By Ashlesha Pandit
Come summer and everyone is in a state of frenzy booking their way through the most coveted hill stations. How about you take the ‘road less taken’ and travel to one of the Seven Sisters of India? Sikkim is every mountain lover’s dream. Here, you’ll be welcomed by the sight of the Teesta and Rangit rivers, organic farms, terraced paddy fields, and rhododendron swept forests dotting the beautiful landscape. Visit this land of the red panda and unspoilt villages and above all, unmatched hospitality. Here is how you can make the most of your Sikkim trip.
#Destination 1: Gangtok
The capital city of Gangtok is indeed a charming destination to commence your journey from. It is easily accessible from the nearest airport of Bagdogra. A two hour drive along roads bordered with giant fern fronds interspersed with endless cups of steaming hot tea and locally prepared noodles await every passionate traveler.
Rest your tired body at this traditional Sikkimese homestay that cuts a very pretty picture with creepers framing the windows. The rooms are beautifully decorated with traditional wooden furniture and soothing colours. The balconies offer stunning views of the town and the restaurant is open for extreme food aficionados.
Things to do:
Gangtok has a lot to offer in terms of sight, site and bite. Try out the local cuisine of steamy hot and spicy Momos on MG Road. The best thing about this street is that there is a no-vehicle clause that lets the shoppers and tourists go about their business in peace. The other must-visit are Enchey Monastery, Rumtek Monastery, Flower Show Complex
Ganesh Tok: A pretty little temple of Lord Ganesh atop a small hill that offers a spectacular view of the city. You can relax and take in the Sikkimese atmosphere enjoying a cup of tea in one of the cafes down the hill.
Tashi View Point: The tower is the place from where you will absolutely fall in love with the undulating landscape and the snow covered peaks at the backdrop of the lush green forest. Since the weather here is unpredictable, make it a point to visit Tashi View Point in the part of the day that ensures clear visibility.
Waterfalls: The Seven Sisters Waterfalls and the Ban Jhakri Waterfalls are two must visits. Make it a point to spare at least two hours from the schedule to savor the beauty of the mighty falls. End your day with a cup of hot peppery tomato soup with your favourite people while soaking in the moment!
A Recommended Must-Visit Day Tour to Nathula
Nathula or the Nathu Pass leads to the Indo-China border that is one of the major attractions in Sikkim. The days for visiting the pass in a week are fixed so it is advisable to sync your dates accordingly. On the way to Nathula, enjoy the beautiful waters of Tsongmo Lake. Pay a visit to the coveted shrine of Baba Harbhajan Singh, a revered soldier in the history of the Indian Army and hear some urban legends about him. Stop by for a cup of butter tea and spicy noodles on your way back to the town to end a perfect day!
#Destination 2: Lachung
Lachung, known as ‘Small Pass’ traditionally, is an interesting place. Situated at the confluence of rivers Lachung and Lachen, the sleepy town comprises vast stretches of pasture land and is a perfect place to set base to travel further to the Yumthang valley. It is also the place to commence the ‘Rhododendron Trek’ that ends further in Lachen.
Things to do:
Yumthang valley: Also known as the Valley of Flowers, the Yumthang Valley is at a distance of mere two hours from Lachung. The drive up to the ‘Zero point’ is a breathtaking experience even for a seasoned traveler. Brace yourselves for few of the most stunning landscape views and myriad blooms of rhododendrons as you wind your way up the hills.
#Destination 3: Lachen
Known as the ‘Big Pass’, Lachen is accessible by road from Gangtok or by a two day long trek starting from the Yumthang Valley. The place is known for its annual yak race called Thangu which is held in the summer. The village cuts an extremely inviting picture with snow clad mountains at the backdrop and a dark green forest fencing the settlement.
Things to do:
Gurudongmar Lake: Gurudongmar Lake is considered to be a sacred water body in the Himalayas. The freshwater lake looks breathtakingly blue in the months of summer. It is one place that will remind you of the lakes in Ladakh and Tibet.
#Destination 4: Ravangla-Kewzing
Ravangla is en-route to Pelling from Gangtok. This town is close to Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary and is great for birding. The peaks of Kanchenjunga, Pandim, Sinialchu and Kabru are clearly visible from here. Buddha Park and Temi Tea Garden are other must-visits, while in Ravangla.
In Ravangla, stay at this cottage, a secluded log cabin deep into the forest. The rooms are fully furnished, complete with TV set, wardrobes and a dresser. Enjoy uninterrupted views of the mountains from the balconies. The host can arrange sightseeing and trekking tours for you upon prior request along with pick ups and drops at the places of your choice.
As an alternative, you can also stay in Kewzing, a place merely 10 km away from Ravangla. The guesthouse is a snug and a comfortable cottage complete with indoor games and a traditional deck. The forest is rich in cardamom cover and is an interesting place for birding. It is one place where you can enjoy solitude at its best along with a delicious breakfast.
#Destination 5: Pelling:
Pelling is a town located in West Sikkim, best known for its close quarters to the Himalayan peak of Kanchenjunga. It is also the base for many arduous treks undertaken by mountain enthusiasts. Apart from viewing the peak in its full glory, there are very many places to visit and foods to taste. Like Gangtok, Pelling is a bustling little town, flourishing with tourist activity.
Stay at Darap, 8 kms from bustling town of Pelling. The village is a picturesque little place with rich culture. The Limboo community (a tribe in Nepalese community), is the largest community of the village and has led to its identity of being a culturally rich location. The rooms of this homestay are charming and the property is adorned with spacious courtyards and indoor games.
Things to do:
Khecheopalri Lake: Said to be a wish fulfilling lake, this lake is considered holy by Buddhist monks. An interesting feature of the lake is that leaves are not allowed to float on the surface of the water and this is ensured painstakingly by the birds. So travelers, next time you have a wish, do not miss visiting the lake.
Rabadantse Fort: Not very many tourists are aware of the existence of this historical monument and hence tend to give it a pass. Ensure to take an advantage of this scenario and spend an hour of solitude in the ruins that overlook an enchantingly green forest.
The Kanchenjunga Waterfalls, Pemayangtse Monastery, the Rock Garden and the Rimbi Falls are few of the exotic destinations in Pelling you must not skip.
#Destination 6: Richenpong
Head next to Richenpong, in West Sikkim, situated amidst a heavy forest cover. The village is accessible by road but to get around the sleepy town, you will have to be on foot. A historical lake called the Bhik Pokhri, which literally translates to poisoned lake is an interesting place to know about India’s desperate efforts towards freedom.
Discover its significance while you stay put up at the Heritage Farmstay destination located close to the Richenpong village. The house boasts, and means it too, of a traditional deck overlooking a lush green valley and the Kanchenjunga mountain range where the guests can just sit back and relax. The windows overlook orchards of Mandarin Oranges while the mountains loom at a beckoning distance. While at the stay, you can trek up to the Lheuntse Monastery, enjoy angling & picnic by the riverside and go for birding trips. The hosts can arrange for these activities, cultural programmes, transportation for sight seeing as well as pick up and drop on prior request.
#Destination 7: Namchi
Last stop in your Sikkim tour, Namchi is a major developing tourist centre in South Sikkim. The town is best known for its project that replicated the four Dhams of India. It is a great opportunity for the football lovers to see the stadium named after the country’s famous player, Baichung Bhutia. Then there is the Temi tea garden which is the only tea garden in Sikkim and one of the best in the country. Enjoy the flavour of the most acclaimed tea while you stay at the comfort best at our homestay destination.
About the Author: For her, sitting at one place is a challenge. Always in search of new quests, she doesn’t believe in bucket lists, even though she has quite an extensive one. Currently suffers from the ‘Unfinished Book Syndrome’ and is searching for books she can actually finish. A travel enthusiast as she is, she is also a no fuss traveler, counting on experience rather than on comfort. Loves the sea to its core and is fascinated by the fact that she gets to see one new face every single day of her life.