Chimney Village of Kurseong is a lovely place amidst the mountains of Himalaya. There is an interesting anecdote regarding the queer name of the village. There is a 23 feet high chimney in the village which was constructed during the World War I under which the British soldiers and officials used to take rest. Hence, the name Chimney village. It is also sometimes spelled as Chimeni. This village is actually located in a valley overlooking the two swift rivers of the mountains- River Mahananda and River Teesta. The beautiful snow capped peak of Mt. Kanchenjunga can be seen from the pine covered valley.

Location of Chimney Village

Chimney village is at a distance of only 53 kilometers from New Jalpaiguri (NJP) from where it can be easily reached.

How to reach Chimney Village

From NJP you can hire a local cab or a private car and arrive at Kurseong from where Chimney is easily accessible as it is only 8 kilometers from Kurseong, the town. Buses are available from the Tenzing Norgay bus terminus at Siliguri to reach Kurseong.

Accommodation in Chimney Village

Accommodation in Chimney is easy. There are hotels and guest houses here which offer all the facilities for tourists. Some of the residents provide guest house facilities at Chimney where they also serve home cooked food which is delicious at reasonable rates. However, Kurseong nearby is dotted with boarding and dining facilities.

Photographer’s paradise

The pine and cedar trees cover the valley of Chimney which makes it appear like a scene from a painter’s canvas. However, the biggest attraction is the 23 feet high 100 year old Chimney built by the British. Moreover, you can have a panoramic view of the valley and also of Kalimpong and Nathu-La from here.

Not to miss tourist hotspots

Makabari, Ambotia, Goomtee, Castleton tea garden: Apart from the chimney and the breathtaking view of the Kanchenjunga and Kalimpong there is certain other tourist attractions located close by. The famous Makabari, Ambotia, Goomtee, Castleton tea gardens are located nearby.

Toy train ride and zoo: Enjoy a ride on the toy train which appeals to people of all ages and visit the satellite zoo at Dow Hill. Kurseong is a place of religious unity and thus beautiful temples like Jagdish Mandir, Ambhotia Shiva Temple, Giddapahar Durga Mata Mandir; Buddhist Compa in Montieviot; Juma Masjid in Hat Bazaar; St. Paulseak Church are all found at short distances. The Downhill Park, NSC Bose Institute of Asiatic Studies, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Museum are located on the Downhill Road. Also do not miss the Zero Point which is the highest point in Kurseong and the Eagle’s Craig viewpoint from where you can savor the fantastic view of the surrounding region.

The Bhangzang Salamander Lake: The Bhangzang Salamander Lake situated 14 kilometers away from Kurseong is home to the rarest species of salamanders. Visit this lake along with the cave housing a figure of Virgin Mary.

For adventurous tourists the trekking trail from Chimney to Mahananda waterfall will be an interesting experience. While the others can explore the forests and be busy bird watching all along. Do not forget to watch sunrise and sunset over Kanchenjunga.

Chimney can be visited any time of the year although the rainy season can be avoided.

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Kurseong, the name in Lepcha means small white orchid and the place is often referred to as the land of the white orchid which grows in abundance throughout the year. Kurseong is located at a distance of 32 kilometers to the south of Darjeeling and is often referred to as the young sister of the Queen of Hills that is Darjeeling. Kurseong stands at an elevation of 1458 meters and experiences a pleasant climate throughout the year. It is also known as the gateway to north Bengal and is surrounded by beautifully trimmed tea estates attracting tourists all the year round.

Attractions in Kurseong

Kurseong is a popular destination where lots of eminent personalities have spent a considerable time of their lives. Among them were Rabindranath Tagore, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Sister Nivedita and also Mark Twain. One of the highlights of Kurseong is the Makaibari Tea Estate. Visitors are allowed to see the organic procedure of processing tea here. Trips are free and mornings are the best time to visit.

The Ambootia and Castleton Tea Estate also welcome visitors to their aromatic factory. There is an old graveyard of St. Andrews as a poignant reminder of the era of tea planters. Walk down to Eagle’s Craig or trek to Deer Park to enjoy your day. From Eagle’s Craig you can witness the golden rays of the sun on the Himalayan range which is a visual treat. Visit the Museum of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and also the Forestry Museum to gather knowledge. On the way there are several religious temples, churches, Buddha gompa and mosques. Do not forget to trek to the Balason River and visit Chimney village which is home to a 100 year old gigantic chimney.

You will be able to enjoy your trip to Kurseong if you visit during March through Mid June and September through December.

How to reach Kurseong

Getting in the little town of Kurseong is easy as it is nicely connected with the rest of north Bengal through railway and road. Shuttle jeeps are available from New Jalpaiguri station to Kurseong which approximately takes 2 hours by Hill Cart Road and 1 hour by Old Army Road or Pankhabari Road. The route through Hill Cart Road is often preferred by tourists because they can relish on the visual treat provided by the Himalayan range. The jeeps normally charge 40 INR for 1.5 hours from Darjeeling. Traveling by the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway’s steam toy train is the best experience you can have enroute to Kurseong. Leaving at 6 in the morning it provides ample opportunity for the tourist to capture the pretty sight while moving up the winding railway track.

Where to stay in Kurseong

Accommodation in Kurseong is aplenty. Right from tourist lodges to hotels are available for the visitors. However, if you want to experience the lifestyle of the residents, then homestay facility is the best option. Many families of the Makaibari tea estate offer this facility which includes rooms, typical Kurseong meals, exploring the tea garden and also taking part in the local development programs. They usually charge 800 INR for rooms and meals.

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Phalut is a table top on the Singalila ridge of the Himalayas located on the same trekking trail as Sandakphu. Its distance from Sandakphu is 23 kilometers which takes around 7 hours to trek. Phalut means a bare table top mountain and is 3600 meters in height. The Singalila ridge is a famous spur lying at the southern end of a prolonged crest running down from the Kanchenjunga massif forming the Sikkim and Nepal border. Trekkers love to climb the various ridges of the Himalayas not only because it throws lot of challenge to them but also because of the scenic beauty of the surroundings. The route along the high ridge through small settlements is absolutely spellbinding.

How to reach Phalut

Phalut can be reached easily by a jeep from Sandakphu which is the highest point in Bengal. You have to reach Chitrey to start the trek and it can be reached from the NJP station by jeeps and cars or by jeep from Ghoom railway station in Darjeeling. If you are availing the Ghoom route, you will reach the Sukhiapokhri town from where you have to arrive at Maneybhanjung by jeep and then walk up the steep road to Chitrey for 2 kilometers.

Accommodation in Phalut

Tourists interested to relish the scenic beauty can stay at the hotel, The Lost Valley at Samaden. But trekkers generally put up at Phalut, by availing of the D I Bungalow, the Trekkers’ Hut of DCHC or the Bunkers, 12 in number offered by the Youth Hostel of Phalut. The trekkers usually put up at bunkers from the hostel for a heavy dose of adventure and relish it all the way to the peak.  Also there is another Tourist Lodge and Didis Trekker Hut available on the route from Sandakphu to Phalut. You can take rest and have a meal at Molle on the same route.

Trekking Routes in Phalut

The trekking route itinerary includes traveling to Manybhanjyang from where the trek starts.

Date 1: Start walking uphill from here to arrive Tonglu (3020meters) and camp there for the night. On the way you might be carried away by the attractive sight of magnolias and rhododendrons.

Date 2: In the morning start for Kalpohkri from Tonglu. This walk takes around 5 hours through hamlets of Tumling, Jobari and Gairibas to arrive at the trekkers’ hut at Kalpokhri (3100 meters). On

Day 3: Trekkers start walking for Sandakphu from Kalpokhri after breakfast. Sandakphu is the highest point from where you can view various peaks like Everest, Lhotse, Makalu of the Himalayan range including the Kanchenjuga massif. It takes about 3 hours to reach Sandakphu (3636meters).

Day 4: Begins by taking the trail from Sandakphu to Phalut. Enjoy the scenery and spot the ‘Sleeping Buddha’ peak formation during the walk. Reaching Phalut takes 7 hours.

Day 5: The nest morning climb atop Phalut to witness the spectacular sunrise over the Himalayas and the start downwards from Phalut through Gorkhey and Rimbik. This trails offers bird watching opportunities as you pass through the beautiful valley of Samanden crossing the Srikhola Bridge to arrive at Rammam and eventually Rimbik village.

The best time to trek the Sandakphu-Phalut route is during April and May.

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Chamurchi is a small hill town located at the Indo-Bhutan border. It is a relatively new tourist destination and is far from the madding crowds. You can explore this hill station without much chaos and people who have already visited the town wish to come back here again and again. It is a place of natural abundance and generally has a soothing effect on the mind and body of the tourists.

The lush green sprawling tea gardens, the cascading rivers and the small market add to the charm of this small yet pristine hill station of Chamurchi. One of the major attractions of this small town is the view of Mt. Kanchenjunga which looks breathtakingly beautiful.

Top tourist attractions in Chamurchi

The Musical Stone Cave – The Musical Stone Cave is another highlight of Chamurchi. The interesting part of this cave is that when you strike one of the stones inside the cave, the sound traverses as a musical tune to the ears. It is a unique experience for the visitor and the best part is that it is located at a distance of only 3 kilometers. If you decide to trek the road to the cave you will be considerably rewarded with beautiful scenes from the natural reserves of Chamurchi. The Diana River flows through this region giving life to the flora and fauna around it. Wild animals are sometimes spotted drinking from the river.

Garuchira, Kalapani and Rohiti – Garuchira, Kalapani and Rohiti are located close by and do not miss them while you are exploring Chamurchi. They are equally rewarding in terms of tourist attractions. The forests of these regions are home to leopards, elephants and gaurs that are easily visible.

Tea Gardens – One of the primary attractions of Chamurchi is the tea garden. The quaint tea gardens at Chamurchi though not in a good condition can still attract tourists. There is a Mukti Bungalow in Chamurchi which not many people know about. Thanks to the discerning travelers to these parts of the world that this bungalow was discovered and now tourists with adventurous interests are finding it interesting.

Shopping in Chamurchi – Take a walk through the Chamurchi bazaar and explore the shops there. You might also collect a souvenir.

Best time to visit Chamurchi

Chamurchi can be visited through the year, however, try to avoid the rains because it gets dangerous at times.

How to reach Chamurchi

Tourists generally visit Chamurchi on a tour of Dooars though it is slightly off route on private cars. The easiest route to Chamurchi from Kolkata is boarding the Kanchankanya Express departing from Sealdah and arriving at New Mal Junction. You can hire a car from here to take you to Chamurchi and the fare will be 900 INR.

Accommodation in Chamurchi

Accommodation in Chamurchi is sparse. The only place for tourists is the Eco Resort which charges 800-900 INR for double bed rooms and 325 INR for food.

After you have reveled in the natural beauty of the place, it is time to visit Samtse in Bhutan. It is only a short distance away and is equally spectacular. There is a monastery in Samtse which can be visited early in the morning.

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Mirik is a lovely getaway located at the Himalayan Hills. Tourists visit Mirik for a sojourn or as a one day trip from Darjeeling. Situated on the south western side of Darjeeling it is surrounded by the Singalila Mountains of the Himalayan range. It is a popular destination during the summertime in West Bengal as people want to beat the heat during the humid summer in Bengal. This hill resort is situated at an altitude of 1767 meters and is at a distance of 49 kilometers from Darjeeling. For people who find Darjeeling crowded often prefer Mirik Himalayas as a getaway because of its peaceful atmosphere.

Major attractions in Mirik

The main attraction in Mirik is the Samendu Lake nestled in the hills. It never freezes and looks beautiful covering 1.25 kilometers. Enthusiastic tourists often find the boat ride in the lake very refreshing. You can either hire a small boat permitting only 2 people or a large one allowing more than 2 to enjoy the reflection of Kanchenjunga on the waters. There is a bridge over the lake which runs for 3.5kilometers joining either side of the lake flanked by rich forest covered in Cryptomaria-Japanica trees. The hiking trail within the forest is befitting for adventurous tourists.

One of the premier attractions of the Himalayan range in this region is the Kanchenjunga Mountain with its snow capped white peak which is clearly visible from atop the Ramitedwara hill. If you are staying at Mirik then climbing the hill to witness the golden peak of Kanchenjunga during sunrise and sunset will be unmatched experiences.

An observatory point can also be found at Deoshidwara from where you can view the spectacular town in all its glory. Mirik produces the best variety of oranges in Darjeeling which is exported. You can see the plantation as well. Nepal’s Pashupati Nagar is only 11 kilometers from Mirik and tourists love to visit the town and its market where you can get a wide variety of products at the lowest price.

How to reach Mirik

There is a helipad in Mirik and you can go on a helicopter ride for a bird’s eye view of the small but beautiful hill station. Apart from that, several government and private buses are available from Darjeeling to reach Mirik. You can avail the NBSTC buses at regular intervals from 8 in the morning to 2.15 in the afternoon. Besides, travel packages are offered by DCHC/WB Toursim during the peak season, when price for bus ride is 180 INR per passenger. For private buses the prices vary between 150 and 225 INR. Apart from these options, you can also travel in shuttle jeeps and private cars to arrive at this charming hill station. Enroute to Mirik from Darjeeling you will spot beautifully trimmed tea gardens on either side of the winding road. It is a breathtaking sight especially when it rains and the fogs settle on the streets.

Accommodation in Mirik

Accommodation in Mirik is hassle free because of the presence of several hotels and even Mirik Tourist Lodge maintained by West Bengal government. If you are visiting during the peak season, making prior reservation is advised.

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Darjeeling, situated on the lofty Himalayas, is a part of West Bengal. It was built by the British and is known as the ‘Queen of Hill Stations.’ It is particularly famous for its natural beauty. The mountain ranges, tea gardens and snow covered Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world, provide a unique opportunity to tourists who can relax amid nature here. The sight of red rhodendrons, swift flowing Teesta river and green tea estates are particularly breath taking.

How to Reach Darjeeling

Darjeeling is very well connected to Kolkata and the rest of India.

Air- Bagdogra, the nearest airport to Darjeeling is located about 95 kilometers away from the hill station. Daily flights from Kolkata, Delhi and Guwahati operate from here and it is possible for the tourists to hire a taxi or private vehicle from the airport to travel up to Darjeeling or Siliguri, the nearest city to Darjeeling.

Railways- The nearest rail station to Darjeeling is New Jalpaiguri Junction (NJP)which is easily reachable from all parts of India. Darjeeling Mail is the most well known train plying from Kolkata with the other options being Kanchenjunga Express, Kanchankanya Express, Kamrup Express, Guwahati-New Delhi Rajdhani Express etc.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway operates between the hill station and NJP. It is known as the toy train and has been declared as a World Heritage by the UNESCO.

Road- Shared jeeps and taxis are the most popular form of transport from NJP to Darjeeling. Passengers usually have to pay Rs 200-Rs 300 for a seat and shell out extra if they have too much of luggage. Air conditioned taxis are also available at the rate of Rs 1800-Rs 2000. Special luxury vehicles are available too on the basis of advanced reservation.

Bus- There are regular bus services available from NJP. However, they take more time due to the narrow, steep roads and break down often due to overloading.

Attractions & Activities in Darjeeling

Tiger Hill – A famous site for watching the sunrise which lights the snow clad peaks of Kanchenjunga with a golden hue.

Himalayan Mountaineering Institute – Created by Tenzing Norgay, one of the first men to climb Mt. Everest, this institute offers a glimpse into the life of mountaineers by showcasing their achievements as well as the equipments used for climbing.

Zoo – The zoo has an excellent collection of Himalayan animals including the Red Panda. The authorities charge Rs 50 from Indians and Rs 150 from foreign tourists with an additional fee for clicking photographs. It remains closed on Thursdays.

Japanese Peace Pagoda – A group of 30 pagodas built by Buddhist monks from all over the world  is a popular tourist destination.

Rock Garden – A place full of indigenous vegetation with many varieties of local flowers. The waterfall and landscaping makes it an ideal site for picnic.

Batasia Loop – A famous loop where the toy train takes a turning. The site is also home to the Gorkha Martyr memorial.

Srubbery Park –  A beautiful park that offers live entertainment in the firm of cultural performances. Visiting hours are from 4 P.M.- 8 P.M. every day.

Accommodation in Darjeeling

There are numerous hotels, tourist lodges and cottages available at Darjeeling. West Bengal Forest Department also has a guest house in the city apart from the West Bengal Tourism Department’s accommodation. Mayfair Darjeeling and Windamere Hotel are two of the most expensive places to stay.

When to Visit Darjeeling

The summer months of April to June are considered to be the peak tourist season. However, many backpackers and travelers also visit it in winter  for witnessing snowfall. Visiting Darjeeling during monsoon is risky and fraught with difficulties due to landslides and closure of tourist attractions.

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