join hands for these performances.
Under the Adventure theme
, there will be Heritage Walks
, Mountain Biking, Trekathon etc. Various adventure tourism organizations (such as Mountain Biking Club of Darjeeling, Runners Club, Darjeeling Walks etc) have partnered with DHR to offer these activities.
For the Tourism theme
, there are many local vendors & franchises who have been given spaces at the two stations (Darjeeling and Ghum) to set up their stalls to sell handcrafted items, artwork, clothing etc. Several organizations in the tourism industry are joining hands with DHR to make it a success. DHR itself will run several toy train joyrides
for tourists to enjoy the heritage rides.
The festival ends on a day (i.e. 5th December) when DHR was accorded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999. It's a great opportunity for tourists from all over India and the world to visit Darjeeling during this period and get to experience the culture and heritage of the region.
Updates: August 2021
Covid-19 Travel Requirements for Darjeeling, Sikkim & Dooars
Darjeeling, Sikkim and Dooars have all now imposed stringent Covid related travel requirements in order to curb the rising spread of the virus in the region. Naka checks are done at several places by police as tourists approach any of these destinations. Unless every member in your group satisfies the documentation requirements, the group won't be allowed entry.
If you are fully vaccinated (i.e. both doses of vaccines taken) then you can show the certificate and proceed. If you are partially or not vaccinated, you must carry a negative RTPCR test report that should be done within 48 hours of arrival in Darjeeling or Dooars, and 72 hours in Sikkim. The checking is done near Rohini, Sukna etc for Darjeeling and at Melli and Rangpo check posts for Sikkim.
Note that here Darjeeling means the entire Darjeeling district as well as Kalimpong. The district of Darjeeling includes places such as Kurseong, Mirik and many offbeat places such as Takdah, Lamahatta, Tinchuley, Mongpu, Bijanbari and several others.
As mentioned, if any member in the group fails to meet the documentation requirements, the entire group will be denied entry, and this has happened with several groups who landed in Bagdogra/ NJP/ Siliguri without necessary Covid related clearances.
Updates: June 2021
Landslide on Hill Cart Road (NH-110) to Darjeeling
(June 25, 2021) A huge landslide took place on the main arterial road (NH-110 Hill Cart Road) that connects Siliguri with Darjeeling. The landslide took place near Tindharia (about 20kms before Kurseong). Almost 40-meters of the road has been washed away. The landslide took place mainly due to the incessant rains in Darjeeling hills. There are no casualties reported.
Tourists arriving at NJP by train will now have to take a detour through Rohini Road which meets the Hill Cart Road near Kurseong and then proceed to Darjeeling. So this detour means higher taxi fare. However, for tourists arriving by air, Rohini is the usual route taken by taxis from Bagdogra airport.
Windamere Hotel in Darjeeling closing Down Temporarily
The famous colonial hotel Windamere is closing down temporarily from 5th July 2021 due to Covid-19 induced financial crisis. It is unknown when the hotel might re-open. The Managing Director Elizabeth J. Clarke said that they will contemplate the reopening once the situation normalizes and they get enough bookings. The hotel depends quite heavily on the returning visitors particularly from foreign countries.
There are many memories and a lot of rich history associated with Windamere. The colonial hotel with an authentic old world charm was initially a boarding house in 1880s for the bachelor British planters. It later became a hotel in 1939 just before the second world war. It has delicately retained its rich colonial heritage including the decor, antique furniture, fireplaces, traditional British dining practices etc.
The 12th King of Sikkim met with his second wife Hope Cooke in this hotel. There is a room in the hotel named after him. In fact all the 38 rooms that are scattered in different buildings in the property, are named after special visitors who once stayed in the hotel. There are many foreign guests who have repeatedly stayed in this hotel during their Christmas vacations year after year.
UPDATE: WINDAMERE HOTEL ROLLS BACK CLOSURE
Following the lockout decision, the employees of the hotel threatened to launch a hunger strike. However, after intervention and mediation by the Labour Department, the lockout has been called off.
Updates: March 2021
Hotel Shangri-La in Darjeeling gutted with fire
Shangri-La Hotel, considered a heritage property that was built during the British era, has been ravaged by fire on 4th March. The hotel is located on Nehru road and only steps away from the mall (chowrasta). Three fire tenders were deployed and it took over 3 hours to get the fire under control.
It appears that the fire broke out from the kitchen in the first floor and the quickly spread into the rooms. A fire official said, almost 50% of the property has been badly damaged. Although the structure which is made mostly out of stone masonry and wood, still stands, almost everything inside has been destroyed. The cause of the fire is not yet known. Luckily there has been no injury.
Updates: January 2021
Mahananda Bird Festival
The first Bird Festival at Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary will be held from 20th - 23rd February 2021. This 4-day event will provide fantastic opportunities to bird watchers to explore various sections of the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary starting from Sukna (Nature Interpretation Center) and will cover the birding trails as well as places like Latpanchar and Rongdong that take you through lush landscapes of forests, rivers and hills.
The package includes basic accommodation in forest barracks and food. Last booking is on 2nd February 2021. Participation fee is Rs. 5,000/- per person. You can get further details about the bird festival and booking information from wbsfda.org website.
Go through Mahananda WLS
to know about the sanctuary and how to visit.
Updates: November 2020
Dreaming to stay in a Tea Garden Resort in Darjeeling?
Do you know how many tea estates exist in Darjeeling district? The number is 87. But all of them do not have Tea Estate Resorts or accommodations. Only handful of them
are engaged in tea tourism offering resort stays to tourists along with opportunities to experience tea garden life, tea plucking, tea processing in the factories, tea tasting, sightseeing around the estate villages, and all that combined with great good, fresh Darjeeling tea and grand views of the Himalayas.
But these tea resort stays are by no means cheap. So, the problem arises when you want to choose one tea resort out of the several that are available... which one do you choose? The main question is... which one offers the best value for money.
Updates: October 2020
Covid-19 guidelines for visiting Darjeeling and Sikkim
As of 1st week of October, 2020, Darjeeling and its surrounding areas including Kalimpong are now opening up. Most hotels and restaurants have opened although many of them are operating with lesser staff. Some homestays that are located in rural areas may not be operational yet. You should directly check with the hotel or homestay and find out if they are geared up to accept guests at the time when you intend to visit. Sikkim will also allow Indian tourists starting October 10.
While most hotels and eateries have taken measures to sanitize their premises, use thermal checks and ensure that staff wear masks and follow social distancing, visitors are also required to follow certain guidelines when visiting these places.
DARJEELING & KALIMPONG
Tourists are required to ensure the following:
Wear face masks while traveling.
If any passenger shows symptoms, the health authorities at Bagdogra Airport will take a decision on quarantining the passenger on a case to case basis.
Download the Aarogya Setu App.
Download and fill up the declaration form using the 'Sandhane App' developed by the Health and Family Welfare Department of West Bengal.
As of now, Covid-19 tests are not mandatory for Darjeeling and Kalimpong, so you need not carry a test report showing Covid-negative test. However, depending on symptoms, a tourist may be asked to undergo Covid test.
At all public places in Darjeeling and Kalimpong, you will be required to wear face masks and maintain proper social distancing.
At most public places, a thermal scanning would be done for fever / body temperature detection. For example in Darjeeling Zoo & HMI, before the main entry gate, you need to walk through a check point and wait for few seconds where automatic thermal scanning is done.
Automatic thermal scanning and mask instruction
before entry to Darjeeling Zoo & HMI
Sikkim Tourism Department has proposed to open the state borders on October 10. Only Indian tourists will be allowed to enter Sikkim. The state government of Sikkim strongly recommends that all tourists book transport and sightseeing tours through tour operators who have been certified as compliant to Health & Safety Guidelines and also stay at compliant hotels.
Although not mandatory, all travelers are advised to carry Covid-negative test certificate which should not be more than 72 hours old from the date of entry to Sikkim. All travelers are required to fill up and download an online Travel Card giving details of the tourists and their Sikkim itinerary. This Travel Card needs to be updated daily during the period one stays in Sikkim. There are enforcement checks at various places to ensure conformance to the above guidelines... fines will be imposed if one is found not following the above mandates and seen not wearing masks.
Updates: September 2020
Darjeeling and Kalimpong Re-open to Tourists
On September 8, 2020, hotels and restaurants in Darjeeling and Kalimpong have opened again to tourists. However, they will be required to maintain the social distancing norms and hygiene guidelines. Note that according to new guidelines, shared taxis from NJP and Siliguri (that are usually large vehicles like Tata Sumo or Mahindra Max) can carry half the number of passengers (i.e. up to 5), so expect the shared taxi fare to be double the earlier fare. Also, a small reserved taxi from Bagdogra airport or NJP can carry up to 3 persons.
Sikkim too is planning to open its doors to tourists in October. However, as per new guidelines, tourists will be initially required to produce Covid negative certificates at the state border check posts located at Rangpo / Melli, and initially tourists visiting on tour packages through registered tour operators will only be allowed to enter Sikkim.
Updates: August 2020
New Articles: Temi Tea Garden and Cherry Resort
Finally I thought it was high time to pull together all the information and pictures from my last trip to Temi Tea Garden in South Sikkim in October 2019 and my stay at Cherry Resort within the tea garden, and complete the articles. As I was writing and looking at the numerous pictures I took, I re-traversed the entire trip through my memories. I visited several wonderful places in Sikkim during this trip. It felt so strange to imagine that all these lovely places are now completely shut indefinitely to tourists.
But don't worry, if you haven't visited Temi Tea Garden which is the only tea garden of Sikkim and one of the most picturesque ones out of the nearly 50 I have ever stayed at or seen so far, you can visit the tea garden and experience it virtually through my eyes... just read the following articles:
Updates: July 2020
Tourism suspended in Darjeeling till end-July
A week after Darjeeling re-opened to tourists on July-1st, GTA (the administrative body of Darjeeling) has again announced a lockdown and stopped all tourism activities in Darjeeling until July 31st, 2020. So no tourists will be allowed to visit Darjeeling now and a strict screening process has been imposed at Simulbarie and Chitrey areas.
This new lockdown has come into effect because there is a sudden surge in Coronavirus cases in the lower plains of Siliguri where several containment zones have been declared by the state government. Note that containment zones are fully restricted areas guarded by police where nobody from outside can get in and nobody from inside can get out unless there is essential need.
Sikkim, on the other hand, has closed down tourism since March when the news of the virus was confirmed in the country, and they plan to continue this closure until October. There has not been even a single case of Coronavirus recorded in the state of Sikkim. Since the state economy depends to a large extent on tourism, many of its residents are going through tremendous hardships, but almost all are supportive of the State Government's decision on closure of tourism.
Landslides in Darjeeling hills
Continuous rains over the past few days has caused a series of landslides in Darjeeling hills, the major one being on the main Hill Cart Road (NH-110). A stretch of the road between Gayabari and Paglajhora (just before Kurseong) has been swept away which has badly impacted the connection between Darjeeling and the lower plains of Siliguri. Although there are couple of other alternative road connections available, NH-110 is the main arterial road and bears the heaviest traffic between Darjeeling and the lower plains. The landslides have also caused damages to the toy train track at several places. The authorities could not give a time estimate as to when the repair work can get completed.
Updates: June 2020
Darjeeling to reopen for tourists
Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) has announced on 25th June 2020 that effective July 1st 2020, tourism in Darjeeling will be open again. Transports and hotels will resume. However, all tourists will have to produce fitness certificates. There will be two screenings done at two different spots before one can enter Darjeeling town.
Hotels to remain open in Darjeeling
A few days back, Darjeeling Hotel Owners Association (DHOA) had announced that all hotels in Darjeeling would close down indefinitely starting from July 1, 2020. There are nearly 330 hotels in Darjeeling that employ around 10,000 staff and cater to about 450,000 tourists annually. This decision was taken due to the expected lack of tourists this year and the hotel owners finding it extremely difficult to meet the costs of running the hotels. However, after a meeting jointly held between the GTA, District Administration and DHOA, the decision has been reverted on Monday (June 8). DHOA announced that hotels will not close and will continue to take bookings from tourists. A joint committee has been formed to determine what percentage of salary would be paid out to the staff until normalcy is restored in travel and tourism in Darjeeling.
Updates: March 2020
Darjeeling & Sikkim now shut to all
As of March 19, 2020, both Darjeeling and Sikkim have completely stopped entry of all tourists to prevent spread of COVID-19. Taxi drivers have been asked not to carry any passengers from NJP station or Bagdogra airport. Hotels have been asked not to take guests until April 15.
Permits suspended in Sikkim, Darjeeling starts screening camps
Effective March 5, 2020, the Sikkim State Government has temporarily suspended issuing the following permits in order to take protection against Coronavirus:
Inner Line Permits (ILP) for foreign nationals... this means no foreigners including Bhutanese will be able to enter any part of Sikkim at present.
Permits for Nathula Pass... since Nathula Pass is a corridor to Tibet of China, nobody would be allowed to visit the pass until further notice.
There is no restriction yet for visiting Darjeeling and there are no positive cases reported yet. However the District Magistrate's Office and GTA after a joint meeting announced that 'Self reporting form' would need to be filled up by tourists when checking into hotels and they need to specify their recent travel history in the form. Suspected cases will be reported to the police and Health Office who would initiate isolation of such cases for further screening. Screening camps have been set up at NJP station and Bagdogra airport and few other places such as Simulbari and Maneybhanjan. No positive cases have been reported so far.
Charkhole - An emerging tourist destination
Charkhole is a quiet serene hamlet located in Kalimpong district and at an altitude of 5,500ft. The place is known for its virgin nature, numerous birds of various types including rare ones, colorful butterflies, and of course sweeping views of Kanchenjunga mountain range.
Updates: February 2020
Jamuni Tourist Complex in Darjeeling
Another feather in the cap for Darjeeling!!! Nearly 14 years after the foundation stone was laid by erstwhile GNLF leader Subash Ghisingh, the large 13-acre tourist complex Jamuni is all set to open in March 2020. The stream Rangeet flowing through the place with hills and forests surrounding it, a children's playground, manicured gardens, nice walkways, a manmade lake for boating... all this make a picturesque setting and a great place to make a day trip from Darjeeling. There is also a hotel and four riverside cottages where you can plan to stay overnight.
Updates: December 2019
New Boating Complex in Kalimpong area
A beautiful boating complex has opened recently in Kalimpong district which is located about 40km from Kalimpong town center. Total ground area of the complexm is 2.5 acres with a mam-made lake spanning across an area of 9,990 sq. meters.
The complex is surrounded by forests and there are manicured gardens and pathways around the lake... a great opportunity for a family picnic while you are in Kalimpong. In fact you can also make a day trip to the boating complex from Darjeeling and even Kurseong.
The project was initiated in May 2015 and finally completed in November 2019 although it was stalled during the hill agitation in 2017. The total cost involved was over Rs. 14 crores.
Updates: September 2019
Limits to cars allowed in Tiger Hill, Darjeeling
Effective 15th September 2019, a new traffic police rule in Darjeeling will allow only up to 600 vehicles per day to visit the Tiger Hill. Initially from September 1, 2019 the police started allowing only 300 vehicles daily, but due to strong protest from transport association and tour operators, the daily limit has now been doubled to 600. The vehicle drivers will be issued coupons daily on a first come first serve basis. This restriction has come into effect because of limited parking at Tiger Hill and huge number of vehicles creating traffic snarls. So what it means for you? If you want to visit Tiger Hill, you need to get hold of a tour operator or a vehicle driver who has received a vehicle coupon/pass to visit Tiger Hill next morning.
Updates: July 2019
Landslides in Darjeeling & Sikkim
Heavy and continuos rain in Darjeeling district and Sikkim has caused several landslides across the north-eastern areas affecting road routes from Siliguri/NJP to Darjeeling, Gangtok, Kalimpong and even Dooars. There has been a major landslide near Gayabari before Kurseong on NH-110 affecting the toy train tracks and the road... the toy train service between NJP and Darjeeling has been stalled. All vehicles to Darjeeling are now diverted through Rohini road via Kurseong.
Landslide took place near Kalimandir on Sevoke road (NH10) cutting off the main route to Kalimpong. Traffic between NJP/Siliguri and Kalimpong is diverted via Gorubathan which takes one hour longer. There has been landslides near Rangpo on NH10 and several other places in Sikkim that has isolated Sikkim from the plains. Dooars is also not accessible through NH31A via Coronation bridge. Clearance work is underway and is likely to take a while.
Updates: May 2019
Darjeeling & Sikkim Election Results
Raju Bishta of BJP (backed by support from GNLF and Gurung faction of GJM) has won by a large margin (over 4 lakhs votes) in Darjeeling lok sabha election. There is only one lok sabha (MP) seat in Darjeeling district. Simultaneously bypoll elections were conducted in the two assembly seats of Darjeeling which too have been comfortably won by BJP candidates.
In Sikkim for the first time after 25 years, the CM Chamling of Sikkim Democratic Front has been replaced by Prem Singh Golay of Sikkim Krantikari Morcha. He won in recently conducted assembly elections with 17 seats against 15 seats from opposition.
Updates: March 2019
Tourist Helpline in Darjeeling
This is the first time there is a serious effort to help tourists with any issues they face in Darjeeling. If you see taxi drivers in Darjeeling are overcharging or the hotels denying bookings (which do happen during high seasons), you can call the Help Line number 0354- 2256356. There are two motor cycles and one van which have been reserved by local police to cater to such requests and visit the spots. Service on the Emergency Number '100' has also been improved to 10-15 minute turn around time.
A Tourist Welcome Center is being set up at Simulbari (the base from where the uphill journey to Darjeeling begins). Here you can get free drinking water, pamphlets with information on government approved transport fares, tourist map etc.
Updates: October 2018
Many homestays to shun plastics
250 home stays in Darjeeling have come together and decided not to serve packaged water in plastic bottles starting in October 2018. Instead they will use water filters and serve the water in earthen cups. While this is a great step to make the hill town plastic free, there are nearly 1500 home stays in the hills here and large number of hotels & restaurants. So, lot more effort needs to be taken to give a shape to the vision of making Darjeeling free of plastics. I hope the filters used would have RO (Reverse Osmosis) mechanism because the hill water can otherwise cause stomach upsets.
Updates: September 2018
Landslides blocking routes to Kalimpong and Gangtok
Incessant rains have caused a series of landslides that blocked a stretch of NH10 (Sevoke Road) between Coronation Bridge and Sevoke Bazaar. As on September 16, 2018 there were several landslides including at Kalijhora, Sethijhora and 29th mile along this road. This is the main road link to both Kalimpong and Gangtok from NJP/Siliguri. The authorities are trying hard to clear out the debris. Tourists have been having a trying time to cross this stretch... there has been massive traffic snarls stalling traffic for hours.
Flights to Pakyong Airport near Gangtok
Finally you are all set to fly directly to Pakyong airport located near Gangtok beginning October 2018. If you are travelling to Gangtok or other parts of Sikkim, flying to Pakyong airport would be most convenient and least time consuming. As of now, one needs to fly to Bagdogra and then take a 4.5 hour cab ride or alternatively a 35-minute helicopter ride to Gangtok.
SpiceJet will start operating its flight from Kolkata to Pakyong from next month. Duration of one-way flight would be around 1 hour 25 minutes. Initial flight fare is Rs. 2,600. International airline DrukAir has also planned to begin its flights between Paro (Bhutan) and Pakyong in January 2019. Pakyong airport is located at an altitude of 4,500ft and about 29kms from Gangtok town. It takes about 1 hour 20 minutes to reach Gangtok from Pakyong airport.
Major facelift for Darjeeling Chowrasta (The Mall)
The chowrasta (the Mall and Town Center) is all set to undergo a major facelift. A 2-phase pan has been approved by GTA (for about Rs. 12 crore). The plan is aimed towards bringing better views at the Mall (including great views of sunset), more sunlight, more space, parking for about 60 cars, cobble stone pathway from Keventers all the way to Mall, rearrangement of horse stables etc.
Updates: August 2018
Mugpoo is all set to become a major tourist destination
The mountain settlement Mungpoo located only 32kms from Darjeeling will undergo a major development to become a heritage tourist destination. This is a joint effort by state tourism department and Gorkha Terrirorial Administration (GTA). Mungpoo was a place frequented by poet Rabindranath Thakur. The Rabindra Bhawan is already under restoration to become a museum. A guest house is also being constructed very close to Rabindra Bhawan.
Read: Mungpoo tourism
to know about how to make a day trip to the place from Darjeeling.
Landslides on Darjeeling route
There has been a landslide at Pagla Jhora (meaning 'Mad Torrent') - a place before Kurseong on National Highway 55 (i.e. the Hill Cart Road). Large boulders have fallen on the toy train track as well as on the highway resulting in stoppage of NJP-Darjeeling toy train service and diversion the road traffic from NJP/Siliguri through Rohini Road to reach Kurseong and then Darjeeling. It will take a few days to clear off the boulders and resume the toy train service and re-open the Hill Cart Road.
The place Pagla Jhora seems to be really a mad place... there has been several similar incidents before at the same place due to which the toy train and road traffic services had to be stalled for a long time. Hopefully, this time it would be cleared out quickly.
Updates: June 2018
Trekkers Huts in Sandakphu area
Three trekkers' huts will be built by the West Bengal Tourism Department... one in Sandakphu, one in Phalut and one in Tonglu. Accommodations in these places are not adequate for tourists. The land for these lodges have been already earmarked by the District Magistrate of Darjeeling. The construction work is expected to begin soon.
Several Protected Areas in Sikkim to be made open to foreigners
Sikkim being a border state (having borders with China, Bhutan and Nepal) has several protected places where foreigners are not allowed to visit. However with a recent approval from Defense and Union Home Ministry, soon such restrictions would be lifted from several protected areas like Gurudongmar Lake (located at an altitude of 17,000ft) and few other places in North Sikkim. However Nathula Pass will remain out of bounds for the foreign nationals. Wherever allowed, foreigners need to get Restricted Area Permits (also known as ILP) and Protected Area Permits before visiting.
New attractions in Mirik
Several new attractions are planned in Mirik, and that includes a lovely sunrise point at a place called Kawleygaon which is about 3kms from Mirik town. Others include street illumination, swimming pools, parks, landscaping of Mirik Lake etc. The proposal is currently with the Municipality in Mirik and the work is soon expected to begin.
Updates: May 2018
Bengal Natural History Museum moved to a new location
Recently the museum which was earlier located close to Chowrasta (Mall) in Darjeeling has been moved to the compound where Darjeeling Zoo as well as Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) are located. A new building has been constructed for the museum and all collections have been shifted. This museum is well know for its unique exhibits of preserved body parts and full bodies of many animals, birds, nests, eggs, butterflies etc of Bengal including that of Himalayan flora & fauna.
Much of the road to Sandakphu is now concrete
Who doesn't know about Sandakphu... the highest place in Darjeeling district at an altitude of 12,000ft offering magnificent views of four of the five highest peaks in the world. But it wasn't easy to negotiate the route to Sandakphu from the base town of Manebhanjan. Because the road all the way was made of boulders. Only special Jeeps (i.e. old Land Rovers) could ply and the journey used to be so bumpy that many would swear it as a backbreaking journey.
About 2 years back the section of 7kms between Tumling to Gairibas (two small mountain hamlets on the way to Sandakphu) was converted to concrete, and there was a furor among forest conservationists and locals who resisted such road building because that would increase traffic and affect the wildlife around (the entire area from Tumling up to Sandakphu is part of Singalila National Park). So the route further up could not be converted into a concrete road.
Now the section of 11kms between the base town Manebhanjan to Tumling has also been converted into a concrete road. So you can have a smooth ride of 18kms all the way from Manebhanjan up to Gairibas. Sandakphu is another 14kms from Gairibas and that route has remained as a gravel road made of boulders. There is a plan that the route from Gairibas up to Sandakphu would be made with a combination of boulders and concrete... it remains to be seen how that works out.
Updates: April 2018
I have recently added an article on Dzongu, a small place in north Sikkim where you can not only experience the original traditions of Lepchas who were the original residents of Sikkim, you can also be immersed in nature and its beauty... Himalayan range, vast stretches of cardamom plantations, lovely landscapes, wide range of birds & butterflies, unparalleled nature trails, lakes, waterfalls are few that are in the offer in their best forms. On top of it you get to stay at a Lepcha home and experience their traditional culture and ethnic food.
Darjeeling Ropeway Service Suspended
The 20-year lease agreement between Conveyor and Ropeway Services Private Limited (CRSPL) which runs the ropeway (cable cars) in Darjeeling and West Bengal Forest Development Corporation (WBFDC) expired on 31st March 2018. As a result, effective 1st April 2018 the ropeway operation in Darjeeling has been suspended until the lease agreement is renewed.
Sikkim goes organic
Although the Sikkim Government took an official position several years back to allow only organic cultivation & farming in the state, the practice was perhaps falling short. In a recent drive to push organic-only food, the government issued an order that other than potatoes, onions, garlic, chilies, tomatoes and carrots no other vegetables & fruits would be allowed to be brought in from the plains of Siliguri because they are inorganic (few items were spared because Sikkim's own production of these falls far short of its own demands). This has caused a furor among the traders in the plains who depended largely on bulk sales of various vegetables & fruits to Sikkim. It is to be seen how this move eventually pans out as Sikkim too is heavily dependent on the plains in many ways.
Updates: March 2018
AC Coaches for Toy Trains
Two air-conditioned coaches have been recently built for the toy trains operating between NJP (New Jalpaiguri) and Darjeeling. They are planned to be attached to the toy trains sometimes in April this year. They are on trial at present. Although AC coaches at high altitude places like in Darjeeling may not make much sense, however during summer days the journey through the plains up to Kurseong can be quite uncomfortable in non-ac coaches. So tourists would now have an option of adding comfort to the journey in this heritage train. However prepare to pay a heavy price for the ticket. It seems that the ticket cost would be around Rs. 2000 one-way between NJP and Darjeeling.
Business Summit in Darjeeling
A business meet will take place in Darjeeling where industrialists from all over the world would participate. The objective is to showcase the various potential areas of investments in the hills and attract the industrialists to create more jobs for the locals. Some potential areas include tea, tourism, agriculture, food processes, horticulture, IT, medicinal plants etc. The meeting will take place on March 13 and 14, 2018. The Chief Minister of West Bengal will inaugurate the meeting. The meeting is jointy organized by Gorkha Territorial Administration and the state.
Updates: February 2018
New name for Rohini Road
The Rohini Road leads to Kurseong from the plains and is the one used by almost all vehicles heading to Darjeeling from Bagdogra airport or returning to Bagdogra. The road was earlier so named because it passed through Rohini tea estate and the village of the same name. During a recent visit of the Chief Minister of West Bengal, the road has been renamed to Subash Ghisingh Marg after the erstwhile leader of Gorkha National Liberal Front (GNLF) of Darjeeling hills. Thousands of residents lined up along the road to greet the Chief Minister.
Political situation in Darjeeling is now stable. There has been no untoward incident since the strike was withdrawn in September 2017. Tourists have started trickling in and hundreds of others are planning to visit in coming spring and summer as evident from hotel bookings and the numerous messages I am receiving through this website. All tourist attractions including ropeway (cable car ride) and toy train joy rides are fully operational. Sikkim too is seeing a surge of tourist traffic.
Updates: January 2018
Darjeeling Ropeway started to operate again. The operation was closed down since June 2017 due to the agitation in the hills. Although the agitation was over in September, the ropeway remained non-operational for about 7 months because the annual No Objection Certificate (NOC) was pending. Now that it has been received, the ropeway (cable car) has started its operation. However the ticket price for the rides have been increased.
Updates: December 2017
Teesta Rangeet Tourism Fest
Darjeeling is finally gearing up for a grand tourist festival ... Teesta Rangeet Tourism Fest to be held in end-December this year. So hopefully all the unrest and agitation in the hills is now behind us. GTA (Gorkha Territorial Administration) in cooperation with State Tourism Department is setting up this festival to attract tourists in the hills during the winter. Apart from the winter chill and wonderful views, you can now experience all that are so unique to Darjeeling... The festival would showcase cultural & musical programs including folk dances, flower show, kite flying, rock climbing, tourists talent hunting, paragliding, Darjeeling tea, toy train rides and more.
The Tourism Fest will be held in different parts of Darjeeling on different days in December. The festival is scheduled to be held in Darjeeling town from December 27 to 29; in Kurseong from 28 to 29; in Kalimpong from 29 to 30; and in Mirik from 30 to 31.
Updates: November 2017
Political situation in Darjeeling
Finally the crisis in Darjeeling seems to be over and life is gradually getting back to normalcy. The strike called by the ruling party has been withdrawn. Residents have heaved a sigh of relief as they can now go to the market and stores to do their household shopping and start leading a normal life. But is everything hunky dory there? What about tourists? Are tourists visiting Darjeeling and Sikkim with the same level of confidence which they did prior to June before the strike was called?
Visit the page Darjeeling Forum topic on political situation
and scroll down to the bottom of the page to know the latest updates on the political situation in Darjeeling and understand whether it's safe to visit Darjeeling and Sikkim now, and whether all tourist attractions are back in normal state.
Updates: August 2017
I have created a full section on Cherrapunjee which is close to Shillong (about 54kms) and a land full of lush greenery, waterfalls, caves and even living root bridges. A place very close to Cherrapunjee observes the highest rainfall in the world. I have discussed all the best tourist places to visit, nice accommodations to stay for a night or two, dining options, vegetation etc. I have also touched upon the local people & culture, the main festivals etc. Visit the page Cherrapunjee Tourism
to get full info.
Updates: June 2017
Political situation in Darjeeling
A move by the State Government to introduce Bengali as a subject in all schools in the state has resulted in an unpleasant situation in Darjeeling, so much so that the ruling party has now called a general strike following a clash with police force. Hundreds of tourists have been asking me what should they do now... should they cancel all bookings? Or should they change the holiday location to Sikkim instead? When would it be safe to plan a visit to Darjeeling area?... many such questions. Visit this Darjeeling Forum topic on political situation
where I have offered my opinion at the end.
Updates: May 2017
Released my section on Ravangla and Borong, two sleepy hamlets in south Sikkim that are ideal for enjoying the nature, views and bird watching. Location of Ravangla also enables you to reach out to several other great places like Peling, Namchi etc easily. Read my section on Ravangla Tourism
Recently visited Gangjong handmade paper factory near Kalimpong. It's one of the least known yet amazing attractions where you can witness delicate papers being handmade out of pulp. I have described my experience of the paper factory at the bottom of Kalimpong Attractions page
Updates: April 2017
Just started a new section on Shillong which is known as Scotland of the east. This was long due. Shillong is my original hometown where I spent a lot of my childhood days in our ancestral home at Laban. I keep going back to meet my old time friends and walk down the memory lanes. Visit once and you too will fall in love. Here is my section on Shillong
Just visited Ravangla and Borong. Wrote a page on the lovely day trip to Borong. Borong is a quaint hamlet in south Sikkim offering magnificent views of Kanchenjunga and is ideal for bird watching. You can spend a day here and get back to Ravangla.... Read about my trip to Borong
Updates: March 2017
Videos on this website
I have now started embedding short videos on my website so that you get a real feel of the attractions and take a virtual tour through my eyes before you go. I shall continue to place more videos and hopefully each attraction on my website would have a video one day.
Updates: February 2017
Bhutan - The land of dragons
Bhutan section is a new addition to this website. Although Bhutan is a separate country, many tourists combine a visit to Darjeeling and Sikkim with Bhutan. This is because access to Bhutan is easy from here. The road route enters through the border at Pheunsholing which is only about 4hours by car from Siliguri (or New Jalpaiguri). And the nearest airport Bagdogra has regular flights to Paro, a town in Bhutan having the only airport of the country. You can plan a great Bhutan trip from this new section
by knowing how to go about permits for Bhutan, the various ways to reach, greatest attractions, local sightseeing tours, hotels, dining and lot more.
Updates: January 2017
Smoking Ban in Darjeeling
Although Ban on smoking was in force by law since 2003 in the entire state of West Bengal, however it's the first time it has been properly implemented and Darjeeling is the first district to get that feather on the cap. Smoking now in banned in all public places in Darjeeling and is subject to Rs. 200/- fine if one is caught in such act in a public place. Selling cigarettes and tobacco products to minors (i.e. to persons below 18 years) has also been banned in Darjeeling.
However there is a confusion on what may be construed as a public place and what is not. Is it any place with public access such as footpaths and other open space on the roadside or otherwise? While this needs clarity, it is certainly applicable for places where common public would usually gather in large numbers both in the open and closed door. And the Mall (i.e. the Chowrasta) which is the main public square of Darjeeling town is certainly part of such public places and smoking is banned here. Similarly one can not smoke in restaurants, railway waiting rooms, hospitals, auditoriums, libraries and similar places.
This ban is applicable for all Darjeeling residents and tourists. Although as per the ban cigarette shops must not exits within 100 meters of a school or educational institute, the implementation of the ban is yet to reach that scale and there is no drive whatsoever to reduce shops selling cigarettes. Having said that, many individuals have already been fined Rs. 200 for smoking in public places.
Cycling Park & Trails in Darjeeling
An exclusive Mountain Biking Park has been opened in Darjeeling which starts from Jorebungalow (Ghum) area, goes through Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary and ends at the mountain village Chatakpur located inside the park area. The trail offers several lovely view points. Apart from the cycling park, several operators offer mountain biking tours to various other destinations like Lamahatta, Pokhribong, Maneybhanjan, Kurseong and other places.
Road Route Maps you will love to see
You have been striving hard to get hold of some great road route maps showing how to reach Darjeeling as well as Gangtok and various places in Sikkim from NJP station, Siliguri or Bagdogra airport, but you haven't been able to find one.... right? Well your wait is over.
I have done the hard work of creating couple of detailed infographics - one to reach Darjeeling and the other for Sikkim including road connections between the two places. You can see all the road routes including distances between various points and time to travel. Here are the two road maps you will love to see (NOTE: you can click on each map picture to see the full size version):