As summer is approaching, all of us seem to search for hill stations to escape from the daily hustle of life. But no one wants to work hard, so our search usually starts and stops at the better-known places. Here are the top offbeat hill stations in West Bengal.
Forgotten gem, Kurseong
Overlooked by the tourists for its better-known counterpart and tourist hotspot Darjeeling, Kurseong in North Bengal, was just another pit stop for a quick bite on the way to the hill station. This destination is also well known for its boarding schools and tea gardens. However, Kurseong remains mainly under the mist and clouds, inviting the traveller to take a peek into its scenic beauty. It is one of the best places for offbeat tourism in West Bengal.
Kurseong is the town’s one of the most attractive tourist spots, through which the UNESCO recognized Darjeeling Himalayan Railway passes through. The steam engine still passes through the winding hill roads, past tea estates, through bazaars on a narrow gauge. The toy train is about 610 mm, and it is one of the best tourist attractions to date. The region sees a lot of rainfall and mists during the rains and reasonably low temperature, even during the peak summer season.
A New paradise, Lamahatta
Lamahatta literally means a lama or a Buddhist monk’s hut and gets its name from the local Buddhist monastery, Lamhatta Gumpa. Roughly 23 km from Darjeeling, this area was discovered when Bengal’s CM Mamata Banerjee passed through in March 2012. It’s full of tall dhupi and pine trees, an almost whimsical white mist surrounding it and a stunning view of the Kanchenjunga, and it is a surprise that this village has not been a favourite tourist favourite already. This place is being developed as an eco-tourism spot with a variety of homestays and hotels for travellers.
A park with lined steps has been built around the hill slope, with trails, watchtowers and colourful prayer flags. A short trek to the hillside is also an attractive tourist activity here. A 5 km trek will take you to the forests of Takdah or Tukdah, a hilly village with an orchid centre. Just opposite the park, one get tasty food stalls run by the locals. There are also Chinese, and Indian stalls run that serves excellent food down the Lamahatta Residency lane. It is also best for a long drive.
Booklover’s pilgrimage, Mongpu
If you are a book lover and does not mind having a little slice of literary history accompanies by stunning views of the magnificent hills, you can head to Mongpu. Mongpu is a sub-division of Kurseong, known for its Cinchona trees that were used to make quinine, the cure for malaria and medicinal plant cultivation.
The best part of this place is the Rabindranath Bhavan, and a bungalow now turned into a museum dedicated to Rabindranath Tagore, who needs no introduction. He had spent his last few years in this Bungalow. The association with Mongpu is the best part for any literature enthusiast. As Tagore spent his vacations here, he had read out Janmadin, or the Birthday to author Maitreyi Devi, who had invited the poet to stay at Mongpu. The words read out by the poet must have had the same impact on Maitreyi Devi too, who later wrote in her book Monpute Rabindranath ( Rabindranath in Mongpu).
This small hill town is full of colourful nurseries and meadows of blooming flowers in the season but unfortunately does not offer a view of the snowcapped mountains. There is also a small monastery called Dinchhen Sherap Chhoeling Gumba that makes for an excellent photo opportunity.
Tea garden treats, Tinchuley
This place is roughly half an hour drive from Lamahatta, a smaller hamlet of Tinchuley named after its three hilltops which resembles Chullashor stoves. It is a very relaxing place far from the hustle and bustle of developed tourist towns like Darjeeling and Kurseong; Tinchuley is where one should go to soak in the sounds of silence. The steep sloped Peshoke Tea Garden offer stunning sunrise views from the mountain tops and meandering hill roads and rivers. The view is mesmerizing.
There is one more tea garden, Rungli Rungliot, which means “thus far and no further”. It justifies its name through its beauty. Though not yet a well-known tourist spot in West Bengal, there are many activities on offer for tourists. One can head towards Lopchu, which is mainly known for its tea gardens and locally made passion fruit soft drink. One can take a walk to Tinchuley Monastery as well for a pleasant hill station stroll. Nirmal’s Orange Orchards are close by, and you can plan a day trip for one to stock on their edible souvenirs.
River Run, Triveni, or the confluence of Teesta and Rangeet
This place is a must-try picnic spot or a day trip from your stay in the hills of the Darjeeling district. This place is towards the Triveni or the confluence of mountain rivers Teesta and Rangeet. There is a tale about how these two rivers met. A local folk tale says that the rivers Teesta and Rangeet challenged each other to a race down the mountains. After they accepted the challenge, both decided on guidelines to help them down their path. While Teesta obtained for Mountain snake, Rangeet took the help of a bird. The bird kept getting distracted by its panoramic aerial view of the hills while the trusty mountain reptile crawled its way down.
The fast-flowing Teesta reached the valley before Rangeet. Angered by his loss, Rangeet decided to go off in a huff. Teesta appealed not to leave her alone, and Rangeet finally gave in. And thus, they remain still united after their confluence at Triveni.
The view of the green waters of Teesta meeting the blues of Rangeet is as mesmerizing as their tale.
You can obtain another panoramic view from the Peshoke View Point. The sandy area where the two rivers meet is also a starting point for white water rafting. They also have a series of courses specially designed depending on hours signed up for and whether you are a swimmer or non-swimmer.