OKHREY – THE PLACE
Okhrey is a calm and peaceful village in the western part of Sikkim. Okhrey forms the gateway to the famous Varsey Rhododendron sanctuary of West Sikkim. Okhrey lies at an altitude of about 9000 feet and at a distance of about 145 kilometer from New Jalpaiguri railway station. Okhrey is gaining popularity among tourist for its serene landscape. As for most of the tourists it gets difficult and time consuming to reach Hilley (the entry point of Varsey) so many opts to stay to take a halt at Okhrey. From New Jalpaiguri railway station it takes around 6 hours (approx) to reach Okhrey. As Sikkim lies on the foothills of Himalayas and spread over an area of about 7096 square kilometer. Around 500 species of floras, 450 species of Orchids, 550 species of Himalayan birds, 750 species of butterflies, 227 lakes and streams and 104 waterfalls are found all over Sikkim and Okhrey being situated in the western part has an abundance of Himalayan birds those inhabit this small village. Among the widest collections of birds to name but a few are Bar Throated Minla, Blue Fronted Redstart, Green Backed Tit, Rofous Sibia, Stresked Laughing Thrush, Fire Tailed Sunbird, Long Tailed Minivet, Black Bulbul, Large Niltava, Fly Catchers, Barn Swallow, Ashy Throated Warbler, Stripe Throated Yuhina, Blue Whistling Thrush, Himalayan Buzzard, Mallard, Great Crested Greed and many more. The village of Okhrey is surrounded with dense greenness all over and as Okhrey being the nearest village to Hilley – Varsey, therefore one get to see Rhododendrons blooming here and there. From every nook and corner Okhrey looks like a paradise drawn on canvas. On the way to Okhrey from New Jalpaiguri railway station one gets to see the confluence of emerald Teesta and Rangeet. On the way to Okhrey via Jorethang one will come across small hilly passes, small hairpin bends of the hilly terrains, water and bridges beneath which flows small streams. The locals of Okhrey are mainly Limboos and Sherpas, the main source of livelihood of the locals at Okhrey is agriculture, but recently they have started eco tourism in the form homestays. On a clear day Okhrey offers panoramic view of Mt. Kanchenjunga to the far horizon. Being one of the gateways to the Varsey Rhododendron sanctuary, Hilley is located at a distance of about 10 kilometer from Okhrey. Okhrey also offers stunning views of Sandakphu – Phalut trek route. From Okhrey one can visit to the nearest destinations like Kaluk, Rinchenpong, Uttarey, Berimiok, Chayatal and Pelling. At Okhrey there is a school and a monastery which are worth visiting. For tourists there are few homestays available at Okhrey. The locals at Okhrey mainly produce potatoes, and one gets to numerous agricultural farm lands on the hilly slopes. Apart from Rhododendrons (locally named as Guraus), Primula, Magnolia, Orchid, Oak, Pine and Wild Bamboos are also found at Okhrey.
Things to do: Okhrey must be included while one is planning for Hilley – Varsey trek to the famous Rhododendron sanctuary. But apart from this nature walk, short treks also form part of activities at Okhrey. At Okhrey there is Ugen Thon Meon Ling monastery, and is operated by the Tibetan missionaries. Tourists often climb few stairs to reach the main part of the monastery. The Monastery is decorated with several Buddhist prayer flags, as one steps in the interior part there is a statue of Lord Buddha. On the other side there are rooms for the Lamas and the Monks. On the way to Okhrey tourists come across a temple of Sai Baba at Daramadin which is just 28 kms away. The nearest town from Okhrey is Sombaria, which is about 20 kilometer. For Landscape photographers and bird watchers Okhrey can be an ideal option. Tourists can also enjoy a walk to Ribdi, located on the border of West Bengal. A trekking trail from Okhrey that leads to Phalut via Gurdung is also quite exciting. From Okhrey one can walk further down the jungles of Rammam to Rimbick, a small settlement mainly known to trekkers those who descend from their Sandakphu – Phalut trek route. Okhrey is diagonally opposite point to Srikhola.
How to Reach: The nearest known rail head from Okhrey is New Jalpaiguri. From here shared jeeps are available upto Jorethang. From Jorethang via Sombaria one can reach Okhrey, distance is about 145 kilometer. The route is from NJP railway station via Sevoke – Teesta Bazar – Jorethang – Somabria – Okhrey. By Air the nearest Airport if Bagdogra. Cars are also available from Bagdogra Airport towards Jorethang. Okhrey is about 110 kilometer from the Capital of Sikkim, Gangtok.
Things to Know: Due to lesser availability of accommodations both at Hilley and Varsey, tourists often choose to spend one or two night at Okhrey. Okhery is mainly considered as the starting or the end destination for Hilley – Varsey trek route. During winter temperature falls around – 2 degree Celsius. Other bird species found at Okhrey are Tragopan, Kaliz, Magpie, Finch, Tit, Fire Throated Fly Catcher, Great Barbet, Rusty Fronted Barwing, Grey Bushchat, Green Magpie, White Crested Laughing Thrush, Hill Myna, Chestnut Bellied Rock Thrush, Himalayan Black Bird and Jungle Fowl.
Best time to Visit: Though Okhrey can be visited throughout the year, but it is recommended to avoid the rainy season, as during this time of the year the route becomes slippery. Winter is the best time for bird photography and landscape photography. During the winter season the sky remains clear and Mt. Kanchenjunga is clearly visible. But the best part is March – April as during this time of the year Rhododendrons are seen in full bloom.