Tonglu is a blissful hamlet in North Bengal, located at an elevation of 9600 feet. It is one of the highest peaks of the Singalila Range. Besides being a popular village in the Eastern Himalayas from where you can get a clear view of the Kanchenjunga, it is also a stop for trekking enthusiasts.
I reached Tonglu via Tumling from Dhotrey on the second day of our Sandakphu trek. However, you can visit Tonglu from Dhotrey as a part of your offbeat travel from Darjeeling, that lies 50 Km away from this quaint village.
Tonglu is a thinly populated village close to Tumling, where only 15 odd Nepali families reside in the beautiful cottages. Many of these cottages offer homestay accommodations. In recent years, a few private cottages and lodges have been developed in Tonglu to accommodate trekkers and travelers.
Actually, some of its parts lies in Nepal, and you wouldn’t know whether you are actually crossing the international border. Neither would you need any visa or special permit to visit Tonglu. The picturesque Himalayan hamlet remains shrouded under thick snow in December and January. So, if you take the trek route from Dhotrey to Tonglu, make sure to carry adequate snow gear.
Tonglu At A Glance
Map of Tonglu, West Bengal
Top Attractions And Activities At Tonglu
Enjoy Adventurous Trekking
The trek route from Dhotrey to Tonglu is around 6 Km. This is a beautiful trail, that presents trekkers with different views in summer and winter. While the stretch remains covered by beautiful orchids and herbs from March to May, you can witness significant snowfall in December and January.
The narrow trail takes you through the forests of rhododendron, magnolia, pines and spruce. While the elevation is not too high, it takes around 5 hours for beginners to complete the trek. You can also trek from Tonglu to Tumling 2 Km away taking the narrow road.
Engage In Stargazing
Well, I have often heard stories of clear skies in Tonglu that allows visitors to catch an expansive view of the Milky Way Galaxy. However, what I saw was rare. It was on the evening after reaching Tonglu from Dhotrey that I sat by the gorge on the side of the motorable road. The galaxy seemed to be the closest to me, besides being clear.
While my friends and I were engaged in stargazing, we sighted a shooting star. Amidst million of white dots, I was fortunate to stare at the sky at the right time. No wonder, trekkers spend hours in evening staring at the night sky at Tonglu.
Travel Photography & Vlogging
How about enjoying your photo sessions amidst the snow-clad trails from Tonglu to Tumling?
Well, I was fortunate to catch the beautiful scenery the next morning, with snowflakes covering the dried-up lake. Even the pines and rhododendrons had light flakes on the leaves. No wonder, the previous night had witnessed sub-zero temperatures.
Besides, photographers have plenty of nature views to capture. Particularly, you have the viewpoint strategically located between Tonglu and Tumling from where you can catch the Kanchenjunga on a clear day.
Watch this cinematic vlog by Debrup Travel and Films to see how beautiful is Tonglu.
How To Reach Tonglu?
If you are travelling to Tonglu from NJP, it will take you 4 hours to reach Manebhanjan and another 45 minutes to reach your final destination. On the other hand, it takes around 1 hour 15 minutes for cars from Darjeeling to reach Manebhanjan. The distance between Darjeeling and Manebhanjan is around 50 Km, while it lies around 110 Km from NJP.
Many people also start their trek from Manebhanjan and reach Dhotrey and Tonglu in a day. If you take the trek route from Dhotrey to Tonglu, you will be mesmerized by the beauty of the forest trail. If you want to skip Dhotrey, you can also reach Tonglu directly from Manebhanjan.
Scenic Places To Visit Near Tonglu
If you find accommodation at Tonglu, you need to cross Tumling the very next day if you are going to Sandakphu. There’s a gravel path connecting these two places. On snowy days, this path, which has not been partially concretized, looks amazing. At Tumling, you have a viewpoint from where you can witness the astounding views of high-altitude peaks like Mt. Everest, Mt. Makalu, and Mt. Lhotse.
Dhotrey lies 6 Km downhill from Tonglu, and 4 Km from Tumling. A mystic forest lies in between these two places. If you are a trekker, you must already have crossed this forest the previous day. Nevertheless, you can explore the woods even after you reach your destination. Dhotrey has beautiful pine forests that are apt for nature photographers.
3. Rangit Majua
This is a small mountain village that thrills travelers with its mesmerizing beauty, The Rangit and Siri-Khola rivers trickle gently along the mountainous terrain. Make sure to try organic food grown here, along with the homegrown tree in the village.
4. Singalila National Park
Tonglu is one of the highest points in the Singalila Range. Therefore, you are already in the National Park when you are here. The gravel path leads to the core of Singalila National Park, a home to several endangered species like the clouded leopard and the red panda. You need to travel towards Gairibas to reach the national park, and then trek further towards Sandakphu.
It is the highest peak in West Bengal and a must-go trek route for adventure lovers. Generally, trekkers stop at Dhotrey and then at Tonglu before trekking further to Sandakphu. The peak remains snow-covered during December and January. However, I was lucky enough to catch the entire range of the Sleeping Buddha immediately after a day of heavy snowfall.
This is another small village on the way to Sandakphu from Tonglu. Do you remember that I talked about the small lake beside Trekkers Hut in Tonglu? Kalipokhri has a very similar lake with an astounding view of the Himalayas. Most trekkers stop at Kalipokhri for a night before reaching Sandakphu. There are a few homestays with all basic amenities.
When Should You Visit Tonglu?
Well, Tonglu sits almost close to 10,000 feet above sea level. This explains why the temperature in Tonglu remains chiller than the temperature of Darjeeling or even Dhotrey throughout the year. During my Sandakphu trek in mid-January, I was overwhelmed by the presence of snow in Tonglu. While the temperature subsides below the freezing point at night, it hovers around 10°C to 15°C during the day.
Soumya and Koyeli, my colleagues and co-authors on NatureDiary, visited Tonglu in early November on the way to Tumling. As per their report, Tonglu was pretty cold at that time too, but there was no snow. The weather remained sunny and clear with no rainfall. Also, the Sleeping Buddha was clearly visible in the morning.
If you prefer the warmer months between March and May or even September, the average temperature lingers around 15-20°C. A part of the Singalila National Park remains closed for tourists during the rainy months between June and August. Winters and early summers give clear skies to trekkers and visitors, and you would love the sunny weather during this part of the year.
Best Accommodations At Tonglu
Tonglu GTA Trekkers Hut
The Trekkers Hut in Tonglu is located on the hilltop, and is run by the Gorkha Territorial Administration. In this beautiful red cottage, you have the option of booking dormitory rooms only. Trekkers and tourists can book individual beds at Tonglu Trekker’s Hut. Currently, a bed at Tonglu Trekkers Hut would cost you ₹400 a day, and you need to pay extra for the food.
In my experience, I accommodated myself along with six other trekkers in one of the dormitories of Trekkers Hut. The restaurant facility and food offered by the staff are decent. Like most homestays in Tonglu, it is solar- powered.
The mornings are particularly beautiful at Tonglu Trekkers Hut. I walked across the dry basin of the lake to the peak, which offered me a clear view of several ranges around. Also, Tonglu Trekkers Hut has a small garden around it. The plants had white snowflakes covering them, which added a majestic charm to the mystic land.
The trekkers hut is located just in front of a small lake, which brims with water between September and November. However, since I visited Tonglu in January, the water had dried up. Soumya captured this decent photo of Trekkers Hut in front of the lake during his trip in November.
Raju’s Homestay is yet another popular cottage-style accommodation in Tonglu, but this isn’t run by the government. It’s a private homestay where trekkers and travelers can find accommodation during their trekking.
It is a solitary cottage nested along the slopes. Standing in the courtyard, you can get a majestic view of the mountains. While there isn’t anything luxurious about Raju Homestay, the hospitality of the staff is homely indeed. All the rooms have the basic amenities with a minimalistic décor. Tourists love winding up in the cozy beds after a hectic day of trek!
In Raju homestay in Tonglu, you have only three rooms in the attic. All these rooms have dormitory-style accommodation. All the rooms have the basic amenities, while they have minimalistic décor. Tourists love winding up in the cozy beds after a hectic day of trek!
If you want to capture the alluring views of the mountains, this is one of the best places to book a room. Particularly, when you travel to remote places, you expect a warm welcome. This is exactly what Raju Homestay is known for.
As you can see, Tonglu has limited options for homestays. Also, all the rooms in these homestays/huts are dormitories. So, if you are looking for private accommodations, you might prefer staying at Tumling more than Tonglu.