Jhandidara: A Quiet Hamlet in Darjeeling
The first encounters with the mountains are always special. Mine was too, and it happened in a little village called Jhandidara tucked in the Himalayas in Darjeeling district. I always dreamt of going to a green mountain, shrouded with trees and where the clouds touched you and where it rained all year long. Jhandidara was exactly my dream. A very sparsely populated hamlet, Jhandidara or Jhandi, as it is lovingly called by the locales, is still quite unknown in the tourist map.
One of the most popular cities located in eastern part of the Himalayas is Darjeeling. The city built in the Victorian days still stands with all its charm on the top of the hills. While planning for a holiday in the hills, it is obvious for us to think of Darjeeling at first. But, off late, the city has become extremely crowded and for those who seek a little bit of solitude, it no more remains a choice. There are numerous other towns and villages in the same district which are absolutely enchanting and peaceful. This exact thought took us to this beautiful place located at an altitude of some 6000 feet in the mountains. It is almost deserted most of the months and is the perfect choice for nature lovers who wish spend a few days away from the regular mayhem of lives. So, here all you need to know about Jhandidara if you planning to visit there:
Jhandidara is about 87 kilometres from Siliguri, and 27 kilometres from Malbazar. The journey through the road that takes you from Siliguri to Jhandi itself is an experience. Crossing the rustic Coronation Bridge over a fierce Teesta River, the enchanting Sevoke, the absolute lush tea gardens of Malbazar and the beautiful Chail River is going to be etched in your memory forever. It takes about 3 hours to reach if you travel without interruptions. It is always good to stop by the Chail River lest you regret later! The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful. There are several hairpin bends throughout the journey and in some points there are cliffs on both side of the road. The climb from Malbazar to Jhandi is a steep one, rising about 4000 feet within an hour. So if you happen to fall sick while climbing higher altitudes deck yourself with necessary medicines.
How to Reach
Jhandidara is easiest to reach via Kolkata. Direct flights from several cities of the world to Kolkata are available daily. From Kolkata you can travel either by,
Take a train from Howrah or Shealdah station to New Jalpaiguri (Siliguri) or to New Mal Junction (Malbazar). From either of the stations, you will need to hire a cab or share one to reach your destination. New Mal Junction is the nearest railway station, and hence the car fares from here are cheaper compared to that from Siliguri. But you will miss Sevoke if you start from here. The road from here is beautiful nonetheless.
From Kolkata, you can take a flight to Bagdograh, the nearest airport from Jhandi. From here, you will have to hire a car. There are very few regular flights to Bagdograh, so make your bookings well in advance.
In case you choose to travel by train, choose a train that starts from Kolkata at night. If you start in the morning, you will probably reach Siliguri or Malbazar post 8 pm when you will hardly find any cabs to take you Jhandi. Also, make sure you reserve your seats as it is going to be an overnight journey.
Where to stay
There is almost nothing in Jhandidara, it is still a place virgin to the tourists, and there are not too many options for accommodations. There is just one homestay located on the cliff of the hills and a resort having quite a few numbers of cottages spreading across the slope of the hill.
The homestay is a beautiful wooden house which is run by a lady, who also provides food for the boarders. It has clean rooms with attached toilets and the rooms provide great views. It is quite affordable. The resort, Jhandi Eco Stay, is spread across a much larger property and is amazing. We had quite a fortune to get the cottage with the glass room is the best and provides the best of the views. The glass cottage is tucked in the topmost point of resort and one can see the Kanchenjhungha peaks from one side of the room and the entire bed of Teesta River from another. The resort has its own restaurant, which serves amazing local food. They made a delectable pork curry on our request. But there are limitations, they can only get pork on the days the nearest haat (market) remains open.
What to Do
Jhandidara is one of the quietest places in India I have ever been to. It is perfect for those who want to do absolutely nothing and just chill for a few days. Wake up to see the sunrise over the majestic Kanchenjunga Peaks, try the delectable dishes in the resort, take an afternoon stroll through the village or walk down to the waterfall that falls on the road or just listen to the absolute silence of the night here. The nature lovers will get ample opportunities to explore the forest and its rich flora and fauna.
When to Visit
The best time to visit Jhandi is from February to April when the peaks are clearly visible. Temperature remains below 5° C and sometimes goes below freezing point. Alternatively, one can also go during June to July when monsoon hits the hills. Occasional drizzles and rooms filled with fluffy cloud are a common sight during this time. There surely are risks of roads remaining closed owing to heavy rainfall, but of you manage to make it to Jhandi during these months, you will see a complete different beauty of the mountains.
Before You Pack Your Bags, Remember a Few Things:
- Leeches are a common problem here during the rainy seasons, so pack a pair of nice shoes and an umbrella to save yourself from these heinous insects if you are planning to visit after April.
- The cabs which are available right outside the stations might just fool you, they have an amazing capability to identify people who come here for the first time. A nice big 9 seated car from Siliguri to Jhandi should cost you a maximum of 3000 INR.
- Since there is only one shop in Jhandi, do not expect to get liquor from here, buy whatever booze you need and all other essentials from Siliguri or Malbazar.