Lava is West Bengal’s best kept winter secret!

Sleepy, quaint, and untouched — Lava is one of the few places in West Bengal to receive snowfall.
The enchanting Kanchenjunga as seen from Lava. Image: Shutterstock/Dipankar Photography.

There’s no dearth of undiscovered winter destinations in India. We recently had a social media contest, asking our digital network to share their favourite hidden winter gems. Lava, suggested by Shilpa Shekhawat, is one of the top three lesser-known places we picked, where you can go to enjoy a snowy winter wonderland this season.

Darjeeling and Kalimpong are passé. If you truly yearn for pristine wilderness amid snow-capped mountains and virgin pine groves in West Bengal, arrive at Lava. The misty little hamlet sleeps 30 kilometers away from Kalimpong, amid thick forests and rolling valleys. One of the few places to receive snowfall in the state, Lava comes lined with age-old Tibetan monasteries, cascading falls, canopied hanging bridges, and abundant lush greenery.

From breathtaking views of Kanchenjunga to encounters with the elusive red pandas, the village, speckled with some 40-odd houses, has a lot to offer. The Kagyu Thek Chen Ling Monastery, also known as Lava Monastery, here was established by the third Kongtrul Rinpoche, Karma Lodro Chokyi Senge. The unmissable red facade of the gompa has a huge open courtyard, accommodates close to 100 monks in its complex, and offers unparalleled views on all sides.

The beautiful facade of Lava Monastery. Image: Shutterstock/Kittus.

Lava also serves as the gateway to the famous Neora Valley National Park. A popular birders’ paradise, Neora is home to exotic flora and fauna, including the endangered red panda, leopard, Asiatic black bear, sloth bear, barking deer, wild boars, and the Himalayan flying squirrel. Go on a birding trail through the park and you’d find the most sought-after birds including satyr tragopan, rufous-throated partridge, golden-throated barbet, and Darjeeling woodpecker among others.

The Neora Vallery National Park is home to red pandas. Image: Shutterstock/Shivang Mehta.

Located at an altitude of 7,200 feet, Lava is quite ideal for intrepid travellers looking for a winter escape in the region. Come December, the tiny hamlet welcomes you with gentle showers of snow, and the deep snow covers stay till as long as April! Take in uninterrupted views of snow-peaked mountains like Kanchenjunga, Siniolchu, and Jelep La Pass, and hike up to nearby lesser-known villages to truly experience this winter wonderland.

Suggested read: #TDWinterList: Pick Chopta for your next offbeat winter getaway!

What to do near Lava

Once you are done exploring the Lava Monastery and the Neora Valley National Park, you can move on to other attractions like Changey Waterfalls and Rachela Peak. Visit nearby clusters of Rishop and Kolakham to meet rural communities and simply unwind with a little picnic in the silent pine forest. An hour from Lava, Lepcha is most famous for its ‘canopy walk’, a series of interconnected hanging footbridges in the forest!

Lava looks exceptionally surreal during winter. Image: Courtesy West Bengal Tourism.

Where to stay in Lava

WBFDC (West Bengal Forest Development Corporation) maintains a few decent cottages in this region for nature enthusiasts. Or you can choose to stay at the Neora Valley Retreat in Rishop. The resort offers seven pinewood cottages with panoramic views, lush green lawns for idle walks, multi-cuisine dishes prepared from fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, sunrise treks to Tiffindara, and more.

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