During a tour of East India in November and December last year, we were accompanied by a group of about 60 enthusiastic tourists, mostly senior citizens. Although most of the places we visited were unique in their own right, I would like to mention two of them which all of us admired the most, namely Darjeeling and Gangtok.
Darjeeling is one of those places in West Bengal which is really liked by anyone who visits it. One has to reach here from Siliguri by road via Mirik which is also a very adorable tourist spot. As we reached Darjeeling by evening, we were all accommodated in comfortable hotel rooms.
The weather was chilly and we did not dare to go out at night. Tiger Hills, at an altitude of 28,200 feet, is the best place to witness the sunrise early morning, with the magnificent Kanchenjunga in the backdrop. We were lucky as there was no fog and we could clearly see the first golden rays of the sun on the mountain range. It was a breathtaking experience as the full sun rose majestically over the mountains. It’s a lifetime experience which makes you forget about the chilly weather.
The other places for sight-seeing on our agenda were Ghoom Monastery (Buddha), Batasia Loop War Memorial, Tenzing Rock and the Japanese Peace Pagoda. They were all worth visiting.
Our next stop was Gangtok and nearby places in Sikkim. The journey from Darjeeling to Gangtok is a visual feast as the road is dotted with scenic landscape, the Himalayan mountain range and wonderful waterfalls. On the way, one can visit the guesthouse where Guru Rabindranath Tagore had spent some part of his life.
In fact, of all the places that I have visited in India and abroad, Gangtok is one of the much liked ones. One should visit Gangtok to see what cleanliness is all about. It was a new experience here for us to see a city kept so clean and beautiful with the cooperation of the public.
Sikkim is dotted with a number of beautiful tea and flower gardens, forests, lakes, waterfalls and the eye-catching pristine white Himalayan mountain range in the horizon. Another lovely place that we visited was the Tsomgo Lake. The attraction for the tourists here is a ride on the colourful decorated yaks. It was great fun riding that.
Our next halt was Lachung. On the way from Gangtok to Lachung, you get to see the most thrilling waterfalls known as the ‘Seven Sisters’. While flowing down, the water splits itself at different heights and one can see seven waterfalls side by side as it reaches the ground, a fantastic view indeed.
As you travel further to Yumthang Valley, you are spellbound by the sight of the Kanchenjunga mountain in all its glory, with the beautiful morning sun rays bathing the snow-clad mountain, from the foot of the hill where the pure and cool water of the Teesta River flows. This part of our sight-seeing was truly enchanting!
Further, we went to Pelling where we visited the holy replica of ‘Char Dham’ consisting of Puri Jagannath, Dwarka, Rameswaram and Badrinath. We visited Guru Sambhavam and the Sai Mandir. It may take about two weeks if one wants to see most, if not all, tourist spots in Sikkim at leisure. And it is no exaggeration to call it a paradise on earth.
In the last leg of the tour in this region, we visited Rimbi Waterfalls, Kanchenjunga Waterfalls, Khecheopalri Lake, the 400-year-old Pemayangtse Monastery and the 200-year-old Steel Bridge.
Overall, we had a heavenly experience during this trip. It is a tour that we will surely remember in the years to come.
How to get there
We travelled from Bengaluru to Darjeeling, via Bhubaneswar and Kolkata, by train. The ticket cost for second AC was Rs 3,000 per person. We took a SpiceJet flight back to Bengaluru from Kolkata and the ticket cost was Rs 6,000 per person.
Places to stay
There are budget hotels all over Sikkim. In Darjeeling, one can stay at Hotel Meghma on Gandhi Road and in Sikkim, at Hotel Tashi Gyaltsen, Middle Pelling, West Sikkim. Elgin Hotels & Resorts is a heritage hotel chain in Darjeeling, Pelling, Kalimpong and Gangtok and it is very near to Pemayangtse Monastery. The total package cost per person was Rs 50,000 inclusive of travel, accommodation, food and local transport.