By Journey Man
The Himalayan state of Sikkim is the jewel in the crown of India with its unmatched and unscathed natural beauty. The mesmerizing scenic beauty of this small state attracts nature-loving tourists from all over the world.
Sikkim is divided into the four districts and every district has its own distinct ambiance, topography, flora and fauna. But, the charm of North Sikkim is way above any other part of Sikkim. With the richness in magnificent mountain ranges, serene lakes, scenic valleys, orchards, quaint villages and beautiful ancient monasteries, the fascination of the North Sikkim is such that no tour to Sikkim can be deemed complete without exploring the regions of the north.
North Sikkim is the best destination for those who are looking for a natural getaway and to spend a few days amid pure nature, away from the crowded city life. The weather of the North Sikkim is usually frosty cold in winters and pleasantly cold during summer. The Khangchendzonga National Park and the Shingba Wildlife Sanctuary are the major wildlife attractions in North Sikkim. The Red Panda which is the state animal of Sikkim is a native animal of the North region. It is the State Animal of Sikkim.
The region is heaven on Earth for the trekkers and adventure seekers with the hypnotic beauty of raw mountains, valleys and forests. Most tourist places of North Sikkim are restricted to Indian citizens only due to the proximity of the India-China border and required permits to visit here.
Mangan is the headquarters of the North Sikkim district. It is one of the most mystically beautiful though unexplored areas due to the harsh conditions found here. Located at an altitude of 956 meters the town of Mangan serves as a base for trekking and hiking trips in the mountains and forests. North Sikkim is famous for the Gurudongmar Lake which is one of the highest lakes of India. It also has religious importance. Apart from lakes, there are some important monasteries in this area too.
Khangchendzonga National Park
Also known as the Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve, this park is the epitome of natural splendour. Recently inducted into UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list, KNP is one of a handful of high-altitude national parks in the country. Besides Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world that towers over the park and its surroundings, the area encompasses fantastic glaciers, pristine lakes, lush valleys and a variety of endangered flora and fauna.
Explore Lake Menmecho where coniferous trees surround the water body, adding to its magical allure; stare in awe at the sharp crevices of Mt. Rathong after you have waited patiently for the fog to lift and witness the 26km-long Zemu Glacier, one of the largest on this continent; the Famrong Waterfall falls with otherworldly graceful intensity, and the guardian of the park, Mt. Kanchenjunga sits silently surveying her children.
The geographical wonders mentioned above are just a few of the natural sights of KNP. If you’re trekking in the area, keep an eye out for the Himalayan blue sheep, the Asiatic wild dog, red pandas, and musk deer, to name a few. If you’re really lucky a snow leopard sighting will surely make your day. KNP is birdwatcher heaven with the recently discovered Himalayan Forest Thrush and a plethora of endemic avifauna like the Tibetan snow cock, Himalayan griffon, satyr tragopan, bearded vulture, among others.
Best time to visit: The best time to visit Kanchenjunga National Park is between April and May.
How to reach: By Air – Nearest airport is Bagdogra Airport in Darjeeling, in West Bengal, which is about 122 km away from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim.
By Rail: Nearest railhead to Khangchendzonga National Park is in New Jalpaiguri, the Siliguri Junction which is about 120 km from Gangtok.
By Road: Nearest highway to Khangchendzonga National Park in Sikkim is the 92 km long National Highway 31A, which connects Sevok in Darjeeling to Gangtok.
The small village of Lachung is a prominent and hotspot tourist destination located in the North Sikkim. The splendid natural beauty of the village and the spectacular waterfalls that graced the region is the prime attraction for the nature-loving tourists. There are various garrulous waterfalls gushing around the Lachung village offering the mesmerizing view of Nature along with the glimpses of the white snow-clad pristine mountain ranges which surround the village make the magnetic view.
Tourists make this beautiful village their base while visiting the eminent Yumthang Valley, which is a significant tourist destination in the state of Sikkim. The orchards of apples, apricots and peaches around the village are a pleasurable sight for the visitors. The local market of the village has various different exquisite handcrafted cloths such as blankets, carpets, woollens, etc. along with other souvenirs which you can shop at an extremely reasonable prices.
How to get there
By Air – Lachung does not have an airport of its own Located at a distance of 125km from Gangtok, Bagdogra airport, in Siliguri, is the nearest airport to Lachung.
Rail – Lachung does not have a railway station of its own. The nearest train station to Lachung is New Jalpaiguri train station, around 120km away from Gangtok.
By road – Lachung has good road connectivity with nearby destinations.
A mesmerizingly serene place which holds a very significant spot in the Sikkim tourism, the Yumthang valley is the marvel of nature decorated in the Northern region of the Sikkim state. With the dense rhododendron forests and the hot sulphur water spring, the Yumthang valley offers the picturesque view of the hilly terrain. The valley is also known as the valley of flowers due to the large stretch of land filled with the various species of the Rhododendrons.
The enormous landscape adorned with the vivid flowers and the beautiful, bustling water of the River Teesta is the paradise for the nature-loving tourists. The valley is located around 140 km from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. The village of Lachung is the base destination to visit the Yumthang Valley. On the way to the Yumthang valley, the view of the pristine waterfalls and streams, as well as the magnetic view of the mountain peaks are very soothing to eyes.
How to get there
By air – Bagdogra airport is the nearest airport
By rail – The nearest railways station is New Jalpaiguri
By road – Yumthang is connected by road to major cities in India
The amazing view of the cold desert and special scenic with few activities will draw you towards Chopta valley. Chopta valley has some attractions that make it ideal for a fun and calm holiday. It attracts all kinds of tourists and the jaw dropping views of the lush green and high mountains makes you love this head over heels. Chopta valley is situated in North Sikkim and Uttarakhand. This valley is located at an altitude of 4,000 m above sea level. The entire valley and its surroundings are heaven. Adventure buffs and trekking enthusiasts get all the facilities and typical tourist places for having relaxation from the hustle bustle of the city.
Reset your body and soul with the gift of living well and soothe your mind with the amazing chirping of birds flying in the sky. Chopta valley has nearby forests which give an intense look and there are many peaks located close to the valley. Reaching in Chopta valley will solve the purpose of visiting other nearby places. This valley is the valley of flowers and alongside the forests gives a great view to tourists so this is becoming a famous place to chill out with friends, couples and with family.
When to visit
There is no bad time to visit Chopta valley. If you are planning a trip to the valley then every season is perfect. In the summer uninterrupted wandering will be amazing in the shades of the sun,0 while in the monsoon, its beauty enhances. In winter, Chopta looks like paradise as it is covered with snow which looks fabulous.
Once you reach you will create a special bonding with this valley. There is no difficult terrain or high altitude problems.
It takes around 7-8 hours to drive from Gangtok to reach Chopta Valley. But mostly Lachen, which is just 30 km from Thangu, provides a resting place for the tourists who wish to visit Chopta Valley.
Seven Sisters Waterfall
Seven Sisters is a popular waterfall located on the Gangtok- Lachung highway, around 32 kilometres from Gangtok. As the name suggests, the seven different waterfalls harmoniously arranged sideways on a wide rugged cliff seem distinct if watched from a distance.
It becomes a must see place in Gangtok after rains, when the falls come into a fierce life offering an awe-inspiring view. The gurgling water of the fall plunges out of the lush green vegetation plastering the rugged cliffs falls over the limestone, making a thunderous sound.
The picturesque beauty of the fall makes it a tourist’s stopping point to relax and rejuvenate. The prismatic view of the setting sun allures the visitors to fall into a long photography session. Every monsoon the fall receives a flood of visitors hanging cameras on their sides.
It is the tourists who are keen into photography.
Along with this there are several other worthwhile water falls on the way, one of them is the Banjhakri falls that is equally rejuvenating and refreshing. Tashi View Point; constructed by the late king of Sikkim-Tashi Namgyal is another popular place one can visit while being in Gangtok to have the pristine views of the hills along with Mt. Kanchenjunga.
Located 32 kilometres away from Gangtok, it takes around 40 minutes to drive to Seven Sister Waterfall.
Best time to visit – The Seven Sister Waterfall is best visited during monsoon in the months May – July, when its seven segments are visible in full fledged. This beautiful Waterfall also seems amazing when the snow is melting.
Mount Katao is situated in the Northern Part of Sikkim which is 144 km from the capital city Gangtok. Mount Katao is at 15,000 ft. Onlookers love to explore the beauty of Mount Katao. Entering into this area required permission from the Military. There are numerous adventurous activities that will keep your holiday worthwhile spent with snowboarding, skiing, snow tubing and many more.
The waterfall sound gives good vibes and keeps the surrounding full of sound. This is a nice place to visit who likes mountains and flowery places and a few more spellbound views that make your heart smile.
Mount Katao is more accessible to all tourists, only you must have military permission. All the hotels nearby here in Mt Katao are at best price at best service for you.
Best time to visit – The best time to visit Mount Katao is from March to June. Those who do not want to face any challenges and trouble on their travels. This time climate is fascinating and you can enjoy even better.
How to reach – From Lachung, Mount Katao is situated at a distance of 28 kilometres which can be covered by hiring a taxi or driving all the way in your private vehicle. However, you first need to obtain a permit from the army base in Siliguri.
One of the most beautiful, pristine lakes in Sikkim, the Gurudongmar Lake, sits in close proximity to the Tibetan and Chinese border in the north. Nested amid the mountains at 5,183 meters, the freezing alpine lake is among the major sources of the river Teesta. The lake takes its name after the eminent guru Padmasambhava, who is believed to have traversed this region during his visit to Tibet.
At an elevation of 17000 ft, Gurudongmar Lake is probably the most astounding lake on the planet. It lies in the North side of the Khangchengyao Range and is enclosed all around by snow-secured mountains. The holy lake solidifies during the winters with the exception of one spot, which the ardent conviction has been particularly honoured. The Chinese Tibetan fringe is only a couple of kilometres from the lake. The flavoured water of the lake is believed to provide relief to issueless couples. Hindus and Buddhists both respect the lake.
The region is said to be honoured by Guru Padmasambhava. There is a sanctuary of the Guru other than the lake. Lover sightseers just as the army staff offer supplication at the sanctuary.
Best Time to visit – The best time to visit Gurudongmar Lake is between November and June as the weather is quite pleasant at that time of the year. Summers are moderate and quite pleasant in Lachen. An annual yak race called Thangu takes place here every summer. During winter, Lachen can get quite cold. Gurdongmar Lake freezes completely during the winter months and is a treat to the eyes.
How to reach –
By Air: The nearest Domestic Airport is Bagdogra Airport which is around a four and half hour drive from Lachen. You will have to hire a taxi from the airport to reach Lachen where taxis and jeeps are available to go to the lake.
By Rail: The nearest Railway Station to Gurudongmar Lake is Darjeeling Railway Station which is connected to most of the cities of Sikkim and is at a distance of 171 Kms from Lachen. Siliguri, Sukna, Tindharia, Mahanadi, Dilaram, Sonada, Jorebunglow and Ghum are the cities it is well connected with.
By Road: Lachen is connected through Sikkim State Road Transport Corporation (SSRTC) and some private travel services to all the major cities of Sikkim. Regular buses ply from Lachen to these states. From Lachen, you can get jeeps and taxis to reach Gurudongmar Lake.
Chungthang is a small town in North Sikkim, located at the confluence of Lachen and Lachung rivers, where they form the Teesta River, considered to be the most important river in Sikkim. Located at an altitude of 1790m, it is one of the military bases of the country, especially due to its proximity to the China border.
Chungthang is considered to be a sacred site by locals and Buddhists. It is believed to be the place where Guru Padmasambhava himself walked around and sat on a rock. This rock has a crevice and footprints of Padmasambhava as per legend. There is also a paddy field, which is a natural wonder as the climate of Chungthang is not suited to growing paddy. Another legend around Chungthang is of Guru Nanak Dev having passed through Chungthang on his way to Tibet.
Chungthang is a small town and mainly a halt before heading out to Lachen and Lachung.
Best time to visit: Chungthang is cooler than some of the other towns, as it is higher in altitude. The best time to visit is during the summer months of March-June and the autumn months from October-December.
Getting There & Getting Around
Chungthang is well connected by road to Gangtok and other main towns of Sikkim. It is also connected by road to the closest airport Bagdogra – and the closest railway station of New Jalpaiguri.
On the slight gradient that stretches from the tiny hamlet of Kabi to the terrace-farming town of Phodong, sits the Phensang Monastery. One of the six biggest gompas in Sikkim, this religious structure belongs to the Nyingma Order of Buddhism.
Just like the slopes that govern the terrain of Sikkim, Phensang has had its share of ups and downs. Founded in 1721, by the 3rd Lhatsun Tragthung Jigmed Pawo, the monastery was expanded in 1850 to make room for the growing number of monks. In 1947, a fire ravaged the gompa and though it was reconstructed swiftly the following year, the torrential rains of 1983 caused irreparable damage. In 1985, the Lamas, aided by the government, managed to restore the structure by 1996. Today, Phensang houses the most number of monks that any monastery in Sikkim and its location is one of the most picturesque landscapes in the state.
Best time to visit: March to late May, October to Mid-December
How to get there: Located off the north Sikkim highway, Phensang Monastery is around 40km from Gangtok. If you’re boarding a jeep from MG Marg, the route will take you past the popular Tashi View Point ridge till you reach Phodong. From here, a path veers uphill for around 6kms till you are at the entrance of Phensang Monastery.
Basic Geographical Information :
North Sikkim Area – 4226 sq km
Coordinates – 27°31′N 88°32′E
Language – Nepali, Bhutia and Lepcha
Popular Treks of North Sikkim – Green Lake Trek, Tosar lake Trek.
Popular Places to Visit in North Sikkim – Khangchendzonga National Park , Gurudongmar lake, Lachung, Lachen, Yumthang Valley, Seven Sisters Waterfall, Cholamu Lake, Chungthang and Mangan etc.
Best Time to Visit North Sikkim – March to May and October to Mid-December
Popular Lakes of North Sikkim – Cholamu Lake and Gurudongmar Lake