Hello, friends, I am back after long and I am really sorry for being MIA, as you all know I am also a full-time teacher so it gets difficult sometimes to sit and write a new post. Since quite a few days back my friends are asking me a lot about my last year’s trip to North Sikkim.
Since this was the same time around last year when I visited North Sikkim and my blog is new I thought why not throw some light into my trip. It can be a throwback to one of the best trips we made last year. Since it was quite a long stay in North Sikkim I shall cover the whole trip into two posts- Part 1 and Part 2. So in part 1, I shall cover Gangtok and Lachen. Part 2 will be about Lachung, Yumthang Valley, Zero points and Rumtek Monastery.
My Journey to NORTH SIKKIM – PART 1
Sikkim the least populous state in India located in the Himalayan Mountain range is one of the major tourist attraction of our country. People who love mountains should at least once in a lifetime visit to Sikkim. The cold winds, the lovely waterfalls, the monasteries, the culture and heritage are something that makes Sikkim one of the best tourist hotspot.
This time we had planned to visit North Sikkim district of Sikkim with the headquarters in Mangan. On 21st October 2015, we boarded the Kanchenjunga Express and reached New Jalpaiguri railway station at about 7 am in the morning. We hired a car to take us to Gangtok from NJP station. You can hire a car on a shared basis too.
We had booked a hotel Cherry Guest House prior to Gangtok. We reached the hotel at around 2.30 pm, the road was in bad condition due to recent landslides. After reaching the hotel we freshened up and went for a stroll in the most popular hangout area Mahatma Gandhi Marg aka M.G.Marg. Our hotel didn’t have fooding so we eat our dinner at M.G Marg itself. I did a little shopping too. There were lots of shops to buy woollen stuff from M.G Road.
It was quite a memorable evening we spent there, taking selfies, talking with fellow tourists, their experiences, eating mouth-watering hot momos and sipping coffee to keep us warm. We skipped the local sightseeing in Gangtok since North Sikkim was our main attraction.
The people of our hotel were kind enough to help us contact a local travel agent for our North Sikkim trip that started the next day. He charged total 25k that included hotel and food. It was high for our budget but since we had a shortage of time to stand in the long queue for entry passes we decided to go with a tour agent.
Requirements for Inner Line Permit
Since it is a bordering district with China many places need INL passes. In case you have a shortage of time you can book a travel agent so that you can enjoy a hustle free trip. They charge more or less same, you can also go on a share basis with other tourists. On the off-season, the charges are way less, both hotels and car. Be sure to take your valid photo identity proof and 2 or 3 passport size photos, you will need them for making the ILP.
Incase you don’t hire an agent, you need to get your passes issued for entry into restricted areas. For Zero Point, Yumthang, Thangu, Gurudongmar, a permit is issued by Police Checkpost for domestic tourist and for Foreigners it is issued by Tourism Department. The permits are delivered on spot on the morning of departure and can be procured from Gangtok.
Our Journey towards Lachen
Next day 23rd October 2015 the first half our driver was busy collecting passes for us after we got them we started our journey at 2 pm. It took a lot of time to procure the permits due to a long queue. The driver was very soft-spoken, gentle and well behaved. They are very tourist-friendly people. Our first destination was Lachen.
It was around 107km from Gangtok. We were about to stay in a homestay in Lachen and I was very excited. We reached Lachen at 8 pm. It was freezing then, the temperature was 3degree. Layers and sheets of blankets and quilt failed to keep us warm. We could sleep only a few hours to sleep.
At 3 am in the morning ( it was almost dark) we wore layers of sweaters, jackets, mittens, caps and on whatever our hands lay on. We were on our way to visit Gurudongmar Lake which was 66.7 km from Lachen. We halted in Thangu for some tea and breakfast since we started quite early in the morning.
It is better to visit the last before 10 am because after that the place becomes very cold. Sometimes due to heavy snowfall, the road gets closed, so it is better to avoid visiting North Sikkim in the month of December to February as told to us by the local people there. The best time to visit is from mid-October to mid-December and again from February to April. Though we have plans to visit another time to enjoy snow-filled North Sikkim which we missed on this visit.
Gurudongmar Lake is one of the highest lakes in the world located at an altitude of 17,800ft. It is sacred for both Buddhists and Sikhs. For more details, you can see the picture below.
The landscape was blue in colour, the blue sky, the blue water of the lake, the snow-capped mountains cast a spell on us. It was mesmerizing and at the same time breathtaking, literally, it was breathtaking because at such a high altitude oxygen level was very low.
People with high bp, asthma, heart troubles, people above 70years old, small kids, expecting moms are suggested to not visit that place for health reasons. It was so cold, the temperature was 7degree, and I sat immobile on a concrete bench while my partner in crime Mr Husband went around taking pictures. We stayed there for about an hour and then returned to our home stay in Lachen.
The journey was one of the toughest journeys with uncountable hairpin bends, worn-out roads, I had undertaken till date. We reached Lachen at 12 pm, had our lunch and again hit the roads. Next destination was Lachung. Will see you with Part 2 in the next post. Till then stay well.
If you are interested in more travel inspirations from North Sikkim, You can read these posts!!
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Posted By- Ishani Nath