A journey to the organic state of India is an experience that remains etched for a very long time. While the capital city of Gangtok represents the varied culture of the state while a trip to its northern region gives you a peek into the original tribes of Sikkim. Experience the monasteries and the Buddhist culture of the region while being mesmerised by the stunning landscape of the pristine land of Lachung. Spend your last couple of the days in the evergreen Darjeeling breathing the tea-infused air and soaking the beautiful sights.
Arrival in Gangtok
Pristine mountain air in an ever- growing capital, Gangtok has everything from monasteries and orchids to handicrafts, quaint pubs and packed casinos. Tok means temple here in Sikkim, and there are numerous temples to visit here. Make time for the Ganesh Tok, beside the Himalayan Zoological Park, with gently fluttering prayer flags and Hanuman Tok near the army division for spellbinding views of the Kanchenjunga. No trip to Gangtok is complete without a mandatory visit to Do Drul Chorten and its innumerable prayer wheels. Look out for lovely views on the ropeway from Deorali market to the secretariat and back.
Spend the evening strolling down MG road for those lovely souvenirs before you set off for a first-hand experience of Gangtok’s slow nightlife.
Tsomgo Lake and Baba Mandir
About 40 kilometres from Gangtok, Tsomgo Lake is perfection in itself at over 12000ft above msl. As with most lakes in Sikkim, legendary Tsomgo is considered sacred with legends of Buddhist monks predicting the future according to its colour. Look out for the numerous migratory birds, Brahmini ducks as well, when you’re here. Make time for a visit to Baba Mandir close by, a shrine to a fallen Indian soldier who is known to still look out for his own here. If you have the time, you could go on to Nathu La Pass to China, about 20 kilometres away.
Gangtok to Lachung
Post breakfast, take a long drive up north to the village of Lachung. Beautiful waterfalls and quaint villages dot the way to the village. After about 6 hours of drive, you reach Lachung. You can explore this beautiful village inhabited by the Lepcha tribe. An elevated village sprawling with spectacular waterfalls and orchards, this tiny little gem of a place lies on the banks of the river, Lachung Chu. You could fall for the juicy apples, peaches and apricots here, or just revel in the sight of snow-capped roofs amidst an abundance of Rhododendron trees; something very much like what you’d see on a postcard.
Lachung – Yumthang Valley – Lachung
Despite the allure of Lachung, the highlight though is the breath-taking Yumthang valley. An explosion of colour painted across a snow covered canvas as a plethora of alpine flowers bloom in the shadow of majestic mountains giving you a truly surrealistic experience. Yumthang is the summer grazing grounds of the Yaks. On the way back visit the Sulphur Hot Spring, considered to have medicinal properties.
Lachung to Gangtok
Time to leave this beautiful village and head back towards Gangtok. On the way stop at the beautiful Twin Falls and click some pictures. The Bhim Nala is also a good spot to some time.
You can explore the city streets at your leisure while in Gangtok.
Gangtok to Darjeeling
Around 4 hours drive from Gangtok will lead you to Darjeeling. Rolling hills of lush green tea gardens with spectacular views of Mount Everest, the nearly 4-hour-drive to Darjeeling is worth every minute. Drive along beside the renowned World Heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway that has attracted everyone from Sharmila Tagore (think ‘mere sapno ki rani’) to Wes Anderson’s Darjeeling Limited. Spend your evening window shopping on Hill Cart Road and make time for a bite at Glenary’s Bakery at the mall.
Leave early, if the weather Gods keep smiling, around 4 am to drive through primitive forests of oak and magnolia for the spectacular sunrise from Tiger Hill over Kanchendzonga Peak. Stop over at towering Ghoom Monastery, Peace memorial and Batasia Loop’s quaint spiral train track with impeccably manicured gardens on your way back for breakfast.
Head over what is probably India’s highest Zoo. Well maintained and clean, the the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park is home to the red panda and the snow leopard as well. Visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (closed on Thursdays), Ropeway and Tensing Gumpo Rock. Visit a local Tea Estate for a crash course on how those fascinating cups of tea come to be. The Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center and Natural History Museum are closed on Sunday. Stroll through Chowrasta later in the evening for those handicrafts and hot steamed momos at Kunga.
This tryst with green hill-stations and the quaint villages comes to an end as you make your way to the airport – with lots of pictures and a bagful of memories.