North Sikkim - A paradise on earth

Following are the various destinations in North Sikkim which are worth visiting - Chungthang, Lachen,Thangu, Gurudongmar, Chopta Valley, Lachung, Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, Yumthang Valley, Yumesumdong, Katao etc.

North Sikkim is a 2 days-3 nights package from Gangtok with 1 night halt at Lachen and 1 night halt at Lachung.

Starting from Gangtok, you will reach Chungthang which is 95 kms from Gangtok at an elevation of 1,700 meters (5,600 ft). Chungthang is predominantly the starting point of Teesta river which is formed by the confluence of 2 hill rivers Lachen Chu and Lachung Chu. It is also the junction for the 2 passes - Lachen and Lachung. Lachung falling at a distance of 23 kms while it is 29 kms from Lachen.

It was our first night halt at Lachen in the chilling cold (-4 or -5 degrees centigrade) of December 25th. I still remember and laugh by myself when I recollect a funny incident which happenned when we first stepped into our lodge. One of our friend in order to get relief from the chilling cold wind and overjoyed after seeing a geiser opened the tap which the socks and shoes on and we had a hard time to get that dried with a gas stove.

Early in the morning after having breakfast we set out for Gurudongmar Lake (17100 ft). Here to mention, the tourist agency which arranges for the North Sikkim trip carries the breakfast for the entire trip (breads, egg, bananas etc) and leaves the remaining for the inmates of the lodge.

Below are few pictures on the way to Gurudomgmar.

A Small Army Camp

Thangu is at an altitude of 14,000 ft. and 30 kms drive from Lachen. A small village where the visitors usually acclimatize before they proceed to Gurudongmar Lake. The months of May and June see this valley carpeted with alpine flowers, which are replaced by snow from October through March.

Road diverges from near Thangu to 2 beautiful spots Gurudongmar and Chopta Valley. We set out for Gurudongmar Lake first which is considered as one of the sacred lake of this state both by the Buddhists and Hindus. The lake remains milky in color through out. The Gurudongmar Lake is only allowed to Local and Domestic Tourist. Foreign tourist are not allowed due to border reasons. The temperature rises upto -27 degrees Centigrade and we were warned by the military personnel's that there might be breathing problems.

The time being December end, the road was full of solid ice and we could not go beyond a point where in a military vehicle helped us through the first time but it happened again some 2-3 kms before the lake and unfortunately we could not proceed further. We reached till a point where a Rock had the caption 'GODS OF WAR AHEAD'.

We tried our best to cut the rock solid ice with the help of the tools we had in our car but alas, the chilling cold wind did not allow us to do that for long. Truly disappointed, we returned back to Thangu to our way to the Chopta Valley.

Having our lunch back in Lachen we set out for our journey to Lachung - for the other half of the tour. Lachung at an elevation of about 9,600 ft or 3,000 meters is the night halt location on the way to Yumthang.

Yumthang is popularly known as Switzerland of Sikkim or Valley of flower. Yumthang at an elevation of 11,800 ft. and 140 kms from Gangtok is a paradise for natural lovers. It is popularly known as Switzerland of India and Valley of Flowers. In winter it is all covered with snow and in spring and summer, it is covered with different types of flower. Don't be disappointed if you plan to visit it in winter since there is a different attraction during this time its the snow laden mountain peaks which fills our heart.

The valley is also the home of Shingbha Rhododendron Sanctuary, with 24 species of Rhododendrons. There are total 35 species of Rhododendron in the world and 24 species of Rhododendron are found in Sikkim, together in one place “Yumthang”. One can also visit the Hot Water Spring in Yumthang. It is called ‘Tsa-Chu’.

An hours drive beyond Yumthang (26 kms), Yumesamdong is the land of perennial snow. Yumesamdong or the Zero Point Sikkim is situated at 15500 feet. This the last point where one can travel by car. Yumesamdong is very close to the Chinese border. Normal travel packages does not always include Yumesamdong. In such case you have to request the driver to include either this or Katao or both on basis of some extra charges.

Katao is another place on a different direction from Yumthang. It is also about an altitude of 15,000 ft. Unfortunately we did not get enough time to visit Katao.

Narrating you my experience I feel I have reached the place and would love to visit it another time...