Sikkim: Mesmerising Beauty of the Himalayas
I always wanted to travel to Sikkim, a small and beautiful state in northeastern India. Finally got a chance in April 2011. After doing a lot of research, we finalised an itinerary that would suit our budget and time constraints, which looks as follows:
Day 0: After a half-day in the office, I boarded a flight from Bangalore to Kolkata at 18:00 hrs. At 20:30 hrs, I arrived at Kolkata airport. I hired a pre-paid taxi from Kolkata airport to Sealdah railway station. At 23:00 hrs, I boarded the Padatik Express to New Jalpaiguri from Sealdah.
Day 1: Arrived at NJP Station around 10:30 a.m. and hired a jeep to Gangtok. I reached Gangtok by around 14:00 hrs and checked into Hotel Karlo. It was a nice hotel with excellent staff. We rested for the remaining part of the day as we were supposed to travel to North Sikkim the following day.
Day 2: After obtaining all the necessary permits for North Sikkim, we left Gangtok at around 11:00 hrs in a Maxx vehicle. We got a taste of the horrible road conditions in the first hour of our trip. But the scenic beauty made us forget all the discomforts of travel. In around 1 hr we reached the entrance to the North Sikkim area. The first point we visited was Seven Sisters falls. It looked great as the water falls in seven stages. After spending some time at the falls and buying some snacks there to munch on the way, we proceeded. The beauty of nature kept getting better as we were travelling, and we were unable to shut our eyes even for a moment. The river Teesta kept following us all the way, which was crystal clear and a treat to watch. We took a break for lunch at a small eatery called Hotel Kunghlo. The food served was pure vegetarian and very good. We proceeded after lunch and reached a few bigger towns on the way, like Singhik and Mangan. Our driver said that we could view Kanchenjunga clearly from Singhik but because of heavy clouds and fog, we were unable to get a glimpse. Further in the evening, we came across several waterfalls and rapids, and it looked great. Finally, we reached our final destination of the day, Lachen. It was freezing cold in Lachen, and we stayed in a small hotel there. Lachen is a very small village and has only basic facilities in all hotels. So we can’t expect heaters in the hotels, and power cuts throughout the day are very common. After having dinner, we crashed to sleep, as we were supposed to start at 5 a.m. the next morning.
Day 3: We woke up very early in the morning at Lachen, and after a hot cup of tea, we started towards Gurudongmar Lake, which is one of the highest lakes in Sikkim at 17000 feet. The sun rises very early in the northeast, and it was a treat looking at the morning sun kissing the snow-covered Himalayan mountains. The route was very scenic, with Yaks grazing in the fields, and it was pretty cold in the morning. Our driver stopped at Thangu for breakfast. We had bread/butter/jam for breakfast and got our papers verified at the checkpost. We proceeded further, and the landscape suddenly changed, and it looked like a cold desert with no trees around and clear blue skies. The scenery drastically changed once we reached Gurudongmar Lake at around 08:30 hrs. It was a total out-of-this-world look, and we were completely awestruck by the beauty of nature. The lake stood calm, and more than 70% of the lake was completely frozen. The snow-covered mountains as a backdrop added to the beauty of the place. We got down to the base of the river and took some water in our palms. The water was freezing cold. We even dared to walk on the frozen part of the lake, which was a great experience that we had never seen before. After enjoying the place for a while, we decided to bid goodbye to this amazing place. We came back to Lachen for lunch and then departed towards Lachung, where we had booked a hotel. Again, the journey was terrific, with a lot of waterfalls and snow-covered mountains that made us click a lot of pictures. We reached Lachung in the evening and were looking forward to the next day’s plan.
Day 4: The early morning view from our hotel in Lachung was picture perfect. After breakfast, we started towards Yumthang Valley, which is called the “Valley of Flowers” as it is full of flowers in the summer. Yumthang welcomed us with lovely sunshine and greenery, with a stream of the river Teesta flowing, which looked like paradise. We spent some quality time at Yumthang and then proceeded towards Zero Point, further up the hills. As we approached Zero Point, we could see snow all around us, and from the top, we could only see roads cutting through white snow. We reached Zero Point at around 9 a.m. and played with snow there for a long time. It was a wonderful experience. We then started our return journey towards Lachung, visiting a hot spring on the way. We rested in our room at Lachung for some time, and after lunch we left Lachung towards Gangtok with some great memories of North Sikkim. We reached Gangtok later in the evening and checked into our hotel.
Day 5: We visited the Geological Museum, Rumtek Monastery, Institute of Tibetology, and ropeway in the morning and went for a walk to MG Road in Gangtok. We had yummy momos and veg rolls at MG Road in the evening, and we thoroughly enjoyed them.
Day 6: Our plan was to visit the Tsomgo Lake and Baba Mandir near Nathu La Pass. We started early in the morning to obtain all necessary permits for these places. Because of the road repair work, we had to wade through a traffic jam on the way, but it was cleared quickly. We reached the Baba Mandir at around 11:30 and it was freezing cold, so we had to pull out all our warm clothing. We also get jackets, gloves, and shoes for rent at Tsomgo Lake. After paying respects to Baba Harbhajan Singh, we proceeded back towards the lake; en route, we stopped at a place to play with snow, which was fun. We reached Tsomgo Lake at around 14:00 hrs. We clicked a few pictures of the lake and took some pictures of the Himalayan Yak as well. We decided to have our lunch at Tsomgo Lake as it was late afternoon. We decided to wind up for the day at around 15:15 hrs. The evening drive became scary as it became very foggy and the visibility decreased considerably. En route were the Kyongnosla waterfalls, which were totally invisible due to the fog. We managed to reach Gangtok safely by around 16:30 hrs.
Day 7: On our final day in Gangtok, we checked out of our hotel in the morning and headed towards NJP station. On the way, we decided to go for river rafting at Teesta. Our cab driver patiently waited for us to complete our rafting, and we had a lot of fun in the water, though there were very few rapids. We reached NJP station in the evening and boarded Saraighat express to Howrah at 20:00 hrs. We reached Howrah at 06:30 hrs., and after breakfast we decided to visit the Howrah Bridge as we had a gap of 4 hours before the departure of our train to Bangalore. This concluded our trip to Sikkim, which was very interesting and memorable.
How to reach: Direct flights from Delhi and Kolkata are available to Bagdogra, the nearest airport. The nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri. Jeeps can be hired from Siliguri to reach Gangtok.
Article and photos by Arun Bharadwaj- https://www.thelightbaggage.com/
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