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Icche Gaon, the mountain paradise in Kalimpong

27 April, 2021 17:27:16
Icche Gaon, the mountain paradise in Kalimpong

IIcche Gaon seems a name straight out of a poem (‘icche’ means wish in Bengali, and ‘gaon’ is village), and the ‘wish fulfilment’ component here could be the absolutely picture perfect view of Mt Kanchenjunga that the village offers. But the original Lepcha name for this village in Bengal’s Kalimpong district is Echey Gaon, which word of mouth has probably transformed to Icche Gaon. Situated at 5,800 ft above sea level, the village is about 90 km from New Jalpaiguri, which is easily accessible from Kolkata by both rail and air.

Driving past the river Teesta, serpentine roads take you to Kalimpong. As you cross the town, the road to Pedong brings you to the land of vibrant Buddhist flags and leads to Ramdhura. Homes here look like fairytale houses with vibrant flowers hanging in picturesque balconies. Moving slightly ahead, you will come across a sign board saying ‘Welcome to Icche Gaon.’ The narrow lane transports you to an unknown world. As you keep going through the wild bushes, pine woods and birch trees, the pristine village of Icche Gaon opens up before you. 

Echey Gaon means ‘topmost’ in the Lepcha language. Tucked away among dense forests, the little village radiates peace and serenity. Home to only about 30 families, the village is completely interconnected as every house has stone stairs originating from the courtyard, leading to another house. Women communicate to each other sitting in their houses built at different levels. The rare orchids in front of the houses enhance their beauty. And the mustard farms add a yellowish aura to the whole village. 

Icche Gaon is surrounded by crescent-shaped dense forests of pine and birch filled with the birdsong, as sunshine and chilly winds compete merrily against each other. In October, the entire region is flooded with different colours like white, orange, maroon and golden yellow, as the flowers come into bloom. Different types of ferns including tree fern and countless flowerless plants, mosses, algae, fungi, birches, orchids and trees such as oak, pine, chestnut, and maple are native to the area. Icche Gaon is also home to birds like the flycatcher, oriole, finch, sunbird, woodpecker, emerald cuckoo, three-toed kingfisher and blue whistling thrush.

 

But for those more interested in the mountain view, Kanchenjunga is absolutely majestic on a clear day. Throughout the day, as the light changes, so does the colour of the magnificent range. You could spend an entire day just sitting at one of the large windows of the homestay and staring at it, as clouds and mist glide over you. 

In the evening, the village looks like an abode of fireflies. What appear to be fairy lights also shine from Tinchuley, Darjeeling and Ravangla, illuminating all corners of Icche Gaon. To beat the cold, ask for a plate of steaming momos and chicken pakoras served at any of the homestays. The warmth of the people will certainly make you feel at home. 

For those interested in trekking, Icche Gaon offers various options which a local guide will explain to you. As you walk up to the highest point of the hills and go right, you can see the Teesta through the foliage. The road goes on to the hamlet of Sillery Gaon and the ruins of Damsang Fort, built in 1690 and the last home of Lepcha king Gyabo Achuk, which was destroyed during the Anglo-Bhutan War of 1864-65. 

Other places of interest include the Ramitedara Viewpoint, just two km from Sillery Gaon. The best time to visit is anytime except during the monsoon. If you want a clear view of Kanchenjunga, the months of October to February are ideal. The temperature often drops to between 1 and 2 degrees during winters. 

If you don’t wish to actually stay in the village itself, the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Ltd’s Hilltop Tourism Property (earlier Hill Top Tourist Lodge) offers excellent accommodation in Kalimpong, which is just about 17 km from Icche Gaon. The drive will take you approximately 45 minutes through some spectacular natural landscapes.

For booking and other details, do contact

West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Ltd.
Udayachal Tourist Lodge
DG Block (1st floor), Sec II, Salt Lake, Kolkata - 700091
Phone: 033 2358 5189
Email: visitwestbengal@yahoo.co.in, mdwbtdc@gmail.com, dgmrwbtdc@gmail.com
Website: https://www.wbtdcl.com/

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