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Scenic, tranquil and remote, the Samthar Valley, is located 42 Kms from Kalimpong at an elevation of 1400 Meters. It is surrounded by mountain streams, terraced cultivation and forests. The inhabitants are a blend of various ethnic groups-Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepali. The original Lepcha tribal people lived in the valleys. They were woodsman and utilized the forest resources to live off the land. Knowing no religion, they worshiped nature spirits. When the Bhutanese ruled this land, many were converted to Buddhism. Later the British rulers brought in Christian missionaries, who converted some of them to Christianity. Hinduism arrived with the Nepalese settlers, who also taught the Lepchas to farm the land. Today the ethnic groups are fused together in harmony. They have adopted Nepali as a link language, yet maintained their diverse cultural identity. It is an ideal place to peep into lifestyles of this fascinating hill community. It also has diverse flora, well-developed mountain agriculture, forests, river valleys, and offers one of the finest views of Mount Khangchendzonga and the panorama of snows.
To show case the Samthar Valley, home stays have been set up with philanthropic assistance as part of integrated village tourism project Awake and Shine. The project aims at generating earning for the community, through tourism, and providing quality education at the foundation level.
|Samthar Farm House||Wise Elephant bungalow||Village homestays|
The home stays
Samthar offers two categories of home stays. Premium home stay is available at the Samthar Farm House, personally hosted by Gen Jimmy Singh, and at the Wise Elephant bungalow. Village home stays, are hosted by individual community members. For details go to the links below:-
Paying guest Reimbursement in INR
Rates include all meals
|Location & Room type||Room Single||Double||Family (04)|
|Samthar Farm House Premium home stay hosted by Gen Jimmy Singh|
|Garden Cottage Suite. All MealsExtra bed and baby cot available||5000||6000|
|Heritage suite in main house All meals||5000||6000|
|Dbl Room in Main house. All meals||4500||5000|
|Dbl Cottage Rooms . All meals Extra bed and baby cot available||4500||5000|
|Honey moon cottage||4500||5000|
|Wise Elephant BungalowSuitable for family of 4Self catering allowed|
|Full bungalow with mealsBed rooms (2) Toilet & Bath (1) Dining , Kitchen and sitting roomLawn & Garden||5000||6500||9000|
|Full Bungalow without meals||4500||6000|
|Extra for hire of Kitchen, utencils, crockery, and cutlery||1000||1000|
|Village home stays|
|Charles lepcha’s homestayDbl room upper level in family cottage||2000||2500|
|Awake & Shine Guest room hosted in Gairi Gaon village by Bhujel familyDbl room + use of lounge & dining annexe||3000||3500|
|Hit Bahadurs homestayGairi gaon villageTwo roomed cottage + use of lounge and dining Annexe||2000||2500|
|Pushpa Bhujel’s HomestayGairiGaon VillageDbl Room upper level in family cottage+ use of lounge and dining AnnexeAvailable after 01 Sept 2015||2000||2500|
Our home stay tours provide a unique, relaxed and fulfilling holiday; which is an opportunity to explore rural lifestyles, interact with rural people, and enjoy a relaxed holiday in serene and scenic environment amongst friendly people. Guests can also learn some village skills and try their hand at village chores.
The Awake and shine School welcomes interaction with guests.
All tours are tailored to your preference. You will be staying at genuine home stays ; where you and your companion/ family members will be the sole guests and will enjoy personal contact and privacy
Your host family will organize your day as per your requirement. They will:-
- Walk you round the surrounding hamlets, and introduce you to the various families, to enable you to get a peep into lifestyles.
- Walk you round the agriculture fields and, explain the activities in progress . Also arrange for you to participate in village activities and chores, such as Traditional ploughing, Caring for cattle, milking, Caring for pigs, Collection of firewood, building bamboo frame house, grinding in a stone grinder and more....
- Arrange a visit to the Awake & Shine Primary School www.awakeandshine.org
- Arrange for you to visit the local shaman, traditional blacksmith or the village tailor
If you stay longer you can learn to make: bamboo baskets, straw mats, chang beer out of Kodo ( Black millet), and local dishes
There is plenty of opportunity to interact with the local folks, participate in village feasts, singing and dancing, archery and more...
Robyn Wardill’s Experience
In a typical tour over 9 days, she participated in a range of activities – Forest trekking with great views, X-mas with Lepcha Christians, Millet beer making, mud plastering. basket making, fire wood collection, cow & goat herding, Black smithy, Rice straw mat making, tailoring, and Indian cooking, She had a session with the local shaman, and attended Hindu and Buddhist prayer rituals, and a feast. Robyn’s tour generated income for a car driver- owner, two home stay families, six families providing experiences, Village shaman, Hindu priest and Buddhist monks, four porters, three village guides, tailor, Black smith, women’s handicraft group, and a host of small shop keepers.
Robyn writes: “ It was the end of a most happy home stay. Even writing a diary such as this can not capture the multitude of little things that warmed my heart and made me happy. It was a most memorable visit made wonderful by so many special people. It was very sad to say goodbye to Charles (Lepcha host). I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat”
On a similar tour Arthur C. Heidebrecht, commented:
“Not only was everything well organized but the hospitality and friendliness of everyone who we were with was outstanding. I also want to say how much we enjoyed staying in the Samthar village area, both at Gairi gaon and at Charles' homestay. That whole experience, including the visit to the Awake and Shine school was extremely enjoyable and informative. I want to wish you well with your efforts in relation to the school as well as to the other development work you have initiated in that village”.
Shirley and Helga wrote: “What a fabulous way to end an incredible first visit to India.
Dear General, your work is such an inspiration, and your place is so beautiful! Thanks to you and your superb staff, we learned so much and experienced so much more!”
Paul & Helen wrote:
“Our very favourite place of all those we stayed at was Samthar village. There was world of difference between this and the organized tourism we found in Bhutan.. People were very attentive and kind and the food was so nice and well prepared. It was great just to be able to hang out and on the first morning we enjoyed just being with children. Charles was a great guide always willing to engage in conversation about the locality, village life and culture. It was so good to get to meet local people on our walks and be able to visit the heart of life in the valley. We left Samthar a little sad in our hearts - a sign I think that it was possible to get to know people just a bit in a short space of time - enough to glimpse their lives and have a hope for their future wellbeing.”
Our home stays continue to provide an experience to remember for discerning travelers and income to four households.
Trekking , village walks, and mountain biking are the best ways to explore the country side. We have created several options to cater for both the easy going types and the hard core trekkers and bikers. Package tours for 2,3, and 4 night stay at village home stays are available. We will be happy to tailor a holiday just for you.
How to reach Samthar?
Guests can easily reach Samthar from Bagdogra/ NJP via Kalijhora and Ponbu in 2.30 hrs, and from Kalimpong via Rilli Valley and Sinji, also in 2.30 hrs. The ride is rough in parts, but is compensated by the refreshing scenery enroute.
We arrange transportation by exclusive vehicles, owned and operated by the local community from NJP, Bagdogra, and Kalimpong.
Several village taxis run daily between Kalimpong and Samthar departing from Kalimpong around mid day. Prices per ticket are around Rs 200. Contact Tara Bhujel Mobile 09932701084 for booking in shared taxis.
When to go ?
In June- July, life in the community revolves around the monsoons and the sowing of the paddy crop – the life giver. The monsoons start during early June and continue till end September. The heavy down pour is utilized for flooding the terraced paddy fields. Lush greenery all rounds and banks of cloud formations moving across the valleys, rising and drifting, are sights to remember. The transplanting of seedlings is done in July. Sowing is a big occasion, entire families participate on a cooperative basis to overcome the manpower shortage. Guests are welcome to come and join the fun. Go to http://astonishingindiatours.com/monsoon-magic/
Maize and the mother plants of the Ginger crop are harvested and Kodo – the black millet used primarily to make chang beer and some types of pulses and beans for domestic consumption are planted.
Aug: It is time for weeding of paddy and Kodo crop – a back breaking job. The maize crop is harvested
Sept: Weeding of crops continue
Oct- Nov: By the end of September the monsoons come to a stop. Oct has days of mellow weather with some showers.
Oct is also the festival season. Durga Puja followed by Tihar (Diwali) are the two main festivals of the Hindu Nepalese. In preparation for Dashain every home is cleansed and beautifully decorated, painted as an invitation to Godess Durga and Laxmi, so that they may visit and bless the house with good fortune. During this time family members assemble from far & near to be together. Gifts of new clothing, and supplies of temple offering for the gods, as well as foodstuffs for the family feasting, are purchased. Sheep, goats, ducks, chicken and even water buffalo are prepared for the sacrifice.
Dashain (Durga puja)
Dashain comprises fifteen days of celebration during the lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon. Goddess Durga in all her manifestations is worshiped with innumerable pujas, abundant offerings and animal sacrifices.
Dashain commemorates a great victory of the gods over the wicked demons. One of the victory stories told is the Ramayan, where the lord Ram after a big struggle slaughtered Ravana, the king of demons. It is said that lord Ram was successful in the battle only when goddess Durga was evoked. The main celebration glorifies the triumph of good over evil and is symbolized by goddess Durga slaying the terrible demon Mahisasur, who terrorized the earth in the guise of a brutal water buffalo. The first nine days signify the nine days of battle between goddess Durga and the demon Mahisasur. The tenth day is the day when Mahisasur was slain and the last five days symbolize the celebration of the victory with the blessing of the goddess.
In Nov the paddy and Kodo millet is harvested
Dec – Jan: This is the cold spell with generally clear weather and blue skies with occasional periods of foggy conditions due to snow in the higher regions.
In Dec X-mas is celebrated by the Lepcha Christian community with the usual rituals and festivities to celebrate the birth day of Lord Jesus. The Lepcha New Year called Namsong is celebrated by the Lepchas with prayers, feasting, archery competitions and more.
December is also time to sow potatoes, spinach and some other vegetables.
In Jan people go out on picnics and outings. It is also time to collect the firewood for the year.
Feb – March: Winter still lingers on. Usually the weather is clear but visibility remains a bit hazy due to dust from the plains. Snow fall in the higher regions brings cold spells in its wake. There are occasional short spells of rain and hail in Feb- Mar.
Spring flowers start blooming. Evergreen forests get new leaves. There is bird song in the air.
Water springs start drying up and there is an acute shortage of water.
In Feb the Buddhist New year called Losar is celebrated by Buddhist Lepchas and Bhutias with prayers, song , dance and feasting.
In Feb the mustard and potatoe crop is harvested.
In March Maize & Ginger crop is planted.
Apr- May: In April the pre -monsoon weather prevails. Thunder shower occur in the evenings with spectacular display of lightning across the sky accompanied by furious thunder, heralding the arrival of summer. The weeding of maize and ginger crop takes place.
May has warm days, followed by short bursts of rain the evenings. Preparations for planting paddy start in May, with ploughing and planting of seedlings. Paddy fields are rebuilt by refilling soil and repairing water dykes and channels. The farmers and oxen toil hard in the hot sun and pray for timely rains.
The Samthar Farm House The Samthar Farm House is an exclusive homestay, favored by visitors seeking unusual places. This is a nonprofit hospitality centre. It has Read More
Wise Elephant Bungalow This fully furnished bungalow is located close to the Samthar Farm House on the forest fringe, with direct views of Mt Khanchendzonga, and the Teesta valley. Read More
Village homestays Home stay cottages have been donated to members of the local community with philanthropic funding, or built by individual owners with philanthropic help from Awake Read More