Travelling to Suntalekhola: A Place to Fall For Green and Orange
A mesmerising canvas of diverse shades of green, surrounded by hills, bejewelled with river and streams, hamlets, orange orchards and untouched nature – Suntalekhola is perfected with a unique charm that is hard to get over.
Best explored hiking around or taking a walk through the forest, Suntalekhola, is undoubtedly, one of the freshest and newly explored destinations in the Darjeeling district, West Bengal, India.
Located about 4 km from Samsing, this beautiful location of Suntalekhola (also known as Suntaley Khola) at once transports one to a completely different space bounded by unadulterated nature. It’s so green that it rather feels to be a different planet! In local language, “Suntale” means orange and “khola” means river. There is an abundance of orange trees in and around this region. During the harvesting season in December, this locale becomes a hub for oranges and the whole place looks like a canvas of green and orange, gaining a bewitching beauty to instantly fall for.
Walking through the Woods
The road through the woods leading to the river is scrupulously clean, lined with pine and oak trees, bushes, various species of flora, and cardamom gardens. The 3-km-walk to the river is convincingly delightful. It engulfs with its striking greenery; the calls of various insects permeating the air; the sight of local houses, cow sheds, and people working on their farms. The overwhelming serenity and the purity of nature that one gets to experience here is something that’s desperately to be missed, once leaving the place.
It was early morning when I had started my journey from Mateli via Chalsa towards Suntalekhola. Driving by captivating tea gardens, the road took a constant elevation from Mateli. On reaching Samsing, I took a short break and had my breakfast done in a restaurant, overlooking the amazing green hills and the valley. The check post of Suntalekhola falls one kilometre after Samsing Chowk. I drove till the check post and decided to walk 3 km from there to reach the suspension bridge on the river. The West Bengal Government Forest Department Cottages (nearer to Samsing) where I had a booking falls on the way. You can check the availability and book online here.
After checking in, I went ahead to walk my way up to the bridge. The Suntalekhola River Camp is nearby and the surrounding is very tempting to put up a stay. The wilderness definitely beefs up expectations waiting ahead. Walking past the river camp, the road furthers down to the river. The sound of the river water gradually gains prominence from the distance. Grazing mountain goats adds more beauty in the oh-so-perfect canvas.
It gets more beautiful as I near the river. With an essence of a picturesque frame alike the woods that we often dream of, this place slowly casts its spell. Finally, I arrived at the Suntalekhola Bridge. This is a touristy spot and spending time hovering above the river or dipping toes in the river water and jumping across the rocks and boulders is a pleasant getaway. The bridge leads the way to the Suntalekhola Resort of WBFDC that passes through more woods and greenery.
Enjoy Bonfires and Campfires
The Suntalekhola Resort Camp and various other hotels/homestays provide optional arrangement for campfires and bonfires near the river to give the tourists a memorable experience, though with the condition of not damaging the resources or the environment.
However, personally, I feel these open fires bring pollution to the virgin nature preserved here and though they are enjoyable factors for tourists and an entertainment add-on for tourism businesses, they don’t attract responsible travellers much.
Seeing Beautiful Cardamom Plantations
Cardamom is grown in almost every farm here. They can be seen even from the roadside. However, the local folks are very watchful so that tourists or travellers do not create any nuisance in the name of seeing and clicking pictures. Creating any disturbance to the nature is considered very offensive in this place.
This small locality gives a direct view of the rustic lifestyle of the place. The local folks are amicable and engaging with them on their farms can be an interesting experience. Women are very active here and can be seen running hotels and restaurants, working in the fields, shop keeping and everywhere.
The Sound of Nature at Night
Travelling to Suntalekhola remains incomplete without a night stay. The amazing sound of the rippling waters of the river feels like music. The insect calls and the whistling winds occasionally haunt the silence and the stillness of the woods but the location never ceases to seem like a faraway haven in the midst of virgin nature.
Other Places to Visit in and around Suntalekhola
A number of trekking routes begin at Suntalekhola. Notable trekking spots are Neora Valley, Tree Fern Point and Mouchuki, which offers breathtaking views of the Himalayas and the Dooars. The hills of Bhutan stands on the other side and the Jelep La Pass which connects Tibet with India can also be seen from here. Other places of interest nearby are Samsing, Rocky Island, Samsing View Point, Faribasti, Khasmahal village, and Murti.
How to Reach Suntalekhola
Suntalekhola is well connected by roads with Siliguri (85 km), New Jalpaiguri or NJP (82 km ) and New Malbazar Jn (35 km). The nearest airport is Bagdogra ( 95 km) and the nearest railway station is NJP and New Malbazar Jn. You can then hire a car to reach Suntalekhola.
Where to Stay in Suntalekhola
There are many hotels, homestays, tourist lodges and rest houses available, both private and Government undertaking. All the Government accommodations offer basic amenities but a pleasant staying experience. If you are interested in camping, you can book your accommodation with Suntalekhola River Camp.
Best Time to Visit Suntalekhola
It can be visited throughout the year. However, visiting after the monsoons (post September) and during the harvest season of oranges (December) can be the best bet.
I came to know about Suntalekhola when I’d read a news in 2015 when the Hon’ble Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, explored the region around Suntalekhola and also trekked up to Mouchuki.
“She expressed her desire to plan to develop a large scale tourism circuit comprising the entire area consisting Mouchuki, Suntalekhola, Samsing and Rocky Island. She met the local people and spent time with the children. She took stock of the roads and the facilities in the area and pointed out to the officials present the need to take measures develop facilities for tourists. She also expressed the need of setting up a youth hostel in the area.” (Source – Chief Minister’s Office Government of West Bengal)
West Bengal Tourism is growing fast and attracting travellers across the globe. I had been planning since to visit Suntalekhola and it finally happened. I really fell for the striking wilderness of this small locale, still preserved and untouched. Have you been to this place yet?