Thursday, 21 January 2016

Lamahatta : The countryside of Darzeeling

Chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains.”
- Jeffrey Rasley
Mountains are really a great place to unwind and discover one's inner self and if those mountains are none other than the Himalayas, the experience becomes heavenly. 

Friends! I am back with a new travel memoir about a new rather less known tourist place nestled in Eastern Himalayas, i.e. Lamahatta. Hope, you will find the place appealing enough to include it in your travel wishlist. There are many natural travel destinations in Eastern Himalayas, which are at their best, when there is no human intervention to keep their beauty and glory intact, however there are some places, which have been developed into a tourist spot, so that people can spend good quality time, while enjoying the company of their loved ones along with the lovely nature. Lamahatta is one such travel destination. The place was developed as tourist spot in 2012 by the local administration with the help of villagers at the behest of the Hon'ble chief minister of West Bengal.

The road-side mountain village falls in Gangtok to Darjeeling route and is at around an hour away from Darjeeling. Travelers on Darjeeling trip can plan for one night stay in home stays of Lamahatta. It can also be chosen as honeymoon destination. The scenic site offers something for everyone - breathtaking scenery, magical glimpse of Snow-caped mountain ranges, trekking, delicacy of food prepared by locals and a memorable night stay in tents and huts miles away from hustle and bustle of urban life.

The altitude of Lamahatta is lesser (5700 ft) than that of Darjeeling, however the temperature is almost the same, as the place is replete with greenery, surrounded by large number of dhupi and pine trees.

As we came to know about the place through a colleague, we decided to make it our next picnic destination. It was a 3 and 1/2 hours ride from Gangtok and by 11 AM, we had reached Lamahatta. After reaching there, we decided to find some good home stays for our night stay and keep our luggage there, so that we can roam around or go on trekking freely. There were around 15 rooms and some tents with total capacity of around 40 persons on one side of road. Each room had two beds and maximum 3 persons can be accomodated in one room. The rent for one room was around Rs. 800/- and for tent, it was little higher. We got settled in four rooms and took breakfast there. One special feature of Lamahatta may be the delicious and fresh food served by the locals. You will not get professional service, but will definitely feel the warmth in their hospitality. You will have to tell them in advance, what you want to have in your food.

After having breakfast, we started exploring the place and capture some good views of the manicured park located at the foothill. The garden has many seasonal flowering plants including orchids. There is an entry fee of Rs. 10/- for entering in the eco-tourism park.

View of Garden and trail of flags

Beautiful Hut with beautiful kids

Garden and Homestays at Lamahatta

There after, we decided to trek along 1.5 km long route to the sacred lake, situated at top of the hill. The trek offered some excellent photography opportunities, while walking in the woods.

Walking in the woods

Sacred Lake at the Hilltop
We had reached at the hill top with in 40 to 45 minutes and spent couple of hours there, enjoying the purity of the breeze blowing through the dense forests and purifying ourselves in the process. We started to climb down the hill, as it was getting dark and we had also started feeling hunger pangs.

After reaching our homestays, we had our lunch and then started planning for our evening with bonfire and music in the mountain village. The weather god was getting harsher on us , as the chilly evening was engulfing the village. The temperature must have fallen to 2 or 3 degree celsius on that december night. Now, it was time to show some resistance to the biting cold and we had prepared well. 

Soon, we were all sitting in the open surrounding the bonfire set by us and then started the round of our musical talent in the form of Antakshari. It was indeed very enjoyable and the tranquility of the sleeping mountain unperturbed by the sound of gushing river nearby added to our amazing experience. Our musical night had turned into a magical night. Our tryst with fierce winter night came to an end with the announcement of dinner time by the cook of the home stay. With the fire surrendering to the might of freezing cold and our stock of songs getting scarce, we decided to call it a day. We had our dinner and then rushed to our beds to cover ourselves with blankets and quilts to fight the punishing cold.

In the morning, we were greeted by the sunshine and a clear view of Snow-caped peaks of Mt. Kanchendzonga. With this, our trip was really complete and memorable.

Mt. Kanchendzonga ranges as seen from Lamahatta

Please do share your experiences, if you have been to Lamahatta or any other lesser known tourist places in India.