Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

DHR_780_on_Batasia_Loop_05-02-21_08

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the “Toy Train”, is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow-gauge railway that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal, India. It is the first, and still the most outstanding example of a hill passenger Railway. Built between 1879 and 1881, the railway is about 86 kilometres (53 mi) long. Its elevation level varies from about 100 metres (328 ft) at New Jalpaiguri to about 2,200 metres (7,218 ft) at Darjeeling. When the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, inscribed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1999, started running in the 1880’s, it was the beginning of a new economic and social life for the surrounding communities. 

Darjeeling_Toy_Train_at_Batasia_Loop Four modern diesel locomotives handle most of the scheduled services: however the daily Kurseong-Darjeeling return service and the daily tourist trains from Darjeeling to Ghum (India’s highest railway station) are handled by the vintage British-built B Class steam locomotive, DHR 778. The railway, along with the Nilgiri Mountain Railway and the Kalka-Shimla Railway, is listed as a Mountain Railways of India World Heritage Site. The Mountain Railways of India are outstanding examples of hill railways.

The headquarters of the railway is in the town of Kurseong. It is still fully operational and retains most of its original features intact. While Darjeeling was growing, Rowland Macdonald Stephenson was crusading his battle for railway extension in India.   Operating on narrow gauge tracks since 1880s and providing an important transport link to various parts of Darjeeling hills and lower plains, the Toy Train is still unmatched when it comes to absorbing magnificent beauty of the mountains. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway System is the spectacular example of the technical and cultural traits of the colonial era. These trains illustrate different phases of technical developments in the hill areas of the country.

Toy_Train The trains became known as toy trains as the loco engines and the coaches were far smaller than normal broad gauge trains. But there was no such thing as toy railway construction. It was like any other proper railway project, but much more complex because of the terrain. The narrow gauge line did restrict the weight and size of the engines.

DHR was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999, only the second railway to have this honor bestowed upon it,the first one being Semmering Railway of Austria in 1998. The site must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. The protection, management, authenticity and integrity of properties are also important considerations. 

How To Reach:

By Air: The nearest airport is Bagdogra Airport (96 m), which is well connected to all major city of India.

By Rail: The nearest railway station is Jalpaiguri (62 m), which is well connected to all major city of India. 

By Road: The road network in Darjeeling is quite good, There are regular buses including Rocket and Volvo services between Kolkata (Calcutta) and Siliguri Main Bus Terminal (known as Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminus located on Hill Cart Road).

 

 

 

Lachung

Image result for lachung sikkim

Lachung is a town and hill station in northeast SikkimIndia. It is located in the North Sikkim district near the border with Tibet. Lachung is one of the most exquisite villages in the valleys of North Sikkim.  Lachung has multiple reasons to make you fall in love with it! While its location at an enthralling height of 8,610ft and and approximately 125 km from Gangtok makes it a popular snow-destination in Sikkim, its untouched and surreal beauty makes it one of the scenic as well as charming tourist places in Sikkim. The beautiful snow-capped peaks of Lachung attract tourists from all over the world. Lachung is at an elevation of about 9,600 feet (2,900 m) and at the confluence of the lachen and Lachung Rivers, both tributaries of the River Teesta. The word Lachung means “small pass”.

If you are visiting Sikkim and don’t think that you will make it again in a long time to come, then do pursue a visit to Lachung. Because you may not again see such stunning views of snow mountains and rivers anywhere else. “Dr. Joseph Hooker in his ‘Himalayan Journal’ of 1855 mentioned that Lachung and Yumthang are the two most picturesque places in the whole of Sikkim and had even compared them to valleys of Switzerland.”

The Indian Army has a forward base in the town. Before the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950, Lachung was a trading post between Sikkim and Tibet, after which it was closed down. The town’s economy has been boosted by tourism in recent years as the region has been opened up by the Indian government. 

Although most come and stay at Lachung to visit Yumthang valley and Zero Point the next day before returning to Gangtok, you should not miss out on the opportunities which Lachung itself offers. Start early in the morning from Gangtok so that you can reach Lachung by 12noon and have enough time to explore the near by area.

Tourist Attraction :

  • One of the nice places to visit here is the Lachung Monsatery (or gompa). It has wonderful wall murals and also several ancient statues.
  • Tourists use Lachung as the base to travel to Yumthang valley and its surrounding area such as Katao and Yumasamdong. 
  • You can spend some leisure hours sitting beside the Lachung-chu river, mesmerised by the beauty of the place.
  • The local monastery is also a nice place to spend an evening and learn about the local Buddhist culture.

As for the rest of North Sikkim, Lachung can be visited only by booking a package tour through a recognised travel agent. This is because you require special restricted area permit to travel here and the permit is given only to tourists travelling on a package tour. The package includes your travel, accommodation, food and sightseeing. 

Best time to visit :

Tourists come from all over the world to visit the town between October and May. One can get snow in Lachung till March/April and in May one can see wild flowers / RhododendronsThis is when the locals in their full traditional costumes eat, drink and perform many cultural shows. Beginning of December is also a great time as you can see the monks performing mask dance at Lachung monastery.

How to reach :

Nearest Airport is Bagdogra Airport in Siliguri , Bagdogra Airport is connected with rest of India by almost all domestic airlines. The airport is about 128 km away from Lachung. One can easily hire local cabs from Bagdogra to Lachung.

Lachung does not have own Railway station, Nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri. which is approx 127 Kms far from Lachung.  You can take Private taxis and Local Buses to Reach at Lanchung.

Lachung has a good road connectivity with nearby destinations. Direct buses are available from New Jalpaiguri and Gangtok, which can be availed to reach Lachung.

Image copyright by trekearth.com, darjeelingtourism.com, holidayiq.com, trekearth.com 

Western Ghats

12570356826ed8cee9b4blq3The Western Ghats knows as Sahyadri, is a mountain range that runs parallel to the western coast of the Indian penins
ula, located entirely in India, are well known for their rich and unique assemblage of flora and fauna. Although most of the Western Ghats appear more like rolling hills than craggy snow-covered peaks. Parts of it do reach over 2,000 metres and it contains the highest mountain in India, the Anaimudi, at 2,695 metres.

The Western Ghats is one of the eight “hottest hot-spots“, It is sometimes called the Great Escarpment of India. The Western Ghats extend from north to south along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau, and separates the plateau from a narrow coastal plain, called Konkan, along the Arabian Sea. A total of thirty nine properties including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests were designated as world heritage sites – twenty in Kerala, ten in Karnataka, five in Tamil Nadu and four in Maharashtra. This hill cover Roundly  6% of India’s total geography. Western ghats spread in six states Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Pondicherry and  in Maharastra, The range start near the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, south of the Tapti river, and runs approximately 1,600 km through the states of MaharashtraGoaKarnatakaKerala and Tamil Nadu ending at Kanyakumari, at the southern tip of India. Western ghat is home of many hill station like Lonavala-Khandala, Amboli ghat, Matheran, Mahabalesver etc.

The area is one of the world’s ten “Hottest biodiversity hotspots” and has around 5000 species of flowering plants, 1800 species of non-flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 500 bird species, 170 amphibian species, 6000 insects species and 300 freshwater fish species; it is likely that many undiscovered species live in the Western Ghats. At least 300 globally threatened species occur in the Western Ghats.

Western.Ghats The peaks of the Western Ghats intercept the south-western monsoon winds,  which bring heavy rain between June and September.  An astonishing 2 to 8 metres of rain drench the Western Ghats each year, most of it falling in the short monsoon period.  These rains feed dozens of rivers that originate in the mountains, and flow down into India, providing drinking water, irrigation, and power for approximately 240 million people.

The Western Ghats mountain range is itself a major attraction in India along with its high hills, deep valleys,mountain grasslands, dense and rain forest. Western Ghats is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in India and paradise of various species of Flora and Fauna, Most of them are endemic to the region.  Some attracted place of Western ghat are as below:

Hill Ranges :

Tea-plantation-fotoliaThe Western Ghats contains major hill ranges starting from Western ghat ranges in Maharashtra Nilgiris hill ranges in Tamil Nadu. Such as Ooty, Mahabaleshwar, Madikeri and the most famous Munnar. Famous hills of Western Ghats are Sahyandhris, Nilgiris, Palani Hills,Anaimalai Hills and Cardamom Hills.

Mountain Peaks :

The hill ranges of Western Ghats are home to some of the highest mountain peaks of IndiaAnamudi or Anai Mudi is a mountain located in the Indian state of Kerala. It is the highest peak in the Western Ghats and South India, at an elevation of 2,695 metres, and a topographic prominence of 2,479 metres. Other highest peaks of the Western Ghats are Meesapulimala,Doddabetta in Nilgiris hills, Kalsubai in Maharashtra and Mullayanagiri in Karnataka.

Forest :

474867-forests The Western Ghats are home to four type of tropical and subtropical forest ecoregions, The evergreen forests in Wayanad mark the transition zone between the northern and southern ecologic regions of the Western Ghats. Above 1,000 meters are the South Western Ghats montane rain forests, also cooler and wetter than the surrounding lowland forests, and dominated by evergreen trees, although some montane grasslands and stunted forests can be found at the highest elevations. The wild forest of Western Ghats are distributed as National Parks,Wildlife Sanctuary, Tiger reserve, biosphere reserves and many protected areas.

Flora :

pics11 Western Ghats were well-covered in dense forests that provided wild foods and natural habitats for native tribal people. The major species of Flora in Western Ghats are present in the sholas of the Nilgiri Hills. Four thousand species of flowering plants are known from the Western Ghats. The gymnosperm flora is represented by Cycas circinalis

National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries : 

1410190885trek_to_silent_valley_national_park_western_ghats The 39 component parts of this serial property fall under a number of protection regimes, ranging from Tiger Reserves, National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, and Reserved Forests. In Western ghats 13 National park situated. Famous National parks are deciduous forests of Bandipur National Park, Silent Valley National Park, Periyar National Park and Eravikulam National Park. The rainforest of majestic mountain is full of natural beauty and one of the must see place in India.

Lakes & Rivers 

The major riversystems originating in the Western Ghats include Godavari, Kaveri, Krishna, Thamiraparani and Tungabhadra. The Western Ghats have several manmade lakes and reservoirs. The famous lakes are Nilgiri, Lakkadi, Ooty, Kodiakanal, Barijam, Palani hills, In the Munnar range Devikulam and Letchmi Elephant.

Image copyright by simonsholidays.in,onthegotours.com, retplants.org, zeenews.india.com

Pondicherry

The History of Puducherry can be traced back to the 2nd century. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, of the early 2nd century, mentions a marketplace named Poduke (ch. 60), which G.W.B. Huntingford identified as possibly being Arikamedu (now part of Ariyankuppam), about 2 miles from the modern Pondicherry. Huntingford further notes that Roman pottery was found at Arikamedu in 1937, and archeological excavations between 1944 and 1949 showed that it was “a trading station to which goods of Roman manufacture were imported during the first half of the 1st century AD”.

A remarkable degree of French influence in Puducherry exists to this date. Puducherry was designed based on the French (however originally Dutch) grid pattern and features neat sectors and perpendicular streets. The entire town is divided into 2 sections, the French Quarter (Ville Blanche or ‘White town’) and the Indian quarter (Ville Noire or ‘Black Town’). Many streets still retain their French names, and French style villas are a common sight in Puducherry. In the French quarter, the buildings are typically colonial style with long compounds and stately walls. The Indian quarter consists of houses lined with verandas and houses with large doors and grills. These French and Indian style houses are identified and their architecture preserved from destruction by an organization named INTACH. The use of French language can be still seen in Puducherry.


Pondicherry still has a large number of Indian and a small number of non-Indian descent residents with French passports. These are descendants of those who chose to remain French when the then ruling French Establishment presented the people of Puducherry with an option to either remain French or become Indians at the time of Puducherry’s transfer to India in 1954. Apart from the monuments pertaining to the French period, there is the French Consulate in Puducherry and several cultural organisations. Another important one is ‘Le Foyer du Soldat’. It is a legion hall for soldiers who served in the different French wars.

Day 01: Mahabalipuram – Pondicherry

In the morning after breakfast you are driven by car to Pondicherry (approx 96 Kms / 2-3 hrs). Upon arrival check in at the hotel. Rest and refresh. Later you visit the Aurbindo Ashram. This ashram promotes Aurbindo’s ideas in bringing about a synthesis of Yoga and modern science, so as to unite the material and soul. Later go on for a visit to Auroville – a unique experiment in international living and in creating a new environment where men and women of all nationalities live together in harmony.
Meals: Breakfast

Day 02: Pondicherry – Thanjavur

In the morning after breakfast you are driven by car to Thanjavur (approx 189 Kms / 3-4 hrs). Upon arrival check in at the hotel. Rest and refresh. Rest of the day is at leisure. Thanjavur was once the royal city of the Cholas and the Nayaks. It is still considered the centre of all the classical arts and music, and is also well known for its unique painting style called Tanjore Painting
Meals: Breakfast

Manali

Famous as the “valley of the Gods”, Manali is an important hill station of northern india. It is the destination of thousands of tourists every year. Its cool atmosphere provides a perfect haven for the ones afflicted by the hot Indian summers. Besides offering quite a few places for sightseeing, Manali is also famous for adventure sports like skiing, hiking, mountaineering, paragliding, rafting, trekking, kayaking, and mountain biking. The Hill Resorts of Manali offers an amazing array of picturesque spots to the tourists. For the adventure seekers there are sports ranging from skiing, hiking, mountaineering, paragliding, rafting, trekking, kayaking, and mountain biking. You may indulge in skiing at Solang Nullah (January-March) and Rohtang La (during summer). It is noteworthy that Heli skiing is possible at the deep snowfields. You may even get trained for Mountaineering and kayaking at the Mountaineering Institute at Solang Nullah. The Beas River is excellent for Kayaking. Trekking to the Solang Valley and Manalsu Nala are terrific. The slopes of Solang Nullah attract a lot of tourists in the summer season for the paragliding just like Beas offers excellent adventure activities in the monsoons for rafting. You nay even visit Larji, Katrain and Kasol for some unparallel angling experiences. While you are in the city the Kulluis in brightly patterned puttoos, Tibetan women wearing ankle-length rainbow-striped pinafores, Nepali porters, Buddhist monks, and even the odd party of Zanskaris, swathed in fusty woolen gonchas will not fail to catch your eye. The hubbub of Manali is so mystical and marvelous that every summer thousands of tourists from all over India and aboard throng the streets there.


Climate – The climate of Manali is very cold as it is located in the Himalayas and the snow line is not far from the place. The altitude of Manali gives it a climate, which is loved by one and all. The summers are cool and the winters prove to be very harsh. During the winters the snow line comes down and there is snowfall in the region and heavy woollen cloths are required. During the monsoon months due to heavy rainfall there are landslides, which hamper movement. The best time to visit Manali is May and October but one can visit this place during winters too.


Places to visit:

Heli Skiing

For high mountain thrills perhaps nothing can surpass the magic of heli- skiing. The sport is available in the area abound by the Hanuman Tibba, Rohtang Pass, Deo Tibba and Chanderkhani Pass near Manali.

Hidimba Devi Temple

Hadimba or Dhungiri temple in Manali is one of the most important temples in the region. This four story wooden temple is located in the middle of a forest called the Dhungiri Van Vihar.

Mountaineering

Himachal Pradesh has some challenging peaks and each year expeditions are organised by the Mountaineering Institute at Manali. The Mountaineering Institute has regional centres at Dharamsala, Bharmour and Jispa, which organise adventure courses as well.

Gadhan Thekchoking Gompa

This Gompa dominates the Tibetan area around the bottom of the Mall in Manali. The Tibetan refugees built the Gompa in the late 1960’s. The Gompa is covered with brightly coloured frescoes and a mid size Buddhist statute. It also carries a list of the martyrs killed in occupation of Tibet of 1987 to 1989.

Gulaba Camp

20-km from Manali, is this beautiful place famous for sightseeing, picnic and photography.

Malana Valley

In the valleys of Kullu and Manali below Chanderkhani Pass, situated at an altitude of 2,76m is a little hub of hundred houses. The village, which consists of 1,000 tribals, has an immaculate system of self-governance.

Manali Sanctuary

This sanctuary is located in District Kullu’s nearest town, Manali. The area of this sanctuary is 3,180 hectares. The sanctuary wasnotified on 26th February 1954, under the Punjab Birds and Wild Animals Protection Act, 1933.

Mountaineering Institute

The Mountaineering Institute located at Manali provides training facilities for basic and advance climbing both for Indian nationals and foreigners. This institute also conducts other adventurous sports activities like high altitude trekking, minor mountaineering, rock-climbing, skiing, and high altitude rescue and relief courses. The institute has sufficient lodging and boarding arrangements and equipment can be hired for trekking purposes.

Naggar

Taken as an excursion from Kullu or Manali, Nagar also known as Naggar, is a very lovely village set on a hill surrounded by forests. Naggar was the capital of Kullu valley in the 16th century and the monuments in the region are witnesses to the glory it had once lived in.

Nehru Kund

It is a spring of clear, cold water, named after the late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and is 6-km from Manali on Keylong road.

Temple Of Manu

Slippery stones paths lead through the old village houses up to the temple of Manu. Manali is named after the sage Manu who meditated when he came in this area.

Tibetan Temple

Tibetans have a base in Manali too. There is a large modern Tibetan temple to the South of the bus stand and also a small handicrafts centre.

Vashisth Village

Famous for the sweeping valley views and sulphurous hot-water springs, the large settlement of Vashisht, formerly known as Bashist, just 3km from Manali, is an amorphous jumble of traditional timber houses and modern concrete cubes, divided by paved courtyards and narrow muddy lanes.

Winter Carnival

Snow continues to play a major part in February’s festivals and Himachal’s Winter Carnival is also held this month. Ski slopes of Kufri, Manali and Narkanda come to life with adventure seekers competing their way downhill. For daredevils, Manali, as a base camp, offers best opportunity for Heli-Skiing.

 

Excursions from Manali

Rohtang Pass

(50Km.)
Rohtang Pass is the highest point, 4,112m, on the Manali-Keylong road, 51-km from Manali town. It provides a wide panoramic view of mountains rising far above clouds, which is a sight truly breath-taking.

Arjun Gufa

(5Km.)
On the left bank of the Beas, 5-km from Manali near the village of Prini, is the ‘Arjun Gufa’ or the cave of Arjuna. In here Arjuna practised austerities to get Pashupata Ashtra or weapon from Lord Indra.

Beas Kund

(50Km.)
It is the source of river Beas, at the Rohtang Pass and is easily accessible. The great sage, Vyas performed `Tapa’ here during the Mahabharat times. The place is still hallowed by the celestial light. It was because of this that the river got the present name of Beas.

Jagatsukh Temple

(6Km.)
It is one of the biggest villages in Kullu district. About 6-km from Manali, Jagatsukh is famous for its Shiva temple that is built in “shikhara” style and nearby is the old and interesting Devi Sharvati temple.

Kothi

(12Km.)
It is a pretty little village, 12-km from Manali on the Keylong road at the foot of Rohtang Pass. There are very fine views from Kothi, and the Beas River flows through a very deep and narrow gorge at this point. The well-situated Public Works Department (PWD) Resthouse is a popular place for overnight stays. Close to the rest house is an awe-inspiring gorge where Beas enters a chasm about 61m deep and just few metres broad.

Old Manali

(3Km.)
The old Manali area is located some 3-km from the present day Manali. The old Manali is covered with guesthouses, which look ancient now, and orchards where the livestock move at will.

Rahalla Falls

(16Km.)
About 16-km from Manali and 4-km away from Kothi, at the start of the climb to the Rohtang Pass, are the beautiful Rahalla Falls at an altitude of 2,501m.

Solang Nullah

(14Km.)
14-km northwest of Manali in the Solang Valley, this place offers Himachal Pradesh’s best ski slopes. The Mountaineering and Allied Sports Institute operates a 300m high ski lift and the month of February is the best month to ski over here. HPTDC runs seven-day package for ski courses with accommodation in the Hotel Rohtang Manaslu in Manali. Courses are also offered by the Mountaineering and Allied Sports Institute and the North Face Ski School.

Vashisth Hot Sulphur Springs

(3Km.)
This small village near Manali is famous for its scenic beauty. The village has a temple dedicated to Lord Rama and Vashisth Muni. The village has some hot water springs, which are said to carry medicinal properties. It is a picturesque little place, 3-km out of Manali but on foot the distance is a bit shorter.

Darjeeling

Darjeeling conjures visions of serenity, of vibrant green hills steeped in splendour, a land of breathtaking beauty crowned by the majestic Himalayas.

Darjeeling is one of the most magnificent hill resorts in the world. This heavenly retreat is bathed in hues of every shade. The flaming red rhododendrons, the sparkling white magnolias, the miles of undulating hillsides covered with emerald green tea bushes, the exotic forests of silver fir – all under the blanket of a brilliant azure sky dappled with specks of clouds, compellingly confounds Darjeeling as the QUEEN OF HILL STATIONS. 

Darjeeling – the name is derived from the Tibetian word ‘Dorje’ which means the precious stone or ecclesiastical sceptre, which is emblematic of the thunderbolt of indra, and ‘ling’ – a place, hence the land of the thunderbolt. The sceptre of indra is believed to have fallen at a place where now stands the Observatory Hill.

Darjeeling is a fascinating place, where the tourist can see Buddhist monasteries, visit a tea plantation, see how the tea is processed, go for a ride on the chairlift, go shopping in the colourful markets or go trekking to high altitude spots, near the border with Sikkim. Darjeeling has the unique feature of a toy train, which takes you from Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling through the steep mountainsides. 

Places to see

 

Darjeeling has plenty of tourist spots in and around the city. Some of the most important are listed here.

The Japanese peace pagoda depicts the various stages of the Buddha’s life.Another attraction is the nation’s oldest passenger ropeway which connects North Point to Singla Bazar.

A visit to the Tiger Hills before dawn is a must for all Darjeeling visitors who want to see sunrise over the Mt Kanchenjungha. Tiger Hill is 2590 m above sea level and 11 kms from town (45 min).

Two kilometers from Darjeeling is the town of Ghoom which is the highest railway station in the world. It also has a monastery.

The Batasia loop (5 kms from Darjeeling) on the Darjeeling Himalayan railway is an engineering marvel and is another attraction even if someone doesn’t want to take the slow train ride.

The Tenzing Norgay Himalayan Mountaineering Institute trains mountaineers. It has a small museum as well. Adjacent to  it is the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park.

The Lloyd’s botanical gardens is another attraction.

The two popular view points are Jawahar Parbat and the Observatory Hill which offer views of the Himalayan ranges.

Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park : Located adjacent to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. It is a high altitude wild life park and a new home for the Siberian Tiger, Himalayan Black Deer, Deer Panda, Llama and birds. It is open from 8 am to 4 PM

The Dhirdham Temple, built in the style of Katmandu’s Pashupatinath temple adds to the varied religious architectural styles of Darjeeling. It is near the railway station.

Senchal Lake: A favorite Picnic Spot about 10 k.m. from the town. The lake provides water supply to the Darjeeling town.