How to spend the perfect weekend after lockdown?

Being locked inside our houses for months now, that too in the mundane city life, makes all of us crave for a beautiful holiday in the mountains, where we will be able to roam around freely and get lost in nature. Latpanchar, a village in North Bengal, suffices this craving of yours.

Latpanchar, a relatively new tourist destination, located at an altitude of 5000 ft above sea level forms the highest part of Mahananda Wild Life Sanctuary. It is in the Kurseong division of the Darjeeling district.

Due to the proximity of the village to the Mahananda Wild Life Sanctuary, you may come across deer, barking deer, wild boars, and sometimes even leopards and elephants while exploring the jungles around. Snow-cladded peaks of the Kanchenjunga range can also be seen from here.

Apart from the mesmerizing natural view of the Kanchenjungha, Latpanchar has also gained popularity among tourists due to its huge birding potential. There are about 250 species of regular and exotic birds available in the area including the Rufous Necked Hornbill. Bird enthusiasts and ornithologists from all over India and abroad, flock Latpanchar for a glimpse of some rare avifauna.
Apart from the Latpanchar village, the surrounding villages such as Selphu and Sitong, have also attracted tourists in the past few years due to their scenic beauty. Together the area is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the North Bengal. The best part of a visit to Latpanchar is that you can enjoy the beauty of the hill without having to jostle among the tourist crowd as the destination is new and it is mostly unknown to tourists. The calm and peaceful ambiance of this village makes it a perfect weekend getaway.

How will you reach there?
The national highway 10 connecting Sikkim to the rest of the country runs through the hills on the side of river Tista. From New Jalpaiguri (NJP), this beautiful hamlet is at a distance of about 44kms and takes about one and a half hours by car. You will need to take the Sevoke road. Once you reach the place Kalijhora, which will take you roughly 1 hour, there is a narrow winding road that goes uphill on the left. From this point, Latpanchar is another 13kms. This last stretch is quite steep and can cause mountain sickness. If you do have the tendency, then don’t forget to pack sone Avomine tablets in your handbag. The scenic roads and the pleasant weather will make the journey worth remembering.

You can take a taxi from NJP railway station or Bagdogra airport. Latpanchar is about 44kms from NJP (takes about 1.5 hours by car) and 49kms from Bagdogra airport (takes 1 hour 45 minutes by car). From Kalijhora (on Sevoke road), a rough hilly road goes up on the left and leads to this Himalayan village. Reserved small taxi fare is roughly around Rs. 1800/- from Bagdogra airport and Rs. 1600/- from NJP railway station or Siliguri.

Latpanchar is no longer a single destination now. The whole area of Latpanchar, Shelphu, and Sitong has emerged as a tourist area. From Latpanchar to Selphu is just 3 km and the Sitong area is further 5 km ahead. Though Latpanchar is more popular among the birding enthusiasts, the Sitong area has much better tourist accommodations with equally good birding options.

Local Sight Seeing

• Ahal Dara - This is the viewpoint from where you can witness a magnificent sunrise over the Himalayas. The place is close to Namthing Lake and requires a walk of about 100 meters. Ahal Dara also has cottages developed where you may stay overnight, to have a beautiful soothing experience.

From the Ahal hilltop, one can have a view of Kurseong, Chatakpur, Namchi, Dooars, and Siliguri. You can also see the Tista River, Kalimpong hill area, Algara, Lava, Lolegaon, Bagora, Tinchule, Takdah, Mangpo from here.

• The lake of Namthing - Situated at an altitude of 5000 ft above sea level, the beautiful lake is the natural habitat for several rare species. Namthing Lake is famous for a sighting of Himalayan Salamander in the wild. Although the lake mostly remains dry at present, you may be lucky enough to sight the Salamander.

• Latkothi – It is about 4 km from Latpanchar. The journey through the Cinchona, Sal, Teak & Pine forests will make you feel rejuvenated. You can spend a day in this place or may further visit the Kuhi area with a special permit from the forest department. The varied coloured butterflies along with the chirping birds add to the beauty of this place.

• Sitong Orange orchards – Just a 20 minutes’ drive will take you to the Sitong area, which has gained prominence due to its beautiful Orange orchards. The area is also a lesser-known Birding paradise. Almost all the birds that can be seen at Latpanchar are also available here.

Birding at Latpanchar
One of the primary attractions for tourists visiting Latpanchar is bird watching. More than 200 varieties of birds have been sighted in the area including Rufous Necked Hornbill, which nests in the surrounding area during its 4 months long nesting season. The nesting of the Hornbill is an experience that can be sighted in the entire Sitong – Selphu – Latpanchar area.

Other commonly sighted birds include Blue Whistling Thrush, Minivet, Sunbirds, Minivet, Woodpeckers, Bulbul, Drongo, Kingfisher, Falcon, Eagle, etc. While traveling in the area, it is important to be accompanied by a birding guide who knows the area as well as birds. Birds are not concentrated in Latpanchar village but are spread over the area including in other nearby villages such as Jholi Busty, 6th Mile village, Sitong, and Shelphu area.

All these make Latpanchar, a perfect Himalayan tourist destination, that will provide you with all the scenic beauty along with rejuvenating your mind and soul. As soon as the lockdown gets over, plan a weekend accordingly and rush to this place with the people you love. Especially for all the bird lovers, Latpanchanchar is a place that you must visit. This beautiful, less crowded, calm Himalayan village in North Bengal will definitely provide you with an experience of a lifetime.

- Shankhanila Palchowdhury

A graduate student in Journalism and Communications, I am an avid reader, writer, blogger, foodie and movie buff. Based in Kolkata, I am extremely passionate about trekking, travelling, exploring and building new relations every day.

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