In the North-East of India there are many gems for the ones who love the mountains, rivers and lush valleys. There is one wonder that stands tall and calls out to the world of adventurers at large, and that is Mount Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. And while the formidable peak sees many seeking it out, it resides in an area called the Khangchendzonga National Park which is actually home to numerous sights and wonders for the ones with the itchy feet.
The UNESCO World Heritage site spreads over a vast area of 1,784 sq. kms. approximately with mountain ranges and elevations going as low as 1,829 metres and then going to reach as high as 8,550 metres. Similarly, Tibet has the Qomolangama Nature Reserve while Nepal has the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area.
How to reach: If you’re looking to fly down, catch a flight till Bagdogra airport. And if you wish to catch a train, hop on one till New Jalpaiguri railway station. From both you will then have to travel by road to Khangchendzonga National Park.
Best time to visit: March to May, late August to mid-December
Highest altitude: 8,550 metres
Entry Fees: Rs.350 for an Indian adult for the first 7 days which is then followed with an increase of Rs.40 per day subsequently. Costs for cameras, guides, etc. are also an added affair.
Note: These areas can require permits and passes for your access, thus, make sure to check on that and get it taken care of in advance itself. Permits are required from the State Chief Wildlife Warden.
Myths and Cultural Significance
As per Buddhist culture, the land falling within this national park are actually part of the “Hidden Land”. It is where the religious masters are believed to have hidden significant texts and scripts in order to be discovered and adopted by the world at a later stage. The texts and scriptures are referred to as “ters”. And it is believed that the ones to reveal them would be the “ter-tons” or the treasure revealers. For these reasons, a number of areas within this park are deemed to be sacred by the locals, a fact that we all ought to be respectful of during our visit.
There is also a belief that there is a “Velley of Immortality” laying buried on the slopes of the highest peak here. The valley remains hidden and yet to be discovered by the modern world. Although attempts have been made by Buddhist practitioners and followers to seek it out. In fact, some years back a group of nearly hundred people trekked up in search of it together! The caves, rivers, lakes and forests all found in this national park are said to have many tales as per the local myths. These natural parks are not just valued but also revered and held in holy regard by the tribal communities nearby.
The park derives its name from the word “kanchenjunga” which is said to denote the “abode of God”, a name the peak is believed to have been conferred on account of its godliness. When the national park was established it originally covered only 850 sq. kms. area back in 1977. It was only in 1997, that the extent of the park came to extend and today, it covers an expanse of 1,784 sq. kms. Its recognition as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2016 marked it as a rare mixed heritage site. It has made to be one amongst the 11 World Network of Biosphere Reserves declared by the UNESCO.
A number of picturesque treks commence from within the national park or are intended to circle and observe the views offered by it. This includes the Goechala Trek, Dzongri Base Camp, Green Lake trek, etc. There are also a number of glaciers laying within this national park. Many of these have demanding treks to them. The Zemu Glacier trek, for instance, is also carried out within this park. The glacier extends for a length of 26 kms. More than its beauty, it is also known for testing adventurers in every way, which is probably why it is even covered within the Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) qualification in this area. Khangerteng, Tashiding and Kasturi are also some other trekking options here for the ones who are craving to get out there and explore this region! The diverse landscapes here make it quite the worthwhile visit.
Birds and Wildlife
Exotic animals such as the snow leopards, Himalayan blue sheep, wild dog, red panda, sloth bear, Tibetan wild ass, and Himalayan Tahr are known to call Kanchenjunga National Park as their home. Moreover, it is home to over a whooping number of 550 species of birds! Some of the prominent ones among them are the tragophan pheasant, green pigeon, blood pheasant, Himalayan griffon and Tibetan snowcock. Now whether you are a wildlife or bird lover or not, spotting these lesser seen rare beauties, found only in such high-altitude regions, can be quite the thrilling experience, right? Actually, more than thrill, to spot or rather observe an animal or a bird in their natural habitat, leading their lives as their raw selves, it’s a thing that leaves you simply mesmerized.
Flora and Fauna
Alpine shrubs, trees and grasses run wild in this national park. It is also home to oaks, willow, birches and maple trees. A number of plants also grow here which are said to have medicinal properties. Locals often resort to using these plants for their health purposes and benefits. Orchids, rhododendrons and wild flowers come to bloom over here. And in their season, they can turn Kanchenjuna National Park into quite the carpet of colours.
From valleys that leave you wondering to snow-capped peaks, lakes that lavishly flow to the glaciers that form come winters, from the wildlife to the birds all left in their wildest form, there is a lot that makes itself home within the Khanchendzonga National Park.
Which of these intrigues you the most in order to go visit the park on your own, to explore it for yourself?
Click here to read about other national parks in India!
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