The Alpine destinations of North
Sikkim takes you to the village of Lachung inhabited by the
Lachungpas, an ethnic tribe of Tibetan origin. Beyond Lachung
the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, Yumthang Valley and
Yumesamdong are in one direction and are excellent for scenic
views of the landscape, rhododendrons, alpine flowers and
natural hot spring. The other destination in North Sikkim
includes the village of Lachen the base camp for mountaineering
expeditions to most of the mountain peaks in Sikkim. Excursion
beyond Lachen to Chopta valley and Gurudongmar Lake, one of the
sacred glacial lake of Sikkim and Tso Lhamu, the source of river
Teesta is subject to grant of permit by the Government of
Before long, enroute to North Sikkim, comes the first halt,
infact, one is not even out of Gangtok as yet and the road
curves into Tashi View Point which offer fine views of 28,168
ft. Khangchendzonga off to the northwest as well as a host of
other high and largely unclimbed 6,000 mt peaks. The route
continues to meander through villages and is flanked by fields
until it hits the forest grove of Kabi Longstok, the place that
sawthe historic swearing of blood brother hood between the
Lepchas and Bhutias. An event which underlines the ethos of even
present day Sikkim stone markers were erected to keep the
promise alive and stand to this day.
Before you've even caught your breath from the magnificence of
Kabi, you hit the Karma Kagyu Monastery of Phodong built in
1740. The monastery is famous for the intricate murals that
adorn its walls.
Singhik comes next with its promise of one of the most glorious
views of Khangchendzonga. For those with time, a half an hour's
walk uphill takes one to an ancient monastery suspended in time.
Straddling the confluence of Lachen and Lachung rivers lies
Chungthang, a small town full of legends. One such legend claims
this to be the place from where the world Demazong (the Hidden
valley of Rice) first originated for Sikkim. It is evening by
the time one hits Lachung, one of the most exquisite valley
towns, resplendent in its crown of snow-capped mountains,
breathtaking waterfalls and sparkling streams. Situated at a
height of 8,610 ft., Lachung has been described as the "most
picturesque village of Sikkim" by none other than Joseph Dalton
Hooker in his definitive, The Himalayan Journal (1855).
Lachung provides the base for an exploration of Yumthang (11,800
ft.) very close to the Tibetan border, Yumthang is that unique
place where the treeline ends, but rhododendrons still bloom
covering the whole area in a surreal shade. It also offers the
view of a stunning array of peaks with Pauhuri and Shundu Tsenpa
proving the most majestic.
Another hour's drive beyond Yumthang takes one to Yumesamdong
(15,300 ft.), an area where the sweet fragrance of Azellia (a
plant used as incense by locals) permeates the air. Heady,
invigorating and exhilarating, but words still fail to explain
the experience of being at Yumesamdong.
Lachung's sister village, Lachen is only a recent host to
tourists. Situated at an altitude of 8,838 ft. and a good six
hours drive from Gangtok along the North Sikkim Highway, Lachen
stand on a grassy and bush flat from the periphery of which rise
the pine clad mountains with there snowy peaks and black cliffs.
The village comprises of barley 150 houses earlier inhabitant
only in winters by there owner who spend the summer on the
alpine pasture along the Tibet border tending to there flock of
30 km beyond Lachen lies Thangu at an altitude of 13,000 ft. The
months of May and June see this valley carpeted with alpine
flowers which are replaced by snow from October through March.
Wonders never cease in North Sikkim with each turn, each valley,
each rivulet trying to out do the other in the scenic beauty
that it offers. Few places come close to virgin of appeal of
Chopta Valley ( 13,200 ft ). Just a 20 minutes drive from
Thangu, this valley provides one of the few accessible places in
Sikkim where a visitor can actually walk over the frozen river.
The riot of colours during spring belie this aspect, though.
No visit to North Sikkim is complete without to visit to
Gurudongmar Lake. The blessed water of this lake is believed to
posses the miraculous power of granting children to issueless
couple. Situated at an altitude of 17,200 ft the lake freezes
over during winter except at one spot which the devout believe
has been specially blessed. Interestingly, the myth of
Gurudongmar is believed as reverentially by the Sikhs as well as
the local Buddhists.