Travel blog on odisha eco tourism near Beleswar and Budhakol

Travel blog on odisha eco tourism near Beleswar and Budhakol

The soul of incredible India, Odisha has its own franchise of ecotourism that provides ideal getaways for tourists to cherish in the lap of nature. Each of the nature camps prove true to its type as every facility in these camps is so friendly like solar electricity, solar heater, bamboo huts, and organic food without the use of plastics. Since these eco-tourism camps have always been my priority for visiting and exploring any destinations in Odisha so this time too I decided to explore Bhanjanagar through Bhanjanagar eco nature camp. The nature camp is situated just beside the reservoir of Bhanjanagar dam which is 175 km from the capital of Odisha. Before starting from Bhubaneswar I quickly chalked out some places to visit on the way to take advantage of this road trip across rural villages of Nayagarh and Ganjam district. The tours and tourism has a lot to offer if one is ready to explore. 

Eco tourism camp in Bhanjanagar Dam, an essential spot to visit for any travelogue. 

My first spot to explore from the Odisha’s your and tourism was a completely unknown place called Baghua dam. Since I have a great fascination with vast open spaces of water so I always choose a dam site to capture the reflections of the greenery and the sky on the water of the reservoir.The dam is a source of income for the local villagers who are local fishermen and for the agricultural community as irrigation water flows into the paddy fields. The panoramic view of the car blue sky and ifs reflection of the clean water of the reservoir is a treat to watch. The Eastern ghats surrounding the reservoir creates a majestic landscape and an ideal backdrop for photography. The road to the dam is pretty good and mostly through rural villages of the Nayagarh district of Odisha. Flowers,Sal trees and coconut plantations forms an avenue as the road advances through the paddy fields and continues further to Bhanjanagar. It is one of the most serene places to visit and cover in one’s travelogue.

Baghua dam reservoir, a must visit to experience the beauty of Odisha’s tour and tourism. 

On the way to Baghua dam, a journey worth the travel. 

The most delightful event that a traveller always expects from a water body is a beautiful sunset or a sunrise. I was blessed with such an opportunity when I visited the nature camp in Bhanjanagar dam where I witnessed one of the most breathtaking sunrises in my lifetime. What makes the nature camp of eco-tourism Odisha best is, its relevant location just on the banks of the reservoir for which we can easily watch a beautiful sunrise in the early morning. Beside the nature camp, is a picnic spot where a floating wooden jetty has been constructed that positions itself as a perfect viewpoint of the entire reservoir and the Eastern ghats. Here the mountains follow its name in a perfect way as fortunately the view of the mountains is on the east and the viewpoint just on its opposite side. So due to all the suitable factors ,as the sun rises in the east the diffraction of the sun rays creates a magical wonder on the water body and the green mountains. Several fishermen can be seen with fishing nets and rowing boats in the reservoir ,waiting to catch fishes for their daily income. The rowing boats thus creates along with the colourful sky a perfect backdrop for a wallpaper when it passes through the lens of a camera with the sunlight exposing the natural landscape of the Ganjam district. Try not missing the sun on either part of the day, it looks beyond amazing.

Floating jetty in Bhanjanagar dam Reservoir, an experience worth experiencing if you are in Odisha and are willing to go to the ends of it. 

In the winters the reservoir is also visited by some major migratory birds that add to the great attraction of this place for the bird watchers. Clean water, fresh air, greenery and breathtaking landscape of the Eastern ghats makes Bhanjanagar an ideal getaway for every travellers, photographers, and bloggers. Travelogues have collected images of arious species of birds which we fail to see otherwise. 

I always dreamt of clicking a perfect picture of a fisherman in his rowing boat with the early morning hues in the background. Bhanjanagar nature camp has a timber house accommodation and their tent accommodation just on the banks of the reservoir providing an ideal retreat for a traveler to experience the serene nature of this green state. The timber house is well managed to provide luxurious accommodation along with eco-friendly equipments like using solar power and biogas ovens to cook food. The accommodation in the timber house is Rs 4500 that includes three times freshly cooked meals by the local people managing this resort. The hospitality is extremely good along with the delectable food cooked by expert cooks. Due to the neatly decorated property, the resort looks like an ideal retreat to capture tranquil memories of landscape photography. As I mentioned earlier due to the picnic spot viewpoint the floating wooden jetty is the most important feature of this camp providing astounding views of the sunrise and early morning scenes in the vicinity of the lake.

The most famous tourist spot in Bhanjanagar is the Beleshwar temple situated in a hill top dedicated to Lord shiva. The Shiva statue inside this temple is eighth largest in the world which attracts numerous pilgrims from all over India. The huge Shiva statue and his vahana Nandi’s statue sits at the top of the Beleshwar hill overlooking the Bhanjanagar town and showering blessings to the 20000 people living in this town. It is the largest statue in Odisha.

Since it was a monsoon season when I visited this place so from the top of the temple the entire valley looked green filled with waters overflowing from the Bhanjanagar reservoir to the villages and  the dark sky, which looked like as if like the lord was holding this two features of natural geography together for the tourists to capture their memories. This extremely holy place along with the marvelous view of the statue of Lord shiva is a must visit place for any traveller to explore this beautiful town of Odisha.

While returning from Bhanjanagar dam to Bhubahneswar, thanks to my driver and guide of OD car that I was able to reach a heritage site in the Ganjam district called Budhakol,The name is derived from the word Badheswara which means Buddha in a meditating position. It was believed that Lord buddha meditated here in his lifetime and even Huentsang visited this place and mentioned in his book trip to India. This place is relatively significant for both the Buddhists and the Hindus. The highlight of this place are the five temples which are known as Panchumahadeva temples having five lingas of Lord Shiva. The temples were believed to have been build in the era of Adi Shankaracharya. The place is famous for its caves , greenery and the water stream that flows from the mountains which further forms a perennial waterfall. Many pilgrims come to this place to take a holy bath underneath the waterfall as its water is believed to have medicinal properties. Concluding the tour of Ganjam district with a visit to such a holy place was a perfect blessing for me as I concluded yet another short weekend trip in Odisha , the soul of incredible India.

One of the five temples dedicated to Lord Shiva in Budhakol, do visit to come closer to the Odisha’s vast tour and tourism escapades. 

Waterfall in Budhakol.

Best offbeat destinations near panaji

The konkan coast historical structures is all about forts that dates to the majestic rule of the Maratha rulers and the Portuguese settlement in Goa. While driving from Mumbai to Goa we will be encountering many exquisite forts of the coast of Arabian sea but as we arrive in Goa the style of architecture changes as the forts in Goa were mainly built by the Portuguese. Among many such forts one of the most beautiful fort from where we can get a stunning view of the Mandovi river and the Arabian sea is Reis magos fort.

Recently restored by the government this fort lies few kms within the heart of the capital city ,Panjim and gets overshadowed from the tourists due to the fame of Aguda and Chapora fort. Let me tell you I have visited other two forts but from this fort the panoramic view of the vast river and sea water is exquisite and stands out much superior than any other fort in Goa. The entry fee to this fort is 50Rs per head with 250 RS extra for a single camera. The fort is very much visible from the Panjim side of the Mandovi river while Panjim can be seen from the Eastern terrace of the fort guarded by three canons.

The fort was a residential place for the viceroy’s travelling to and from Lisbon but was later converted to a prison ,the reminiscence of which can be seen just at the entrance. There are three large rooms inside the fortress that displays the brief history of the fortress built in the 16 th century which has been well preserved by the tourism government of heritage Goa. The fortress was never captured by the Maratha rulers but was briefly conquered by the British army. Though smaller in size than other forts in Goa this fort stands tall with elegance depicting the architecture brilliance of the Portuguese and how they used to prevent the conquests from the nearest estuary of Mandovi river.

Old Goa was the first capital of the Portuguese colony in India and the resemblance of the importance of this beautiful city can be seen through the beautiful architectures built by the Portuguese governors. Church of St. Cajetan which is also known as the church of Divine Providence is a roman catholic church that shows the brilliance of architectural designs in Old Goa. As I was exploring the more offbeat destinations near Panjim so I selected some particular places which have delicate uniqueness in its location and history. As far as location is concerned the church is located near Mandovi river with beautiful plantations of coconut trees creating a serene atmosphere along the road.

The coconut avenue in front of the exquisite riverside of Mandovi river provides an ideal opportunity for capturing the Riverside promenade of Old goa. This church is now a world heritage site which looks like the famous St. Peter’s Basilica of the Vatican city. This is because the church was exclusively designed by the Italian architects and was completed in the year 1661. It was believed that the dead bodies of the Portuguese soldiers were kept in a vault inside the complex of the church before they were being transferred to Lisbon. Visiting this place in monsoon helped me to capture the Mandovi river in its greatest capacity as the water was in high volume while the coconut trees were greener due to the new leaves that matched perfectly with the clouds in the sky.

The realm of the historical heritage buildings and forts can be seen in several parts in Old Goa,a heritage city. Though there are many famous churches but I chose to visit the remains of the St. Augustine tower due to its stupendous historical significance and ecstatic structural remains that still boasts of a delicate church of the past. The church was built in 1602 and now the remains belong to the society of world heritage site.

In the early 19 th century the church collapsed owing to negligence of the then Portuguese rulers who were on the verge of rigorous repressive religious policies. The bell from the tower of this church was moved to the our lady church of the Immaculate in Panjim. The church finally collapsed in 1935 and till date the haunting remains of the complex is the most visited tourist spot in Goa due to its sheer fame among photographers. The church has also been a famous location for the shooting of numerous Bollywood films. Of the four towers only one remain now which is made of laterite bricks and has a height of a four storeyed building. Other than that the complex had eight chapels and four altars.

Old Goa is famous for some gorgeous architecture of churches and chapels which has always been the most favoured location for the shooting of Bollywood films. Every single church in Old Goa is creative and different from one another in its design and history. As such from the numerous churches I chose to visit three churches that provides some unique sense to any traveller, with respect to its location and architecture.

Above picture:- Chapel of the Lady of Mount

Chapel of the Lady of Mount in old goa is a 16 th century chapel which was built by Afonso the Portuguese general after his conquest over the Deccan king, making it one of the oldest chapels in old goa. Every year in the month of November the music festival is celebrated in this chapel projecting the Indian and western classical music. In other times the place remains isolated with the stairs leading to the chapel covered with green grass or algae. The chapel is located on a hilltop providing panoramic views of Panaji town, Mandovi river, and Divar island. Due to its isolated location, the place is ideal for the tranquility of mind, especially in monsoons when it is not much visited by the tourists and we get suitable time to capture the dark clouds floating over the flooded plains of the Mandovi river. Although there are a number of stairs to climb up and reach the chapel, but after reaching that the front of the chapel the panoramic views of old Goa and Mandovi river is worth of every inch of hardship to climb the stairs. I was fortunate enough to reach the chapel just before the arrival of the rains and capture the most astounding scenery of old Goa under the moisture-laden clouds.

It is hard to find freshwater lakes in the middle of a city but Panaji has proved how it can sustain its tourist-friendly vibe along with a green environment. Carambolim lake is situated just a few kilometers near Old Goa and has now turned into a home for numerous species of exotic birds and plants. The government has declared into a sanctuary due to the numerous species of birds that visit this lake in the winter. As it was monsoon when I have visited the lake, it was raining heavily so I couldn’t see any birds but fortunately, I was able to capture the immense greenery in the vicinity of the lake.

The surface of the lake is covered with numerous exotic plants like water lilies, hyacinths and and nymphs. In the distance, as shown in the second picture, we can also see running trains emerging in between the green trees and rice fields of Carmali. Every year in the winters the surface of the lake gets covered with colorful water lilies and the sanctuary around the lake gets active with numerous species of birds which is a delight for bird watchers. Even flamingoes that thrive in the Great Rann of Kutch can be seen flocking here in the winters. Being near to Panaji the communication to this lake is very good so this exotic place can be easily visited by tourists of any age. Due to the vastness of the serene lake and the surrounding green landscape, Carambolim lake is a must tourist spot for a traveller willing to explore the subtle side of offbeat Goa.

Many parts of central goa consist of river islands of which St. Estevam island is a uniquely rich cultural and agricultural place .In ancient times this island was known for the unity of the villagers and the highest GDP among all the places in Goa. This island is also known as Zuem, Xhakecho Zunvo’ (Island of Vegetables) and Ilha de Verde (Green Island). These are all local names but mainly this island is famous for producing a special variety of seven ridges green ladyfinger due to which the villagers were known by the name Bhendi.

Chapel in St.Estevam island.

The island has a fort with the same name constructed by the Portuguese in the seventeenth century is situated on a hillock providing magnificent views of the nearby Divar island and flooded plains of the river. In the monsoons, the nearby plains get flooded by the cumburjua canal and the backwaters of the Arabian sea due to which the entire plains of the nearby Vanxim, Divar and Chorao island looks like green plants floating over a river. Besides the fort, there is also a small church called Christ the King monument church which has some exceptional delicate arc-like structures protruding from the top of there church below the statue of Christ. This fort is not much famous in Goa and there are neither proper signboards leading to the location of the hillock. It is better to take the help of the locals to go to this village. After a certain point, the road becomes rough and narrow and so steep trekking for about 10 minutes is required to go at the top to reach the fort. The design of both the fort and the church is definitely unique than any other structures in Goa which can easily be recognized if a tourist takes a complete tour of exploring forts near Panaji. In the monsoon due to stunning views of the lowland plains and the green grasslands that cover the hillock, the Estevam fort is a must-visit place for enjoying moments of tranquility in the heart of Goa.

Goa is also a famous destination for honeymoon couples due to its vibrant beaches and romantic streets with amazing restaurants. Most of the tourists choose Anjuna and Miramar as the romantic destinations in Goa, but very few people do not know about the charming Fontainhas. Fontainhas is the area at the base of Altinho hill in Panjim which is considered as a world heritage site. Portuguese named it as Fontainhas after a natural spring from the Altinho hill which means Fountain of Phoenix. It was this area where the Portuguese lived after they shifted their capital from Old Goa to Panjim, so one can find numerous heritage buildings of the Portuguese era. The blend of both Indian and Portuguese architecture in the buildings that lay on either side of the lanes in Fontainhas, makes this place so colorful and most sought out place for photographers.

We stayed in Hotel Maetus which is a heritage building, renovated in Portuguese style situated in the heart of Fontainhas in the vicinity of best restaurants of Panjim like the Riverside and Soho. Small cafes and pubs with bright colored walls and white window panes make the lanes a perfect ambience for portrait photography. At the night this heritage place becomes illuminated with neon lights from the European style architecture walls, the best of which can be captured when we go towards the Old Patio bridge in the circle facing the Down the road riverfront restaurant. A walk down the memory lane of the most heritage and colorful place of Panjim is a must activity to imbibe the romantic vibes of Goa.

From Panaji, there are numerous breathtaking destinations which will show us the real versatile geography of Goa. Within 2 hour drive, we can explore some historical caves and astonishing waterfalls. The most famous of such examples is a small village called Sanquelim in Rudreshwar colony, which is just an hour drive from the capital city. The waterfall which is the second most famous in Goa after Dudhsagar waterfalls is known as Harvalem or Arvalem waterfall, and the best time to visit this waterfall is during the monsoons. The water falls from a height of 50 meters from the Cudnem river creating heavy mist in the vicinity which is a wonder to watch. The smoke arising due to the stupendous force of the water creates a marvelous experience for the tourists as it seems like a local drizzling rainfall.

At the downstream of the waterfall, there is a temple called Rudreshwar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is famous among the Hindus for offering rituals to the departed souls on the 12 the day of the funeral. Just a 15-minute walk will take us to the 6th century B.C old ancient cave where it is believed that the five Pandavas of Mahabharata had taken refuge during their exile. While according to other locals it is believed that the caves belong to the Buddhist monks who travelled south and have stayed in the forests of Goa. A trip to Harvalem combines a spiritual and historical experience that greets a traveller with an astounding waterfall and concludes with the mythological stories with the blessings of Lord Rudreshwar.

Rudreshwar temple in Arvalem.

Arvalem Pandava caves.

Offbeat South Goa in monsoon

South Goa is famous for Dudhsagar waterfall which is perhaps the most beautiful waterfall in our country. Apart from that, there are numerous waterfalls in South Goa among which Bamunbudo waterfall is the second most famous in this district. Bamunbudo waterfall is situated on the way to Netravali in South goa in a rural village called Gaondongrim. The waterfall is easily accessible by road as it lies directly on the side of the road surrounded by dense forests. Since I went in the monsoons the waterfall looked more gorgeous than its normal volume as heavy rains increased the volume of water in the streams of the mountains which joins to form the waterfall. The waterfall looks more like plenty of streams sliding along the rocks so it is not vertical like other waterfalls in our country.

Bamunbudo waterfall

Due to the immense greenery on the way to Netravali, the nature in the vicinity of the waterfall is enchanting and welcomes a traveler in a delightful way for the next road ahead to the pristine forests of South Goa.After visiting the rural villages of North Goa and the Amthane valley I thought that was the best part of greenery that I can capture in Goa. To my surprise, south goa has a different captivating landscape that has so much to offer for the tourists visiting the road to Netravali, which is an hour drive from Palolem. Netravali is a sanctuary situated in south Goa famous for the Bubble lake and stunning waterfalls. In the monsoons, it is almost impossible to enter the sanctuary due to heavy rains and strong winds that uproot the trees. So I chose to explore the villages Avem and Gaundongrim which falls on the state highway leading to Netravali. These two villages offer spectacular views of the mountains and the rice fields, with the entire valley turning green on the onset of the monsoons.

Landscape of Avem village.

There is a small waterfall called Bhupar waterfall that lies near Avem surrounded by dense forests and rice fields. The source of the water is mainly the streams flowing from the mountains due to heavy rainfall in the monsoons. The wide stream just in front of the growling waterfall offers breathtaking views in the valley as it joins further downstream into the Talpona River. Due to incessant rains, the mountains were covered with clouds and the rice paddy fields were flooded with streams of water along the lowlands of the mountains. The forests in the village were covered with trees like mango and sal but due to the presence of the coconut trees in some parts of the lowlands, the landscape delivered the presence of Goa, that we normally see in our desktop wallpapers. The one hour trip from Palolem to Netravali is a must-visit activity in the monsoons in order to capture the green rice fields and the rejuvenated waterfalls which marks the onset of rains in the western ghats

Bhupar waterfall.


South Goa is mostly about beaches with hills, palm trees and stupendous viewpoints from the seaside cliffs. But very few tourists know that the southern district of goa has some significant historical forts that provide alluring scenes of the Arabian sea from the cliffs of the forts. Cabo de Rama is an ancient fortress named after the legendary Hindu mythological king Lord Rama. So this fortress is believed to be thousands of years old making it one of the oldest forts in western India. It was built by the local Hindu Soonda rulers which were then conquered by the Portuguese and they changed the name to Cabo de Rama, Cabo meaning cape due to the small cape the fortress forms in the western coastline.

The fortress is situated between two beaches which are Cavelossim and Agonda beach, and also has a small beach beneath the fort which can only be accessed by foot. The Portuguese were attracted to this fort mainly due to the excellent view it provided of the entire coastline in between the two mountains of Agonda and Cavelossim which helped them to see the approaching enemies from the sea. The Portuguese renovated the fort after they captured from the local Hindu rulers but later abandoned it and turned it into a prison. The fortress is now in ruins but it still offers some relevant historical remains of the ancient rulers which can be enchanting to any traveller, along with the magnificent views it offers of the south Goa coastline.

View from the fort Cabo de Rama

Due to the monsoon season ,as evening sets in rain starts to downpour heavily in these parts of the western ghats.So I decided to return back to my hotel via the same route from cabo de rama to patnem beach.On my way I came across a beautiful temple called shree ranjani paik temple on the foothills of the mountains. Due to the immense greenery of the rice fields in the villages the bright orange colour of the temple matched perfectly with the greenery of the village.The temple offers great view of the surrounding valley along with the peaceful and calm atmosphere of the surroundings.orange is associated with the colour of the hindu monks so since this temple is dedicated to the hindus .that is why the orange colour.But irrespective of religion the colourful temple looks perfectly positioned with the green surroundings of the western ghats in south goa.

Shree Ranjani paik temple and the surrounding greenery.


My accomodation in South goa was near patnem beach and the name of the hotel was Crystal Goa Emerald. Located just 100 metres on the sea beach road of patnem the hotel offers luxurious spacious rooms with a small cafe at its entrance.The hotel complex is small as compared to the large resorts in Panaji and north goa, but the rooms are perfectly suited to enjoy a calm and serene atmosphere of patnem beach.

Many of the important archaeological sites in South India stands in ruins which need utmost attention for its presentation. Betul fort is one of a such ancient fort built in 17 th century in the Sal river just when the river falls into the Arabian sea. When we reach the fort we get various significant points on this location. First is the Sal river that flows into the nearby village, Betul lighthouse which is located on the other side of the hill and third is the numerous fishing boats that we see on the other side of the estuary parked on the banks of the Betul beach.

Betul lighthouse.

The pathway leading to the top of the fort is mostly covered with shrubs and grasses but when I reached at the top of the fort the panoramic views that I was able to capture of the sal river was significant in terms of why the fort was built. The canon of the fort had a relevant target view as it faced directly to the estuary and due to the wide-angle unobstructed view, this fort was of utmost importance for the Maratha rulers to guard any progression from the enemy soldiers.

Estuary of the river Sal and the fishing boats.

The fort is located in a small village which is located 1 hour from Madgaon and can easily be reached by car, as bus services are not frequent. In front of the fort, local people can be seen with fishing rods and nets trying to capture the fish and sell in the local market. Numerous hotels and resorts have come up in this village owing to the natural scenery of the Sal River and its estuary which has led to a significant income for the locals. Besides that rice plantation and fishing is the main source of income for the villagers.

Fisherman with his fishing rod in betul beach.

Concluding my south goa exploration of offbeat places with Bigfoot Goa near Madgaon was a relevant experience of knowing ancestral Goa. Bigfoot Goa is a museum depicting about the culture and living lifestyle of the Konkani people, in the form of man-made models. There is a recorded commentary at numerous part in front of the models explaining the society and culture of Konkani people. There are many interesting displays from which we get knowledge about how the Goanese people do farming, process food and wine and celebrate their important rituals.

Konkani festivals and rituals depicted in the form of statues.

Besides such exhibitions, there is an interesting cave which has written on its wall containing the worlds most dangerous animal. But when I went inside I saw my reflection in a mirror inside a cage while there was a growling sound being played in the background. This was quite innovative relating to the symbolic interpretation of human being.

The mystic cave.

After that, the main spot comes where people come to pray and believe their wishes will be fulfilled. Legends say that there was a philanthropic king who lost all his possessions and when God asked him for a boon he asked for a space to stand in one foot and pray. Impressed by his devotion the God marked this space of foot mark of the king as a holy place and declared that any people coming here for a boon, the wish will be fulfilled.

The big foot marked with flower garland.

Apart from such legendary stories, at the last spot that I arrived,there is a 14 meter long Sant Mirabai statue made from laterite soil by MJ Alvares. This statue was carved in just 30 days and is now the largest statue in the world made from laterite soil. Concluding my journey of South Goa district with this museum was perhaps the best way to know about this beautiful state.

 

ToursandJourneys – North Goa, Travel Blog, Monsoon Season

Monsoon in India brings heavy rainfall in the western part of India ,and likewise the greenest scenes of the most famous tourist destination state in India i.e Goa occurs in this season in India. Goa received a heavy monsoon this year and accordingly I planned my trip to explore the rural countryside of Goa in this monsoon.

The green grasslands of the western ghats cliffs in Goa.

I started my journey in exploring the best offbeat locations in Goa from Siolim which is very near to Vagator. On the way to Siolim I found this Chapora sunset view point and a chapel just beside the cliff. The view from this chapel was just exquisite with the Chapora river meeting into the Arabian sea creating difference in density of water thus a variance in the colour of the water. The mountain on the left side is Chapora and that on the right is Morjim as shown in the picture. From the view point the green grasslands created an alluring scenery consulting of a narrow red lane leading to this white chapel. The entire place was devoid of any crowd so it was pretty suitable for me to capture the precise landscape in my camera. As the church is situated on a cliff so we can get a panoramic view of the entire river and the sea from the chapel ,thus making this place an ideal backdrop for capturing potraits with the white chapel and sceneries of the sea and river together. Fortunately due to the monsoon the grass was perfectly green which means there were no other tinge of any other colour not even a dot. So I was able to capture the purest form of monsoon grass and the sufficient volume of water in the sea mouth. Thus this not so famous tourist spot in North Goa enchanted me with a perfect introduction of how I can capture monsoon scenes of Goa in this trip.

Chapora sunset view point.

There are many stories to tell about the great Indian subcontinent and that is why the history of the rulers who ruled in this versatile country varies from different communities. But now it depends on us to preserve the remnants of those culture which will help us to withhold the culture and some important facts in history. The historical facts can be easily learned from the sculptures and buildings constructed by the rulers of that era.In North Goa situated in a rural village called Aldona we found a dilapidated Portuguese fort which now is in ruins and not frequently visited by the tourists.Due to the monsoon rains the walls of the fort has been covered with fresh green grasslands that creates a stunning landscape of the fort. Surrounded by iron rich hills all around, the view of the hills was majestic when we reached on the terrace of the fort.

Built in 18 th century this fortress was used for defence and military by the Portuguese from the neighbouring maratha rulers in the vicinity of Panjim. The fort overlooks the Aldona river and is situated on an island separated by the nearby Mandovi river. This is one of the only two forts surviving which have been made form laterite soil so now it is a protected monument under the Goa,Daman and Diu archaeological society. Though the fort is very small when compared to the other major forts of Goa but in order to see the brighter side of beautiful rural goa ,this is truly a heritage site for tourists visiting this wonderful state.

At the terrace of Corjuem fort.

Road trip in Goa also means capturing the beautiful bridges built over the small rivers that traverse the fertile land in this small state. In monsoon while visiting such architectural genius we can see how the river floods the lowlands of the rural villages in Goa . It’s like vast stretches of water with fresh patches of green grasslands.

The two bridges which has the best stunning designs in North Goa is Aldona bridge and Calvin bridge. Both this bridges falls on the route to Mayhem lake towards Bicholim. Mayhem lake is another newly developed tourist spot in north goa and is gaining huge recognition due to the recent inaugration of  Bungee jumping facility from a height of 55 metres.

Bungee jumping point in Mayhem lake.


The vast wetlands of rural goa with ferry boats along the river basin is the perfect landscape of konkan scenery in the monsoons. In the night the bridges looks more enchanting due to the colourful LED lights that brighten up the beautiful architecture. The roadways in rural goa are excellent but the main achievement of the government is its delicate thinking in making the roadways attractive to the tourists. The bridge shows the artistic mind of the people of Goa and how they preserve that for making this state a famous tourist destination in India.

Aldona bridge.

Calvin bridge.

I took the advantage of the heavy rains and planned to visit a dam in North Goa which will be perhaps filled with plenty of water in it’s reservoir . Amthane dam serves as the main source of water for the nearby rural villages and the valley named after the village Amthane is painted with numerous water streams which gets activated from the rainfall in the monsoon season.

Amthane dam view point.

The road trip from Anjuna to Amthane is an hour trip which brings out two significant different landscapes in the monsoons.On the way to Amthane dam first we get to see roads in between flooded plains with patches of green grasslands. So driving through these roads creates an experience like spending moments in backwaters which perfectly suits with the scenery of the monsoon plains in rural goa.

Flooded plains on the way to Amthane dam.

Then after half an hour the hills arrive with utmost greenery due to the fresh grasslands that covers the valley of the Western Ghats in the monsoons. The patches of black colored rocks shows it’s faces in between the grasslands creating an out of this world experience. The experience was truly the best in this monsoon road trip and I concluded these memorable scenes as I captured the huge reservoir from the circular platform ,relevantly constructed for the panoramic views of the dam.

Amthane valley.

Portuguese forts,vibrant beaches and hippie culture altogether creates a unique ambience for which Goa stands apart from the rest of the states in India. But apart from these specifications that makes Goa the most versatile tourist state ,it is the hospitality and effort of the government that makes this state a friendly and healthy destination for enriching the mind of tourist bloggers.My first day in exploring these fascinating hidden places in the villages of goa ended in a perfect way with the splendid view of the Amthane valley and as rain started to pour down heavily after the sunset i returned back to my hotel to prepare my itinerary in exploring south goa. My accommodation in north Goa was in vagator and the name of the hotel was I love bell botoms,and like the uniqueness in the name the design and architecture of the hotel was even more special.The colorful stairs,violin shaped swimming pool,vibrant colorful walls of the rooms and the umbrella themed restaurant makes this hotel as perhaps the most delicately designed hotels in Goa. Being a 3 star property it provides a budget accommodation and for me this is the best hotel to stay in north Goa to enjoy a perfect hospitality along with the delectable food in the restaurant.

Violin shaped pool and the colourful walls in the hotel.

Next morning I started early for South goa but decided to explore an art museum in north goa before venturing out to the southern district.To my surprise I discovered an art gallery that proves how versatile the people of Goa are ,to set up such a masterpiece in the villages of Goa ,a place which makes every bloggers spell bound on the innovative creative genius of the contributors of this art gallery. Cube gallery is the first of it’s kind Avant grande art gallery situated in Moira ,a rural village in North Goa .

The terrific artwork both as paintings and from materials creates an unique experience like never before. Some talented artists have put up their creativity inside this gallery that blows away the innovative genius of a human mind. Take a note in the picture below that depicts Jhansi ki Rani in a different art form and how the craft work symbolises the splendid interpretation of patriotism for motherland. Likewise the oil paintings are abstract but are award winning pieces of art ,and many of such masterpieces can be seen here in details. The building architecture ,lights and colour combination of the walls ,all have been put to the highest level of creativity for which this place is must visit destination for not only people who love art but for people who wants to see the creative genius of human art.

Jhansi ki Rani depicted through a beautiful artwork.

Oil paintings on a huge canvas.

While returning back to panaji from south goa  I explored a lesser known beautiful chapel in the outskirts of panaji that also lies in north goa district. Siridao or Shirdona as pronounced in Konkani is a small village located just 7km north of Panaji which is famous for the chapel of Jesus of Nazareth. Scholars believe that the architecture of the chapel resembles that of Jewish style and so in the pre-Portuguese era, the place might have been inhabited by the Jews. This chapel is located on a hilltop overlooking the Siridao beach where the zuari river meets the Arabian sea.

Just like the statue of Jesus in Rio De Janeiro in Brazil, there is a Jesus statue standing tall on this hill. The beautiful white and sky blue color combination of the chapel and the stairs makes it an ideal destination for the photographers who can also get a panoramic view of the Zuari bay. It is recommended to visit the chapel early in the morning to catch the reflections of the sunlight on the white color of the chapel and watch a beautiful sunrise from the horizon. Unlike other chapels, this chapel is smaller in size but the surrounding area is huge with avenues of coconut trees. The statue of Jesus is an added attraction as it stands on the highest point of village , as if giving his blessings to the society and culture of around 2200 people living in this quaint village.

There are many other terrific and fascinating places in north Goa but it depends on a tourist on how much days the person can spend in exploring this small district with enormous geographical and historical features. Keep following our website as after this I will explain the best offbeat locations to explore in south Goa.

Mahabaleshwar Diaries-As the monsoon arrives in the Western Ghats.

kates point mahabaleshwar


Mahabaleshwar is all about plenty of stunning view points that mostly lies in the old Mahabaleshwar road. While driving from Panchgani towards Mahabaleshwar we took the road towards old Mahabaleshwar and followed the road which ends at Arthur’s seat. The road travels through the dense forests of Mahabaleshwar providing immense greenery as the trees formed canopy over the roads.

DENSE FOREST ALONG OLD MAHABALESHWAR ROAD.

Of the numerous view points we selected Elphinstone point,Savitri point and Arthur’s seat point. The first picture is that of Elphinstone point which is also known as Elephant’s head point as the shape of one of the mountain at this point looks like the head of an elephant. This view point offers stunning views of the Koyna river valley and is one of the highest point of Mahabaleshwar. The second picture is that of Savitri point which lies after Elphinstone point on the way to Arthur’s seat. The Savitri point is also known as suicide point offering breathtaking views of Savitri river forming gorges along the Western Ghats. All these view points offer stunning moments for photography due to the backdrop of the mountains amidst dense fauna. In the monsoons the view points become active with numerous waterfalls that create some out of this world experience for the travelers. Though monsoon is the best time to visit these view points in Mahabaleshwar ,but due to such beautiful panoramic views of the river valleys ,these view points are worth visiting all throughout the year.

VIEW FROM ELPHINSTONE POINT.

VIEW FROM SAVITRI POINT.

Arthur’s seat point is undoubtedly the queen of all view points in Mahabaleshwar to capture the panoramic views of the Sahyadri mountains. This is the last point when we took the diversion from old Mahabaleshwar road towards Elphinstone point so ,I had to walk for nearly 20 minutes to reach the Arthur’s seat point which is at a height of 1470 metre above sea level.


As I started walking from the parking lot I came across several significant points which are Echo point,Malcom point,Tiger spring point and finally Arthur’s seat point. The place was crowded and the whole walking trail is filled with numerous shops selling corn and other fast food items. The influx of the tourists is highest in this spot as it is the most famous tourist view point in Mahabaleshwar so capturing photos without the crowds is nearly impossible.
Arthur’s seat is named after Arthur’s Malet who lost his wife and daughter in a tragic accident in Savitri river ,so the British officer used to sit here and gaze at the river. From the view point the valley looks like a great canyon dividing the Konkan and Deccan valley.

As I reached the extreme point it started to rain heavily so I was not able to capture the panoramic views of the canyon but surprisingly I was fortunate enough to see the magical natural phenomena of the changing colours of the sky as the moisture laden clouds slowly moved from one side of the canyon towards the other end and the rain drops started floating towards the view point. In the monsoon perhaps this is a dramatic experience so although the photos may not be so clear in capturing the natural beauty of the valleys but the exquisite natural phenomena of the changing climate clearly provokes a magical experience.

VIEWS FROM ARTHUR’S SEAT POINT.NOTE THE DENSE DARK CLOUDS.

My next destination in Mahabaleshwar was Kate’s point which provides a panoramic view of the Dhoom dam and the Krishna river. In all the three previous view points the weather was damp with frequent downpours, but when I arrived at Kate’s point the sky was clear with bright sunlight offering staggering reflections of the green mountains as the sunlight pierced the dark clouds. The dark clouds and the bright sunlight painted Sahyadri mountains with multiple colours and helped me to capture a distant vision of the Krishna river valley.

Although the same valley can be seen from Parsi point but what makes Kate’s point stand unique is it’s altitude as the view point is situated at 1290 metres on a flat land on a plateau. Due to it’s height and the terrace like structure the view of the Krishna river valley is most clear and best from this majestic view point of Mahabaleshwar.

The view point has three points in total which are Echo point,Kate’s point and Needle hole view point. The view point was named after the daughter of then British governor Sir John Malcom and indeed like all the view point of Mahabaleshwar due credits must be given to the British governors of those era for exploring Mahabaleshwar as the queen of all hill stations in Western Ghats.

Apart from the view points Mahabaleshwar has some other important destinations both of historical and geographical experience. Venna lake is one of them which is an ideal entertaining spot for travelers coming here for vacation. This artificial lake is a major tourist spot in the heart of the Mahabaleshwar town where tourists can enjoy boating around the lake surrounded by the Western ghat mountains. In the monsoons the water of the lake looks even more fresh and the surrounding grasslands of the mountains rejuvenates with greenery that makes it an ideal scenic spot to capture the beautiful landscape. But during the monsoons the government doesn’t allow boating facilities for the tourists in the lake to avoid accidents due to landslides from the mountains bordering the edges of the lake.

Being a major tourist spot the place is crowded throughout the year with plenty of fast food and tea shops that thrive on the visitors coming for boating in Venna lake. The locals also offer rented horse rides for the tourists which may be an alluring adventure for the kids when the boating facilities are not available. Venna lake is a man made lake built by the Raja of Satara in the year 1942 so despite not being a natural lake ,the serenity and the cool breeze in the vicinity of the lake is undoubtedly refreshing like any other natural freshwater lake in India.

Without a memorable sunset or sunrise a trip to a hill station is never complete. As I had only a day to explore to Mahabaleshwar so I decided to conclude my day trip in this hill station with a sunset.The most famous point in Mahabaleshwar for watching the best sunset of this hill station is Bombay point, which offers different shades of a sunset. The place is visited by numerous tourists ,specially after 5 o clock in the evening and that is why there are numerous shops in the large open space which has been built to help the large number of tourists to have a wide view of the sunset. When I visited this place it was already drizzling and unfortunately the drizzle converted into a heavy downpour. But surprisingly after the downpour the entire place was covered with clouds and the distant hills showed up with different shades of the sun rays as the dark clouds slowly passed away. I was lucky enough to watch such magical phenomena of nature where I was standing in between the clouds while the Western Ghats were reflecting the multi colours of sun rays after the rain.

There were more interesting places which a tourist can visit to imbibe the valiant historical stories near Mahabaleshwar like The Pratapgarh fort and Pandavgad fort. Also tourist can camp near the Koyna river and explore the scenic landscape of the sanctuary on the banks of the river that adds to the beautiful geographical features of Maharashtra. Keep following my website www.toursandjourneys.com to see more of Maharashtra in my next blogs and don’t forget to subscribe my YouTube channel Toursandjourneys to watch the documentary of this trip.

Panchgani Diaries-As the monsoon arrives in Western ghats.

table land panchgani


India is a country with one of the most diverse geographical features and one of those features can be traced in the Western Ghats the origin of which is older than the mighty Himalayas. Due to the immense geographical significance of the formations of Western Ghats when the Indian plate drifted from Gondwana the surface of the this natural phenomena provides some unique landforms that attracts numerous tourists and researchers all around the world.

Being near to Mumbai which is the financial capital of India ,the communication to the hill stations of these mountains are excellent which helps the tourists to visit this unique landmass throughout the year. But the perfect time to visit hill stations of these ancient mountains is when the monsoon arrives on the western coastal of India. Due to the drizzles and clouds changing with the patterns of sunlight and rainfall the road trip in the highway along the Western Ghats provides numerous view points with stunning views of the western valley.

TYPICAL GHAT ROAD ALONG THE WESTERN GHATS.

Apart from Lonavala,Khandala ,Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani are two other major hill stations in the western coast that becomes the prime spots for the tourists in the monsoons. Accordingly I chose the month of June when the monsoon just arrives in the western coast and I started the road trip from Panvel ,the centre of Navi Mumbai. While driving along Mumbai Pune express way we crossed the twin hill stations of Lonavala and Khandala and took our first break for lunch in Pune. Throughout the journey the just arrived monsoons accompanied us with slight drizzles and the landscape through the windows of our car looked even more enchanting as the grasslands of the mountains got drenched with the raindrops.

ROAD TO PANCHGANI AFTER PUNE EXPRESSWAY.

After 5 hour drive we took the diversion from the national highway towards Panchgani Mahabaleshwar state highway and crossed the town Wai. Wai is also a scenic gateway from Navi Mumbai due to it’s location in the Krishna river valley and its vicinity to reach Dhoom dam.

FIRST VIEW POINT OF TOWN WAI ALONG THE GHAT ROAD.

Just before entering Panchgani we came across a parachute gliding point called Harrison’s folly beside the highway which is not only a relevant view point but also a great spot for adventure lovers. In the monsoon though the pictures may not be clear due to less visibility but the clouds loaded with moisture provides an unique experience ,which is suitable enough to capture a mystic moment with the nature. Perhaps monsoon brings to us the best possible features of this unique geographical landmass and that is why a tourist must include this road trip to explore the best of Western India.

MOIST CLOUDS COVERING THE HIGHWAY.

VIEW FROM HARRISON’S FOLLY.

The twin hill stations of Maharashtra ,Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani are loaded with numerous resorts and homestays ,with some providing esteem luxury for the tourists. In the midst of such pool of accommodations it is really hard to choose the best location to spend the vacation surrounded by Western Ghats. My personal choice are always homestays than resorts or hotels owing to their superior scenic locations. Fortunately I found this homely resort tucked away in a hill ,only 2 kms from the famous Mapro garden in Panchgani. The resort is situated on top of a hill surrounded by lush greenery and grasslands creating a paradise for travelers seeking solitude amidst nature. The rooms are clean and food was relatively nice with sufficient options in the menu. The swimming pool and the park adds delicacy to the Grand backdrop of this resort ,thus an ideal retreat for a family coming here for vacation. Though the 1 km muddy road from the highway, to this hotel is a disadvantage but the location and hospitality that this resort provides overlooks this minimal stress. Just in front of the resort there is a huge strawberry plantation where tourists can get the idea of strawberry farming from the local farmers. A mixture of both a homestay and luxury like a five star resort ,this is perhaps the ideal retreat for accommodation in Panchgani or Mahabaleshwar.

IVY PARK HOTEL COMPLEX 

The first significant view point of the Western Ghats valleys in the highway of Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar is the Sydney point which is near the Panchgani town. From the view point one can get a panoramic view of the Sahyadri range and the Krishna river flowing through the village Wai. So the beautiful village of Wai and the Dhoom reservoir built on the Krishna river can be seen from this majestic view point of the Western Ghats. Visiting the Sydney point in monsoon can be a disadvantage as the clear distant views of the Krishna valley will be obstructed by the clouds ,but on the other hand the mists and the clouds creates a different experience in the natural ambience of this tourist spot. The grass starts to grow in plenty and the valley looks green providing a more soothing image rather than the dry brown grasses in the summer and winters. According to the preference of a tourist Sydney point provides a memorable company with nature ,but the colours will be different according to the seasons.

VIEW FROM SYDNEY POINT.

The uniqueness in visiting the serene hill stations of the Western Ghats in Maharashtra is the combination of sunrays and the moisture ladden clouds that play hide and seek throughout the day ,in the months from June till end of August. Due to this the colourful contrast of rain and sunlight can be captured perfectly from the numerous view points in Panchgani. When I arrived at the Sydney point the moisture ladden clouds started to pour in the raindrops in the form of a drizzle and the whole area became invisible due to the dense fog. But unlike Sydney point ,Parsi point as shown in the picture ,the sky got cleared from the dark clouds and the rays of sunlight created beautiful reflections of the valley.

PANORAMIC VIEWS FROM PARSI POINT.

From both these view points we are able to see the town Wai ,the reservoir of the Dhoom dam and the Krishna river. From the view points we get to see the Sahyadri range and it’s valley created on the banks of the Krishna river. Local guides have set up telescopes in Parsi point ,guiding us the geographic details of the different points in the valley. The Parsi point derives its name as it was the favourite place for the Parsis in ancient times ,while Sydney point derives it’s name after Sir Sydney Beckwarth ,who was a governor of Mumbai in 1830. These two view points forms major tourist spots to visit in the Panchgani to Mahabaleshwar road and the best time to get the perfect views is during the sunset.

One of the most important and scenic destination in Panchgani is the Table land ,which is considered as Asia’s second longest mountain plateau which is at a height of 4500 feet. The spot is the highest point in Panchgani and due to this special feature there are several view points in this spot. There are horse carts available with the help of which tourists can take a complete tour of this volcanic plateau in 1.5 hours for just RS 500.

THE VAST TABLE LAND.

Among the important spots in this land the shooting point ,the Pandava caves and the footprints of pandava are the prime spots. From mythical stories it is believed that the legendary pandavas lived here during exile from their kingdom and the cave there was the kitchen where they used to cook their food. From the two opposite sides of the table land the new Panchgani and old Panchgani towns are visible ,and an important aspect can be seen from this plateau which shows the five flat mountains of the Sahyadri range meeting at a point and that is how the name Panchgani was given to this hill station where “Panch” means five and “gani” means settlement. From the shooting point the Table lake is visible which along with the scenic views of the shooting point has always been a prime location for numerous Bollywood films over the years.

ONE OF THE FIVE HILLS THAT SURROUND PANCHGANI.

 

VIEW OF NEW PANCHGANI TOWN FROM TABLE LAND.

My next destination was a relatively historical and mystical place which I discovered on a signboard while going towards the Table lake ,i.e Rajapuri caves. Finding the route to this cave is a bit tricky as the road leading to this spot goes mainly through the rural villages of Panchgani and there are no clear signboards. So after asking the locals I followed a narrow road and finally reached the entrance to the cave marked by a architectural designed gate. Through the concrete footsteps I reached down a cliff and to my surprise I saw structures and idols that resembles an age old civilization ,the mystery of which is till unknown to many and hidden away in a jungle but not far from a famous hill station.

ON THE WAY TO RAJAPURI CAVES.PANORAMIC VIEW OF NEW PANCHGANI TOWN.

 

ENTRANCE GATE TO RAJAPURI CAVES.

Perhaps people visiting Panchgani gets so much engulfed in the entertainment ,organic foods and view points of the Western Ghats ,that they have forgotten about this significant historical spot which is also divine for the local residents living here. I went inside the cave to see the rock cut structures of idols of Hindu gods.In one of the cave a water comes out from the nose of a bull that falls in a sacred well below. The water is perennial all through the year. No one knows the source of the water but according to the locals it comes from Ganga and thus a very sacred place for the Hindus.

STONE IDOLS INSIDE RAJAPURI CAVES.NOTE THE PERENNIAL STREAM COMING OUT FROM THE MOUTH OF A BULL.

Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani stands out as one of the most famous hill station of the Western Ghats because of the huge amount of entertaining activities that it provides for the tourists who are visiting with their families.

Panchgani is not only about the panoramic view points of the Krishna river valley ,this beautiful hamlet also includes delightful strawberry farms which are world famous for its organic products. Managed by MAPRO (Maharashtra Agro Products) the Mapro Garden and its outlets are one of the most frequently visited tourist spots in this hill stations due to the unique local organic products made by the local farmers. The products ranges from syrups,beverages,sauce,chocolates,jams etc which are unique in it’s variety and taste. The restaurants managed by MAPRO offers numerous options for breakfast and supper from local made cheese,fruit shakes and spices. Visiting the Mapro Garden and collecting the juice jam bottles is a must do activity to keep the memories of this enchanting hill station.

People in India mostly travel to the hill stations to enjoy the serene mountains and the soothing weather of the mountain valleys. Panchgani provides an ideal getaway for imbibing the healthy climate of the Western Ghats along with its numerous adventure parks,mapro gardens and the wax museum. The newly constructed Hollywood wax museum is a delight for tourists of all age as it provides a different experience of entertainment for the tourists visiting here for vacation. By paying RS 300 per head a tourist can see the numerous statues of famous celebrities and also a 9 D movie. The statues are quite similar with the actual faces and characters of our television and social personalities and thus attracts numerous tourists for capturing a different experience other than the mountains. The 9D movie is really exhilarating ,providing a perfect virtual experience unless the person watching the features of a multidimensional movie is not faint hearted. The 20 minute of thrilling experience is a must do activity in Panchgani as the wax museum and the 9D movie is first of its kind in any hill stations in India. The statues are mostly of actors belonging to Hollywood movies and that is why perhaps this wax museum is known is Hollywood museum.

The museum is located near Panchgani town on the highway of Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar highway which is quite significant as tourists visiting this part of the Western Ghats mainly travel to the famous view points towards Mahabaleshwar on the highway. So while returning from Mahabaleshwar towards our hotel in Panchgani ,I visited this place which concluded my trip in the most fascinating way.

Best travel blog on West Sikkim Yuksom



Apart from Pelling being the main city of Western Sikkim ,there are many other important destinations from where a traveller can explore even more ancient monasteries and the versatile geography of western Sikkim. Yuksom is one of  such village in the north most fringe of West Sikkim which not only forms an important base point for the famous Goechala trek but also has a rich historical background of ancient Sikkim when it was closely attached with Tibetan Buddhism. Yuksom was the first capital of the Sikkimese ruler in the 17 th century which was later shifted to Rabdentse near Pelling. Yuksom has the oldest monastery of West Sikkim called the Dubdi monastery situated deep within the forests. But before reaching Yuksom which is 35 kms away from Pelling ,the route has some important destinations with some exquisite landscapes which are must visit tourist spots for every traveller travelling to Sikkim.

As we started our road trip through the meandering roads towards Yuksom we crossed the village Darap which has recently become famous as an eco friendly village,with numerous homestays offering stunning views of Mt. Kanchenjunga peak.After that we proceeded to one of the most famous destination in West Sikkim known as Khecheopalri lake. Khecheopalri lake is situated in the village with the same name at an altitude of 1700 metres above sea level and is a sacred lake for the sikkimese people. The lake forms the pilgrimage site of the most important pilgrimage tour for the sikkimese people which consists of Yuksom,Dubdi monastery,Pemayangtse monastery,Rabdentse ruins ,the Sanga Choeling monastery and Tashiding. The local name of the lake refers to “Oh lady sit here” which refers to the footprints of Goddess Tara blessed by Guru Padsambhava. Hence due to the sacred history of the lake it is also known as wish fulfilling lake.

View of Khecheopalri lake as we enter the jetty.

There is a white stupa on the walking trail to the lake and a grey stupa just in front of the lake. Along with the symbols and prayers marked on the walls on the way to the lake it symbolises the religious sacredness of the place for both the Buddhist and the Hindus. The vicinity of the lake is marked with numerous prayer flags of various colours which adorns the beautiful natural scenery in a splendid way.

White stupa at the start of the trail leading to Khecheopalri lake.

A hike at the top of a mountain will take us to a view point from where we get to see the entire periphery of the lake which looks like the footprint of the local God Tara. Hindus also believe it to be the footprint of Lord Shiva who meditated in one of the caves of the nearby sacred hill. Now a jetty has been built marked by prayer wheels to lead us to the front of the lake where tourists may offer incense sticks and worship the sacred goddess of the lake.

Ancient Stupa just at the front of Khechopalri lake.

The lake is believed to be free from any leaves of trees as it is believed that the birds in the vicinity pick up the leaves which fall into the lake. The lake contains numerous fishes that thrive which can be easily seen from the jetty. The road to the lake is through dense Himalayan forests and one has to take a 10 min walk through the dense forests from the monastery at the starting of the village ,after which no vehicles are allowed. Shoes are not allowed in the jetty and tourists are requested to maintain silence which is a common ethic in each and every tourist spot maintained by the Sikkimese people.

Place of worship at Khecheopalri lake which can be reached through the jetty.

Numerous prayer flags in the premises of the lake signifying the sacredness of the lake to the Sikkimese people.

The native people living here are mostly of Lepcha origin whose main source of income is farming and shops for tourists. The influx of the tourists is huge in this sacred lake due to its sacredness and tourist travelling to Sikkim must visit this destination in priority to complete the religious circuit of West sikkim. Capturing the beautiful mountains and the pristine water of the lake in a frame is a must do activity for any tourist travelling to north east India and tourists must also include the adjoining stupas,prayer flags and the natural scenery in their frame as a memorable experience to remember.
Our next destination was Kanchendzonga waterfall which is situated at an hour drive before Yuksom just beside the Pelling Yuksom highway. The first stream of waterfall is a narrow one from where the local people has set up zip line adventure sports that is an added attraction for the tourists.As we walk further inside through the rocks we come across the main waterfall which is of much greater volume but lesser in height than other waterfalls in the rest of Sikkim. But the huge volume of water gushing down to the gorge below the highway is a magnificent attraction which allures every tourist visiting Pelling in West Sikkim.

Kanchenjunga waterfall

One advantage that we got was that the waterfall volume increased due to the previous day rainfall for which we were able to capture a more beautiful gushing free flow of water in the vicinity of the mountains. The waterfall is perennial in nature so tourist can visit the waterfall in anytime of the year which proves the permanent importance of this tourist spot in West Sikkim.

As we proceeded towards Yuksom ,we crossed numerous iron bridges which are frequent here in the highways across north east of India. People of Sikkim adorn them with prayer flags which makes them look more beautiful with the background of the Himalayan mountains.We crossed the fast flowing Rathmong Chu river that later meets the Teesta river in the south of Sikkim and entered the quaint village of Yuksom through the meandering roads. The road quality is pretty good except some rough patches which is common due to the landslide zone of the Himalayas.

One of the many iron bridge over the mountain rivers. In this case the river was Rathmong Chu,just before Yuksom.

We checked into Hotel Red Palace which is situated 1 km uphill inside the pine forests of Yuksom bazaar. I must say this the best hotel in this small hill station that offers some out of this world views of the Himalayas from its premises. The hotel offers rooms starting from Rs 1600 which are wooden and spacious rooms ,each of them having wide angle views of the West Sikkim valley. Most surprisingly the Chenrezig statue of the skywalk in Pelling is visible from the hotel and the Mount Kabru peak of the Himalayas.

View from our room in Hotel Red palace.

The terrace of the hotel offering beautiful views of the mountains.

The hotel windows and the corridors are beautifully decorated having paintings of the tribal Sikkimese people on the white walls of the corridors. It has a cozy decorated sitting area in its reception and a library in the 1st floor. The restaurant offers delectable dishes which is situated in the basement. The most alluring part of the hotel is its open terrace that offers panoramic view of the Sikkim valley. The hotel is situated in a completely secluded place surrounded with pine forests and vast open grounds which are decorated with yellow prayer flags.

Hotel Red palace in Yuksom.

The terrace was an ideal place to have an early morning breakfast.

In the premises Stupas have been built where I think people come to offer prayers. The stupas are very common in this part of Sikkim perhaps due to the influence of Tibetan Buddhism since this entire circuit in West Sikkim has been derived from Guru Padmasambhava.

Stupas for worship inside the campus of the hotel.

The first tourist spot that we visited in Yuksom was the Norbugang coronation throne.The spot was previously a trekking route but now the spot is motorable through a cobbled road . The tourist spot has an adjacent monastery which has a huge statue of the Buddhist statue overlooking the Yuksom valley. One has to remove shoes to enter the sacred place of this monastery.

Monastery beside Norbugang coronation throne.

Views of the Yuksom valley from the monastery.

The coronation throne is more like a park which has a rich history dating back to the 17th century when Yuksom was the capital of the Sikkimese king. Here the king Lhatsen Chempo was coronated by three lamas and it was believed that when the king received the gifts from all the people of the area ,these were buried in the chortens that was build with woods and stones collected from all parts of Sikkim.The throne known as Norbugang is situated below a large pine tree which is now believed to be more than three hundred years old.The coronation throne which was built with stones is whitewashed now and decorated with numerous prayer flags all around. This sacred place is of high importance for all the Lepcha people residing in Sikkim and adjacent parts belonging to Tibetan Buddhism.

Holy park of Norbugang decorated with prayer flags 

The coronation Place of Norbugang Coronation place.

Adjacent to this holy park there is a lake called Kathok which also derives it’s significance from Buddhism practiced by the lamas living in the area. The sanctity of the lake can be understood by the numerous prayer flags that fits in with the pristine green grassland and the surrounding mountains in the vicinity of the lake. I was even surprised to see the colourful orange fishes inside the lake that thrive on the algae and organic plants on the lake. The lake can be reached through by a meagre 50 metres walking through a rough terrain of rocks and roots but this little effort will lead us to a wonderful location of utmost natural beauty in this part of Sikkim.

Kathok lake.

Next an half an hour drive in the direction of the helipad of Yuksom will lead us to the oldest monastery of Sikkim called Dubdi monastery.The road to the Dubdi monastery is extremely rough and patchy through dense forests. From the motorable road one has to trek uphill for 400 metres to reach this ancient monastery. The trek is through dense jungle and extremely steep so be careful to hold your breath and keep your time to reach your final destination. The monastery is situated in a completely isolated place and most of the tourists come here to spend their time in solitude.

Trail path to Dubdi monastery.

The monastery in local language meaning the retreat was established by the first king of Sikkim in the year 1701 .The monastery has a beautiful architecture which contains ancient manuscripts and the three statues of the lamas who established Yuksom as the first capital of Sikkim in the 17 th century.Relevant to it’s historical importance the monastery is situated inside deep forest providing astounding views of the Himalayas in the background. The monastery is a must visit place in West Sikkim to understand the significant life of the monks who still practice Tibetan buddhism and lead their exclusive life dedicated to Buddhism.

Dubdi Monastery.

After that we proceeded towards Siliguri and on the way we decided to visit Phamrong waterfalls as our last destination in this circuit. Phamrong waterfall is situated deep into the forests ,7 km from Yuksom on the highway towards Tashiding. This is the highest waterfall of Sikkim and the splendid view of the gushing waterfall flowing down from the Himalayas can be captured from a bridge just on the front of the waterfall ,adorned with prayer flags.

For travellers seeking to get a closer view of the waterfall one has to trek around 200 steps after which there is a view point.The trek is a little bit scary as the steps are almost damaged and one has to cross some precarious terrain of rocks and boulders.

Steps to main view point of Phamrong waterfall.

The pathway is through dense jungle but after some 15 minute of hard work one gets the delightful opportunity to spend some precious moments with the alluring scenery of the mighty waterfall. From here one gets to capture the waterfall in their photo frame from different angles and admire the greenery of the surrounding Himalayas.

After my short stay in West Sikkim I returned back through the same route via Jorethang to Siliguri taking back beautiful memories of the most religious circuit of Sikkim. I missed the Tashiding monastery which forms the last town in this heritage Buddhist circuit of the 17th century history of Sikkim as I was short of time. But I would advice every traveller to follow this route and spare an hour in Tashiding to complete the entire circuit. Tashiding monastery will fall on the same route so it will be quite easy to plan accordingly while completing the itinerary of West Sikkim. It is also advisable to stay for another day in Yuksom as after my numerous adventures in the Himalayas I found this quaint village as one of the most scenic and cleanest village in North East of India. The hill station provides some stunning views of the Himalayas and is also an important gateway to the enigmatic Kanchendzonga national park.

On my return journey to Siliguri as I crossed Tashiding I saw the Rathong Chu river meeting the Rangit river which then further flows down and meets the Teesta river into North Bengal. The iron hanging bridges with numerous prayer flags we’re common in these river crossings which reminded me of the ethnic mountain people living their life in these mountains. The view of the gorges from these bridges with the natural sound of the gushing waterflow of the river water through the rocks are always the best memories to cherish after a trip to the mighty Himalayas.

A hanging bridge just after legship built at the  confluence of Rathong chu river with Rangit river.

While returning one can have lunch in Jorethang which as mentioned earlier is one of the main city in Sikkim where backpackers can easily find shared taxi from the taxi stand to different parts of Sikkim as it is a major public communication hub.

With this I conclude my journey of West Sikkim but do keep following our blogs as West Sikkim doesn’t end here. West Sikkim has more hidden treasures in the further west which I will explore in my next trip to Okhrey and Uttarey ,surrounding the Varsey rhododendron sanctuary.

Gateway to the history of Sikkim-Pelling.

chenrezig statue skywalk pelling


As the spring season starts in India the immense heatwave arrives in most of India and most of the schools starts to have their summer vacations.In order to get respite from this summer most of the travelers do travel to the hill stations to enjoy the cool weather and the natural beauty of the spring season in the mountains.The roads in the Himalayas starts to open in the month of April as the snow starts to melt in the high altitudes of the Himalayas. Due to spring season the whole of the Himalayan valley’s blooms with colorful flowers which adds to the scenery of the landscape. So as the April month starts one should start to plan to visit to any of the hill stations in the Himalayas.


Sikkim is situated in the north Eastern part of India ,in the lap of the Himalayas having an international boundary with Tibet,Nepal and Bhutan. The only route to reach this mountainous state is through North Bengal from Siliguri. Though Sikkim is a very small state but it consists an immense versatile geography for which it is better to plan the routes of Sikkim accordingly depending on the duration of holidays. The state is mostly covered with mountains so travelling around the state is slow owing to the tough road conditions. There is no railway station in Sikkim so one has to depend on car for travelling around Sikkim.

This beautiful state is one of the cleanest state in India and provides some majestic views of Mountain Kanchenjunga from it’s western most part of the state. So I decided to explore the Western part of Sikkim which also has some important base point for high altitude mountain trekkers.As I started of from Jalpaiguri station the terrain started to change from the plain fertile land of the Mahananda river into a mountainous highway along the Teesta river. The road was along the Teesta river which is also an important hub for hydro power plants in India. So the journey till the arrival of Sikkim border was along this beautiful river . The river looked completely green as we passed one of the many gorges of the river and as we started to gain height the greenery started to increase. A little later we reached Melli which is the border town of Sikkim and West Bengal provides some wonderful views of the Teesta river . The whole of the bridge that separates the two states in Melli is covered with prayer flags which makes the bridge an ideal spot to capture memories.

View of Teesta River from Melli bridge.

Soon we crossed the police check post and after this the highway was pretty smooth till Kitam Bird sanctuary. After the bird sanctuary the road became terrible but the landscape kept us relieved from the stress of the journey. It took 5 hours for us to reach Pelling ,the most important hill station in West Sikkim. We checked in to Hotel Yangthang Dzimka resorts .

Just before entering Pelling city.

View from our resort ,birds sighting was an added splendor.

Pelling is situated at an elevation of 2100 meters above sea level and it offers one of the best views of Mt. Kanchenjunga. Apart from that this city has ruins of an ancient civilization which is also an UNESCO world heritage site. Being on the western part of Sikkim it is the gateway to the two most important treks called Goechla and varsey rhododendron sanctuary. The town has India’s first skywalk in the state and monastries of 17 th century. The hotel is situated near the helipad at upper Pelling and the location was just at the perfect central point of the city from where we had an easy access to all the important tourist spots. The rooms of the hotel are pretty spacious and it’s restaurant offers only vegetarian food. On the very first day as one will reach Pelling on the way one can visit the Rabdentse ruins and the Pemayangtse monastery. Make sure to start early in the morning from Jalpaiguri to spend an useful amount of time in these two places.
Rabdentse ruins is a protected place by the Archaeological society of India and is located inside a jungle which is a small bird sanctuary in the middle of the hill station. Even one will get to see rare species of Himalayan birds in the zoo built inside the park ,on the way while going to this UNESCO heritage site. It will take approximately 20 minutes to walk and cover a steep road inside the dense forest in order to reach the site, which is of course tiring but the stress will be completely vanquished by the essence and the charisma that this historical place offers to a tourist.

Himalayan Bird zoo just at the beginning of the Rabdentse trail.

Jungle walk on the way to Rabdentse Ruins.

The three stone pillars known as chortens are the main attraction of Rabdentse Ruins where the king and his family members used to offer prayers to their deities. From this place where the chortens are located panoramic views of the entire Sikkim valley and Kanchenjunga is visible. Other than this there is a northern and southern wing of this palace. The northern wing used to be the residential place of the noble family members of the king and the southern wing used to be the assembly court where common people used to assemble in front of the king.

The three chortens in the prayer hall of Rabdentse ruins.

Panoramic view of Rabdentse site from the assembly court of the king. 

The Rabdentse site was the second capital of Sikkim in the 17th century which was later attacked by the Gurkhas of Nepal and reduced to ruins. This place with such extensive views of immense greenery and mountains not only offers a rich history of our cultural country ,but also offers a 360 degree views of the charming valleys of western Sikkim.

On the way to Pemayangtse monastery.

After visiting Rabdentse ruins a 10 min drive will lead us to Pemayangtse monastery which is the second oldest monastery in Sikkim ,that was built after the ruler of Sikkim in 17th century shifted his capital to Rabdentse. This Buddhist monastery follows the Nyingma tradition which is the oldest tradition among the four Tibetan schools of knowledge. Nyingma simply means ancient because it was derived from the the early Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit.

The main monastery of Pemayangtse.

Colorful buildings inside the monastery.

This monastery controls every other monasteries in West Sikkim and contains monks of pure Tibetan lineage without physical abnormalities. The monastery has beautiful architectures and the main prayer hall is surrounded by the residential buildings of the monks. The main prayer hall contains the state of Guru Rinpoche in his various forms of incarnations who is considered to have revived Buddhism in Tibet. At the entrance of the monastery a red wall containing Buddhist prayers is a major attraction for all those travelers seeking to click their photos in a colorful background.

In the evening it is a perfect time to go to the skywalk which has been newly constructed by the Sikkim government and to the adjacent Sangachoeling monastery.The Pelling skywalk was opened on November 2018 and since then it has attracted numerous tourist from across the whole world. This is a first skywalk built in India and it is transparent made of glass that adds to the adventure to this spot.The main attraction of this skywalk is the Chenrezing statue which is 134 meters tall that adorns the skies of West Sikkim as it is situated on top a mountain which is visible from almost major parts of West Sikkim.

View of Chenrezig Buddha statue from the skywalk.

One needs to walk up numerous steps to reach the statue from where the entire skywalk and the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas are visible. In fact such large Buddhist guru statues is very common  in Sikkim which can be find in other parts of the states also,enhancing the influence of Tibetan Buddhist culture in the state. The entry ticket costs RS 50 which also includes the entry to the Sangachoeling monastery situated beside the skywalk. The skywalk opens at 8 in the morning and closes at 6 in the evening.The entire place is well decorated with numerous statues of Buddhist culture and prayer wheels that rotates to shower the Buddhist prayers in the wind.

Panoramic views of the Eastern Himalayas from the skywalk.

On either sides of the steps leading to the Chenrezing statue,they are decorated with yellow colored prayer wheels which adds to the beautiful design of architecture. The beautiful view of the statue can even be seen from the helipad ground of Pelling and Yuksom ,a small hill station further north which adds to the significance as if the Buddhist guru sits on top of the state protecting the people with his prayers .

View from the Helipad in Pelling. The mountain peak in the picture contains the Chenrezing Statue.

Sangachoeling monastery is an ancient historical archaeological site beside the skywalk which contains a main monastery and few remains of the stupas which has now been well preserved by the archaeological and tourism department of Sikkim.The stupas are made from grey colored bricks that overlooks the Pelling city when one stands in front of the platform on which the stupas are situated.It was built in the 17 th century and is known as the place of the secret spells.Like Pemayangtse monastery it belongs to the Nyngima sect and allows men monks only belonging to the this particular sect. This charming place with rich historical values is a place of heritage for the Sikkimese people and most of the tourist visiting here are requested to remain in silence and enjoy the scenic and mystic significance of the views offered from the magnificent location of this monastery.

Ancient chortens in Sangachoeling monastery.

The main monastery of Sangachoeling.

Due to the Chenrezing statue that sits on top of the skywalk and the monastery ,on visiting this place the relevant significance incurred due to Buddhist influences such as a monastery,prayer wheels and stupas has a deep impact on any religious traveler. After experiencing the mystic culture I understood that the skywalk is only an added measure undertaken to attract numerous tourists but the main significant attraction is the Chenrezing statue and the preserved Sangachoeling monastery.

View of the Chenrezig statue and the skywalk from Sangachoeling monastery entrance.

Our next destination next morning was to visit the Rimbi orange garden. As I left Pelling towards Rimbi Icame across an ancient tribal village called Darap which itself has now grown into a famous destination to explore the Himalayas. There are many home stays which have come up in this village providing an ideal peaceful retreat for the various tourist coming here to see the snow capped peaks of the north east Himalayas.

The intense greenery of the Himalayas and the pollution free environment gradually lead us to the next village called Rimbi. Rimbi is famous for it’s orange garden and the Rimbi river which provides a charismatic landscape for the tourists to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Eastern Himalayas.

Just before the Rimbi orange garden I came across the Rimbi waterfall on the highway.The waterfall is not so huge but due to the surrounding scenery and the unique alluring nature of a free falling volume of water from the mountains this spot can be easily considered as an enchanting retreat for all the tourist who wants to capture the natural scene in their frame.

Rimbi waterfall.

Just after a  5 min drive from here we reached the Rimbi orange garden. Small shops near the highway will greet us through a small entrance with an entry fee of RS 10 will greet us to the orange garden which lies on the banks of the Rimbi river. The area is congested but has been suitably utilized for cultivating organic fruits and crops. The area is mainly marked with orange trees and cardamom plantations besides some few houses of the villagers residing here.The clean pathway covering the entire garden is concrete which is relatively well maintained by the residents inside the garden.

The numerous orange trees starts to bloom with oranges from the month of November so we were not so lucky to visit in the months of May .Still the organic farming surrounded by the Himalayas mesmerized our short time on the banks of the Rimbi river. The pathway leading down to the river banks is planted with numerous flower plants with rose being the primary flower tree.There are cozy seating places and small shops selling organic Himalayan tea and water bottles for the tourists.

Numerous Orange trees in Rimbi.

As I reached the banks of the Rimbi the sound of the rapids formed by the flowing of the river through the mountain rocks allured us to record the surrounding in our go pro camera to take back the memories of the natural ambiance. Unlike other places where such banks of the rivers has been transformed into picnic spots, the Sikkimese people has done an effective ethical work in maintaining the cleanliness of the place. In fact the state of Sikkim is the first state in India to have transformed into completely organic and may be considered as one of the cleanest state in India. The Rimbi orange garden not only provides a tranquil place amidst the organic farming but also helps us with some effective time with nature on the banks of the free flowing Rimbi river.

The road after Rimbi continues further north towards Khangchendzonga National park leading us to more fascinating destinations in West Sikkim which I shall explain in my next blog where I traveled further to the ancient capital of Sikkim called Yuksom. I must say such wonderful experience with both nature and history wouldn’t have been possible without the hospitality of the local people who gave us some relevant informations. I must also mention the delectable food that the hotel restaurant offered always concluded my day with a proper diet which is important in any trip. Keep following our website for my next blog on this entire trip across the most religious circuit in West Sikkim.

Journey to an island where the sea and a lake meets.

flock of sea gull birds in chilika lake odisha


 

Signing of this marvelous year with an eco friendly tour to the largest brackish water lake in Asia i.e Chilika. Every season of the previous year i.e 2018 did force me to explore this marvelous state and I was even more happy on the last day of the year. I preferred to stay in a resort inside Chilika lake, belonging to Odisha Eco tourism. A three hour drive from Bhubaneshwar took me to Satpada,which is a small village situated near the Sea mouth Of Chilika. Then in one and a half hour boat drive,I reached a small island called Rajhans island where the Odisha tourism has built beautiful Swiss Tents for tourist accomodation. Eco tourism Odisha has arranged some excellent tourist facilities in some major destinations in the state , and Chilka being one of the primary of them.

As we proceeded towards the boating point in Satpada,we crossed the rural countryside of the village covered with rice plantations on both sides. Besides such greenery we saw marshy wetlands in the fields on either side of the road, perhaps created by the backwaters of the huge volume of water flowing back towards the village from the lagoon. Due to such phenomena these wetlands have also become a natural habitat for numerous species of birds which can easily be encountered while driving along the road to Satpada. Since it was late in the afternoon so I decided to explore this area on my return journey.

Odisha tourism has progressed a lot and thanks to the efforts put up by the Eco tourism department of the state.This initiative by the state government has become the primary attraction for all the nature lovers visiting the important cultural and geographical diverse area of the state.They have built Eco friendly cottages and tents in three destinations surrounding the Chilika lake ,and Rajhans Nature camp being one of them.

In Rajhans nature camp Eco toursism Odisha has built Swiss luxurious Tents perfectly located in this serene island just on the banks of the Chilika lake.Well if you book with Odisha ecotourism then they will manage everything from Satpada till they drop you off on the same place. On the way to the island enjoy the pristine water of the lake where the sightings of the Irrawady dolphins are also frequent. At the rear side of the resort one can take a 5 minute walk to the sea beach through the casuarina forests. Infront of the tents the large vacant space has been well equipped with volleyball and badminton courts,along with a small playground for the kids.The workers of the resort are also perfect guides to explore the island.

Worth to mention I enjoyed one of the best sea food in my life as the cooks provided some delicious fishes and lobsters from the lake.The kitchen offers delectable sea food for lunch ,dinner and breakfast which are included in the booking amount for one tent. The campus is perfect for any nature lover as one can watch the Irrawady dolphins which are frequently visible on the shores of the island.The package when booking a single day stay in the island also includes a boat cruise to the sea mouth of the lake in Bay of Bengal. Travelers seeking to watch the numerous migratory birds can take the the help of the local boatmen at an extra cost of Rs 1500 and sail for an extra 2 to 3 hours in the lake in early morning hours.

Don’t forget to watch a memorable sunset on the shores of the nature camp with the fishing nets and the wooden boats catalyzing the scenery. It was a perfect conclusion for the last day for this new year to provide me the same zeal to explore the world as a wanderer in the coming years. I am grateful to Odisha tourism for inspiring me to increase my urge in exploring the versatile landscape of this state. Sunset in Rajhans Island.

Just a 5 minute walk from the Eco camp site of Rajhans island in Chilka lake ,one may reach a pristine sea beach on the shores of Bay of Bengal. Owing to the tough accessibility to the beach due to it’s remote location in an island ,this beach remains lonely ,so travelers will find the golden sands very clean and devoid of any crowd. This is a perfect place to watch the sunrise and sunset ,providing an ideal moment for all photographers. The beach is controlled by the Forest rangers of Odisha ,so in order to visit them one has to take entry tickets by showing government identity cards from the offices in Satpada. Well if one is booking accommodation in Rajhans island from Odisha Eco tourism site then the entry ticket is already included.Sunset on the Sea Beach in Rajhans Island.

The beach mainly had casuarina forest trees where wild cats and foxes are frequent animals. A walk through the casuarina avenues on the way to the beach from the camp is must thing to do to enjoy a serene moment. Sunset in Chilka is no doubt scenic with the fishing nets and boats adding to the scenery. But here on this beach you only get the vast sea beach with the rhythmic waves in the background. So choose your spot perfectly ,while both can be visited at the same time as this place is a geographical wonder having the lake and sea beach in the same place.

What a delight it is to encounter such mesmerising experience with crystal blue water and numerous species of birds in the middle of the largest brackish water lake in Asia. Chilika is no doubt precisely documented by all the epic channels like Discovery and the National Geographic ,but I think this place holds its significance everytime in a new way for any bird watcher in any part of this planet. Though there are many experts in the field of bird watchers but none can replace the natural instincts of the local fishermen who also act as guides for the travelers coming here to see the birds. Common Shell Ducks in flocks.

The largest lagoon in Asia also holds the rare Irrawady dolphins which can easily be seen all throughout the year.But in order to see the numerous migratory birds flying thousands of kilometres into this place,winter is the only time to study them. I was lucky enough to spot different types of ducks like Common Shelduck,Indian spot-billed duck,Fulvous whistling duck,Lesser whistling duck and different types of Sea gulls and Cormorants. Black Headed Sea Gull

Indian Cormorant.

In my three hour cruise in the Chilka lake on my return to Satpada I mostly saw the birds in flocks near the marshy area of the lake where there were signs of grasslands. Indian Spot Billed Ducks in Flocks

Throughout the lake the fishermen has built local breeding place with the nets ,where the Indian cranes and sea gulls can be seen in flocks. Due to the shallow water of the Chilka near the small grasslands within the lake it is difficult for the person driving the motor boats to go near the birds so one needs a relevant zoom lens to capture the colourful birds in flocks.Indian Egret

 Indian Cormorants in Flocks Black headed Sea Gull in Flocks.

Also due to the poaching and hunting and birds in past ,the birds are afraid of the trawler boats ,so they mostly fly away as we come near to them.But after declaring Chilka lake as a major Ramsar site in India,the government of Odisha has taken an award winning step in shaping this wonderland into a paradise for birdwatchers.

Marbled Godwits in Flocks.

While I was returning I was gifted for my patience as I was able to capture photographs of some rare species of birds. Infact the sight was even more delightful for a birdwatcher as the flocks of birds were much near to me. Marbled Godwits,Black winged Stilt,Indian Egrets,Common Cormorants were the few species of birds that I was able to see in flocks in the marshy irrigation fields near SatpadaWhile in Chilika lake I had to be cautious as the sound of the boat made the birds to fly away,but here the birds were freely feeding on the fishes and the algae in the ponds spread across the acres of fertile fields.I stopped my car and captured the best moments of the playful birds dancing on the water and enjoying their natural habitat. Black winged Stilt in Flocks.

It was a true delight for any birdwatcher to encounter such
beautiful creatures at such a close distance. Satpada not only serves as the gateaway to the largest lagoon in India,but it is also a picturesque village and a natural habitat for the numerous migratory birds flying down and are able to find this village as their true home.

Following the rivers of Eastern Himalayas from Bhutan to India.

Murti river originates in the Neora valley national park in the Kalimpong district in West Bengal which further meets the Jaldhaka river coming down to the plains. The river is famous for providing some exceptional scenic destinations for adventure and camping activities for the tourists visiting North Bengal. So in this winter I decided to explore the quaint hill stations lying along the rivers of Murti and Jaldhaka in the Eastern Himalayas. New Mal junction is a railway station in north bengal that is the nearest base point from where we can get several cabs and visit the beautiful villages of Dooars. Owing to the fertile plains of these two rivers Dooars is gifted with stunning greenery and landscape that attracts tourists mainly in the winter season when the skies are clear.From New Mal junction we took the road towards Chalsa tea garden and our first destination was to stay in Rocky island,a tourist spot with homestay facilities on Murti river.One of the many tea gardens near Chalsa. 

Rocky island  is situated 2km from Samsing ,which is a tea estate town in North Bengal,and Rocky island is a river camp site on the rocky terrain of Murti river.This place is surrounded by dense forests all around that enhances the greenery of the surrounding. The river is narrow here so one can easily cross or walk down the river over the boulders to explore the natural scenery associated with the place. There are few homestays available just on the banks of this river in the Rocky island which provide delicious food but basic accommodation facilities. Various trekking routes are available from this spot into the adjoining forest in the surroundings.

Mostly Rocky island is famous among the tourists In West Bengal as picnic spot and a day tour excursion. But due to the development of the recent homestays close to the river bed of Murti in this spot ,now many tourists from different corners of our country spend here for bird watching in the surrounding forests and local trek routes in the nearby villages.The homestays provide perfect setups for the tourists to enjoy the serene location and explore the river bed ,while enjoying the local food delicacies.As the homestays are situated on the cliff overlooking the river,so the tourists can simply park their vehicles on the adjoining road in front of the cliffs and go down towards the river bed where arrangements are made to enjoy the food with amazing views.In the morning hours the open air set up of the restaurant with plastic tables and chairs with big umbrellas ,enhance the tranquility of the spot while a traveler can enjoy a delectable breakfast with the finest tea from the gardens of North Bengal.

Our next destination next day was to explore another beautiful village called Suntalekhola and then proceeding towards Bhutan borders to explore the hill stations along Jaldhaka river. Suntalekhola is a small picturesque village situated in Kalimpong district with altitude around 900 metres above sea level. The small village is famous for it serene forests and small streams of river Murti that flows through the dense forests adjacent to this village. There are variety of homestays with serene location which can provide a different experience in this Eco friendly village. But the best is the WBFDC(West Bengal Forest Development Corporation) resort situated inside the forests of Suntalekhola.

Above is the campus of WBFDC tourist resort.

Hanging bridge near the resort.

As shown in the picture the resort is surrounded by greenery and has a small stream with boulders, flowing through it’s campus. The colourful flowers and the grasslands altogether creates a delightful ambience for the tourists visiting this place. There is also a hanging bridge near this resort which is also a famous tourist spot for the travellers visiting this village. The village also forms the starting point of the trek to Neora valley National park which is situated adjacent to the forests of Suntalekhola.

The farthest mountain in the background of the above picture belongs to Neora valley National park.

The national park is home to Red pandas and various rare species of wild cats and birds. The village can be traced in just about 2 hours by hiring the local taxes which are available as we enter Suntalekhola from Samsing,which also a serene tourist spot situated 5 kilometres away. Tourist cabs are not allowed for sightseeing in Suntalekhola ,so one has to hire the local cabs which charge RS 300 for a complete sightseeing of the village. In Nepali language Suntaley means orange and khola means stream ,thus due to the abundant orange trees and the river stream that flows through this village ,the village got it’s name as Suntaley Khola.

We then proceeded towards the Doaars forest and our destination was Jhalong Bindu road along the jaldhaka river.In the route near Samsing we came at a view point called Lalaguri .Lalaguri is surrounded by tea plantations and provides a picture perfect view of the Murti river flowing down to the Dooars plain.Though the spot was overcrowded with tourists but the vast area surrounded by hills and tea gardens makes it an exquisite place to have a walk in the surroundings.

View from Lalaguri with Murti river in the background.

As we proceeded downwards towards the plains we came across a place with surreal beauty.The landform was dry with black rocks yet was perfectly decorated with vast acres of tea plantations.The unusual colour combination of this place was a perfect conclusion in exploring the Murti river as I crossed the river to explore another mountain river of the Eastern Himalayas.

samsing tea estates north bengal

 

As I entered the deep forests of the Dooars I came across a rubber plantation inside a government protected area.Perhaps this is the only rubber plantation in North Bengal that I visited in the Dooars forest. If one is travelling from Suntalekhola towards the border of Bhutan near Jhalong bindu road ,one will encounter this rubber and cinchona plantation in the forest of the Dooars. Naturally the place is very green owing to the dense forests on the foothills of the Himalayas.

The roads are pretty good and if one is lucky enough ,then encounter with wild elephants is possible due to the numerous elephant corridors in the Dooars. The Murti river flows around this area which later meets with Jhaldhaka river ,that comes from Bhutan.The plantation area is maintained by the government so tourists need to go through the check post before entering the rubber plantation forests.

The white plastic in the picture has a vessel below it where the rubber in the liquid form is collected from the bark of the trees. It was really worth to watch such a landscape as it reminded me of my school time chapters of geography. Travelling to some offbeat  places brings us some delightful new experiences with nature and I strongly believe our country has some numerous unexplored destinations which can prove a real treasure for any enthusiastic traveller.

After crossing the Murti river from Suntalekhola it takes an hour and a half drive to reach the Bindu barrage ,which marks the border of India and Bhutan. The river has a dam build over it in the further north of Bengal in the village called Bindu ,which has become a major tourist attraction all over Bengal.This tourist spot is famous as a famous picnic spot and a weekend gateaway for thenumerous travellers from North Bengal.

Jaldhaka river originates from the glacier of the Kupup lake in Sikkim and flows along the international boundaries of Bhutan and India before it meets the Dharla river in Bangladesh . The river provides fertile plains to the local residents of North Bengal which facilitates them to raise fruits and cultivate huge lands for tea in the Jalpaiguri district.

The place is a delight for all nature lovers as the pristine water of the river flows through the huge boulders creating waterfalls and rapids. The surrounding forests of the Eastern Himalayas adds to the serene landscape in the surroundings. The entrance to the barrage is strictly monitored by the BSF of Indian army ,so one needs permission for entering the premises of the barrage. The electricity production and maintenance of the barrage lies under WBSEDCL ,a power distribution company of West Bengal state government.Along the Jhalong Bindu road there are numerous shops in this tourist spot which sells chocolates from Bhutan,which must be bought to experience the local taste of the chocolates in the Himalayas.

As we were proceeding towards the Bindu barrage ,the mesmerising drive through the serene valley of the Eastern Himalayas fetched us some wonderful views of the forest . The splendid views of the river can also be experienced by tasting tea and snacks in the local shops situated in this tourist spot. Each shops has small balconies from where the enigmatic flavour of the Darjeeling tea can be sensed with the views of the barrage and the river rapids. Spending an hour or two in Bindu barrage is a must activity for all the travellers taking their vacation trip in exploring the Jhalong Bindu road.

Barrage in bindu over Jaldhaka river,marking the border between Bhutan and India.

Apart from Bindu ,the villages of Jhalong and Jaldhaka provide excellent homestay facilities close to the rocky bed of the river banks. I chose to stay in one of those homestays named R J restaurant. I was stunned by the scenic beauty around the hotel which is built over the cliff joining the main highway of the village. The hotel has steps in the form of a pathway adjacent to the rooms, that takes us close to the river as shown in the picture.

The morning sunrise with a cup of Darjeeling tea was my best experience on the rooftop restaurant of this hotel ,from where we can get a panoramic view of the river.The hotel provides marvelous local food cooked in Indian cuisine that adds to the comfortable stay in this part of North Bengal. A trip to North Bengal is always splendid due to the scenic landscape of the mountains rivers and accommodation in the cozy homestays. The dense forest facilitates the greenery surrounding the turquoise water of the fast flowing Jaldhaka river.

After the serene experience of the splendid Himalayas villages and the two mountain rivers, Murti and Jaldhaka ,we took a longer route for our return journey to Siliguri. To explore North Bengal tourists can either avail tourist cabs from New Jalpaiguri railway station ,or Bagdogra airport in Siliguri or New Mal junction railway station ,which is actually more nearer. We availed the longer route towards Siliguri to have a glimpse of the dense forests of Dooars .

Murti river after crossing Chapramari forest.

Infact I planned a separate trip of explore this mighty forest but coming in proximity with the dense forests of North Bengal I decided to just watch the greenery along the highway in a short road trip. As I crossed Chapramari forest I took the national highway through the dense forest of Gorumara National park. The Murti river can be seen with shallow water in the camping site of Dooars forest near Lataguri. West Bengal tourism has built excellent tent and accommodation facilities just on the shores of the river here which attracts tourists all the year around. If you are visiting North Bengal and Dooars, take a road trip to explore this beautiful river and get yourself pampered with the West Bengal tourism facilities.

Gorumara national park is famous for the population of Indian rhinoceros. As I came near the entry gate of this park I was astonished by it’s surreal greenery. It was an unique combination of grassland with tea plantations on one side and dense forests of tall trees on the other side. The tea plantation was most enticing among all the tea plantations that I encountered in this trip. In the entire trip ,the landscape was mostly of numeorus tea plantations but this tea estate had new tea leaves owing to which the green colour was most photogenic.

The Dooars forest lies in the fertile plains of  Murti and Jaldhaka river ,making it an important geographical landform in the fertile plains between India and Bhutan. The Dooars got it’s name from a Bengali word “Duar” means entry point. Since it is the nearest point for entering Bhutan from India ,hence these dense forests of North Bengal is known as Dooars. Lying in the foothills of the Himalayas ,Dooars not only is a well preserved sanctuary but also a fertile plain that adds to the scenic beauty of the enchanting greenery associated with it. The climate is very soothing but in monsoon it rains heavily. The best time to visit Dooars is during the winter months ,but yes the the number of tourist will be in plenty.