Amitava Mukherjee, MP, 11 March 2017, Darjeeling:Sudden snowfall in Sandakphu, the highest point in Bengal, since Friday night has resulted in visitors making a beeline to the world famous tourist destination.
At an altitude of around 12,000 ft, Sandakphu is located in Singhalila National Park, one of the world's highest national parks.With an area of 78.9 sq km, the park is a bio-diversity hotspot and a natural habitat for rare flora and fauna.
More than 20 species of rhododendrons can be found in Sandakphu, which is home to the famous Himalayan Black Bear and the Red Panda.
The place offers breathtaking views of Mount Everest, Mount Kanchenjunga and is a famous sunrise viewing spot.
As the mercury dipped below freezing point in the Sandakphu, icy winds swept the Darjeeling town as temperature plummeted.
Sporadic rainfall started on Friday night and continued throughout the Saturday in Darjeeling.
Cold winds swept Sikkim as well, with the upper reaches including Lachung, Lachen, Gurudongmar in North Sikkim along with Tsongmo Lake and Nathulla witnessing snowfall.
"The rain and snowfall is due to an upper air cyclonic circulation over East Bihar and adjoining areas of Bengal. This extends upto 0.9 km above mean sea level. Also, there is an upper air trough from the system running through Gangetic West Bengal," stated Dr. Gopi Nath Raha, in charge of the meteorological office in Sikkim.
The office predicted scattered rainfall on Sunday and isolated rainfall on Monday. "The higher reaches of this region with experience snowfall," added Dr. Raha. Prediction of more snow has raised hopes in the travel trade industry. "We have already started getting inquiries from Kolkata" stated Pradeep Lama, a travel agent. Tourists usually drive down to Maneybhanjyang, 28 km from Darjeeling, and from there either trek to Sandakphu or avail Land Rover services.
With the arrival of snowfall, tourists in Darjeeling rushed to Maneybhanjyang for the Sandakphu trip. However, many returned dejected.
"I arrived at Darjeeling on Friday for a four-day visit. When I heard of the snowfall in Sandakphu, my family decided to go there as we have not visited Sandakphu till date. However, all the Land Rovers were booked to capacity," stated Avijit Ghosh from Hoogly.