Trip to North Sikkim – Lachen, Lachung, Gurudongmar & Yumthang

Hello everybody ! Wish you a very happy weekend in advance.

I have got a new phone finally πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ Yeaaaa !! I am so excited to share with you that I have bought Google Pixel 2 XL. I loved the phone right from the moment I saw it online. Finally it is mine πŸ™‚ Make sure you follow us on FB, Instagram and Twitter so that you never miss an update from us. All the links to our social media are given in the homepage. I will be posting their regularly on my social media handles from now on.

Another exciting news is that today I will sharing with you my North Sikkim trip in detail with lots of fun photos of Mu-Mi and the beautiful landscapes we witnessed.

Sikkim is a favorite destination for everybody who love the Himalayas. Not only is this place breathtakingly beautiful, it is one of the most affordable mountain destination if you on a budget. I have traveled around Sikkim for 5 days during our honeymoon in 2014, we covered Nathula Pass, Baba Mandir, Tsomgo Lake, Ravangla, Namchi and Pelling. Let me know in the comment section if you want to read a travel post on our honeymoon trip.

Since we stay in Kolkata, New Jalpaiguri or NJP railway station (the nearest to Sikkim) is a one-night journey for us. But if you want to avoid the train journey, you can book flight tickets to Bagdogra the nearest airport. I have not traveled via Bagdogra so I am not sure about that route. If you reach NJP by train, you will find a huge number of cars of all types standing outside the station premise. You can book any seat of your choice in a particular car on a shared basis. Shared car fare is INR 300 per person. I prefer to book a SUV and reserve the 2 seats beside the driver for us. There are seat for total 10 travelers excluding the driver in a shared SUV. You can also reserve the full car for your family or group, but the fare will be more obviously.

It takes about 4 to 5 hours to reach Gangtok taxi stand from NJP, including a lunch halt in between. You cannot directly reach your hotel in the same car you booked at NJP because only the local taxis of Gangtok are allowed inside the city. But you can request your hotel to arrange pickup for you, or you can book a taxi at the taxi stand and reach your hotel. The local taxi fare for hotels near MG Marg is about INR 200 which may go up to INR 700 depending on the distance of your hotel from the taxi stand.

We travelled via train (Darjeeling Mail) to reach NJP as well as return to Sealdah. The ticket fare for this train is INR 350 per person.

Our itinerary for the trip :

  • Day 1 : Arrive at NJP – Proceed to Gangtok – Check in at Hotel – Book a 3 Days 2 Nights Package via tour operator at MG Marg
  • Day 2 : Board the car at Vajra Stand – Start for Lachen – Enroute see Naga Falls & Teesta River – Night stay at Lachen
  • Day 3 : Start for Kala Patthar early morning – Reach Kala Patthar – Visit Gurudongmar Lake – Come back to Lachen for lunch – Post lunch proceed towards Lachung – Night stay at Lachung
  • Day 4 : Start for Zero point via Yumthang Valley – Visit Rhododendron sanctuary enroute to Yumthang – First proceed towards Zero Point – Come down to Yumthang Valley – Lunch at Lachung – Post lunch return to Gangtok

We booked our tickets in Darjeeling Mail from Sealdah station at 10PM on 20th April. It was a very unfortunate start to our journey. We almost missed the train due to extreme traffic jam few kilometers before railway station. We ran across the platform like maniacs when the train had almost started. We flung our bags into the first compartment we could reach and the railway security guard pulled us into the compartment. In this commotion, one of the chains in my backpack opened up and I lost my makeup brush & accessories box in the station 😦 I was really really upset, all my favorite makeup brushes was inside that box. Though we complained to railway security force helpline about our loss, the box could not be retrieved later.

Our train reached New Jalpaiguri (NJP) station at around 11AM. The train was late for about 4 hours. Though we packed all our luggage way in advance, I kept my phone charging at the upper berth. That was the mistake of my life. While getting off the train I completely forgot about the phone. Though I noticed that my phone is missing after just 10 minutes and rushed back to my seat, but to my horror it was stolen by then. What more worse can happen to me – I lost my phone, my makeup brushes, my hair accessories and jewellery 😦 Imagine the state of mind I was in.

I have a really supportive and loving husband and I am so lucky to have him by my side on such worst situations. He cheered me up with a hearty lunch near the taxi stand outside the station. We booked the front 2 seats of a Tata Sumo Victa car like always, bought some snacks for the road and started towards our destination with a fresh zeal.

The car halts for about an hour at a local restaurant for lunch after about 2 hours. Since we already had lunch at NJP, we only ordered a plate of chicken momo to accompany our fellow travelers. Post lunch we reached Gangtok in the afternoon. The gate in the below pic welcomes all the travelers to Sikkim. It fills your heart with extra excitement as soon as you see this gate, trust me !

IMG20180421151912
Entrance Gate to Sikkim

Gangtok (capital of Sikkim):

Our hotel did not provide us pickup facility. So we hired a local taxi on reaching the stand and reached our hotel. Summit Namnang is part of a very popular chain of hotels belonging to Summit group. It is location near Big Bazar, walking distance from MG Marg. We paid room charge of about INR 4000 per night at Summit Namnang Courtyard & Spa on double sharing basis. We got a good discount on booking via Makemytrip website. This website assures you lowest price on mentioned hotels or you get double the difference back if you can find the hotel at lower price on any other site. I highly recommend you to check out Makemytrip website or app while booking hotels.

The decor of the property is extremely pretty with floral wall papers and long curtains. It is very clean and well maintained. The location is very peaceful, away from the crowd and traffic, yet a walking distance from the heart of Gangtok MG Marg. They welcome all their guests with a silk stole having the name of the hotel printed on it and a hot cup of tea. The receptionist and other staff are very polite and well behaved. All the rooms in this hotel have a good view of the nearby mountains and valley.

The room had matching decor with the rest of the hotel. Floral theme and red color dominate everywhere. All the necessary amenities were supplied to us immediately.

I was particularly impressed by the food we were served at our room. O my God! I am a food lover as you all know. The taste and presentation both were so good quality in this restaurant, it felt at par with the standard of a high budget luxury resort. We ordered Chicken Biriyani, Chicken chaap and raita for dinner. For breakfast we chose continental style and ordered chicken sandwiches with tomato ketchup, french fries, mashed potato with grilled tomato & a olive mayonnaise dip. Both the dinner and breakfast blew our mind away, they looked & tasted so delicious. Most importantly the quantity was more than enough for 2 people, yet the price was quite reasonable.

In the evening it started raining like cats and dogs. Fortunately our hotel booked us a taxi to reach MG Marg and provided all the guests with large umbrellas. We booked our package at a local travel operator’s office in MG Marg for the next 3 days. The price we paid for 3 Days 2 Nights package (Lachen – Gurudongmar – Lachung – Yunthang) is INR 2300 per person on shared car. The cost includes driver charge, transport charge, food and stay. Food includes breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea with snacks and dinner. Stay is usually one double sharing room at a standard home stay.

You can also reserve an entire car for your own family or group. The cost for such personal package is about INR 13000 to INR 16000.

The contact details of the tour operator we booked is mentioned below :

  • Go Lucky Adventure Tours & Travels, MG Marg, Gangtok.
  • Email : Golucky525@gmail.com
  • Phone : 96358-49345
  • Contact Person : Ritesh

The car for North Sikkim leaves from Vajra stand Gangtok at around 10 AM. If you opt for a shared car like us, you will be traveling with total 10 travelers including you. You cannot reserve a particular seat in this case. But everybody will get a chance to sit on their desired seats at least once during the entire trip. We were only 2 members, so we got the chance to sit on our favorite front seats for most part of the trip πŸ™‚

Sikkim is beautiful throughout. Wherever your eyes go in this place, you will only see the hand of God. Green mountains and clouds playing hide and seek, tall trees blowing in the breeze, the whole journey is a beautiful experience. The below pics are on our way to Lachen from Gangtok.

Just before lunch we halted at a place near Naga Falls. It was a picturesque location with foggy mountains, green valley and flowing Teesta river elevated the scenery to another level. There is a dam built over the river and small restaurants serve you simple but delicious lunch.

We had a simple lunch of rice, dal, fry with potatoes & a local herb called “nimroh” (I may be wrong with the name) and chicken curry. The food was prepared by a local family who run a small hotel. They cook the same food for themselves as well as the guests which I found was very homely & welcoming.

North Sikkim was having a windy & rainy weather when we were visiting. So the Naga Falls was at its full glory. I love waterfalls so much, specially the sound of water & the misty water droplets hitting my face with the wind.

Lachen :

We reached Lachen at around 5:30 PM. Lachen is a small and pretty hill stations. It does not have luxurious resorts and big hotels. Also the crowd is less compared to other tourist destinations. So you can still experience the local culture at home stays & the pure beauty of a small rural hill station.

Our home stay was at the middle of the town. It was a standard double bed room with basic amenities. We were given tea and biscuits on arrival. Some of our team members went out for a stroll. But we were hell tired, so enjoyed a hot cup of tea at our bed. Dinner is served quite early in these hill stations, around 7:30 PM. Here the food was OK, not very good nor too bad. We had rice, dal, potato & cabbage curry and eggs.

Our driver Tamang suggested us to visit Kala Patthar (Black Stone) as it was not included in the package. We had to pay INR 500 extra per person, but he said we will miss the most beautiful place in North Sikkim if we do not go there. Trusting him we all agreed.

We decided to start very early morning the next day. The homestay provided us tea and biscuits at around 4AM. We packed our essentials in a small bag and started for Black Stone at around 5AM.

IMG20180423063315
Selfie in front our homestay at Lachen

Few kilometers before the military barracks started on our way to Black Stone, we halted at a local shack for breakfast. We enjoyed a hearty meal of bread butter toast, omelette, cakes and coffee. Trips are not fun with an empty stomach, right πŸ˜€

Kala Patthar (Black Stone) :

If we had not trusted our driver we would have missed the opportunity of a lifetime. This place is heaven on earth for me. The huge snow clad mountains around us, the endless stretch of white snow glistening in the sunlight –Β  the view was breathtaking.

I tried to make a vlog of our journey to Black Stone because the road was covered with snow at least an hour before the actual spot. The green valleys gave way to black mountains, snow covered valleys, frozen waterfalls and a few coniferous growing here and there. But the road was very rough and bumpy, my hand was shaking so much that I had to quit vlogging and just take some shots to share with you.

Weather conditions fluctuate a lot on such high altitudes. The safest time to be here according to our experienced driver is between 8 to 11AM. We reached around 9AM.Β  Our group was very lucky to have a beautiful sunny day with absolutely clear blue sky and little white clouds floating around to match with the snow.

Our group had people from all age groups. Starting from a little boy of around 10 years to a senior lady of around 60, everybody ran to touch the white powdered snow right from the moment our car halted. That was a big mistake which all us realized soon. I was especially over excited and started running to make snow balls and throw at my husband πŸ˜› But remember never to lose so much of your energy as soon as you get out of the car at such high altitudes. There is very little amount of oxygen and your body needs time to adapt to such a condition. Take your time and slowly get out of the car. Walk a little distance slowly to check if you are having trouble breathing or feeling nausea. I will suggest you to carry a packet of camphor and some munching snacks just in case you do not feel comfortable.

You can see in the pics I was having the happiest moments of my life playing in the snow.

This is my favorite pic of us in the entire trip. Obviously the picturesque background plays a huge role.

IMG20180423074026
Selfie at the snow heaven Kala Patthar

Gurudongmar Lake :

I have never been to Ladakh till now, it is in my bucket list for a very long time. This place seemed to me like a miniature version of Ladakh I see in most pics. If you have been to both these places let me know if I am wrong.

Gurudongmar Lake is situated at an altitude of almost 18000 feet above sea level. It is considered to be one of the highest situated lakes in the world. The water of the lake is crystal clear and looks beautiful with reflections of nearby mountains in it. This fresh water lake is fed by nearby glaciers and remain frozen for most part of the year. Legends say that this lake was blessed by Guru Padmasambhava, a Tibetian missionary and it is considered sacred by the locals.

The landscape is very similar to Ladakh with barren stretch of lands and reddish dust colored mountains. Few snow clad peaks are also visible at a distance. There are no sign of trees or greenery a lot before you reach the actual lake. This place is not far from Black Stone, an hour’s drive maximum.

I had a hard time for a good 15 to 20 minutes when we initially reached this spot. Munching some chips and sniffing camphor continuously helped me recover quickly. Most of the tourists have breathing problem and nausea at this particular location because of the altitude. Make sure you take proper precautions if you plan to visit this place.

As I was already having trouble breathing, I did not go down to the actual lake. Also the lake was quite deep down and climbing back would have been really difficult. So our driver advised us not to waste so much energy as oxygen level was already so low. We took some group photos and selfies and enjoyed the scenery from a safe distance.

IMG20180423094929
Selfie in front of Gurudongmar Lake

We returned to Lachen for lunch. After a quick and simple lunch of rice, dal, cabbage curry and egg curry, we bid goodbye to Lachen and started our journey to Lachung.

Lachung :

We arrived at Lachung in the afternoon. The homestay had basic facilities, but better than Lachen. We had an attached balcony with our room which opened to a pretty mountain river and green mountains. Also the kitchen garden of the homestay owners were right beneath our balcony. Sikkim is a eco-friendly state, plastic is totally banned and almost every house have their own kitchen garden and/or poultry farms.

We chilled and relaxed at our room for the rest of the day. Dinner was equally simple but tasty with rice, chicken curry and vegetables. We were very tired and fell asleep quite early around 8PM.

The next day we woke up fresh and full of energy. After packing our luggage and having breakfast, we quickly dressed up. This time we hired knee length rubber boots from our homestay. Gloves we already had, so skipped those. Rubber boots are really good for walking in the snow, they are waterproof and keep your feet safe.

We chose the end of April for this trip because this is the season of Rhododendrons, the flaming red beautiful mountain roses. Just like roses they come in several colors and variety, but I found my favorite red rhododendrons in full bloom right beside our home stay in Lachung. This sight filled my heart with excitement as I was sure to find more on our way to Yumthang, the mini Valley of Flowers as it is famously called.

lachung 1
Rhododendrons near our homestay in Lachung

Lachung is bigger and more developed compared to Lachen. Also you will find more tourists in this place compared to anywhere else in North Sikkim. So this place has quite a few luxurious resorts if you want to spend some relaxing days.

We witnessed a beautiful dawn and sunrise over the green mountains of Lachung valley. After packing few essentials, we started on our way to Yumthang at around 6:30AM. I forgot to mention that our driver Tamang told us back at Lachung, not to miss Zero Point as we enjoyed so much in the snow the previous day. We agreed for sure trusting him again and paid INR 500 per person for Zero Point.

On our way we stopped at this beautiful river bank to take a few photos and enjoy the cool breeze and flowing water. The green mountains and tall trees added to the beauty of the place.

These are a few pictures we took at this place. My husband loves to take candid shots of me having fun and I love taking selfies with him πŸ˜€

The boys also had a mini competition of who can build the best stone art with the rocks scattered around the river bank. My husband’s one looked the best, unbiased opinion πŸ˜‰

IMG20180423160214
Stone art by hubby on the banks of a beautiful mountain stream

On our way to Yumthang, we stopped at a Rhododendron Sanctuary very near to the actual Yumthang valley. In my opinion this place was even better than actual Yumthang because it was a hub for the most beautiful rhododendrons I have seen in the entire trip. There were miles and miles of only rhododendron trees of various size, shape and variety. Most of which were red to my delight.

The surrounding mountains and clouds floating on them made the flower valley even more beautiful.

Selfie is a must when you are at such a heavenly location, who else agree with me πŸ˜€

I tried to hire a red boot to match with my outfit. Sadly at a feet size of only 36 I could not fit into most of them. At last I found only these pair of violet ones which kind of looked a little odd 😦 I really loved my husband’s cargo boots.

Zero Point :

We decided to move ahead to Zero Point first before halting at Yumthang as the weather condition keeps changing at such high altitude. There was forecast of rain that day, so we decided not to take any risk.

Zero Point is situated at over 15000 feet above sea level. So that is also quite high, in case you plan to visit this place make sure you take precautions to prevent breathing problem and nausea. Fortunately as we had already experienced higher altitudes the previous day, our body had accustomed to the height by that time. I did not have any trouble breathing at Zero point. But make sure you do not run or walk too fast as the oxygen level is quite less at this place also.

It was quite foggy at Zero Point on the day we went there. The weather was quite windy and chilling. But the sight of snow is always great and exciting for people like us who live in hot and humid cities.

One more thing I will advise you guys for Zero point. As you can see in the picture there is a small semi frozen river at the middle of the valley, make sure you are very careful about where you are stepping at this place. Your feet may accidentally sink into small holes as the ice is quite loose at this time of the year. My husband fell into such holes multiple times specially on places near the river.

There is a temporary bridge to cross the river and you may go up to the military bunkers if you feel comfortable to walk a long distance.

If you visit Zero point do not miss the lip smacking noodles the locals sell there. You will love the bowl of hot soupy spicy noodles in the chilling weather.

IMG20180424090025
Enjoying hot & spicy Wai Wai noodles at the freezing Zero Point

Yumthang Valley :

We halted at a small waterfalls just before entering Yunthang valley. I love the bunches of cute violet flowers which covered the valley on both sides of the road. There were few other variety of Rhododendrons as well like pink, yellow and white. I am not a flower species expert, but various pretty colorful flowers could be spotted here and there all throughout the road at Yumthang valley.

We came to this place when the rains have just started. So Yumthang valley did not have too many flowers. The cute little violet flowers covered the valley. But apart from that we did not see any much other variety. The locals told us that the valley is mostly covered with flowers from June to August, the monsoon months.

We returned to Lachung for lunch. After a hearty lunch (rice, dal, mixed veg fry and chicken curry) we started on our return journey back to Gangtok. The weather started turning windy and little drops of rain began to fall just after we left Lachung. But after about an hour the situation turned worse. Heavy rains led to a terrifying hailstorm. Chunks of ice began pelting at our car windows and bonnet. At first it was exciting and we were all enjoying the little ice particles making the road look like a white sheet of paper. The scenery on both sides also looked more green and fresh. But it soon turned into a nightmare when quite big chunks of ice started hitting our car windows. Even our very experienced driver was nervous about the condition of his car. Anytime the glass could break and lead to an accident. We prayed to God throughout the journey to keep us safe. We were so lucky to have Tamang as our driver. He was the most sincere, responsible and efficient driver we could ever get. The hailstorm continued the whole way until it reduced just before we entered Gangtok city.

Return to Gangtok :

We reached Gangtok Vajra Stand at around 7:30PM. The hailstorm and heavy rains increased the journey time. But we were very thankful to God that all of us reached safely.

We stayed at LA Ttakshang Residency Hotel & Spa in Gangtok on the final night of our trip. This was the second time we were staying here. We stayed for the first at this property during our honeymoon trip back in 2014. We paid about INR 3100 as room charge per night on double sharing basis. The rooms are quite spacious and they provide every amenities you may need on entering the room. The staff is also pretty

If you tell me to compare both Summit Namnang and LA Ttakshang, the latter wins on convenience & location basis. But on all other criteria like – room condition, decor, staff, view from room, food, amenities etc Summit Namnang is a better choice.

The next morning we packed our bags, had a hearty breakfast and checked out of our hotel. We rented 2 front seats in a shared car from Gangtok and reached NJP in the evening. We finished dinner at a restaurant near NJP and waited for our train. Darjeeling Mail left NJP station on right time at 8PM and we started our journey back home.

My favorite location of the entire trip was Kala Patthar or Black Stone. Do not miss this beautiful place if you plan to visit North Sikkim.

Hope you enjoyed reading about our trip. It started off with mishaps, but the rest of the trip was a heavenly experience. I hope to see the great Himalayas again soon !

Advertisements

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Nice trip! Thank you for sharing the information πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Mars says:

    The falls and mountains are gorgeous! I have to add snow-covered mountains to my bucket list!

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s