The northern part of Bengal known as Gorkhaland and Sikkim is the Nepali-speaking region of India. This part is known mostly for its mountainous beauty. If you are flying in, Bagdogra is the closest airport. The airside of this airport is congested, so, I would recommend not to check-in too early.
Day 1 – Bagdogra to Darjeeling
We took the taxi from Bagdogra to Darjeeling. It is a risky mountainous drive and most portions of the narrow road allow only a single car, so, definitely budget 4-5 hours for this. In the evening, we checked out the local market as well as the local Mahakal temple. It is a bit of a hike and you will encounter a good local market in your journey as well. I would highly recommend trying momos here. There are tons of sellers selling veg and non-veg momos for ₹50 a plate.
Day 2 – Darjeeling
We woke up at around 4 in the morning to go to Tiger Hill Top to see the sunrise. The new tourist building is under construction as of Dec 2020, so, we had hundreds of tourists stand outside in the cold winds for a sunrise. Not worth it. Consider skipping it completely.
After breakfast, we checked out Batasia Loop. The railway track spirals here to lower the gradient of descent. And there is an obelisk in the memory of fallen soldiers of Darjeeling.
Then we went to the Peace Pagoda that was built by a Buddhist monk from Japan.
Next, we headed to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (₹60 entry fee). There is a nice Zoo inside the same complex. This was the highlight of the day. We spent about 3 hours here.
Then we headed to the world-famous Darjeeling Tea Gardens.
Lastly, we checked out the Tenzing and the Gombu rock. For beginner rock climbers, trying Tenzing rock is a good experience.
Day 3 – Darjeeling to Gangtok
We had a drive from Darjeeling to Sikkim for the morning session. We stopped at Lamahatta Eco Park for photos and a hike. It is gorgeous.
Next, we visited a spot to view the merger of the Rangeet river into the Teesta River.
And finally, we entered Sikkim. Sikkim, a Himalayan kingdom till 1975, that after scared of China’s overtures held a plebiscite that 98% voted for in favor of a merger with India. Being a border state, and because of recent skirmishes with China, the state is carefully guarded and at times, foreigners’ entry is completely banned.
We took a local tour in Gangtok in the afternoon that started with Ban Jhakri (बन जाखड़ी) Falls (₹60 entry fee)
Next, we visited a nursery (₹20 entry fee), it wasn’t worth the time, so, feel free to skip it.
While Ban Jhakri falls are near the bottom, Hanuman Tok is on the top of a mountain. The belief is that Lord Hanuman while returning with Sanjeevani rested here.
Lastly, we stopped at Ganesh Tok, which is downhill from Hanuman Tok.
For the evening dinner, I would highly recommend roll house. There are two of these on the same street attached to the gorgeous pedestrian-only MG road.
Day 4 – Gangtok
We had a long drive to visit Baba Harbhajan Temple and Tsomgo/Changu Lake (pronounced “छंगु”). Baba Harbhajan was an Indian soldier. One day while crossing a stream, his mule slipped. He came back in the dreams of his fellow soldier the next day and mentioned the location where they can find his body. The belief remains that even today during the unusual movement of Chinese troops near the Nathu La pass, he comes in the dreams of the fellow soldiers and informs them. In his memory, the Indian army has built a temple.
Next to the temple is the world’s highest Shiva temple (“Shivalaya”) at 13,000 ft with a frozen waterfall next to it.
While we returned from here, one can go down and see the Nathu La pass, the border between India and China, where the clash of 1967 happened between China and Indian forces. Sikkim was a protectorate of India at that time.
Next while coming downwards, we stopped at Changu Lake. Try Yak ride here. And go to the other side of the lake as well. It’s a gorgeous lake.
And I would highly recommend trying Chhurpi (छुर्पी), hard cheese made up of the Yak milk. You can buy it in Gangtok for about ₹20 for 5-6 pieces in unassuming packages. I failed to find any shop selling Yak’s milk though.
After this, we went to the Black Cat Museum of the Indian army. Highly recommended even though it is not on the standard tourist trail. The museum shows you the history of the kingdom of Sikkim, its battle with the kingdoms of Nepal, Bhutan, and the eventual merger with India.
Later, we checked out the Lal Market, which was unfortunately closed that day. So, we went back to the MG Market.
Day 5 – Gangtok to Kalimpong
The morning was spent driving from Gangtok to Kalimpong. In the afternoon, we checked out a Cactus nursery that had American cactus.
Next, we went to the Delo Hills. There is a nice park here (Entry fee ₹20) with activities like horse riding. It is good for a general picnic as well. One can do Skydiving here for ₹3500 for an 8-15 minute ride and ₹5000 for a higher altitude of 15-30 minutes ride. It seems to be run by a single company and your driver would get some affiliate commission, so, they are going to push you for it.
Then we visited Mangal Dham Pranami Temple
And lastly, we visited the local market. Gangtok and Darjeeling had better markets for sure.