Icchegaon- the wishing village
Myth says, “If you cherish a wish truly by heart, it would become true at Icchegaon – the wishing village”. At an altitude of about 5800 ft., Icchegaon is shining as a small Himalayan hamlet amidst the widespread ‘Icche Forest’. The hamlet comprises a bunch of well decorated and neatly maintained households which are owned by local dwellers and their families. Environment of Icchegaon is filled with fresh unpolluted air, serenity and unexploited beauty of nature. If you are longing for a blissful escape from the hustle-bustle of city life then Icchegaon would be the ideal destination for you to enjoy a happy-healthy holiday.
How to reach
Presently, Icchegaon comes under Kalimpong district and it is just 18 km away from Kalimpong town.
- Distance between Icchegaon and the major rail stop of North Bengal – New Jalpaiguri Railway Station (NJP) is around 89 km. NJP rail station is well connected with major cities like Kolkata, Guwahati etc. by daily run super fast express trains (Darjeeling Mail, Padatik Express, Kamrup Express etc.).
- From NJP or Siliguri, shared or hired private cars are easily available to reach Icchegaon directly or up to Kalimpong. Private cabs could also be hired from Kalimpong to head towards Icchegaon.
- Bagdogra Airport connects Siliguri with important metro cities (Kolkata, Assam etc.) by regular air buses. Icchegaon is approx 94 km away from Bagdogra. Local private cars ply between Bagdogra and Kalimpong or Icchegaon (on prior booking).
- One can also avail bus service between Esplanade bus terminus (Kolkata) and Siliguri. Hired and shared cars are easily accessible at Siliguri bus stand.
Due to the increasing craze for ‘holidays at hills’, it is recommended to book the cars and homestays in advance just to avoid the last minute rush. The road towards Kalimpong from Siliguri is itself a ‘way to be remembered’. And the steep hilly roads from Kalimpong up to Icchegaon is although slightly risky but it is loaded with unforgettable beauty and greenery too.
Where to stay
A good number of homestays have been sprung up nowadays to offer the tourists a comfortable stay at Icchegaon. It is said that the village gets so overflown with tourists that hardly any local dweller is seen during festive season. Although more than 50% of the households of Icchegaon have turned into homestays with noteworthy hospitality but one of the best homestays of Icchegaon is – Khawas Homestay that is owned and run by Mr. D.K. Khawas and his family.
His homestay is located at the peak point of Icchegaon, offering a magnificent view of the whole village and its surrounding. On a clear sunny day, the almighty Mt. Kanchenjunga is also seen from the topmost balcony of the homestay. Khawas homestay is comprised of separate well maintained rooms on ground and 1st floor for guests (for both double and triple occupancies). All the rooms are well equipped with modern furniture, attached bathroom, airy windows and wooden ceiling.
Front yard of the homestay is beautified with colourful flowery plants.
What to eat
In a separate dining hall of the homestay, freshly prepared healthy homemade meals (breakfast, lunch, evening snacks and dinner) are served with much care and affection.Taste of the food is enhanced by hilly style flavours. Authentic regional Chicken Momo is a must try in evening snacks.
Locally produced vegetables are used to prepare the meals to be served.
The planning phase:
It was mid-June when I approached my school buddy Anwesha to think of a duo-trip to any offbeat place of North Bengal. She was convinced easily, we started to get the available details of some places and finally shortlisted ‘Icchegaon-Sillerygaon’. Without wasting any time, I dialled the number of ‘Meaningful Travel India’ and collected all the relevant information and estimated budget of tripping ‘Icchegaon’. We discussed and unanimously finalised the trip by completing necessary bookings. Fortunately, we got a third buddy – Baishali (from Assam) who decided to accompany us in our ‘Trip to Icchegaon’.
Much awaited trip:
After so many Whats app messages, phone calls and plans finally 20th September, 2018 came and we boarded on the express trains heading towards New Jalpaiguri Station (NJP) from our respective destinations – Sealdah and Guwahati. Next morning, I and Baishali got off the trains near about 9 am. Anwesha and our local host Mr. Babit Gurung (owner and founder of Meaningful Travel India) were already waiting for us at the car parking area of NJP.
We greeted each other and Mr. Prabit Gurung (one of our companions and hosts of the trip) started his car towards our destination – Icchegaon.
Day 1: Exploring Kalimpong
As we hit the road early in the morning so we had full day to explore Kalimpong. Just some days before our journey, the main connecting road between Siliguri and Kalimpong was got blocked due to a devastating landslide so we were quite unsure about the time needed to reach Kalimpong from Siliguri. But thankfully, the road was cleared already and we enjoyed an uninterrupted smooth drive up to Kalimpong. Our first destination was – Durpindara Monastery.
It was an eye-catching Buddhist Monastery, located at a high altitude from Kalimpong town. The monastery was elegantly decorated and well maintained. The large shrine of Lord Buddha was praiseworthy. We roamed around the monastery and at its topmost floor a mesmerising view of the surrounding was waiting for us.
The whole Kalimpong town and an extended part of Sikkim were clearly seen from the rooftop of Durpindara Monastery.
Spending some hours in the monastery, we went back towards Kalimpong market where we checked out the local shops and the products sold in those shops. It was already 2 pm so we entered into a well-known Chinese restaurant to meet our hunger with a mouthful tasty brunch of Hakka noodles and pork fry.
Post brunch, we bought some stuff from the humming market. Finally we headed towards Icchegaon.
The drive to Icchegaon let us relish the true beauty of nature while crossing another yet-to-be explored village Ramdhura.
Ramdhura is a somnolent village in the lap of hilly forest where we were enchanted by the precious sun kissed view of the surrounding hills and meandering Teesta River. The road from Ramdhura towards Icchegaon was itself an adobe of nature’s own beauty.
At around 4 pm we got off the car at the entrance (and also car parking area) of Icchegaon and then found our pre-booked Khawas Homestay, following a natural staircase. At an altitude of about 5800 feet, this small serene village was contained with colourful houses and loads of lovely flower bloomed homestead gardens.
Family members of Mr. D.K.Khawas welcomed us and we settled down in our respective rooms. The rooms were neatly decorated and every single necessary thing was already arranged for us. We freshened up quickly as we were called for lunch. Although the lunch time was over but still they waited for us and served us freshly prepared homemade healthy lunch. After lunch we took some rest in our comfy beds. The sun was about to set and the weather became chilled already. At around 7 pm, we were served a cup of special hilly style black tea with a plate of onion pakoras. It was slightly drizzling in the evening and we enjoyed the hot tea, sitting in the front yard of the homestay.
At around 8:30 pm, Mr. D. K. Khawas- owner and founder of Khawas homestay joined us and we spent the evening, getting meaningful information from Mr. Khawas about Icchegaon along with some drinks specially the local beer – Thumba.
Having tasty dinner of hilly style Roti, Sabji and Desi Chicken curry, we dozed off early.
Day 2: Wishes turned into reality
Our next morning started with a hard knock at our door. It was around 5:15 am when one of the Dajus of the homestay called us to witness the real magic of Icchegaon. We rushed to the rear balcony of home stay’s 1st floor and we just became speechless as almighty Mt. Kanchenjunga was standing in front of us with its crystal clear view.
The beauty of Kanchenjunga was more flourished by the first rays of Sun and the surrounding filled with bucket of white clouds, was nothing but an add on to such precious view. This fortunate experience already made our day.
As planned last night, we got ready to trek the distance between Icchegaon and Sillerygaon. Due to monsoon, the connecting road up to Sillerygaon was time consuming and also not in good condition so we unanimously decided to follow the way through the Icche forest. Our local hosts willingly joined us and after breakfast we all moved ahead to explore Sillerygaon.
The steep slippery road through the forest was full of leeches and wild grasses. Although we were scared initially but finally we covered the distance within one hour. Sillerygaon was nothing but another gem in the lap of hills.
It resembled Icchegaon as it was also a small lovely hilly village, offering magnificent view of the surrounding hills and pine forest. Welcoming hosts were also present there, we took seats in one of the uncountable homestays to enjoy cup of hot teas while enjoying the panoramic view of the village.
Taking a short tour around the village and meeting some dwellers, we went back to our homestay following the same jungle way.
Our next destinations for the day were Delo Park and Doon Valley. We freshened up and got ready quickly to start our ride towards our destinations. At around 11 am, we reached Delo – the highest point of Kalimpong.
That day, it was filled with dense fog and chilled breeze so although we couldn’t get any view of the surrounding hills but the ambiance was good.
The park was crowded with lots of tourists and locals. A group of people was entertaining the tourists by performing local songs, some were offering horse riding, and others were paying visit to the temporary food and crafts stalls. Enjoying a leisure walk around the park, we headed towards Doon Valley.
It was the best yet-to-be-explored places we have ever seen. Meandering river Relli was flowing through the colourful hilly stones and an elongated hanging bridge was made over the river to connect two sides.
Our car was parked at the entrance and we walked over the hanging bridge to reach the riverside. The bridge offered a breath-taking view of the shining river & its adjacent beauties.
We also went to the waterfall that was another watery source of the river. Continuous downpour of water was the only medium to break the silence of Doon Valley.
We came back to our homestay at around 3 pm and delicious lunch was already waiting for us there. In the evening Mr. D. K. Khawas and his family arranged a bonfire for us. Other guests joined us too. Under the moon lit sky, we relished such mystic environment with crispy chicken pakoras, salads, bhujias, drinks and music including heart touching performance of Daju.
Day 3: Bidding goodbye to Icchegaon
It was our last day at Icchegaon. We woke up late in the morning as none of us believed that it was the end of the trip that day. Like other days, Daju made our morning good with cups of special black tea. After that, we packed our bags and got ready to leave. Mr. Khawas joined us in breakfast and we took leave from them. We were so rejoiced by the hospitality and serenity of Icchegaon that tears rolled down from our eyes while bidding goodbye to this place.
Before going back to Siliguri, we decided to pay a short visit to Lava so we headed towards Lava Monastery.
Scenic beauty of the roadside hills and pine forests towards Lava was itself eye soothing. A drive of 2.5 hours took us to the Monastery. It was located at a hill top and the large shrine of Lord Buddha was praiseworthy.
Pristine view of the region from the top of the Monastery added one more memorable feather in our trip. We roamed around the monastery, enjoyed piping hot chicken Momos from a roadside eatery and then drove back to Siliguri.
In our way towards Siliguri from Lava, we took a halt at Gorubathan that had numerous evergreen tea gardens.
In the afternoon we reached to our final destination – Siliguri.
Long drives through the beautiful hilly roads, company of friendly hosts, unforgettable Mt. Kanchenjunga, scenic beauty and serenity of Icchegaon gifted us a lifetime memory.