A personal travel blog by Ms. Reetwika Banerjee
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Icche Gaon, just 85 kilometres from Siliguri bus depot, is a colourful hill station in the Kalimpong district of West Bengal. It is perched at an altitude of 6000 feet above sea level, comprising of hardly forty houses, divided in two clusters – Upper Icche and Lower Icche, surrounded by a pristine Pine Dhupi (pine forest as they mean in Nepali language).
Glimpse of Icche Gaon
We had plans to spend couple of nights at Icche Gaon during the Christmas holidays to celebrate our fifth anniversary; thus, privately reserved a cab to ensure a cosy ride. Not all Siliguri taxis have permit to enter Icche Gaon forest. So, you must be cautious before paying any advance to the driver. It is always advisable to confirm their entry permit at the booking counter or the travel agency from where you hire the cab. Otherwise, most of them will drop you at Kalimpong market taxi stand and you need to reserve another local cab to drop you at Icche Gaon. In that case, the overall cost will definitely be higher than a direct drop from Siliguri.
Crossing Rambi market near Kalimpong
View of Teesta River On Way
After crossing Kalimpong three-point crossing, we took the Bhalu Marg towards north. The meandering view of Teesta River in this route always adds a complaisant feeling to my grey vision. Chilly breezes and dense cloud covers kissed us as we kept soaring higher. Icche Gaon was barely 20 kilometres from here but the ride took almost an hour due to the hilly terrains and increasing altitude.
Bhalu Marg from Kalimpong to Icche Gaon
Results of our online surfing confirmed, there was nothing much to do at Icche Gaon. It’s not a typical destination for activity lovers. A secluded stay in the lap of mighty Himalayas, overlooking the greeneries from hilltop with a cup of steaming Darjeeling tea is all what Icche Gaon is known for. For lazy vacationers like us, it was an ideal romantic getaway. To relish a serene private holiday, we preferred to touch the handful of sightseeing points on our way to keep the next day at leisure.
Way to Ramitey Dara Viewpoint
Approaching Ramitey Dara
There were three viewpoints Ramitey Dara, Devrali Dara and Himali Dara along with a couple of beautiful temples Mahadev Dham and Hanuman Tok for the visitors to take photographic breaks. Actually ‘Dara’ in Nepali means view point. The scenic view of the snowcaps and merging of Rangeet River with the gorgeous Teesta, make them a very special attraction trio for all tourists.
Merging of Rangeet River with Teesta at Ramitey Dara
There was a local vendor selling tomato chat with tamarind sauce at Ramitey Dara – oh what a yummy dish it was! Coupled with a cup of green tea, he made our day. No wildlife sighted in and around except a few Grey Wagtails, Himalayan Bulbuls and an Indian Giant Squirrel.
Yummy Tomato Chat at Ramitey
Sighting of Verditer Flycatcher at Icche Gaon
Grey Wagtail at Icche Gaon
Giant Indian Squirrel at Icche Gaon
Devrali Dara Viewpoint
From there we went to Mahadev Dham and later to Hanuman Tok (‘tok’ means temple in Nepali). The temple houses a gigantic statue of Lord Hanuman at the top of the hill. We had to climb around 300 steps to reach the summit; but undoubtedly it’s a must go site from Icche Gaon. The day was so clear that we could catch a glimpse of the Lava and Kaffer hills from the top. While descending, we also visited the Singha Bahini Dham at Devrali Dara (dedicated to Goddess Durga) where Prasad (holy food) was getting distributed. And we too were fed by the sacred hearts of the temple.
Way to Mahadev Dham
In Front of Mahadev Dham
Shrine at Mahadev Dham
Trek to Hanuman Tok
Gigantic Statue of Lord Hanuman
Stopover at Singha Bahini Dham
We reached our homestay by four in the evening. All the houses of Icche Gaon are beautifully decorated with Himalayan flowering plants of vibrant colours. From a distance it looks like a colourful canvas against a clear blue sky.
Beautifully Decorated Homestays of Icche Gaon
Colourful Himalayan Flowering Plants
The only point of concern is that four wheelers cannot arrive till the entrance of majority of the Upper Icche houses, due to steep hilly slope. We had to alight at the base of Lower Icche and climb on feet till Upper Icche Gaon where our homestay was booked. The ascent was almost a flight of fifty vertical steps carved out of natural mountainous rocks. The approach stairways to the relatively better quality homestays, last few steps were artificially cemented. Luckily we were a young couple. Elderly folks and kids might find it extremely strenuous. It is better to take prior information about the homestay before making any booking through their agents in Kolkata.
Alighting at Lower Icche Due to Restricted Car Accessibility
Ascent to Upper Icche On Foot
Our Homestay at Upper Icche Gaon
With a Cup of Hot Darjeeling Special Green Tea
In and Around Icche Gaon
Next morning our alarm clock ticked sharp at 6am. The sunrise view of changing colours on Mt. Kanchenjunga from our attached balcony was splendid. Post lunch we went for a brisk walk in the adjoining Pine Dhupi, reciting some of the most romantic Tagore poetries together. What could have been a better place to rediscover ourselves!
Sunrise View from Balcony
Mt. Kanchendzonga Range During Sunrise
Mt. Kanchendzonga Range After Sunrise
Overall stay at Icche Gaon was very pleasant with a scenic view of the mountains, tea gardens and Pine Dhupi from our balcony. Our open terrace was gorgeously decorated with multi-coloured flower pots, which seemed to be well maintained by the landlady. By 10am, our driver had come to drop us at Siliguri. Another lovely tour concluded. Let’s see what’s waiting next in the list.
Bye Bye Icche Gaon – See You Soon!