S/ 05: Walking cum Car Tour : 10 Days Nature & Culture Walking Holiday
- Available All year round.
- Best for snow views & blue skies: Nov.
- Best for Rhododendrons and spring flowers: Mid Feb – end March.
- Max Altitude: 2400m
Designed for walking and nature enthusiasts, it aims to explore the rural countryside around Samthar (Kalimpong) and Rinchenpong (West Sikkim). Forests, sunrise views, snow panoramas, Buddhist Gompas, terraced agriculture, ethnic villages, wild flowers, and interaction with people. Includes sightseeing and shopping at Kalimpong and visit to Pamayangtse Monastery in Sikkim. Staying at Special places listed in Alastair Sawday’s Special Places to stay in India.
Day 01: Bagdogra - Kalimpong, 1400 m
Arrive Bagdogra. Met by car with driver and driven to Kalimpong. The 80 Kms journey passes through the forested and scenic Teesta River Valley. Check in at the heritage Himalayan hotel, dating back to the days of the “Raj”, or Gurudongma House.
Kalimpong, is an exotic town of beautiful people, mystical and enchanting? Ruled by Bhutan for 155 years, and annexed by the British in 1865, it was developed as a center of the wool trade with Tibet. This trade flourished until the Chinese took control of Tibet, in the 1950's The Lepchas, who were the original inhabitants, were subjected to Bhutanese, Tibetan, British, and Nepalese influences. A gentle and docile people, they have almost lost their identity, and are now called "The vanishing tribe". However history has left behind a fascinating ethnic blend of Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepalese people. Here Buddhism rubs shoulders with Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Gumpas, churches, temples, monasteries, monks and missionaries; all coexist in a jovial and tolerant society. Flower and orchid nurseries, colonial bungalows, churches of the "Raj", and Buddhist monasteries are there to explore. A quaint bustling bazaar, is a Pandora's box of surprises? Kalimpong is a wanderer's delight. Buddhist tankhas, hand beaten silver, Bhutanese weaves, Chinese lamps, hand crafted paper, Lepcha daggers, Nepali Khukaris and Buddhist masks, are some of the shopping attractions. The Wednesday and Saturday "Hat", or village market, brings together people from surrounding areas, selling an amazing variety of products.
In the evening take a walking tour of the interesting bazaar. Overnight at your hotel.
Day 02: Kalimpong, 1500 m
Kalimpong tour by car. Visit Buddhist Gompa, and view point, Catholic church of “Raj” period, flower & orchid nursery, Nature Interpretation center, Dr Grahams Homes campus and chapel, and Deolo View Point. Overnight at your hotel.
Day 03: Kalimpong – Lava – Lolegaon : Drive cum Trek to Samthar Farm House, 1500 m
Drive 35 Kms, in 1.30 hrs along old trade route to Tibet passing through virgin forests to Lava, a small bazaar and village, at an altitude of 2100 m amidst forested hills. It originated as a halting place for trade caravans going to Bhutan. It was fortified during the Bhutan rule, and captured and destroyed by the British during the Anglo-Bhutan War. A Buddhist monastery of the same period has been expanded and is active. At Lava you can view the Rachela Pass, which opens into Bhutan, and visit the Monastery. Drive back 4 kms to take the forest road to Lolegaon. Now you have the choice of taking one or both the Nature & Culture walks, described below.
If you choose walk 1, it starts after driving 6 kms to a village Buddhist gompa. It descends through forests, to the waist of the hill, continues through hamlets, terraced cultivation, and cascading streams to terminate at a village bazaar from where we ride our jeeps to the heritage forest ( described below) to start Walk 2. Trekking time is 3 hrs
If you choose to take only walk 2, you will first drive for 25 kms, in 1.30 hrs, through unspoiled forests, with hardly any habitation. Enjoy nature at its best, and see the incredible variety of flora. After a picnic lunch and a visit to over 100 years old heritage forest, take a short down hill trek, whilst your jeep traverses a wilderness trail. Trekking time is 02 hrs, and you will walk through the heart of the forest, to a Tamang Village, cross a mountain stream, and reclaim your jeep, for the last 06 kms to the Samthar Farm House. Dinner and overnight at The Samthar Farm House.
Scenic and remote, The Samthar Plateau, at an elevation of 1500 Meters, is surrounded by river valleys, terraced cultivation and forests. The inhabitants are a blend of various ethnic groups-Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepali. The original Lepcha tribals lived in the valleys. They were woodsman, and utilized the forest resources to live off the land. Knowing no religion, they worshiped nature spirits. When the Bhutanese ruled this land, many were converted to Buddhism. Latter the British rulers brought in Christian missionaries, who converted some of them to Christianity. Hinduism arrived with the Nepalese settlers, who also taught the Lepchas to farm the land. Today the ethnic groups are fused together in harmony. They have adopted Nepali as a link language, yet maintained, their diverse cultural identity. It is an ideal place to peep into lifestyles of this fascinating hill community. It also has diverse flora, well-developed mountain agriculture, forests, and river valleys, and offers breathtaking views of the Panorama of snows. The Samthar Farmhouse is an old Lepcha house built of stone and timber, converted by General "Jimmy" Singh for comfortable living, whilst maintaining its ambience. It has a lovely nature garden with scenic views.