Visit Neora Valley National Park: The Ultimate Guide for The Perfect Wilderness Retreat (2021)
Located in the Kalimpong district of West Bengal, Neora Valley National Park is the perfect place to explore wilderness and wildlife. This wildlife sanctuary is one of India’s oldest forest reserves and is spread over an area of 88 square km. The Neora Valley National Park is dedicated to the ancient Neora river flowing through the busy town of Kalimpong. Hence, it is named after the beautiful river. Adventure enthusiasts often choose Neora Valley National Park for engaging in different activities. Camping and trekking are the most common activities that people participate in while exploring this forest reserve.
The nearest hill station from Neora Valley National Park is located in Lava. If you are a wanderlust traveller, the chances are that you already know about Lava. While most tourists end their trip after exploring Lava, the genuine wildlife lovers venture into the unknown terrain of Neora Valley. The distance between the Neora Valley National Park and Lava is relatively less, but the challenging roads connecting the two sites prolongs the journey to several hours. Trekkers visit this park to hike up to its top-most point. Rachela pass is the top-most point of this forest. The view that can be witnessed from this point is undoubtedly unparalleled.
Not everyone who plans on exploring Neora Valley National Park, trek to its highest point, many tourists only explore the forest. The forest itself is magnificent. The thick shrubbery of various trees, the ever-flowing streams, and the surrounding mountain ranges make this site quite mystical. There are some sites located pretty close to Neora Valley that is exceptionally beautiful. People prefer to explore those places as well while visiting this wildlife reserve. The wildlife population of this site is pretty impressive. From wild animals to endangered birds, Neora Valley National Park is the home to various wildlife.
If you were thinking about taking a trip into the wilderness but cannot decide which site to visit, then Neora Valley National Park might be an excellent option for you. Even if you are not an avid adventurer, visiting this forest will not be a big deal for you. In this guide, you will get every information regarding Neora Valley National Park in details. So, let’s venture into the enthralling beauty of Neora Valley right now.
History and Location of Neora Valley National Park
In 1986, Neora Valley National Park got the accreditation as a National Park. As it is one of the richest ecological and biological zones in Eastern India, India’s forest department makes sure this site is protected. This forest is mostly known for being the home to the mystical and endangered Red Pandas. Moreover, the different biomes inside the forest premises make it even more critical to the country’s wildlife coverage.
Neora Valley National Park’s varying terrain makes it pretty different from the rest of the wildlife sanctuaries in India. Over there, you will find a massive altitudinal difference. At some point in the park, the height is 600 feet, while it is around 8000 feet at others. It is pretty surprising to know that a site whose average height is around 2000 feet, has a maximum point at the altitude of 10,600 feet. That is why this forest reserve shares its boundaries with so many varying locations. At its highest point, Neora Valley shares its borders with Bhutan in the North-Eastern direction and Sikkim in the Northern direction. Precisely, this park’s boundaries are adjacent to the famous Toorsa Strict Reserve in Bhutan and Pangolakha Wildlife sanctuary in Sikkim.
At the Neora Valley forest’s lower points, it shares its borders with the Gorumara National Park and Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary. One of the unique things about this forest is that no human habitat traces have ever been found on its premises. That is why its bio-diversity has been preserved in such a particular way for so many decades. Neora Valley National Park’s convenient geographical location makes it the perfect point for witnessing the true beauty of Mount Kanchenjungha. Throughout the forest area, tourists get to see glimpses of the majestic mountain ranges quite easily.
Ways to Reach Neora Valley National Park
Now, to reach Neora Valley National Park, you can opt for two different methods. Either you can choose vehicles to explore its premises, or you can trek your way up to its top. The choice depends on your enthusiasm for exploring the wilderness and your physical health. Nevertheless, we are including the details regarding both the methods in the following.
Before starting our discussion regarding Neora Valley National Park’s exploration, let us quickly get to know how to get there. To reach the park, you will first have to reach Lava. As we have mentioned earlier, Lava is a reasonably popular tourist spot located in the Kalimpong district of West Bengal.
There are three different ways you can reach Lava. They are given below.
By Air: The nearest airport from Lava is located in Bagdogra. Finding planes from different parts of India connecting to Bagdogra is not a problem. From Bagdogra, either you can rent a car or go to Siliguri to avail the public bus services to reach Lava. The distance from NJP to Lava is 100 km.
By Rail: The nearest railway station from Lava is located in New Jalpaiguri (NJP). This station is quite popular and is highly connected to the rest of the country. You could easily find trains from major cities of India that will take you to New Jalpaiguri Station. From NJP, you will have no problem renting a car to take you to Lava. Or else, you can get on a public bus to reach there. The distance from Bagdogra to Lava is around 108 km.
By Road: From different parts of North Bengal, you will find government-run buses that will take you to Lava. These buses can be availed from significant towns like Cooch Behar, Siliguri, Jalpaiguri, Malda, and others. In case you are renting a car, then travelling towards Lava by road would be even more comfortable for you. You would quickly get rented cars from any point of North Bengal.
After reaching Lava, you can rest there overnight or start your journey towards Neora Valley National Park that day only. As the distance between Lava and the wildlife reserve is only 10 km, it would not take you more than an hour to reach there by car. It is always, a good idea to book a Land Rover-type Jeep to reach there. Many people prefer the route to Neora Valley that covers different points of Dooars. From Malbazaar, you can rent a Jeep that would take you to the park via beautiful places like Chalsa, Samsing, Suntaley Khola, and others.
If you plan on trekking to the park, the following part of this guide is essential for you.
There are two points from where you can start your trekking journey towards Neora Valley National Park. One trail starts from Lava, and the other one starts from Samsing. As the trail from Lava is the most popular, we are going to discuss it today. Before talking about the trail, you must know that the permits you would require to enter the wildlife sanctuary will be available in Lava’s forest ranger office only. We always advise our readers to make every arrangement regarding the permit before arriving at Lava.
The entire trek of Neora Valley National Park from Lava takes around four to five days. On the first day of your excursion, you will reach Chaudapheri camp. This campsite is located in one of the most beautiful locations in India. On the second day of your trek, you will reach the Jaributi watchtower located inside Neora Valley forest. From this tower, you will get the entire region’s panoramic view and get to see many rare species of birds.
On the third day of your trip only, you will reach Rachela pass via Jorpokhri. As this is the highest point of the forest reserve, you will get the vivid spectacle of Mount Kanchenjungha from there. The Nathula pass and Bhutan ridge are also visible from this point. Many people stay at the tribal villages, Todey and Tangta located quite close to Rachela pass. Staying in this village will allow you to enjoy your trekking expedition genuinely.
On the last day of your trip, you will descend from Todey and Tangta. Jhalong and Bindu are the endpoints of this trek. If you want you can trek towards Suntalekhola from there.
Species of Flora and Fauna Found in Neora Valley National Park
Apart from being surreally beautiful, Neora Valley National Park is quite famous for being home to many rare and endangered plants, animals and birds. Even though the chance of actually seeing some of these animals during your trip to Neora Valley is slim, the experience of visiting there is priceless.
Among the fauna species, the Red Panda is the most coveted wild animal living in the forest. According to a 2015 survey, there are only 38 Red Pandas living in Neora Valley Forest Reserve. That is why witnessing any of those 38 Pandas is seemingly impossible. The deed is even tougher to achieve if you are exploring the park by a vehicle. The chance of getting to see some animals is more if you trek through the region. Black Asiatic Bear is another animal that made this forest it’s home. These animals chose to live in this forest because the entire forest of Neora Valley is filled with Bamboo trees. Animals like Bear and Pandas live in Bamboo trees, and hence Neora Valley forest reserve became the perfect place for their home.
Some people believe this region is also home to some Royal Bengal Tigers. Although this fact is not verified, local people believe in having seen the wild beast in the forest. Barking Deer, Flying Squirrel, Leopards, Goral Deer, etc. can be seen quite often among other wild animals. If you plan on trekking inside the premises of Neora Valley National Park, do not forget to bring a trained guide with you. If you start trekking there along without any supervision, your chance of getting attacked by a wild animal will increase.
Bird-lovers quite often visit the forest reserve. With more than 265 species of birds, this region is a paradise for them. Among the different avian species, the most commonly seen ones include Golden Headed Black Finch, Himalayan Griffon, Great Pied Hornbill, Falcon, Khaliz Pheasant, and others. While exploring the park, you will notice some endangered bird species as well. Some of them are Rusty Bellied Shortwing, Flycatcher, Myanahs, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, black-faced laughing thrush, Scaly-breasted scimitar babbler, and others.
The forest is also habitat for some reptiles including Common Krait, King Cobra, Blind Snake, Green Pit Viper, and others. Moreover, the wide variety of butterfly species inside the park premises make it even more enchanting. Tourists have expressed their wonderment regarding Neora Valley due to a myriad of colourful birds and butterflies.
Apart from the animals, birds, and reptiles, this region’s plant diversity will also make you baffled. There are three different biomes inside the forest that consist of different varieties of trees. The thickness of these plants makes the interior region of the forest perpetually dark. Some Neora Valley Forest regions never encountered sunlight due to the thick shrubbery of the surrounding plant life.
Perfect Time to Visit Neora Valley National Park
Before getting into the discussion about the best time to visit Neora Valley National Park, you must know that this park is closed from June 15 to September 16 due to downpour of rainfall. For the rest of the year, this region is visited by tourists across the globe. If you are an avid bird-watcher, the months of March to April are the perfect time for you to visit this forest. During these months the visibility of the said avian species is much higher. Moreover, if you go there in the spring season, you will get to witness the blooming orchids quite easily.
On the other hand, if you plan on going there between November and February, you will receive harsh climatic conditions and have less chance of witnessing wild animals and birds. But due to the clarity of the skyline, the view of Mount Kanchenjungha and other ranges from this area will be much more cleared during this time. So, you will have to choose when you want to visit Neora Valley National Park depending on your desire.
Some Important Points to Consider Before Visiting the Park
There are some critical points that you should keep in mind before planning your trip to Neora Valley. They are given below.
The entry permits that allow you to enter Neora Valley National Park can be obtained from the Forest Ranger offices located in Lava and Samsing. Due to lack of knowledge, many people make the mistake of getting to the park right away without receiving the permits. That is why they often have to return to Lava to obtain the required slips.
It would be best if you kept some time in your hand to obtain the permits. Usually, it takes about two to three hours to get the required entry slips. The Forest Ranger office opens at 6 am.
- You will have to pay an entry fee of INR 120 per head to enter the Neora Valley National Park by foot. If you are travelling there in a vehicle, you will have to pay INR 400 to enter its premises.
- The best way to get all the necessary information regarding the guides and permits required for exploring this forest is by visiting the Nature Interpretation Centre located in Lava.
- The Jeep Safari to Neora Valley National Park would not cost you more than INR 3000. Usually, this Safari lasts for about four to five hours. A trained guide will charge you around INR 700.
- Always bring your food and drinking water before visiting this forest. There is no place to eat inside Neora Valley National Park premises.
Must-See Places Near Neora the Wildlife Reserve
Neora Valley National Park’s gorgeous location allows you to explore some other breathtakingly beautiful sites. Some of the most popular places near this park are provided below.
Located inside the forest reserve premises, Kolakham is one of the most beautiful places in West Bengal. With a height of 6100 feet, this tiny hamlet is the most popular place to stay inside the park. Nature lovers prefer this site for staying because it allows them to experience the vast wilderness of Neora Valley genuinely. Surrounded by the forest’s endless greenery and the surreal view of the majestic Kanchenjungha, the beauty of this village is unparalleled.
If you plan on trekking in this forest, Kolakham should be an essential spot for your trip. Many tourists prefer Kolakham village as the starting point of their hike.
2. Todey Tangta
Todey and Tangta are two mesmerizingly spectacular hamlets located inside the premises of Neora Valley National Park. You will find the thick shrubbery of the forest throughout these villages and the immense beauty of the adjacent tea gardens. You will never witness this much greenery in your life apart from Todey Tangta and the rest of Neora Valley forest. Even though these regions’ height is around 4400 feet, the views that can be seen from there are fantastic. Due to the lack of tourist crowds and unwanted pollution, the skyline over there is perpetually clear.
Many tourists choose Todey or Tangta as their trekking expedition point towards Rachela peak. While visiting these sites, you will get to inhale fresh Himalayan air. There is a church located inside Todey village. This church seems quite surreal amid the rustic ambience of these hamlets.
3. Changey Waterfall
Changey Waterfall is one of the most beautiful places located near Neora Valley National Park. With an altitude of more than 400 feet, this waterfall is the highest in the Northern part of West Bengal. As this site is situated only 4.5 km from Kolakham, most people prefer to hike over there. If you want, you can reach there by renting a car. The gushing water from such an immense height is a beautiful sight to witness in one’s lifetime. Apart from the breathtakingly beautiful waterfall, the surrounding ambience of the region is also quite enthralling.
You will notice that the Kanchenjungha ranges can be seen pretty vividly from the site while reaching there. Even if you go there by car, you will have to hike the last 900 meters as no cars are allowed from that point. So, if you are not capable of walking that distance, avoid visiting this site.
Most Popular Places to Stay In and Around Neora Valley National Park
There are some beautiful homestays, and resorts located near Neora Valley National Park that are worth knowing. We have provided essential details regarding some of them in the following.
1. The Red Panda Eco Huts
Located in the magnificent ambience of Kolakham, the Red Panda Eco Huts is undoubtedly the most popular place to stay near Neora Valley forest. With four different cottages, this resort offers tourists a high comfort level amid the blanket of wilderness and nature. As this property has an excellent in-house restaurant, having delicious meals will not be a problem for you while staying there. If you stay there, you will get guided trekking trips into the forest reserve pretty quickly.
The resort also offers several birding tours that allow you to go bird-watching in Neora Valley pretty quickly.
Address: Neora Valley, near Lava, Kalimpong District, Kolakham, West Bengal 734319.
Phone Number: 084203 94747.
Website: Not available.
Price of a cottage per night: INR 2000.
2. Neora Valley Jungle Camps
One of the most beautiful places to stay near Neora Valley Forest, Neora Valley Jungle Camp is exceptional in every way. From luxurious cottages to breathtakingly beautiful ambience, from lip-smacking delicacies to warm hospitality, this resort checks off all the boxes in the list of a great forest resort. The location of this resort allows tourists to get the unhindered view of Mount Kanchenjungha. Even though the cottages’ tariff might seem pricey, you will understand that it was worth it after spending some time there.
By staying there, you will be able to trek into the magnificence of Neora Valley forest much more quickly. The Nepali dishes served by the resident cook of the resort are excellent. Tourists cannot praise the resort enough for offering them such a lovely retreat.
Address: Kolakham, Village, Lingsaykha Khasmahal, West Bengal 734319.
Phone Number: 033 2455 0917.
Price of a cottage per night: INR 5500.
A trip to Neora Valley will stay with you forever. No matter how you explore the site, whether by hiking or by driving, the calm and surreal ambience of the mystical forest will remain with you till you die. In this guide, we have tried to include every possible information regarding a trip to the park. If you want any more of its details, it would be better for you to follow the park’s official website. So, start taking some risk and plan a memorable trip to Neora Valley National Park right now.