Updated: Mar 22
Discover offbeat Himalayan trails with our travel expert Reetwika Banerjee.
Charkhole, a forested hilltop, is the new find of Kalimpong’s offbeat circuit. It takes five hours to reach Charkhole from Bagdogra, around 100 kilometres by road. ‘Khola’ is Nepali means river. So, Charkhole owes its name to four streams of Rangeet river which could be seen from the summit.
Crossing Rishi Khola - way to Chakhole from NJP
Nestled amidst towering conifers, this quaint Lepcha village offers panoramic sight of the Himalayas throughout the year. On sunny days, don’t be surprised to witness a 180 degree view of the Kanchenjunga range from your room.
Sunrise view from Charkhole
As of today, there are only three Lepcha families who run a handful of home stays at Charkhole. Most of them offer very basic amenities, but magnificent mountain views from the rooms will outdo all shortcomings. The altitude is not so high, around 5500 feet above mean sea level, but due to unobstructed aerial distance from the snow-caps, Charkhole is cold round the year.
Road to Charkhole
Since there are no direct transfer facilities available, we had to hire a private taxi. By four in the afternoon, it dropped us at a beautiful hilltop named Fatak Charkhole. What a wonderful tableland it was!
Fatak Charkhole tabletop
There was a lovely park with wooden benches facing the peaks, a gigantic statue of Har-Parvati, colourful flowering plants, thatched viewpoints on the go and some children play areas. Whistling cedars around the village created a mystic environment. The surroundings coupled with chirping birds added to the hamlet’s appeal.
Hiking up the way to our homestay
Mobile networks have very limited connectivity here. Our driver too had never been to Charkhole earlier, so locating our home stay was a huge task indeed. All good, but the biggest shock was awaiting us. Ours was at the uppermost point in Charkhole which is not accessible by road at all.
Reception of our Lepcha homestay
Glasshouse dinner hall
Hardly anyone was around except a few local boys when we reached there. One of them directed us to a small wooden hut up the cliff which was supposed to be the reception. Observing our dilemma, one of them volunteered to go and call the caretaker’s son to help us with the luggage.
Way to the cottages - a steep ascent on foot
The approach road looked extremely narrow to risk a stroll by city-dwellers like us. So, the boy guided us along a longer hiking route through the woods. It took us almost fifteen minutes to finally reach the reception, getting where we realized that our cottage was another fifty feet ascent away.
By the time we could drag us to our room, it was almost dusk. The setting sun’s yolky gleams left an appeasing impact. All struggles vanished in a moment.
Captivating landscape from private balcony
Forest walk, captivating landscape from private balcony, viewing Kanchenjunga over Kalimpong town, glasshouse dinner hall, a fur blanket, steaming Darjeeling tea and munchies in hand made our weekend.
Kanchenjunga over Kalimpong town at sunrise
Steaming Darjeeling tea and munchies
The soft trek to Gamphus Dara was a thrilling experience. The view from top would have been better on a clear sunny morning, unlike ours. However, the complete detachment from urban cranks makes Charkhole a virgin destination. Experience the beauty before it loses its sanctity.
Jungle trail to Gamphus Dara
Gamphus Dara view point
While traveling across Lepcha Village of Charkhole, it is important to carry the essential items with you. The weather is usually chill, so it advisable to carry warm clothes depending on the time you visit this place.