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North Sikkim


The Alpine destinations of North Sikkim takes you to the village of Lachung inhabited by the Lachungpas, an ethnic tribe of Tibetan origin. Beyond Lachung the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, Yumthang Valley and Yumesamdong are in one direction and are excellent for scenic views of the landscape, rhododendrons, alpine flowers and natural hot spring. The other destination in North Sikkim includes the village of Lachen the base camp for mountaineering expeditions to most of the mountain peaks in Sikkim. Excursion beyond Lachen to Chopta valley and Gurudongmar Lake, one of the sacred glacial lake of Sikkim and Tso Lhamu, the source of river Teesta is subject to grant of permit by the Government of authorities.

Before long, enroute to North Sikkim, comes the first halt, infact, one is not even out of Gangtok as yet and the road curves into Tashi View Point which offer fine views of 28,168 ft. Khangchendzonga off to the northwest as well as a host of other high and largely unclimbed 6,000 mt peaks. The route continues to meander through villages and is flanked by fields until it hits the forest grove of Kabi Longstok, the place that sawthe historic swearing of blood brother hood between the Lepchas and Bhutias. An event which underlines the ethos of even present day Sikkim stone markers were erected to keep the promise alive and stand to this day.

Before you've even caught your breath from the magnificence of Kabi, you hit the Karma Kagyu Monastery of Phodong built in 1740. The monastery is famous for the intricate murals that adorn its walls.

Singhik comes next with its promise of one of the most glorious views of Khangchendzonga. For those with time, a half an hour's walk uphill takes one to an ancient monastery suspended in time.

Straddling the confluence of Lachen and Lachung rivers lies Chungthang, a small town full of legends. One such legend claims this to be the place from where the world Demazong (the Hidden valley of Rice) first originated for Sikkim. It is evening by the time one hits Lachung, one of the most exquisite valley towns, resplendent in its crown of snow-capped mountains, breathtaking waterfalls and sparkling streams. Situated at a height of 8,610 ft., Lachung has been described as the "most picturesque village of Sikkim" by none other than Joseph Dalton Hooker in his definitive, The Himalayan Journal (1855).

Lachung provides the base for an exploration of Yumthang (11,800 ft.) very close to the Tibetan border, Yumthang is that unique place where the treeline ends, but rhododendrons still bloom covering the whole area in a surreal shade. It also offers the view of a stunning array of peaks with Pauhuri and Shundu Tsenpa proving the most majestic.

Another hour's drive beyond Yumthang takes one to Yumesamdong (15,300 ft.), an area where the sweet fragrance of Azellia (a plant used as incense by locals) permeates the air. Heady, invigorating and exhilarating, but words still fail to explain the experience of being at Yumesamdong.

Lachung's sister village, Lachen is only a recent host to tourists. Situated at an altitude of 8,838 ft. and a good six hours drive from Gangtok along the North Sikkim Highway, Lachen stand on a grassy and bush flat from the periphery of which rise the pine clad mountains with there snowy peaks and black cliffs. The village comprises of barley 150 houses earlier inhabitant only in winters by there owner who spend the summer on the alpine pasture along the Tibet border tending to there flock of yaks.

30 km beyond Lachen lies Thangu at an altitude of 13,000 ft. The months of May and June see this valley carpeted with alpine flowers which are replaced by snow from October through March.

Wonders never cease in North Sikkim with each turn, each valley, each rivulet trying to out do the other in the scenic beauty that it offers. Few places come close to virgin of appeal of Chopta Valley ( 13,200 ft ). Just a 20 minutes drive from Thangu, this valley provides one of the few accessible places in Sikkim where a visitor can actually walk over the frozen river. The riot of colours during spring belie this aspect, though.

No visit to North Sikkim is complete without to visit to Gurudongmar Lake. The blessed water of this lake is believed to posses the miraculous power of granting children to issueless couple. Situated at an altitude of 17,200 ft the lake freezes over during winter except at one spot which the devout believe has been specially blessed. Interestingly, the myth of Gurudongmar is believed as reverentially by the Sikhs as well as the local Buddhists.


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