A small village between Manebhanjan and Sandakphu in the Darjeeling district, Tonglu is the perfect retreat to unwind and/or explore the mountains.
A trek through a forest in the eastern Himalayas, a panoramic view of snow-covered peaks such as the Kanchenjungha, Pandim and the Makalu, a picturesque trekkers’ hut and solitude — Tonglu promises much and delivers for the most part.
The village is named after one of the higher peaks on the Singalila Ridge. It is located inside the Singalila National Park in the Darjeeling subdivision of the district, near the India-Nepal border.
The hamlet generally serves as a night halt for trekkers on their way to Sandakphu.
The best way to reach Tonglu is via Dhotre, the starting point of the Sandakphu trek. From here, a 5km trek route winds through the forest to Tonglu. The route remains closed from June to September.
The best time to visit is between mid-September and December and between March and early April, when the rhododendrons and magnolias bloom, turning the forest a riot of colours.
After reaching Dhotre from Siliguri, you can have lunch at a traditional eatery that serves dishes made with fresh local produce. It is best to hire a guide for the four-hour trek to Tonglu.
The park is a birder’s delight. Rare and exotic species like the scarlet minivet, kalij pheasant, blood pheasant, satyr tragopan, parrotbills and fire-tailed myzornis can be spotted here.
There are not many carnivores and snakes in the national park, making it a popular family camping destination. The mammals that can be seen are red panda, leopard cat, yellow-throated marten, barking deer, wild boar, pangolin and the pika.
Red pandas reared at the Darjeeling zoo were reintroduced into the wild at the national park. Rajesh Bedi and Naresh Bedi made a documentary on it called Cherub of the Mist that went on to win awards.
According to forest officials, there are more than 600 varieties of orchids in the forest, which explains the intoxicating fragrance that hangs in the air.
At 3,070 metres above the sea level, the peak and the surrounding areas are tranquil. It is the perfect place to meditate in.
At a clear night the view of the sky dotted with thousands of stars seems like precious stones studded in velvet.
The tourists are served with Tongba, a fermented barley drink in a bamboo container, to enjoy along with the view. Warm water is poured into the container every few minutes until the drink loses its flavour.
You can also watch the sun rise behind the Kanchenjungha range. It is a magnificent sight. The play of colours on the snow-capped peaks is worth getting up at the crack of dawn.
The tourist can laze around or those with energy to spare can also enjoy trekking back to Dhotre in the afternoon, for another helping of the sights and sounds of the sub-alpine forest.
How to go ?
You can take a train or bus from Kolkata to Siliguri. The other option is to fly to Bagdogra and then take a cab or auto-rickshaw to Siliguri. From there it is a four-hour drive to Dhotre. A four-hour trek from Dhotre will take you to Tonglu.
Where to Stay ?
Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council Trekkers’ Hut in Dhotre and Tonglu are the best accommodation options. The huts can be booked from the DGHC counter in Kolkata, New Delhi, Siliguri or Darjeeling.
Address: No. 4, Ground Floor, Embassy Building, Shakespeare Sarani, Kolkata – 700071
Phone: 033 – 22821715
Landmark: Near AC Market Building Carrying photo ID proof is mandatory.
Note : Phone numbers given above are according to the information available with us. If you find any contact number/s given above is/are incorrect or not in use, please let us know.