While Kalimpong and Darjeeling hills attract several thousands of tourists throughout the year, tiny villages around these focal points lie waiting to be explored.
One such cluster is that of Suruk - Samthar - Panbu gram panchayat (GP), located 45 km from Kalimpong on a hilltop- a vantage point overlooking the vast plains of Siliguri in the south and offering a panoramic view of the Kanchenjunga range to the north, while Kalimpong and surrounding hills are located on either side of the GP.
Seated at an altitude of 1400 metres, this GP consisting of Suruk, Samthar, Charkhole, Chukhim, Panbu among other villages features- terraced fields, forests as well as earthen houses- is geared towards making visitors explore local life. The undulating terrain, evergreen forests makes it a perfect spot for nature lovers who can indulge in bird watching, adventure trails, hiking as well as cycling. It is thus a perfect getaway for visitors who crave for a less intense itinerary.
The rural eco-homes and everyday sustainable life of the residents makes visitors comfortable around bucolic life simultaneously helping them understand the interaction between humans and nature. As a major agrarian society, fruits, vegetables, pulses, rice, among others are extracted from the region or nearby villages.
In fact, this region produces one of the finest oranges in the hills.
Best time to visit Suruk-Samthar
Summer – Enjoy local farm activities during the sowing period, enjoy non-perennial springs come to life as they merge with the river, experience the cool air brushing upon the hilltop as you submerge yourself in the clouds with the onset of monsoon.
Winter – Savour locally grown oranges and fresh vegetables
Participate in the harvesting season of local crops
Witness the snow-laden Mt. Kanchanjunga range (3rd highest peak in the world) behind Kalimpong town
Things to do
You can hike to Krus dara (Cross hilltop) – Suruk
Cycle/ hike to Panboo to get a view of Siliguri plains
In Charkhole you can enjoy the sight of trees like pine, oak, fir- some of which are a century old!
You can trek to the Relli river for a day of picnic and fishing
Learn about and enjoy local food, culture and tradition.
How to reach
You can reach Suruk-Samthar GP from Siliguri via 27th-mile dam barrage within 2.5 hours along the mighty Teesta river.
From Lava, you can reach Suruk-Samthar via Loleygaon, which is 25km away.
Suruk Samthar is 45 km from Kalimpong town. You can take a cab from the town leading to Relli Khola, a popular spot for picnics and fishing. Moving uphill towards Singi, the drive along narrow roads and many hairpin bends become less strenuous with the sight of the evergreen forests and agricultural terraced fields. Located just shy of 10 km is Samthar. From Samthar, you can hike down to Suruk or take a cab, which is just 7.5 km away.
Praveen Chettri is a photographer based in Kalimpong, West Bengal. He was honoured as the
Photographer of the Year for winning the EPSON-PHOTO OF THE YEAR 2012 and has worked for Numero-French fashion magazine as in-house photographer in Thailand. With more than 10 years of experience, he is involved with The ConfluenceCollective, an initiatives to educate and bring awareness in the Darjeeling hills and Sikkim through the medium of photography.
Copyright © Praveen Chettri. All rights reserved. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at email@example.com