Destinations in the Eastern Himalayas | A Travel Guide

The Eastern Himalayas, comprising of Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and northern part of West Bengal, stretching over to North East India and further till the Tibet Autonomous region of China and Myanmar, is home to a large number of destinations, culturally vibrant and geographically diverse.

Indians at large, travel to the Northern states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand for a vacation in the Himalayas. Not many people have given a thought about traveling to the lesser known destinations in the Eastern Himalayas which offers exceptionally pleasing landscapes and a wide array of experiences.

Being born and having grown up in Siliguri, the foothill region of the Eastern Himalayas, I fell in love with the beauty and vibe of these destinations at a very young age. Siliguri, known as the chicken’s neck, connects mainland India to North East India and also serves as the transit point for traveling to most of the places in the Eastern Himalayas like, Bhutan, Nepal, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim.

Sunset and friends – at Mirik Lake, West Bengal

Eastern Himalayas for me, is a home, a feeling of belongingness that is beyond the comprehensive capabilities of humans. In this blog, I’d attempt to pen down the best of places where you can head to and make the Most Memorable Experiences in the Himalayas.

 

Darjeeling

The most visited hill station in West Bengal and a favourite destination for family vacations, Darjeeling is quite an old town. Darjeeling was officially acquired by the East India Company in 1835, prior to which it was a part of the independent state of Sikkim under the King and for some time even a part of Nepal. Under the colonial influence, roads were built, tea estates grew and educational institutes were started.

The Mall Road – Heart of Darjeeling

Fast forward to the 21st century, it is now a bustling town which boasts of the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, several Buddhist Monastries and tea gardens that export quality tea to the whole world.

Darjeeling Toy Train – winding though the mountains

How to reach Darjeeling

      • Bagdogra airport is the closest airport to Darjeeling.
      • New Jalpaiguri is the closest railway station.
      • From Bagdogra airport or New Jalpaiguri railway station, you can reach Darjeeling by a private or shared vehicle.

Places to visit in Darjeeling

      • Darjeeling Himalayan Railways – A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
      • Tiger Hill
      • Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) and Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park.
      • The The Mall Road (also known as Chowrasta).
      • Batasia Loop and War Memorial
      • Happy Valley Tea Garden
      • Japanese Temple and Peace Pagoda
      • Ghoom Monastery
      • Mahakal Temple

To know about how to reach, where to stay and what to eat in Darjeeling, check this Darjeeling Travel Guide and teleport yourself to the colonial era.

 

Offbeat Getaways around Darjeeling

It would not be wrong to iterate the fact that the Eastern Himalayas houses a bundle of destinations, all of them being unique in their own way. If you want to spend a few days in this region but do not want to head to the crowded towns, there are options for that too.

Hill Cart Road – one of the oldest roads in the Darjeeling Himalayas

Tinchuley

Located close to Triveni, the confluence of Teesta and Rangeet rivers, Tinchuley is a well modeled urban eco village that runs several self sustainable projects.

Drive for 26 kms from Darjeeling and reach this enchanting destination to spend a couple of days away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Chatakpur

The present Chatakpur that has opened its doors to tourists is the result of conscious efforts of developing eco-tourism by the Forest Department.

Located 26 kms away from Darjeeling, within the Senchal Wildlife sanctuary, Chatakpur is gradually gaining some attention as a great offbeat destination in North Bengal.

Mirik

A sleepy town with amazing landscapes is the best definition that can be attached to Mirik. With greenery all around the famous Sumendu Lake and pine trees along the mountain slopes, Mirik is a perfect destination for a weekend.

Chill by the lake, take a boat ride or just stay in a cottage within the tea gardens – the idea of doing nothing yet vacationing comes alive in Mirik.

Takdah

A mere 28 kms away from Darjeeling, is Takdah, known for its heritage bungalows, misty forests and meandering roads amidst the forests. Spend a couple of days in Takdah to experience the grandeur of the British Bungalows and a flavour of the colonial era.

You could also visit the the 100 year old Barbatey suspension bridge, Dechen Pema Tsholing Monastery in Takdah.

Check this list of Offbeat Himalayan Getaways in West Bengal to know about more of these places and how to get there.

 

Sikkim

With frozen lakes surrounded by snow capped mountain peaks, vistas of tea gardens and monasteries that are centuries old, Sikkim is a destination where one can relax and unwind, go for an incredible roadtrip, trek the mighty Himalayas and experience legendary hospitality.

Old Silk Route in East Sikkim

This tiny state is bordered by Bhutan, Nepal and China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. With efforts put forward by Sikkim Government, the villages in the interior parts of Sikkim too are coming into limelight, apart from the developed tourist hubs like Gangtok, Ravangla and Pelling.

How to reach Sikkim

      • Bagdogra Airport and New Jalpaiguri are the nearest airport and railway station to Sikkim.
      • From bagdogra or New Jalpaiguri, you can book vehicles to reach major towns of Sikkim like Gangtok, Ravangla an Pelling.
      • To travel by shared vehicles, reach SNT bus terminus from the airport or railway station and take a shared cab to Gangtok, Ravangla, Pelling or Jorethang, as per your plans.

What to See in Sikkim

The capital city, Gangtok happens to be the place from where you must land up to go ahead to any of the other destinations in north, east, west or south Sikkim. Even if there are options of getting to West and South Sikkim directly from Bagdogra or New Jalpaiguri, you must not miss out on experiencing the chic vibe of Gangtok, the local cafes, nightlife and culture.

Gangtok City

There are destinations in South Sikkim like Ravangla and Pelling which too are loved by travellers for their charm and historical significance. Visit the Buddha Park in Ravangla; Skywalk, Pemayangtse Monastery and Rhabdentse Ruins in Pelling to vibe with spirituality in Sikkim.

Buddha Park – Ravangla

North Sikkim Roadtrip

North Sikkim, comprising of a cluster of places like Lachen, Lachung, Gurudongmar Lake and Yumthang Valley are loved by travellers who enjoy road trips. North Sikkim is an ultimate destination to indulge in adventures of all kinds – driving at an altitude higher than 17000 ft to reach Gurudongmar Lake, temperatures dropping to minus degrees, watching the dead end of roads at Zero Point and many more. Read this detailed Travel Guide for North Sikkim to more about how to plan a trip to this slice of heaven.

Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim

Treks in Sikkim

Sikkim is also well known in the trekking circle for being a home to the Famous Himalayan Treks like Goecha La and Dzongri. But apart from these famous treks, there are few unknown treks like Panch Pokhari and Uttarey-Singalila Round Trek that needs to be talked about and explored.

Have a look at this One-Stop Travel Guide for Sikkim to know more about where to stay, what to do and what’s the best time to visit Sikkim.

 

Nepal

Nepal is a country loved by backpackers, trekkers and people searching for a meaning in life. Home to world’s highest peak Mt. Everest, Nepal is truly a fine blend of nature, culture and adventure.

Be it a city full of rush like Kathmandu or a serene town like Pokhara, the warmth of this land is uniform at all places. If you haven’t traveled to this country, you should start planning right away and take back with you memories of the Best Things to do in Nepal.

How to reach Nepal

      • The only international airport is Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal.
      • One can also reach Nepal by road through the borders in Sunauli in Uttar Pradesh or Kakarvitta, close to Siliguri in West Bengal.

 

What to See in Nepal

Kathmandu

Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal is located in the central region where the only international airport of Nepal – Tribhuvan International Airport is located. The city is a unique amalgamation of history, heritage, spirituality and modernity.

Lalitpur Durbar Square

From busy streets of Thamel to spiritual centres like Swayambhunath Stupa and Pashupatinath Temple, heritage sites like Kathmandu Durbar Square to Garden of Dreams, a dreamy neo-classical garden in the heart of the city, Kathmandu has many places that needs to be explored at great lengths.

Busy street of Thamel, Kathmandu

Pokhara

Pokhara, a picturesque town which also serves as a rest stop for trekkers, is a heavenly abode that you cannot miss out under any circumstances. Spending a laid back day by the alluring Phewa Lake, hiking up to Sarangkot Viewpoint to witness a gorgeous sunrise or visiting the old caves in Pokhara are few of the most sought after activities that are loved by travellers. Head on to this Pokhara Travel Guide to know more about what activities you can engage in.

Phewa Lake, Pokhara

Check this comprehensive Travel Guide for Nepal to have a better idea of all the aspects you need to know before planning your trip to Nepal.

 

Bhutan

The Land of Thunder Dragon is quite literally, a land of happiness. Nestled on the Eastern Himalayas with age old Dzongs, pristine valleys and adventurous roads, the country has a distinct vibe and charm of its own.

How to reach Bhutan

      • Fly to Bhutan directly and land at Paro Airport.
      • Fly to Bagdogra Airport and drive for 4 hours to reach Phuentsholing, the border town in Bhutan.
      • From Phuentsholing, travel to any place in Bhutan by road.

 

What to See in Bhutan

Thimphu

The capital city of Thimphu though a modern city, has managed to retain the historical character of the country. The traditions and cultures are cherished with great zeal even in the present times.

Buddha Dordenma – Thimphu, Bhutan

Buddha Dordenma, Tashichho Dzong, Changangkha Lhakhang and the National Folk Heritage Museum are few of the notable places in Thimphu that should be on your list while getting around in Thimphu. A look at this Thimphu City Guide will give you a better idea of what awaits you and what to look out for in Thimphu.

Paro

The most talked about hike to Taksang Monastery or Tiger’s Nest in Paro is the major highlight of a trip to Bhutan and a once in a lifetime experience. The 3 hour hike, though a bit tiring for a leisurely trip, will remain with you as one of your best memories of Bhutan.

Tiger’s Nest, Paro

Punaka

Travel to Punakha in Bhutan to witness the grand architecture of Punakha Dzong that stands strong at the confluence point of two rivers – Mo Chhu and Po Chhu. Walk over the enthralling suspension bridge over the Mo Chhu River to reach the Punakha Dzong. Do not miss to by Dochula Pass, located on the way to Punakha from Thimpu.

Punakha Dzong

If these places mentioned interested you, check this Bhutan Travel Itinerary to plan your trip to Bhutan.

If you have arrived till the end, I’m sure it is the indescribable charm of the places portrayed through the words and photographs that has been successful to keep you hooked. There must have been a few times you’ve felt like packing your bags right away and leave for one of these destinations. Well, soon there will come a time when you will find yourself soaking the beauty of these lofty mountains. And the time is coming soon.

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