Imagine driving past entire hillsides draped in shades of red, pink, yellow, purple and white under a picture-perfect blue sky. If you happen to be in Yumthang Valley, Sikkim, between March to May, there is a good chance of catching this hill state in full bloom. Home to over 5000 species of flowering plants, the Flower Exhibition Centre in Gangtok is worth a visit.
The Rumtek Monastery, built in 1966, is an important Buddhist monastery in this region. It holds countless invaluable artefacts – precious metal statues, gem-studded cenotaphs and a golden stupa that acts as a reliquary for the ashes of the 16th Karmapa who founded the Rumtek complex.
From there, drive to Pelling, 36kms from Gangtok, for a view of the snow-capped peaks of Mount Kanchenjunga (the third highest mountain in the world). For the more adventurous traveller, Sikkim is also a good spot for river rafting, kayaking, paragliding and trekking.
The Dzongu Valley is a protected region inhabited by the Lepcher community and perfect for relaxing, taking short walks through mustard fields, picnics, swimming and trying your hand at fishing.
April and May are great time to visit the rhododendron sanctuary both in western and northern Sikkim. Inner line permits are required, and for North Sikkim a separate permit and local guide are a must. Here, a varied range of accommodations are available but please note that large patches of hill roads are in poor condition.
Derived from the Tibetan word for ‘hillside’, Gangtok is perched in layers on a mountain ridge facing the majestic Kanchenjunga snow peaks. 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.
Highlights are 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!
This small hill town draws tourists for its view of the majestic snow-peaked Himalayas and the Kanchenjunga. 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 Lepchas, and 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 homestays. It is a 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 from end of April till early June. Permits are required for visiting this area.
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.
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 blooming in the summer.