Close to North Bengal's border with western Bhutan lies a stretch of pristine forest shrouded in cloud and mist. This mature moist evergreen biotope covers an altitude range from 1600m to 2500m.
The Paktham Forest on the road to the village of Lava from Algarah and the north western margin of the Neora Valley National Park form the core of this birding hotspot. Lava is the gateway of Neora Valley National Park, a protected area of great ecological significance and an unique high elevation temperate tropical forest which is considered to be one among the most spectacular and species rich temperate forests in the world. These forests are dominated by evergreen broadleaved trees like Quercus in the lower reaches from about 2000-2500m and mixed conifers like Taxus, Tsuga and winter deciduous broadleaved species like Acer, Betula, Magnolia in the upper reaches from 2500-3000m.
Neora Valley National Park is a tentative UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Lava area is the place to see Satyr Tragopan, Rusty-bellied Shortwing, Broad-billed Warbler, Blue-fronted Robin, Yellow-throated Fulvetta, Rufous-throated Wren Babbler, Grey-sided Laughingthrush, Scarlet Finch and many more rarities.
Adjoining Loylegaon and Rishyap are also worth a visit for these and other great birds.
> Stay at either Kalimpong or Lava. If you prefer the comfort of Kalimpong be prepared for a long drive in the early morning.
> Cover the Algarah Road from the 4 km marker to the 6 km marker (away from Lava).
UPDATE: Algarah road is currently being widened, so birding is not possible at this time (August 2017)
> Visit Tiffin Dara peak.
> Do the trek to Choudaferri inside Neora Valley National Park from the Forest Gate as the lower scrub near the monastery is fairly degraded these days.
How to reach
Lava is accessible from Kalimpong (35 km east) and from the Damdim Road which connects to Siliguri. Lava is best combined with a trip to the Duars, Sikkim or the Darjeeling area. The roads are good, particularly the Damdim Road.
Where to stay
Neora Valley Jungle Camp
> Neora Valley Jungle Camp at Kolakham run by Help Tourism
> West Bengal Forest Dev. Corporation Tourist Bungalows
> Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong
Best time to visit
October to April. Always expect some rain, so keep some extra days in hand. Lava can be very cold in winter.