Sikkim is the second smallest state in India, and is wedged between Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and West Bengal, but encompasses an astounding range of pristine natural beauty of the Himalayas. A traveller’s guide to Sikkim explores the stunning beauty of this Himalayas hill town.The Sikkimese call their land ‘Ney Mayal Lyang’ that translates to ‘heaven.’
Sikkim is located in the north eastern part of India, but is not a part of the Seven Sister states. The state is famous for dazzling waterfalls, virgin forests, Tibetan style Buddhist Gompas, alpine meadows, rhododendron flowers and more. Kanchenjunga (also Kanchendzonga) at 8598 m is the third highest peak in the world, and lies in Sikkim.
More than 60 percent of the former Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim is mountainous, and there are sizeable numbers of 6000 m peaks on the eastern and western borders of the state. Sikkim has an impressive literacy rate of more than 70 percent. It was merged with India in 1975, and is a prosperous state today.
Weather in most parts of Sikkim is pleasant throughout the year (except in higher altitudes), and that makes it a favourite of holidaymakers from the Indian plains in the summer months. Bengalis throng the tourist towns of Sikkim during their holiday season of Durga Puja in October-November. The state abounds in a variety of flora and fauna, and lucky ones may also sight the endangered red panda.
Pelling lies in West Sikkim, perched at an altitude of 2100 m and is approximately 120 km away from Gangtok. At first glance Pelling looks like a cluster of concrete hotels, but there are unparalleled views of the snowy.
The historic little town of Yuksom was the first capital of Sikkim when three Lamas converged from different directions and crowned the first Chogyal (King) in 1641.
If coming from Yuksom, you will come across one of Sikkim’s prettiest falls. The Phamrong waterfalls are around halfway on the Yuksom-Tashiding route.
Accessed by taking a small detour on the Pelling-Yuksom road, Khecheopalri Lake is considered to be sacred by the Buddhists and Lepchas. It lies in a small shallow valley and is surrounded by dense green forests.
Undoubtedly, this is Sikkim’s most famous monastery, and every visitor to Sikkim is likely to visit the Rumtek Monastery, even in a 3-4 day trip to Sikkim. Rumtek Village is 24 km away from Gangtok (Sikkim’s capital).
Pronounced Rabongla, Ravangala is a picturesque town in West Sikkim located on a ridge between Maenam Hill and Tendong, with a useful market. There are glorious views of Mount Narsing on the offering from Ravangala.
Pronounced Changu, this scenic lake is perched at 3750 m above sea level and lies 40 km away from Gangtok on the way to Nathu La. The drive to Tsomgo Lake is spectacular, and the lake itself is a pristine water body.
The road climbs around 18 km higher from the spectacular road that continues from Tsomgo Lake to the nearly 4200 m Nathu La (La is pass in Tibetan). It is always windy and cold at this altitude.
Lachen is a traditional mountain village that looks very alpine like. As compared to Lachung, accommodation options are fewer and basic. There is a small monastery, by the name of Nyudrup Choeling Gompa.
Lachung is a pretty village on the banks of Lachung Chu (river). It is beautifully located at 2600 m above sea level and is the gateway to go to Yumthang and the last permissible place known as Zero Point.
The drive from Lachung to Yumthang ascends 1,000 m in just 25 km, passing through the Singba Rhododendron Reserve, which is a riot of colours in spring. There are also hot natural sulphur springs at Yumthang.
Just after crossing Thangu, all signs of civilisation disappear as the road climbs to the spectacular Tibetan plateau. Near the army check post is one of the highest cafés in the world, it is run by the army.
Namchi & Samdruptse
Namchi is pleasantly situated at 1700 m above sea level, and is the administrative centre for South Sikkim. It lies 79 km southeast of Gangtok, and is rapidly becoming a magnet for domestic tourists.