A small hamlet, perched at an altitude of 6000ft and surrounded by lush green mountains on all sides. The pine trees stand there like a royal guard protecting its hidden gems. The majestic Kanchenjungha can be viewed at a distance if the sky stands clear. The cool and misty air weaves around the village covering it in a cloak of peace and tranquillity. Sillerygaon, one of the picturesque destinations, is situated in the lap of the Eastern Himalayas in West Bengal’s Kalimpong district.
Sillerygaon is one of those rare places which has managed to retain its beauty even in the 21st century. A village where time stands still, and where the sky speaks of bounty is a little haven for everyone wanting to get far away from the hustle-bustle of their daily life.
With only some 30-35 families living here, Sillerygaon is the ideal place for an offbeat trip to the hills.
With the ever-smiling locals, the children basking in the sun, and cinchona trees being a constant sight, Sillerygaon has a raw appeal that is best appreciated by travelers who have luckily chanced upon this hidden gem.
A single and unpaved road snakes around the village while colorful matchbox-like houses rest on both sides of it. Sounds of the forest and birds can be heard almost all day as the cool breeze carries them to every house. No place for any luxurious hotel or a star restaurant, the houses have turned themselves into homestays offering a rare glimpse into the lifestyle and the local way of living. Sillerygaon remains unperturbed and undisturbed from the mechanization that has gripped the world.
The Story Behind Sillerygaon
If you go to Sillerygaon, you will see a forest of trees in the background. Those are the Sillery trees, unique to the region from which the hamlet has derived its name. Another common sight throughout the village is the cinchona plants which act as a source of the life-saving medicine, quinine. Initially, Sillerygaon was unaccustomed to tourists and travelers. However, the Silk route trip slowly gained popularity and Sillerygaon became the first place on the list in the Silk Route trip. Although the Silk Route tourists arrive at dusk and leave the next day at the crack of dawn, the real Sillerygaon can only be explored with 2-3 days at hand. As tourism saw a surge, the villagers saw a chance for economic upliftment and hence turned their homes into homestays, and thereby protecting their village from the onslaught of commercialization. Thus, in recent years, Sillerygaon has adopted the eco and organic lifestyle and offers travelers a rare chance to experience the same. With farm-fresh food, warm stories, starry nights, it has emerged as a postcard destination for fellow travelers.
Wearing the Explorer’s Hat
While Sillerygaon calls for a more relaxed way of traveling and adopting a laid-back lifestyle, there are still plenty of things to do. The village itself offers two treks, one that can take a few hours and the other that is relatively short and takes a maximum duration of 45 minutes. The first trek takes you to the nearby village of Ichhegaon while the short one takes you to Ramitey viewpoint, which offers a breath-taking view of the Teesta river.
If you have some more days at hand, you can also hire a car and check out nearby attractions like the historic Damsang Fort, the Spiritual Hanuman Top, and Cross Hill. A visit to the town of Pedong and its local monastery can also be another beautiful addition to your stay at Sillerygaon. Travelers looking to stay longer can go and explore Kalimpong, some 18-20 km away and have a fun time exploring its monasteries, parks, churches, etc. In short, Sillerygaon has something for everyone.
Below is the list of places you can visit while in Sillery Gaon-
Ramitey View Point- Not only is the trek short and thrilling, it seems that once you reach the end, you are at the edge of the world. The unpaved path meanders through a jungle in the forest and stretches on for approximately 3 km. It is a relatively easy trek and suits a beginner fine. On the way, you will meet enthusiastic travelers heading towards the viewpoint. Ramitey viewpoint overlooks the 14 bends of the Teesta river, which also happens to be the longest view of Teesta, offering you a birds-eye view. It looks all the more glorious during the golden hour.
Icche Gaon - A quaint little hamlet in the Kalimpong district, Icche Gaon which translates to the ‘wishing village’ is another destination that travelers can go to during their time at Sillery Gaon. A sister village to Sillery Gaon, Icche Gaon offers a majestic view of the Kanchenjunga and the surrounding ranges. Although the place can be reached through a trek from Sillery Gaon, it is advisable to take a car and go to the place. The distance by road from Sillery Gaon to Icche Gaon remains around 16 km. The wishing village will welcome you to its unspoiled beauty.
Ramdhura- Another village that offers travelers an ideal gateway to nature and serenity, Ramdhura is situated some 15 km from Kalimpong and can be stopped for a break during the road between Kalimpong and Sillerygaon. A pristine and undisturbed location, Ramdhura is surrounded by pine trees and mountains on all sides.
Sangchen Dorjee Monastery- Also known as the Pedong Monastery, this place of worship is hidden some 2 km away from the town of Pedong. The structure dates back to 1700 AD and houses relics of the Damsang Fort, the mummified body of the Bhutanese priest, Shabdrung Rinpoche, and also has frescoes relating to Tantric Buddhism. A peek into history, Sangchen Dorjee Monastery can be easily accessed from Sillery Gaon and has a distance of 8 km in between.
Damsang Fort- A historical place that is now in ruins will take you back to the 17th century when Gyabo Achyok, the final Lepcha King saw his rule from here. A local guide will tell you the significance of this place and how it was maintained to defend itself from the Bhutanese. Later the East India Company took over the reins of the fort after the Anglo-Bhutan war in 1864. Damsang Fort can be accessed via a 10km trek from Sillery Gaon. It is also recommended to take a guide for the trek
Silent Valley- If you are looking for some solace, head over to the nearby Silent Valley which lies in the way to Sillery Gaon. A lush green meadow surrounded by pine trees, Silent valley will transport you to a different world altogether. Also a bird watcher’s paradise, keep your binoculars and lens ready to spot various species of birds.
Momos, Wai-Wai and Tongba
A trip can never be complete without tasting the local cuisine of the place. While Sillerygaon does not boast of any restaurants, foodies and explorers alike can have the taste of the local cuisine at any of the homestays. Steaming hot momos are a must for anyone willing to laze in their cozy homestays and enjoy the beauty of the Himalayas. There are also a few local shops where you can have Maggi and wai-wai, which tastes best only in the mountains. If you have a penchant and flair for the unusual, taste the Tongba, a local drink made from fermented millets. In case you are looking for something more, do not hesitate to inform your homestay owner who can arrange for local dishes like Gundruk, Thukpa, Shaphaley, Rayo ka Saag, and many more. You can also join them and have an immersive experience all the while.
The nearby town of Kalimpong is also a must-visit for every foodie. A foodie’s paradise, Kalimpong offers you a plethora of dishes you can choose from. Restaurants are also in plenty and one can choose from the Thentuks and Gyathuks at Gompos to a high tea at the luxurious Elgin Silver Oaks.
Miles To Go Before I Sleep
Before you start exploring any place, the first step in the journey is to reach the place. To reach Sillerygaon, there are limited options one can choose from.
By Air- The nearest functional airport lies at a distance of 99 km in the plains of Siliguri. Bagdogra airport has a fair amount of connectivity with other cities in India and domestic flights can be easily booked. Pakyong airport lies at a distance of 60km in the neighboring state of Sikkim, however, flights are seldom scheduled.
By Train- The nearest station is that of New Jalpaiguri or NJP railway station at a distance of 95 km. Plenty of trains run daily throughout the day.
By Road- The journey to Sillerygaon will start from the plains of Siliguri and will take approximately 4 hours to reach the place. Cars can be hired from NJP station or Bagdogra airport. Even though the average time takes around 4 hours, the travel time can increase severely depending on the road conditions.
Is this the Perfect Weather?
Sillerygaon is one such place that looks different in different seasons. It can be visited throughout the year except during the monsoons when the unpaved roads can look risky.
The Spring and the Summers are also an ideal time for anyone looking to see wildflowers or take a respite from the heat.
The months of October to February are also perfect to have clear views of Kanchenjunga and do astrophotography at night.
If lucky, the months of January and February can witness snowfall turning Sillerygaon into a white paradise.
Bye, Bye Sillerygaon!
It is never fun when a trip ends. Sillerygaon will also ask you to return once again as you leave behind the raw beauty of this place and head over to the cities. Before leaving, click plenty of pictures to take them home. Make memories that will survive a lifetime and once you return home, go to sleep peacefully with dreams of this enchanting place!