Prologue : (Un)Fortunately, North Sikkim is no more an untouched heaven on earth. It receives huge rush throughout the year except when mother nature collapse herself. And touts aroundย it have raised like hell. If you go through Trip Advisor Sikkim Forums or Trip Advisor Gangtok Forums, you’ll find hell lots of thread created everyday asking various questions about North Sikkim. Various helpful members are always volunteering there online to make most out of your trip with their suggestions. I’m writing this post, just to add my 2 cents to all the volunteers out there who are consistently and constantly helping out people exploring the heaven on earth, North Sikkim.

Let me start with a short introduction to North Sikkim. No doubt, due to such huge rush or should I say due to the bad demand supply system, various touts exists for North Sikkim. And most tour agents try to squeeze most out of the tourists due to various misconceptions. North Sikkim tour mostly comprises of night halt at Lachung and Lachen with sightseeing to Gurudongmar Lake, Yumthang Valley and Zero Point and a new destination coming up lately, Katao. I also notice various misconceptions exists for Zero Point which is actually known as Yumesamdong. But I have seen various touts, misguiding people, to Zero Point as Katao. But Katao and Zero Point (Yumesamdong) is completely different place.

Way To Chungthang

North Sikkim Itenary : So let’s take a look at how a common tour to North Sikkim looks like. North Sikkim tour need minimum 3 days with the following itenary.
Day 1 : Gangtok to Lachen via Chungthang. O/N at Lachen.
Day 2 : Early morning trip to Gurudongmar Lake. Post lunch proceed to Lachung. O/N at Lachung.
Day 3 : Early morning trip to Yumthang Valley and Zero Point (Yumesamdong). Post lunch back to Gangtok. O/N at Gangtok.

The above tour is a 2N/3D tour to North Sikkim, that is bare minimum time you require, to explore the beauty. Else, if you are unfortunate to allocate 2N/3D, you can also go for 1N/2D trip and explore either Lachen – Gurudongmar or Lachung – Yumthang – Zero Point i.e. either one of the below itenary

Itenary 1 :
Day 1 : Gangtok to Lachen via Chungthang. O/N at Lachen.
Day 2 : Early morning trip to Gurudongmar Lake. Post lunch proceed to Gangtok. O/N at Gangtok.

OR

Itenary 2 :
Day 1 : Gangtok to Lachung via Chungthang. O/N at Lachung.
Day 2 : Early morning trip to Yumthang Valley and Zero Point (Yumesamdong). Post lunch back to Gangtok. O/N at Gangtok.

On Day 1, you’ll start a bit late around 10:00 AM or so. It’ll be around 6:00 – 7:00 PM when you’ll reach Lachen. Your Day 2 will start very early at around 3 ‘o clock in the morning as you’ll be heading to Gurudongmar Lake. After sightseeing at Gurudongmar, you’ll come back to your Hotel at Lachen and post lunch you’ll proceed to Lachung and you should reach Lachung within 5 o’ clock if everything is on time. You’ll start for Yumthang and Zero Point at around 5 o’ clock in the morning of Day 3, post lunch at Lachung hotel, you’ll proceed towards Gangtok and will reach by 6:00 – 7:00 PM.

Way To Chungthang

When To Visit : Best time to visit North Sikkim is on April – May and October – November. So it’s just 4 months. Now depending on weather and luck you can also visit North Sikkim on March and on December. Though December will be very cold. Rest of the year, the road is blocked due to heavy snowfall or road gets collapsed due to heavy rainfall. So you must avoid it on Monsoon and January – February at any cost to avoid the risk.

Booking : There are various agents in Gangtok through whom you can book packaged tour to North Sikkim. You can book 2N/3D Lachung-Lachen Package or 1N/2D Lachen or Lachung package. All these packages comes with Fooding, Lodging and Traveling. So you have no expenses there except personal expenses of which scope is very low.

You must submit photocopy (Xerox) of your Voter ID Card / Passport and a color Passport Size photograph while booking. One must book this trip at least a day in advance.

NOTE : Zero Pointย (Yumesamdong) is not included in this trip. Don’t even try to book this through tourist agents as they charge hefty amount. Just pay the driver Rs. 1000/- – Rs. 2000/- or so (depending on your bargaining skill) and you’ll be fine.

Zero Point

Cost : This is what most people is bothered about and most people are being fooled around on this section. Precisely, by Shared Cab, North Sikkim trip should cost around Rs. 3000/- per person for the 2N/3D North Sikkim trip and with exclusive vehicle it depends on number of persons and type of vehicle. Still for a rough idea, a small vehicle with 2 persons the 2N/3D trip should cost around Rs. 18000 – Rs. 20000/-.

For 1N/2D (Either Lachen – Gurudongmar or Lachung – Yumthang) should cost around Rs. 1500/- per person on shared cab and Rs. 8000/- – Rs. 10000/- with exclusive vehicle.

These are rush season prices, so don’t fall in to the touts of increased prices due to rush season. You should get lower price than what I quoted above in lean season.

NOTE : Zero Pointย (Yumesamdong) is not included in this trip. Don’t even try to book this through tourist agents as they charge hefty amount. Just pay the driver Rs. 1000/- – Rs. 2000/- or so (depending on your bargaining skill) and you’ll be fine.

Zero Point

Weather / Clothing : North Sikkim being situated on very high altitude, it’s very cold throughout the year. You’ll get snow at Gurudongmar and Zero Point throughout the year. So one must carry winter clothes and wear it in multiple layers instead of wearing one single one.

Precautions : North Sikkim being situated on very high altitude, almost 98% people face some breathing problem at Gurudongmar and Zero Point (Yumesamdong). Just carry some Camphor to smell and some popcorn to eat and you’ll be fine. Those items helps you to regain oxygen in your body thus minimizing the need of getting the same while you breath.

Gurudongmar Lake

Misconceptions Regarding North Sikkim : Let us quickly scan through some misconceptions, before we go into the detailed part.

Misconception #1 – North Sikkim can’t be done on your own : If you have ever planned for North Sikkim, you’ll know about this tout. But it’s completely (Or should I say partially?) wrong. One needs to have permit to visit North Sikkim which are issued on the same morning of your journey. So if you are determined enough to run around govt. offices (multiple times) and even loose a day to save few bucks, you can do it on your own. The actual thing is, tourists agents throughout Gangtok have created this hoax to fool tourists to take the benefits out of High Demand and Low Supply for North Sikkim. They bribe the Govt. Officials heavily, to make you run around various offices for the permit, of which you’ll loose your hope and go with tourist agents only.

Now, if you are not in mood to loose a day to run around for permits or even ultimately ruining your trip, it’s always better to book through Travel Agents. You’ll hardly save Rs. 2000/- – Rs. 3000/- by doing everything on your own. So the effort you need to put to run around everywhere doesn’t goes with the amount you save.

But if you can get hold of a good driver who can arrange the permits for you then consider yourself the luckiest person on earth. ๐Ÿ™‚

Gurudongmar Lake 13100 Ft

Misconception #2 – Shared Vehicles Means Shared Accommodations : Not many can afford the hefty price of exclusive vehicle to North Sikkim. So a sheer amount of people tends to go for Shared Vehicle. But many people misinterpret this is sharing everything. Shared vehicle or shared trip means, you’ll be sharing the car only. Accommodations will be private to you, allocated based on Double or Triple person per room within your family. If you are travelling Solo, then also you’ll be allocated one single room. So don’t worry.

Misconception #3 – Choosing hotels or taking a review of hotels from Trip Advisor or Internet at Lachung and Lachen : Well, most accommodation facilities are very basic there with basic amenities, though clean and cosy with warm hospitality. Consider all of them as Homestays. So there’s nothing to search about Review or something. Different operators have tie up with different hotels. So you don’t gain much by staying at one over the other.

Recently, some good hotels are coming up, of which you can find a website in Internet and get reviews on Trip Advisor too. But those will generally not be offered to you on shared trip, as those hotels costs high amount over the homestay’s. And believe me, to enjoy North Sikkim truly, you must stay at Homestay’s only.

Yumthung Valley

Misconception #3 – Planning with Elderly people or Young Kids : North Sikkim, specially Gurudongmar is situated at around 17k feet above sea level. So ofcourse that’s a due to very high altitude there’s scarcity of oxygen. So please avoid planning with very elderly people who have breathing problem and same goes for very young kids as they might have a lots of problems. You can plan Yumthang though with them, but avoid Zero Point (Yumesamdong) at any cost.

Legally, Sikkim Govt. doesn’t permits kids below 10 years, but you’ll come across many situations where people have made a trip to North Sikkim with kids of 5 – 6 years old. That’s fine I believe as long as your kid is able to absorb. But don’t take risk with kids younger than 5 to 6 year old’s.

Though there were no rule for senior citizens, but recently, Sikkim Govt. stopped allowing citizens above 60 years old. So think again before planning with senior citizens, he/she may be denied an entry.

Way To Zero Point

Quick Facts Regarding North Sikkim : Time for some quick facts, which will help you to gather some preliminary ideasย regarding North Sikkim

  • So if you really don’t want to ruin your trip running around permit for all the day or even more, just book through agents around Gangtok or hotel. You’ll find hundreds of such agents in M.G.Marg and all over Gangtok. It works just like that.
  • You’ll not be asked for choice of hotels, as there’s no point in doing so. All are very basic, extremely clean homestay’s with very basic amenities. You can’t go wrong here by choosing one over the other. So no point in worrying.
  • Shared trip means sharing the vehicle only. Accommodations will be exclusive.
  • The trip to North Sikkim is very hectic due to the road condition and strict timings that you have to follow. But believe me, if you can make it, you’ll gain a lifetime memory.
  • The cost includes all of your Fooding, Lodging and Traveling expenses.
  • As a proof of document, only Voter ID Card and Passport is accepted. So if you don’t have either of them, try to get one of them by not wasting your time taking chance. Though I have seen many operators accepting Driving Licence, but PAN Card is strictly not acceptable.
  • The Day you reach Gangtok, can’t start the journey to North Sikkim. Same goes when returning. While returning from North Sikkim, you must halt a night at Gangtok before proceeding further with your plans next day.
  • Gurudongmar is situated at very high altitude, so avoid planning North Sikkim with elderly persons with breathing problem or very young kids.ย You may approach Yumthang Valley though, but you must avoid Zero Point.
  • Most people tends to book North Sikkim at the beginning of their trip. So I have seen many people wondering whether they should keep their booking at Gangtok too, to keep their luggage. So, if you have further plans for Gangtok after returning from North Sikkim, you might not want to carry all the luggage to North Sikkim, that’s absolutely normal. Most hotels in Gangtok is aware about the same, so just talk to them and they will keep the luggage in their store room if you have further bookings at that hotel.
  • Zero Point (Yumesamdong) is not included in any of the North Sikkim trip. Just pay the driver some thousand bucks and he’ll be more than happy to take you to Zero Point (Yumesamdong).

Zero Point

At this point of time, I’d like to refer you to my Experience From My Trip To Gangtok and North Sikkim for a detailed view tour to North Sikkim.

Contacts :
Personally I have traveled with Lama Tour & Travels and was extremely satisfied. You can call her or WhatsApp her at +919832079292 / +919734983536.

Though I do not have any personal experience with other tour operators, but you may try one of the below..
Yak and Yeti Travels
Nature Beyond
List of Govt. Recognized Registered Tour Operators