The fertile landscape of Sikkim
Imagine driving past entire hillsides draped in shades of red, pink, yellow, purple and white under a picture-perfect blue sky. Sikkim is a fertile land of awesomeness everywhere you look at it. If you happen to be in Yumthang Valley between March to May, there’s a good chance of catching the hill state in full bloom. Home to over 5000 species of flowering plants such as rhododendrons, orchids, magnolia, blue poppies, geraniums and gladioli, the Flower Exhibition Centre in Gangtok is worth a visit. From there, drive to Pelling, 36kms from Gangtok, for a view of the snow-capped peaks of Mount Kangchenjunga (the third highest mountain in the world). Once there, you must visit the Pemayangtse Monastery, which houses an intricately carved seven-tiered wooden sculpture known as ‘sanghthokpalri’ or guru’s heavenly abode which was purportedly built over a five-year-period by a monk in the monastery.
Another important point of pilgrimage is the Rumtek Monastery, which was built in 1966 to replace Tibet’s Tsurphu Monastery that was destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Take a few minutes to meditate in the solemn yet magnificent prayer hall of this monastery which holds countless invaluable artefacts (precious metal statues, gem-studded cenotaphs and a golden stupa that acts a reliquary for the ashes of the 16th Karmapa who founded the Rumtek complex).
Derived from the Tibetan word for ‘hillside’, Gangtok is perched in layers on a mountain ridge facing the majestic Kanchenjunga snow peaks. This also gives the city its many vantage points. It is a bustling cosmopolitan city with some rare views. With its strong Tibetan ancestry and Nepalese population, Gangtok is an amalgamation pot of religions, cultures, food and lifestyle.
Like everything else it is also highly unique — from the nearby Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple, dedicated to an Army major, to the revolving wheels of the Rumtek Monastery and the red pandas at the Himalayan Zoological Park. Even the music here shows its multiplicity with tribal music mixed with Nepalese and Western rock!
Nathula Pass and Tsomgo lake
Once part of the historic Silk Route, the Nathula Pass is a scenic route through the Himalayas that connects Sikkim with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. This is one of the highest motorable roads in India with the stunning backdrop of Himalayas to keep you company. Trade connection with Tibet has been opened with a border market held on select days.
On the way to Nathula Pass falls the stunning Tsomgo lake that mirrors the changing colours of the surrounding hills. Considered sacred by the locals, it is one of India’s few high altitude lakes. The surrounding Alpine forests also make it a very picturesque destination with rhododendrons, poppies and irises blooms in the summer.
This small hill town draws tourists for its view of the majestic snow-peaked Himalayas and the Kanchenjanga. A short walk and you could be wandering through the beautiful surrounding forests, still untouched by the State’s drive to tourism. There are also some monasteries and gorgeous waterfalls nearby, including the stunning Kanchenjunga Falls.
Dzongu is a reserve for the aborigines of Sikkim – The Lepcha, and being only recently opened to visitors, it is a great place to find untouched virgin forests and sparkling clear rivers! Unwind and Spend your days relaxing and pursuing outdoor activities. We organise treks and picnics here. Permits are required for visiting this area.
The nearest place to stay is Lachung, a small town with a few hotels and good home stays. It is good way to adjust to the latitude by spending an hour or so walking through the town and taking in the sights. Yumthang is a day trip from here. There are no places to stay in the valley. Places to visit is zero point and the rhododendron sanctuary. The typical flowering season is end April till early June. Permits are required for visiting this area.
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