Package Name: North Sikkim: A Himalayan Fantasy
Sikkim is a hidden jewel of India and remains largely unexplored. It has breathtaking natural beauty and the splendid snow capped Himalayan ranges. Sikkim became an independent state of India only recently in 1974. It shares the northern border with Chinese Tibet. When one thinks of Sikkim one usually imagines Darjeeling, Gangtok and the Kanchenjunga Mountain Range. But there is much more to Sikkim, especially in Northern Sikkim, away from the cities and towns and into the quaint Himalayan villages. One such area is the villages of Lachung and Lachen.
Lachung is about 120 km from Gangtok and situated at a height of 8610 feet above sea level. It takes about 6 to 7 hours of drive from Gangtok depending largely on the weather conditions. Lachung is inaccessible during the monsoon due to heavy rainfall and in winter due to snow. Lachung has been described as the most picturesque village of Sikkim. It has resplendent snow capped mountains, dazzling waterfalls and white sparkling streams. In winter, the valley is covered with a thick layer of snow. There is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery situated atop a hill. Lachung is a base for visitors who want to see the Yumthang Valley. Also, one can leisurely explore this beautiful village.
Lachung Village is the gateway to the beautiful Yumthang Valley. It takes an hour’s drive to reach the Valley from Lachung through mesmerizing mountains filled with Rhododendron blossoms. In spring, the valley is painted in red with 24 different varieties of Rhododendron trees and shrubs. It appears as though the mountains have been painted in many colours. The flowering of Rhododendrons gets over by May end. During monsoons, starting in June, the Valley blooms with all kinds of tiny Himalayan flowers, like the Primroses, Cinquefoils, Louseworts and Cobra-lilies. This is an enchanting scene. Yumthang Valley has been referred to as the Valley of Flowers. It is extremely picturesque, with green slopes covered with trees, yaks grazing in the flower-spangled grassy plains below, and a river flowing right through the valley. A single visit there can leave anybody enchanted for a lifetime.
Yumthang Valley is 3,500 meters above sea level and in close proximity to Tibet. It is situated at – “the tree-line”- the altitude above which there is no trees. There are no permanent settlers here except for yak herders who live a nomadic life. Yumthang is also renowned for many sulphur hot springs that have healing properties. It offers stunning views of the Himalayan peaks. The best season to visit Yamthang Valley starts in late February and continues to mid June. However for a clear view of the snow capped mountains, September to December is the best time.
Lachen Village is the sister village of Lachun Village. The road from Gangtok bifurcates into a fork at Chungthang, the right turn leading to Lachung and the left turn leading to Lachen 26 km away. Lachen stands at 8838 ft above sea level and forms the base to visit the Gurudongmar Lake. It has sprawling grasslands separated by deep gorges of the Lachen-chu river and and pine clad snowy peaks. It is a sparsely populated village and originally inhabited by yak herders only in winter as they would spend the summer months in the alpine pastures along the Tibet border. Today Lachen boasts of many hotels for visitors who come here to visit the Gurudongmar Lake and Chopta Valley. The Lachen Monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim. It overlooks the entire village of Lachen and surrounding hills and is well worth a visit.
Gurudongmar Lake is situated at a height of 17,800 feet above sea level and is 67 km away from Lachen. It takes about 4 hours of driving through a 9000 feet climb. The lake is named after the first Tibetan Buddhist Guru, namely Guru Rinpoche. In the eight century when the Rinpoche set his eyes on the lake he experienced it to be a holy augury to enter the territory of Sikkim. At present people believe that the lake provides shelter to expecting mothers who offer their prayers at the lake.