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Sikkim: North Sikkim
North Sikkim, the most coveted part of Sikkim, is a must in the list of travelling destinations. Crafted with rejuvenating flowers, falls creating an ambience, hot springs on the astonishing valleys and ice-capped Himalayan range, Sikkim, is truly a heaven on the earth. Apart from the different species of butterflies around, Snow leopard, Clouded leopard, Himalayan Black Beer, and burking deer are the other residents of the astounding dense Kanchenjunga National Park, spreading over an extensive area of 850 square km. The lately finished roads on the Sikkim valleys are connecting different parts of Sikkim. Kabi cave, at an elevation of 5400 feet, lies 17 km away from the city, is a historical place where the treaty between Bhutia and Lepcha was signed. On the foundation of the signed accord Bhutia community got the permission of staying in North Sikkim. Singba Rhododendron Sanctuary is another destination which is attracting a large number of tourists for its natural environs. In the middle of the natural woodlands, the Fengsang monastery, built in 1721, is now standing with its newly built structure as it was destroyed by fire earlier. North Sikkim is known for its beautiful places like Phodong, Lachen, Yumthung, Chungthang, Lake Gurudangma, Chopta valley and Lachung. Scroll below for more details on these places.
Phodong, at a distance of 41 km away from Gangtok, can be reached from Gangtok in 2 hours through a twisted hilly street. Phodong Monastery, established in 1740, has been rebuilt and it is today one of the most beautiful monasteries in Sikkim. Chogyal Gyurmed Namgyal was the person responsible to build the monastery. It possesses the old mural paintings and numerous idols. Cham is the traditional local festival.
At the top of the Phodong monastery, about 2 km higher up, the Labrang monastery can be reached by trekking in 30 minutes. You can also hire a car to go to the monastery. The atmospheric and peaceful Labrang Monastery was established in 1884.
Tumlong Palace was the third capital of the erstwhile king of Sikkim. It is located between the Phodong and Labrang Monastery. In nineteenth century the kingdom of Sikkim was restructured and shifted to Phodong from Rubdantse.
Tourist lodge, PWD bungalow, Yak & Yeti, Ever green hotel, Hotel Northway and Hotel Jyoti are some of the noteworthy hotels of Phodong.
Mongon, situated at an altitude of 3950 feet and about 27 km off Phodong, crossing the 2nd highest floating bridge of Asia, is a destination where from you can enjoy the breathtaking and incredible sight of the landscapes of the Kanchenjunga.
Another petite but picture perfect spot, the Singhik, also offers a panoramic view of Kanchenjunga. Singhik is just 5 km away from Mongon. The architectural excellences of Singhik gumpha and Chorten with its fresco portraits will definitely satisfy tourists.
Chungthang, at an altitude of 3500 feet, situated at a distance of 26 km from Singhik and 98 km away from Gangtok, has a military base. The small town owes much to the magnificent water body formed by the confluence of two rivers- Lachen chhu and Lachung chhu. Arguably, both of these rivers are responsible for the Tso Lhamu Lake where from the River Tista had started its journey. It is believed that the Buddhist saint, Rimpoche was amused seeing the fascinating splendor of Chungtang while he rested on the unruffled valley of Chungthang. Since then this is the pilgrimage spot of Buddha community.
PWD bungalow, Hotel Neelam, Kyipsang, Pema hotel ghasal hotel and sonam hotel are the notable hotels where you can stay for a night.
Alongside the river Lachen Chu, the zigzag path will take you to a height of 9500 feet from sea level and there you hit the heavenly Lachen village. The monastery of Lachen is the most imperative lure of Lachen. The population of the village is 1000.
Bungalow snow peak lodge, Toga lodge, Juniper resort and Dongmar lodge are some of the good hotels in Lachen.
The holy Lake Gurudangma, at a height of 17, 400 feet, 68 km away spot from Lachen, is covered with ice but the water at the centre of the lake is always warm. It takes 5 hours from Lachen to reach the Lake, situated at the border of india and Tibet. The romantic way to the lake involves a lot of tribulations and hurdles due to the toughness of the winding road and the nearby border of India and China. Never trust the weather here due to its fickleness. It is said that if you visit the lake you are closer to the all mighty. The water of the Lake has a remedial power. Watching the reflection of the mountains Gurudongma and Kangchenjai on the cool and pure water of the lake is an alluring experience.
The Tso Lohmu, lies about 12 km from Gurudanma Lake, is encircled by the ice capped Kanchenjunga. Don’t forget to see the adjoining temple and Gurudwara, situated at the lakeside.
Plan and arrange a three night stay at the forest bungalow in thangu, about 36 km from Gangtok, at an elevation of 13, 500 feet, is a small hamlet amidst lush greeneries and uneven mountain slopes.
Chopta valley (13,200 feet), about 6 km higher up from Lachen, is a new addition to the list of tourist destinations. Hit the frozen Maguthang, beside Lukanal hill, by the lines of the mighty Alpines forest and wild Rhododendron flowers travelling across the Chota valley. Enjoy the shivering breeze coming from the river Chopta Chhu. Special permission is required for the trips to Lachen, Chopta and Gurudongma. But for a comfortable and worry free journey avail the package tour arranged by different travel agencies of Gangtok.
Phodong, Mongon, and Labrang, all of the settlements are well connected to the Gangtok by bus. It’s also possible to go and come back to each of these places from Gangtok on the same day. If you wish you can also hire a vehicle for the trip from Gangtok.
A Tibetan village with a unique traditional culture of Tibet, at an altitude of 9000ft, Lachung is the last village in North Sikkim before Yumthang and has emerged as a coveted vacationer destination. The road to Lachung, about 110 km from Gangtok, passes through some of the most attractive but difficult landscapes in sikkim. The picturesque village has now become a model village.
The village, spread out on either side of Lachung Chu River, at an elevation of 2734 meters, is surrounded by tall pine forest and snow clad mountains. A large number of astonishing waterfalls can also be visited close to Lachung. The wilderness of Chumjang among them breaks the calmness of the quiet Lachung valley. The Lachung villagers belong to Bhutia community, and they have retained their distinctive Tibetan tradition and culture. Syafale, a dish prepared using meet, is their favorite food item. Churpi, another food item prepared by the milk of Yak, is a remedial food for tiredness. During April-May you can take a glimpse of orchids (More than 24 species) in Botanical Odyssey Lachung.
The Lachung monastery on the uneven slopes, opposite the highway, is a focal point in the natural backdrop. To get a glimpse of the religious functions like Cham dance you have to visit Lachung monastery.
Food lovers should enjoy their food at Forest Log hut, at an altitude of 9000 feet, while watching the natural beauty around.
Taking a package tour for all the places around is the best option. The cost of the package depends on the quality of arrangements provided by the travel agents. The duration of the trip also varies according to your budget and time.
The Apple Valley inn, Lali Guras, Yakshiayresort, Lecoxay resort, Snow lion mountain resort and Everest hotels are good hotels in Lachung.
Polularly known as the Switzerland of the East, it is situated at an altitude of about 11,800 feet and it is 141 km away from Gangtok. The valley is fully enclosed with the beautiful carpet of Primula and Alpine flowers. The valley is bounded by the hot springs, eye catching icy mountains and untamed waterfalls. A drive through the surreal shades of forests alongside the River Tista will take you to Yumthang.
The journey through the gorge by the shades of Primolar, Rhododendron, Cherry, Maple, pine, Magnolia and colorful orchids is a pleasant experience. Walk down to the valley of Alpine flowers. You can take pleasure in the view of a bunch of Yaks strolling across the green valley. You can also enjoy the view of Himalaya through out the path to Yumthang.
Shiva temple of Military, at a distance of 12 km from Yumthang, aromatic Jodang valley, at a distance of 21 km from Shiva temple (15, 300 feet), and 14 hot springs of Yumsemdong are the well known spots and these places are included in the package tours.
Katao Valley, around 24 km from Lachung, situated at an altitude of 15,000 feet above sea level, can compete with Yumthang in beauty. The panoramic view of the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas, and the sight of the frozen waterfalls all the way through out the valley are magical. The valley is covered with poppy, primula, domong, alpine and rhododendron. A military check-post is nearby and this is a restricted area. The valley of Katao is covered with ice in March-April. May-June and September-November seasons are the best time to visit Katao.