North Sikkim is that kind of place that directly connects with your soul. It takes you through an unforgettable journey filled with mesmerising avenues. North Sikkim is full of wonderful places that should be on our bucket list. These places are just living proofs of the diverse bounty offered to us mortals by Mother Nature.
Sikkim is located in the North East, just above West Bengal. Due to its proximity with the other North Eastern states, it is often considered the eighth sister. It is a small state but has a lot to offer. Most people usually head over to its capital- Gangtok, to enjoy a relaxing time, yet the real beauty is hidden away in the Northern part of Sikkim.
This part of Sikkim has a lot of towns and cities which are a feast for the eyes. It is the perfect place to just head over and have a pleasurable yet laid back holiday. The trip to North Sikkim mainly consists of places like- Lachung, Lachen, and quick sightseeing trips Gurudongmar Lake, Yumthang Valley and Zero Point and a recent addition called Katao.
This little town is about a seven to eight-hour drive from Gangtok. The route to Lachen from Gangtok is itself scenic. You could witness several waterfalls and some lovely views of the mountains that surround this place.
As I entered the town, I was mystified to see small colourful flags with religious symbols on it, just hanging from thin wires stretched over the poles. They make for a beautiful photo, as the sun shines and the flags just dance to the tunes of the wind under a clear blue sky. Lachen has just a little over 150 houses, mainly occupied by the Bhutia tribe. It is usually a quiet place, and people come here from the sprawling lush green vegetation. Lachen Monastery is lovely in its own way, and one can visit it if time permits.
You can also take day trips to places like o Chopta Valley, Green Lake, Cho-Lamu, Guru Dongmar Lake and Singhba Rhododendron Sanctuary.
Lachen is also the base station for many adventurous and picturesque treks like Green Lake and Kanchenjunga National Park trek.
Lachen forms the base for many sights seeing activities that take place. One of the most popular is a trip to Gurudongmar Lake, which is at an altitude of 17300 ft. To reach this lake, I had to start off very early, as everyone must. You will have to leave by 3:30 am from Lachen, to actually reach in time to see the lake in all its glory. The road to Gurudongmar Lake is treacherous, and it is advisable to stop at Thangu to enjoy some hot cup of tea and boiling Maggi.
I reached Gurudongmar Lake at about 9 am. I stepped out of the car and was blinded by the reflecting sun rays from the white snowy mountains. As my eyes adjusted to the sudden brightness, I caught a glimpse of the lake. This was probably the most beautiful lake I had seen in a long time. The sheer beauty of the clean blue water shines, like the lake in caved inside the mighty white mountains. I was awestruck for a moment and was only able to come to my senses when I realised I was getting nauseous from the lack of oxygen.
I had to reluctantly step back into the vehicle and watch as we left this mystical place that is still etched in my memory.
This is another base town from which you can go to some popular sightseeing places. It is located at 7000ft and located atop a hill that peeps over to the river Teesta.
From Lachung you can go to the Yumthang valley. This valley is located at 12000 ft, and the terrain can be treacherous. I was terrified as our car crossed over dangerous cliffs and curves, a fall from which leads to an absolute abyss. I had to focus on the intimidating mountains that lay ahead of me to put my mind to ease. The Yumthang valley is about 30 km away from Lachung. This route to has some mesmerising waterfalls where you can stop and take photos. Pauhunri and Shundi make for excellent viewing points along the way. The Yumthang valley is covered with green fields with soft grass that just feel like heaven. It has splashes of snowy puddles, but not too much. The place is full of beautiful landscapes, and the view from the top is breathtaking. I spent hours just clicking pictures from various angles of the amazing view.
The valley acquires a whole new look during the spring season, as all the mountains are covered with colourful and vibrant flowers which make it look like a rainbow has formed on the hilltops. I was also left gawking, at the beautiful Teesta as it trudges along between two mountains.
From the Yumthang Valley, I went over to the Yumesamdong aka The Zero Point. It is about an hour drive from Yumthang Valley and located at 15300 ft. Throughout the journey, my nostrils were in for a treat, as the Azalea flowers, which are abundant in this area, give out an effervescent that just lifts up the spirits. As I walked out I was instantly captivated by the pristine snow that covers the mountain. I later learned that Yumesamdong is covered in snow all through the year even during off seasons. As I walked around here, I could see the Himalayas all around me. This place truly offers the best view of the Himalayas. I just stood there amazed to even move, as I felt like a surrounded by a beast of a landscape.
North Sikkim- Lachen, is a simple four to five hours drive from Gangtok. However, it is important to take a night halt at Gangtok and then continue. Even while common back from Lachen, it is essential to halt and stay at Gangtok.
North Sikkim is extremely close to the Indo-China border. This makes this place heavily guarded. You can see several Indian Army officials roaming about and patrolling the area. You have to get a permit before travelling to North Sikkim since it is the border zone. The process of acquiring a permit might be difficult and long, so it is best to book through a travel agent.
North Sikkim doesn’t have hotels per se. It has homestays. All the homestays are clean and maintained properly and have basic amenities. You don’t have to worry about it or go through an intensive check or even see reviews. All are of the same qualities.
The trip can be a little exhausting, as there are rigid timings to follow.
To acquire the permit, you will have to have a passport or a Voter Id, no other identity cards work.
Gurudongmar Lake and the Zero Point are at high altitudes. Medicines to help with breathing difficulties are advisable. You can also carry popcorn to eat and camphor to smell, as help in regaining of oxygen in the body.
Usually, no travel agency offers Zero Point. But you can easily pay the driver and he will take you there.
It is imperative to wear proper clothing to bear the cold. Proper winter wear is essential.
The best time to visit North Sikkim in April, May and October, November. The other months do not have suitable weather. December tends to be too cold, and June to September the rains force the roads to be closed.