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Darjeeling to Nathu La

North east India consist states of Arunachal Prasesh, Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura. These states are less traveled by tourists and thus making it perfect destination for wanderers. North east has got beautiful hills, culture and handicrafts to offer.

Darjeeling is a town in the northern part of West Bengal, 80 kilometers from Bagdogra (nearest airport) and Siliguri. Town’s culture, terrain and language is not very much inspired by West Bengal state, unless you see a civic cop in blue. Good time to visit Darjeeling is in summer, April to June, because it is warm, though visibility is less due to rainy whether sometimes.

If you’re travelling through Kolkata, the distance between Bagdogra and Kolkata is 550 kilometers, which takes about 14 hours of drive or one hour by air. Bagdogra is the nearest airport to Darjeeling, Gangtok and Nathula pass. There are helicoper service from bagdogra to Gangtok, which cost around Rs2000/- per person and baggage weight allowed is 10 kilograms per passenger. From Bagdogra, you can hire a taxi or hop in a shared taxi, to Darjeeling or Ghoom which is 80 km and takes three hours by road.

From Bagdogra, should I leave to Gangtok on the same evening?

Distance between Bagdogra and Gangtok is 130 kilometers and it takes around 6 hours by road. If you arrive at Bagdogra early, leave on same day so that you by evening you can reach Gangtok. And it saves a lot time, because in Bagdogra and Siliguri there are not much places that you might like. Once you start your drive from Bagdogra, after one hour, hilly roads will start and tea gardens by the road.

From Bagdogra, should I leave to Darjeeling on the same evening?

Yes, distance is 80 km which can take 3-4 hours by road. Same condition as above, watch hilly gardens in the day light would be nice. Most flights reach Bagdogra by afternoon. Our flight delayed by an hour and reached at 3:45 pm. Without wasting much time, we booked a taxi to Darjeeling which we reached by 7 pm, stopped for a tea break once. Hotels are easily available to stay.

Why travelling in day light is better?

If you are driving own vehicle and inexperienced in hill driving, I strongly recommend do not drive after dark (unless emergency). Here are few benefits of travelling in day light and perhaps the obvious one.

  • You get to see the scenic beauty of hills.
  • If you get travel sick, you can get medical attention easily.
  • There are view points on the way, which you can stop by  to have local tea and take few photos for the memory.
  • You can avoid wild animals, which comes close to roads after movement of vehicles stops in night (after 10 pm)
  • And visibility of driver is better in day light.

While you are in Darjeeling

It is one of the oldest town and home of Darjeeling Himalayan railways.It’s a small town with less population and congested roads as compared to Gangtok city roads. Here, you can find hotels and stay homes at cheap prices. Darjeeling is at higher altitude than Gangtok, with difference of 392 meters (that’s 1286 ft). This makes it ideal for staying. Places to visit in Darjeeling are Batasia loop, Ghoom railway station (highest altitude rail station in India, at 7,500 ft), Chowrasta (market of darjeeling), Ghoom Monastery, Tiger hill (known for sunrise view point) and more.

Toy train or narrow gauge train travelling through Batasia loop in Darjeeling
Breakfast at Glenary’s in Darjeeling

Darjeeling to Gangtok: Route

Distance is 100 kilometers which took us around 6 hours by road stopping for lunch, tea, and view points. From Darjeeling, leave in morning that you can reach Gangtok by afternoon so that you can enough time to find your hotel and explore city in evening. Bus service is rare, you will mostly find taxis on this road. You can book or share a taxi to Gangtok.

Must view point

This a marked view point because from here you see two river joining (Rangeet river and Teesta river). You see that road on the right side of river, we’ll go on that pass through bridge after few kilometers. You will travel through Teesta bazar, this region is fulll of tea garden and Teesta is known power plant along with Milli power plant, which also comes on the way.

In a taxi to Gangtok
Welcome to Sikkim

This is the welcome sign in Rangpo, while you enter into Sikkim, you will be asked to show your identity proof before entering in the state. Sikkim is a bordered by Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.

Visiting Nathula Pass

Nathu La is a mountain pass between India and China’s Tibet Autonomous region. You require a permit to visit this place, which your taxi guy will arrange for you, prior tell at the hotel where you are staying. Because during season time, it is a queue for taking permit. And Tuesday is close for civilian vehicles.

Behind me is the Indo-China gate
Behind me is the Indo-China gate

Nathu La pass is at altitude of 4,310 meters MSL. Roadways are well maintained by BRO (Border Road Organization). Around the year, Nathu La region is covered with ice. So summer are best time to visit when temperature is moderate. During night temperature drop up to  minus 10 degree Celsius during season. There is no stay facility for overnight, all vehicles must be back before night.

Nathu La pass is a tourist attraction and it gives proud feel of being Indian when you stand there in front of Chinese territory. And as responsible tourist, we should follow the instructions written on sign boards. Due to its weather, you might feel deficiency of oxygen, infants and older persons are advised not to visit if they feel difficult to breath. Though there is an army clinic, in case of health emergency. Do not litter the place, collect your wrappers and throw in the dust bin. ‘We go for a visit, but army is there to stay.’

Place can’t be describe here in words, tourist should go there and experience. Let’s drive down to new Baba Mandir.

New Baba Harbhajan Mandir
New Baba Harbhajan Mandir

Baba Harbhajan Singh was(is) an Indian Army soldier who fought fearlessly in Nathu La region and posthumously awarded with Maha Vir Chakra in 1969. According to folklore, Baba Harbhajan still protects the men in uniform staying in inhospitable high-altitude area. He still guards the border and it is believed that Baba will warn soldiers in prior of war between India and china. Baba is worship by all in the area, shrine was made in his memory. His belongings are still kept at the shrine and it gets clean magically. During Indo-China flag meet, a vacant chair is kept aside to honor him.

The above picture is of new Baba Mandir, it is a replica of original Baba Harbhajan shrine  or Baba ji ka bunker  which is kilometers ahead of this new temple. New temple is constructed for the ease of tourist. Next stop on the way back is Chhangu lake or Tsango lake.