Darjeeling’s newest tourist attraction offers rolling Himalayan views minus the crowds—if you’re willing to break a sweat. In January this year, the district inaugurated a 20-km cycling trail in the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary, which weaves through thick pine forests and past numerous viewpoints with panoramic vistas. The path is closed to cars and motorbikes, and is a rare opportunity for the country’s growing population of bike lovers.
The forested trail begins at the sanctuary’s main gate near Jorbangla and ends at the state tourism guesthouse in the tiny hillside village of Chatakpur, inside the park. At Chatakpur, riders can enjoy cups of chai, and stay on, too. “The path is an old route that used to connect Darjeeling and Kurseong,” Anurag Srivastava, Darjeeling’s district magistrate, told National Geographic Traveller India. “It is not a very difficult route, with gentle slopes that all riders will be able to handle.”
Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary is one of India’s oldest protected areas, having been declared a sanctuary in 1915. Its lakes supply Darjeeling town with drinking water and its forests abound in wild boar, rabbits, and barking deer. Himalayan bears and leopards have also been spotted at its perimeter.
The cycling path is open throughout the year from sunrise to sunset, except during the monsoon. Permits (₹50) can be purchased at the sanctuary entrance, about a 30min-cycle ride from Darjeeling city. Cycles and mountain bikes can be rented from Darjeeling for about ₹800 per day. Local authorities are working to make the path more tourist friendly with signs, bike racks and marked viewpoints to enjoy the surrounding mountains. It sounds like a nice (crowd-free) way to spend the day, but don’t plan a picnic: Cyclists will not be allowed to carry snacks, although drinking water is allowed.
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