Sikkim is vast and a great destination for planning a holiday with a perfect blend of it’s culture and traditions, nature, snow capped mountains etc. Sikkim offers various categories of tourism ranging from luxury holidays, adventure tourism, pilgrimage tourism, heritage tourism, nature tourism, trekking etc. for various kind of budgets. Before I proceed into minute details, first of all let me thank Shivani Shourie for nominating me for Trip Experts Award 2017 by @tripscam for 3-day trip to Sikkim.
One must first understand that to reach Sikkim, the nearest Airport is Bagdogra (IXB), Railway Station is New Jalpaiguri (NJP) and the nearest town is Siliguri. Depending on one’s interest, everyone is looking for different kind of tour. So let’s not just generalize your Sikkim tour with a basic circuit that I may feel is a good starting point, but instead let me take it breifly depending on your interest.
Cutural Tour : This is the most basic circuit of Sikkim on which most tourists are interested in. A short 3 day circuit of would be like
Day 1 – Roam Around Gangtok : Gangtok is a beautiful hill town, situated at an altitude of 5,410 ft in East-Sikkim and takes around 4 hours to reach from Bagdogra / New Jalpaiguri / Siliguri. The residents are mainly comprised of Nepalese, Lepchas and Bhutias, although the Lepchas are actually the original residents of the place, the rest are immigrants. Gangtok spreads over a forested mountain that faces the Kanchenjunga snow peaks. There are many vantage points in and around Gangtok from where you get magnificent views of Kanchenjunga and other Himalayan snow peaks. In fact every spur extending from this hill town offers a setting of a great sight. M.G.Marg is the heart of Gangtok where you can spend the evening at leisure.
Day 2 – Gangtok Sightseeing : There are various tours for sightseeing such as 3 Point, 5 Point, 7 Point, 10 Point and Mixed Point. As you have the full day in hand, it’s better to opt for Mixed Point Tour which would take you through Tashi View Point from where you can experience breathtaking view of Kanchenjunga and also a great vantage point to experience Sunrise, Hanuman Tok, Ganesh Tok, Bakthang Waterfall which is an excellent wide water streams falling on a canopy of trees, Enchey Monastery which is one of the oldest monastery, Flower Exhibition Center where you can see great collection of flowering plants including Orchids, Handicraft Center, Chorten Stupa which is a famous Buddhist religious monument, Institute of Tibetology where you can learn about Tibetan Language and cultures and Ropeway (Cable Car) which can be great experience with the kids. The main reason behind choosing Mixed Point because it offers you to choose between Ranka Monastery or Rumtek Monastery which is not included otherwise. I’d suggest Rumtek as it’s one of the most famous monastery with grand Tibetan architecture and it also includes a Golden Stupa.
Day 3 – Tsongmo Lake, Baba Mandir & Nathulla Pass : This is one of the best day tour which includes Tsongmo Lake, a glacial lake about 35kms from Gantok and at an altitude of about 12,310 ft. One can go for Yak Rides too which would be an unique experience. Further driving towards Baba Mandir which is a memorial built in memories of Harbhajan Singh, a soldier from Punjab Regiment who was posted here as part of border patrol force and said to be disappeared in 1968 while escorting mules carrying provisions. It’s believed that Harbhajan will guard and protect them in this very difficult terrain. A further drive will lead to Nathulla Pass at 14,140 feet which was used to be the silk trade route between India and Tibet. The fenced Indo-China border is also few meters away and you can see both Indian and Chinese soldiers guarding the border and also one can experience “No Mans Land“. Because of the high altitude at Nathula, oxygen level in the air is very thin and thus few people can face breathing problems at Nathula. If you already have breathing or other health problems, you should consult a doctor before the visit. Also it’s strictly not recommended to visit Nathulla with kids below 4 years.
Scenic Beauty : If one is interested in Snow and visiting during April – May or around October – December, North Sikkim should definitely be the choice. North Sikkim is believed to be one of the most scenic and beautiful destination in Sikkim. Whereas due to the rough terrain and high altitudes which leads to lower leven of oxygen in the air, the tour is very hectic. And thus one must avoid visiting North Sikkim altogether if accompanied by kids below 6-8 years and senior citizens.
Day 1 – Gangtok – Lachen : Lachen is a small village located in north Sikkim at an altitude of 8,838 ft with about 250 village families and few hotels & small shops. Its original inhabitants are known as Lachenpas who are a Sikkimese Buddhist community. Although the distance to Lachen is only 121 kms from Gangtok, it can easily take 6 to 7 hours to reach the place by car depending on road conditions. Tourists usually use Lachen as a base, on the way to the famous & picturesque high altitude Gurudongmar Lake which is located further up at an altitude of 17,800 ft near Indo-China (Tibet) border as there’s no proper tourist accommodation beyond Lachen.
Day 2 – Lachen > Gurudongmar > Lachung : Along with an early morning drive to the lake, it also combines a visit to Chopta Valley, a beautiful valley located in-between Lachen and Gurudongmar which gets covered with flowers in spring and with snow during winter. Gurudongmar Lake is the largest lake in Sikkim, one of the highest in the world and considered very sacred by both Buddhists and Hindus. During winter, the lake freezes except for one small area. The Buddhists and Hindus believe that this specific area is blessed. In fact the whole lake is considered holy and is believed to be having many healing powers. You will see various Buddhist prayer flags fluttering on the sides of the lake.
Day 3 – Lachung > Yumthang > Zero Point (Yume Samdong) > Gangtok : Lachung is a small mountain village at an altitude of 8,610 ft and located about 118ms from Gangtok. The residents of Lachung who are mostly Bhutias call themselves Lachungpas. They have their own self governing body known as ‘Dzumsa’ to settle all social and other disputes through consensus. Although most come and stay at Lachung to visit Yumthang valley and Zero Point the next day before returning to Gangtok, you should not miss out on the opportunities which Lachung itself offers. Yumthang valley is about 25kms from Lachung located at an altitude of 11,800 ft and takes about 1.5 hours of drive. The name Yumthang Valley means ‘Valley of Flowers’ so you know what to expect. Zero Point or (Yume Samdong) is the place where three rivers meet with surrounding snow-clad mountains and offering marvelous scenic views. Zero Point generally remains snow covered for most part of the year.
Natural Beauty : If you are more interested in flora and fauna and want to be close to the nature then you must hit West and South Sikkim.
Day 1 – Kaluk : Kaluk is a village located at an altitude of 5,300 ft. It is part of the slightly offbeat Rinchenpong, Kaluk, Hee Bermiok sector in West Sikkim. The destinations are quite close to one another and can be covered from any one place out of the above. The principal attraction of the place is the great views of the Kanchenjunga offered from here. Kaluk is considered as one of the perfect destination for honeymooners.
Day 2 – Kaluk – Pelling : Pelling is a small hill town of western Sikkim perched at an altitude of 6,800 ft with magnificent views of Kanchenjunga peaks. Pelling is also well known for several historical sites & monasteries, natural landscapes including lakes and waterfalls, and of course its friendly and charming people.
Day 3 : Pelling Sightseeing : A general Pelling Sightseeing tour includes Rimbi Falls, Rimbi River Orange Garden, Khecheopalri Lake, Kanchenjungha Waterfalls, Darap Village, Pemayangtse Monastery, Rabdentse Ruins and Singshore Bridge. You may also include a drive to Pelling Helipad which gives you 360 Degree view of the town.
Relaxing and/or Religious Holiday : If you are looking for a relaxing holiday with minimal movement and just want to be lazy or if you are looking to cover Char Dham and Buddhist Pilgrimage Circuit, this is the tour you are looking for.
Day 1 – Yuksom : Yuksom is located 33 kms from Pelling at an altitude of 5,800 ft. This is the first capital of Sikkim where three Tibetan monks met and enthroned the first King (Chogyal) of Sikkim in 1641. This was the beginning of Namgyal dynasty in Sikkim which lasted for 332 years. You can visit and see the coronation stone at Norbugang where the first King Phuntsog Namgyal was consecrated. Yuksom is the base for famous Dzongri Goechala Himalayan Trek.
Day 2 – Ravangla : Ravangla is a sleepy little Himalayan town in South Sikkim at an altitude of 7,000 ft. Sightseeing Tour around Ravangla includes Buddha Park & Ralong Monastery. If you are interested in hiking you may go for Ralong Hot Springs or a trek to Maenam Hill.
Day 3 – Namchi : Namchi, a fast developing place in South Sikkim is often known as the Culture Capital of the state. The place has been developed as a hub of religious and cultural tourism in Sikkim. In fact you can see replica of all the four dhams of India (char dhams) at Namchi and also the biggest statue of Guru Padmasambhava. Namchi also has a well laid out township with a Central Park (a small square) at the town center. The main attraction at Namchi is, Char Dham which is a huge pilgrimage cum cultural complex developed by the Sikkim Government to promote Religious, Eco and Village tourism in the state.
Village Tourism : If you do not mind staying in a homestay with very basic infrastructure but want to experience the local’s way of life and the warm hospitality, then Silk Route is where you need to be.
Day 1 – Mankhim : Mankhim is the hilltop adjacent to the popular destination of Aritar, in the village of Dalapchand under the Rongli Sub-Division of Eastern Sikkim. Mankhim offers a panoramic view of Mt. Kanchenjungha and the emerald green boot-shaped Lampokhari Lake at the same time – this incredible view is not available from Aritar. In Mankhim, there is a small temple on the hilltop, a few homestays and a monastery, just a walk away. If you want to spend some days in complete isolation from the city’s din with fabulous views of Mt. Kanchanjungha, then Mankhim is a great choice. Bird watching, paddle boating and nature walking are other great activities here. You can tag in Reshikhola, Sillery Gaon, Pedong or Kalimpong with Mankhim.
Day 2 – Zuluk : Zuluk or Dzuluk is a small hamlet located in the lower Himalayas, at an altitude of 3000 meters. It is located in East Sikkim, near the Indo-China border.Special permits are required to visit Zuluk. The place has a population of around 700 people and the army base located there is used as a transit camp for army movement to the Chinese border, located a few kilometers away. Previously, it was a part of the popular silk route connecting Kalimpong to Tibet and was mainly used by traders traveling to Tibet. In winters, the entire area around Zuluk gets covered in snow and after the rains in September, this whole region is covered in wild flowers of all types. However, this small village of Zuluk is used as a base to see one of the most magnificent sunrise over Mt. Kanchenjungha.
Day 3 – Gnathang : Nathang Valley, also known as Gnathang Valley is a high-altitude plateau in East Sikkim. Located at an altitude of 13,500 feet above sea level and flanked by mountains on all sides, this is a remote valley with a meandering stream crisscrossing it. Nathang is the highest location to stay in the Indian part of the Old Silk Route. It is one of the remotest Tibetan habitations in Himalayas. Nathang Valley usually remains covered with thick snow from January to April. The long four-month of sub-zero temperature makes the valley a cold desert and one of the most beautiful parts of Himalayas.
Other than the above destinations, you may also consider visiting Borong, Hee Bermiok, Chaya Taal if you are interested in Birding. Sikkim also caters tourists interested in trekking at various comfort levels. Starting from easy one with Barsey Rhododendron Trek to medium ones like Maniem Hill Trek or tough ones likes Dzongri Goechala Trek.
My nominations for Trip Expert 2017 Awards :
- Abhishek&Neha from A Revolving Compass…
- Shalini Baisiwala from Shalzmojo
- Amrita & Agniswar from Tale of 2 Backpackers
Please make sure to check the Rules For Trip Expert 2017 Awards before accepting the nomination and publishing a post.