The Land of Snow, Lakes, Waterfalls and Monasteries
Winters of January 2018
Sikkim is one of the most beautiful places when it comes to the Northeast of India and is blessed with so much of natural beauty in the form of snowfall, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, monasteries, tea gardens and more. The state is also vey well maintained in terms of it’s roads and other infrastructures. And what makes it most attractive is the people of Sikkim who are so friendly, helpful and forever smiling. Here I will share my experiences, transportation details, places to stay n eat, permits and important details that might help in planning a nice trip.
Unfortunately, Northeast is not much explored by travellers as compared to other parts of India mainly because of the fear of distance and budget. I am blessed to have travelled quite a few places of Northeast mainly Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal and also the neighbouring Bhutan and Darjeeling and I am in complete love with all these places. I always come across people who are confused how and where to begin their Northeastern journey from. Here I would try to explain how easy and inexpensive it is planning a trip to Sikkim and a great begining to start exploring the beautiful and unexplored part of the Northeast of India. I, along with my family visited this place twice and I would combine my both trips together to share my experiences and stories with some pictures.
How to reach: The Main entry is from Bagdogra Airport or New Jalpaiguri Railway station, both located at Siliguri, West Bengal. From there Gangtok can be reached by HELICOPTER RIDE. Costs 3500/person for a one way journey of 30-35 minutes.
By road it would be a picturesque 125km / 5-6 hours drive alongwith the river Teasta on one side and Mt. Kanchenjunga on the other. A small cab like Santro / Wagon R costs about Rs. 2500, Innova / Sumo about Rs. 3000. There’s a very well managed Prepaid Taxi counter at the airport.
Day 1: After landing at the Bagdoga airport we booked our pre-paid cab towards Gangtok and the journey began. While traveing we are never in a hurry, we stop at various places on the way, after all, the fun is in the journey not just in the destination. We took our first stop at the pink coloured huge Coronation bridge(It’s white in colour now, God knows whose stupid idea it was) which connects places like Dooars and Bhutan with Bagdogra.
Clicked a few pictures, ate some fruits and peanuts etc and the second stop was for lunch at Hotel Shiva’s Pradhan at Namchi, where we had an amazing mouthwatering meal with chicken, mutton, rice, dal, vegetables, momos etc in a very pocket friendly price. The best thing about traveling in Northeast is they don’t understand the concept of shudhh Shakahari Bhojan, It’s always Masahari 😍. I highly recommend this place.
We continued our journey and reached Gangtok by the evening around 5pm and checked in at our hotel HIDDEN FOREST RETREAT GANGTOK. It’s one of most beautiful places I have ever stayed at run by a local Sikkimese family, serves great food with amazing mountain view rooms, gardens and not too far from the M G Road and other attractions. It costs about Rs.4000/- per night
We just dumped our backpacks etc and immediately rushed to the M G Road checked with a few local tour operators there and planned our next day’s trip to Lachung and Yumthang Valley and sorted the permits etc for which we just needed an ID proof and 2 photographs each. Had a hot cup of Darjeeling tea at Golden Tips followed by nice dinner with some local Beer at M G Road’s Dragon Wok and that was all for the day.
Day 2: Next morning after an early breakfast around 9 am we started our 1 night/2 days journey towards Lachung, Yumthang Valley and Zero Point. We happened to get one of the most amazing and friendly human being Topchen (Click the name to connect with him) as our driving partner who drives a Sumo for the trip who happened to be a local from Lachung and also owns a beautiful newly built guest house at Lachung KATAU ROAD HOUSE. The journey was comfortable, roads were well built and picturesque with many waterfalls, rivers, monasteries etc on the way and we stopped at most of them for our photo sessions, eating and some shopping.
We reached our hotel around 5pm, welcomed by one of the partners of the Guesthouse Bhim Sharma, who has a lot of experience in hospitality in the international Cruise industry and was very accomodating and hospitable. We checked in to our nice cozy room with electric blankets, room heater and hot running water. We were served some hot tea and pakodas and Lachung received the first snowfall of the season. We were lucky as we planned this trip because my daughter wanted to see snowfall. We played a lot with the fresh snowfall, had some nice homemade dinner cooked by locals and got inside our electric blankets.
Day 3: As per schedule we woke up at 5 am and it was all white with snow outside and that was our happiest moment that it snowed so well. There was no water in the tap as it was like -5 degree outside and the water froze in the pipeline. We were provided with some hot water in buckets and we managed to freshen up and had some quick tea coffee breakfast and started our journey towards the Zero point and Yumthang Valley. It took some time for the Tata Sumo to wake up too, it had to warmed up as well but Topche was an expert. We began our most awaited and exciting journey and there was snow everywhere…
After spending a couple of hours playng with the snow and clicking some pictures, we decided to return and visited a small market at Yumthang, had some hot tea, bread omelette and I even got to taste some Yak Meat.
Day 4: We couldn’t do the Lachen and Gurudongmar lake because of bad weather and roads but it could be clubbed here with Lachung and needs another night’s stay. Including Lachen and Gurudongmar, it would been a 2 nights/3days trip. We paid about Rs. 12000/- for this 1night/2days trip to Lachung, Yumthang, Zero Point including all meals, stay and transportation.
And we began our journey towards Gangtok and again around 2pm and reached Gangtok by 8pm. This was the end of our winter trip to Sikkim but I will continue the blog and share my experience about other places of Sikkim that I covered on my previous visit.
Sikkim during Summers
First thing we did after reaching Gangtok in the evening, we left the copies of our identity cards and 2 passport photos each to a travel agent for getting our permits to visit Nathula the next day. Nathula is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays(check latest news if there’s any changes).
Day 5: We started our Gangtok Sightseeing in the morning, managed to get a Taxi (Innova) at Rs. 3000 for the whole day and visited the main attractions like Hanuman Tok, Ganesh Tok, Ranka Monastery, Namgyal institute, Banjakhri waterfalls, Tashi view point, Enchay monastery, Seven sisters waterfalls, Gangtok ropeway etc. We also did some zip lining and paragliding. And that was all about Gangtok and spent the evening at MG Road shopping and eating.
PLACES TO EAT AT GANGTOK: (All of these are on the M G Road)
For Lunch / Dinner – Thakali, Chopstick, Taste of Tibet, Khan Uncle’s Biriyani, The Dragon Wok
For Breakfast, Tea, Coffe, Desserts – Bakers Cafe and The Coffee Shop
For Party and Nightlife – Cafe Live and Loud, Osm Resto Lounge, Pub 25
For snacks – Roll House, Shuffle Momo
Day 6: We started around 8 am and the trip to Nathula Pass, Baba Mandir and Tsongmo began. It took us the whole day to visit these 3 places and paid about Rs.5000/- for the whole trip including our permits and Innova fare. It was quite a scenic trip and also stopped somewhere on the way to shop some cheap and nice Chinese items.
Day 7: We were done with Gangtok, Nathula, Lachung Yumthang and now we were on our way towards Pelling. Since time and money are always a challenge we decided to start early, visit Namchi and Ravangla on the way and reach Pelling by night. We even stopped at one of the biggest Tea Gardens of Sikkim named Timir Tea Gardens. We also visited the Chaar Dhaam, Siddeshwar Dhaam, Samdruptse, Tendong Hill, Buddha Park etc. And we reached Pelling late at night around 8pm. We checked in at Sonamchen Hotel, it was an average place to stay and costs about Rs.2000/- per night
Day 8: This was the day for Pelling Sightseeing. We started around 9 am and visited Kanchenjunga waterfalls, Pemayangtse monastery, Rabdentse, Khecheopalri lake, Sangacholimg monastery, Rimbi waterfalls and more. And. that was all about Pelling and the end of our Sikkim trip too.
Day 9: We left for our journey back home towards Bagdogra airport which was about 140km and took us about 6 hours to reach with some breaks in between. We paid the Innova Taxi about Rs.12000/- for 3 days trip from Gantok to Pelling to Bagdogra Airport. Stopped for a nice local breakfast on our way back and bought some Dalle Chillies also as souvenir to bring back for friends and family in Delhi. If time permits Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Mirik can also be clubbed here after finishing Sikkim for 3 nights more.
Thank you for stopping by. Feel free to ask me if there’s anything else I can help with. Leave a comment, that will motivate this lazy blogger to write about some more places which are yet to be written…..
All the pictures shared here belongs to Joyjeet Mukherjee ©joyjeetm