For the best view of Kanchenjungha visit Ichhegaon
Moving past the rippling Teesta, the serpentine roads take you to Kalimpong, the orchid county of Bengal. As you cross this area, the road towards Pedong brings you to the land of vibrant Buddhist flags and leads to Ramdhura. Homes here look like fairy houses with vibrant flowers in the picturesque balconies. As your car moves a little ahead, you will come across a signboard on the road saying ‘Welcome to Icchegaon.’ The narrow lane would take you to an unknown world. As you keep going through the wild bushes, pine woods and birch trees, the pristine village of Icchegaon opens infront.
Icchegaon means the ‘top most’ in Lepcha language. This Himalayan halmet is tucked within the dense forests at an altitude of 5,800 feet. You are bound to fall for the magical spell of this serene village. Some say this village grants all your wishes and hence is an Icchepuroner Gram. Around 30 families reside in perfect harmony in this wondrous hamlet. Every home is connected to each other with the help of stone stairs originating from the courtyards. Women communicate to each other sitting in their homes situated at different levels. The local dogs which seem like balls of cotton love can be seen jumping down the stone stairs. The rare orchids in front of the houses enhance the beauty. The mustard farms add a yellowish tinge to the serene village.
Icchegaon is surrounded by crescent-shaped dense forests of pine and birch. The interplay of refreshing sunshine and chilly winds and the chirp of birds make the surroundings surreal. On one side of the village stands the majestic Kanchenjungha. On a clear day, you can watch the unhindered view of the mountains. The wooden houses have large windows, an entry point to clouds and mist as you open them. It seems that they have been impatiently waiting to embrace you. As dusk sets in, the Kanchenjungha gradually changes colour.
During the evening, the entire village looks like an abode of fireflies. Fairy lights shine from Tinchula, Darjeeling and Ravangla, illuminating the corners of Icchegaon. To beat the cold evenings, have a plate of steaming momos and chicken pakoras served at any of the home-stays. The warmth of the people around will make you feel at home.
Those who love trekking, Icchegaon is the right destination. Take the help of a local guide and keep walking. As you walk up to the highest point of the hills and go to the right, Teesta is seen through the foliage. The road takes one to another hamlet Sillerygaon and the ruins of Dumsang Fort. In 1690, this fort was built by a Lepcha King, that was destroyed during the Anglo-Bhutan War. Other places of interest is the Ramitedara View Point, just 2 kilometres from Sillerygaon. The best time to visit this place is anytime except monsoon. If you want a clear view of Kanchenjungha, make sure that you come during the months of October to February. The temperature often drops down to 1 to 2 degrees during winters. So, it is imperative to carry clothes accordingly.
Every frame of Kanchenjungha throughout the journey will mesmerize you and so will the sight of the flowing Teesta deep down. Just enjoy this paradise!