About the Blog: Our search for offbeat getaways from Kolkata took us to Sonada this time. We stayed at a beautiful homestay at Sonada and explored the place. Read this travel blog to know about our experience at Sonada, the places to visit (Sonada Monastery, Rainbow Falls and others), where to stay, how to reach and other relevant information.
We have visited Darjeeling quite a number of times and have also explored several offbeat getaways near it. On our drive to Darjeeling, we have always crossed by Sonada, without giving it much thought. ‘Sonada’ has always been a part of the lyrics of the famous song by Anjan Dutta – whereby we cross Tung, Sonada and Ghoom to finally reach Darjeeling! However, our search for offbeat destinations took us to Sonada this time. And we found out, Sonada is quite a lovely destination to spend a couple of days.
Sonada – A Weekend destination
Sonada is located almost midway between Darjeeling and Kurseong. It is about 17 km from Darjeeling town and about 16 km from Kurseong. Sonada is a part of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways as there is a quaint Railway station at the town. The railway station is being built anew after it was gutted in fire in 2017.
As a hill destination, you will find no complaints with Sonada. From the upper parts of Sonada, you will get astounding views of the Kanchenjunga ranges. And the lower valleys of Sonada boasts of meadows, tea gardens and absolute greenery of pine forests. Cedar, Milling, Kalej valley and Balasun tea estates are all nearby Sonada town.
Our Experience at Sonada
Our trips to Darjeeling are usually always unplanned. If there is an extended weekend, we simply decide to go to Siliguri and then see where the road takes us. Getting train tickets at such a short notice is usually difficult and most of the time we travel to Siliguri by bus. However, this time, we luckily got a confirmed ticket to New Jalpaiguri.
So, we boarded the Darjeeling Mail and reached NJP the next morning. We took a shared sumo towards Darjeeling from NJP itself.
By the time we reached Sonada, it was drizzling. It seemed that the rains had been our companion in the last few times we visited Darjeeling. It had rained quite heavily when we visited Mahaldiram and Mim Tea Garden. And it seemed, rains would keep us company this time as well.
A light drizzle however makes Darjeeling and its surroundings quite charming and romantic. We had already informed our homestay for a car to take us to our stay. The car came soon and we started towards our destination.
The place where we were staying was located in the lower parts of Sonada. Our homestay was located at Little Ramitey village. It was located just a few minutes’ drive from the main road. You can even walk down to the homestay if you do not have much luggage. It will take about 15 minutes to the homestay and the road is all downhill.
Within a few minutes we reached Nischal Homestay – our stay for the night. A small gate made of bamboo that welcomed us. As we entered the premises, we found a huge room made of bamboo. That is the common area and the dining area.
Beside the dining area, a gravelly path led towards the garden beyond which were the cottages. There were only two bamboo cottages for guests at that time. The rooms were cozily built having a small verandah. All the furniture in the room was made of bamboo.
Nishchal Homestay is newly built. We were the 22nd guest there as per our host. Later, when we were chatting, he told us that he intends to build two more mud houses in the area. He does not want to have a large number of rooms. He intends to have 4 rooms so that he can provide the best hospitality to his guests.
After settling down in our rooms, we went for lunch. The food was simply delicious! We had rice, dal, vegetables and egg curry. There was also a dish made of local vegetables. The food was delicious and we ate a lot more than we usually do!
After lunch, we went out to explore the village area. There are a few trails going in different directions. We took the downhill one that went towards the forests. But woe is the rain! Soon it started raining and we had to come back to our homestay.
The evening was spent chatting with our hosts and having Darjeeling tea with pakodas. Our hosts lived just beside the homestay. He took us to his house and showed us around as we stuck up an interesting conversation on Buddhism.
The next morning, we woke up to the sound of chirping birds. The homestay was surrounded by tall green trees. The place was absolutely peaceful and quiet, perfect for spending a relaxing weekend.
While you can simply laze around the place, those looking for some activity can take a car and explore around.
Things to do in Sonada
There are a couple of places that you can visit in Sonada. Also being close to both Darjeeling and Kurseong, you can stay at Sonada and go for sightseeing at these places. Here is a list of things that you can do at Sonada.
Visit the Sonada Monastery
Every time we visited Darjeeling; we would see a huge monastery and a line of beautiful chortens on the way just after crossing Sonada. And every time we would think that we have to visit this monastery. We had earlier visited Ghoom Monastery, Dali Monastery and the other monasteries in Darjeeling, but always gave Sonada Monastery a miss.
This time, we got the chance to visit Sonada Monastery, also known as the Samdrup Dorjay Choeling Monastery.
The monastery was founded in 1966 by his eminence Dorje Chang Kabje Kalu Rinpoche or simply known as Kalu Rinpoche. He was born in Tibet. Kalu Rinpoche had established a retreat centre at Sonada. The monastery served as his residence and as the international seat of the Shangpa Kagyu tradition.
A Mummy at the Monastery
Kalu Rinpoche passed away at Sonada in 1989. The monastery has his mummified body enthroned inside the main shrine.
I was surprised to know that Sonada Monastery has a mummified body of a monk. I had heard and seen about a mummified monk at Spiti Valley. We had visited Darjeeling so many times, and yet did not know about this. A place can actually give you so many surprises.
Sonada Monastery is huge. There are huge stupas in front of the monastery and a statue of the Rinpoche. Once you climb the stairs, there is a prayer hall. Another flight of stairs will take you to a huge area where the main shrine is located. Sonada Monastery also has a monastic school for the education of young monks.
Once we reached the main prayer hall, we found out that some ceremony was being held that day. Several monks were inside the prayer hall getting ready for the ceremony. The monks invited us inside to watch the ceremony. We sat down and watched the rituals for some moments. It felt almost surreal to hear the monks chanting the hymns.
Gorato Nalichor Intek Cider
This is another beautiful place in Sonada. This place has a huge statue of Jesus Christ and a sanctum dedicated to Mother Mary. The place exudes serenity and you will definitely feel the peace once you visit this place.
Visit the Rainbow Falls
This is one of our best experiences of visiting Sonada. The Rainbow Falls is actually the waterfall that is located at Kalej Valley and Rangbull. It is a walking distance from Rangbull, but from Sonada, it is better to take a car to visit the waterfalls.
The roads will take you through the tea gardens and forests to finally reach the Rainbow Fall. You have to walk a little to reach the base of the waterfall. The place is absolutely gorgeous. Surrounded by forests and greenery all around, the place is a treat to the eyes. You can hear the sound of the roaring water from a distance. And the first glimpse of the waterfall is sure to take your breath away.
Explore the Tea Gardens
There are a number of tea gardens around Sonada. You can visit the tea gardens and explore the place. After our visit to the Rainbow Waterfall, we explored the tea gardens for some time.
After exploring these places, the car drove us to Darjeeling, our next destination. How can we miss Darjeeling in any of our trips to North Bengal!
Go for sightseeing at Darjeeling and Kurseong
As mentioned earlier, you can go for sightseeing at Darjeeling or Kurseong from Sonada. Obviously, it is difficult to visit both places in one day. You need one day for Darjeeling and another for Kurseong.
If you are looking for a Darjeeling Travel Guide, check our blog on the same.
If you go sightseeing to Kurseong, also visit Chimeni, another small and beautiful hamlet on the way.
How to reach Sonada?
The nearest Railway station is New Jalpaiguri (NJP) and if you are flying in then you have to reach Bagdogra. From NJP. Bagdogra or Siliguri, you can hire a car to reach Sonada. A small car will charge around INR 3000.
How to reach Sonada by shared vehicle?
If you are on budget, then you can take a shared jeep from either NJP or Siliguri Junction towards Darjeeling. A shared jeep will cost you Rs 400 per seat. Buses are also available from Siliguri towards Darjeeling. Any vehicle towards Darjeeling will stop at Sonada.
From Sonada, you can take a local cab to your homestay. Our car from Sonada to our homestay cost INR 500.
Homestays at Sonada
There are a number of homestays at Sonada. You can either stay at Upper Sonada or at lower parts of Sonada.
We stayed at Nischal Homestay at lower Sonada. The rate for stay at our cottage was INR 1200 per head per day. You can contact them at +91 8116200234.
Sonada does not have great views of Kanchenjunga, but the place is quite peaceful and soothing to the senses. The homestay is lovely and the hosts are super cool. We spent some great time at Nischal Homestay, had some very tasty meals and relaxed a lot. It was a perfect time spent in an extended weekend.
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