A small state yet so much to explore. That's Sikkim. This post is all about North Sikkim and the best plan for a North Sikkim Trip.
Things you need to know before planning North Sikkim trip-
-A non resident of the state cannot travel to the northern part of Sikkim. To enter the borders of North Sikkim, you need a permit, which would be obtained by your travel agent or driver.
-In case you are a biker, you have to arrange for your permits through an authorized travel agency.
-Carrying plastic water bottles in North Sikkim is not allowed. Hence carry your own sipper or water bottles. A surprise check may lead to a penalty of Rs. 5000.
-Being close to China, security threats are high and being in a rough terrain, chances of mis-happenings too are high.(See the rough broken roads that look scary)
Cost of travelling to North Sikkim:
-In case you are traveling solo in a group package, the cost would be between 3-4k. (May go higher in peak season.) This cost includes food, accommodation and site seeing for 3 days, 2 nights.
-In case you are travelling as a group/couple, the package cost would range from 19-25k for 3days 2 nights (May vary depending on the number of days and season).
-Travelling solo booking a full car to yourself would be a costly affair. (Might cost 20-25k)
Places that are usually included in North Sikkim itinerary:
1.Lachung- Yumthang Valley- Hot Water Springs- Zero Point
2.Lachen- Gurodongmar Lake- Chopta Valley- Thangu- Kaala Pathhar
For your convenience, have a look at the map of Sikkim to understand the location and Geography.
On the way you would get to see The itinerary for North Sikkim Usually visitors are picked from Gangtok. However if you have booked your stay in some other place, do let your travel agent know about it (the cost of package may vary thereafter)
Day 1- Gangtok to Lachen (Overnight stay in Lachen) This is a 7-8 hours of journey by road. Narrow curvy roads with potholes and landslides in between may slow you down at times. Nevertheless the journey to a green paradise is absolutely sunning. On the way you would get to see, Seven Sisters Waterfall (The waterfall that falls through seven steps), Singhik Village for the view of enormous Kanchendzonga range and the gorgeous Chungthang confluence.
Lachen Accommodation- Lachen speaks of many homes stays and small budget hotels. Your travel agent would have made your booking in advance. My stay was a nightmare, so I would skip talking about it. Ask your agent the name of your accommodation and search for reviews online. If you find your stay to be pathetic, call your agent and protest.
Day 2- Lachen to Gurudongmar, Chopta, Thangu Kala Pathhar, back to Lachen (Stay overnight)
An early morning drive from Lachen will take you to Gurudongmar Lake, a breathtaking fresh-water lake at an altitude of 17375Ft / 5225M.
Your hotel/home stay will provide you with packed breakfast (usually bread butter jam) or make a pit stop at check post in the village where you can enjoy maggi, thupka and tea.
The first check post opens at 7:00 am where your documents would be checked and approved for entry. The next stop is fifteen kilometers further where the final checking is done. Since washroom facilities are limited, advisable to get relieved wherever you stop. Same goes for eating joints.
The entire journey from Lachen to Gurodongmar is bumpy and quite rugged. Only the last few kilometers before Gurodongmar is smooth. Nevertheless all the pains taken would seem worth when you look at the sparkling blue water of the beautiful lake. As the legend goes, the lake in the 15th century was blessed by the Sikh leader Guru Nanak and stopped a part of the lake from freezing in order to provide drinking water to villagers in Winters.
P.S- Do not run or do strenuous activity since lack of oxygen would make you feel breathless, nausea, tired, weak.
While returning from the Lake, visit Chopta Valley or Kala Pathhar for the beautiful mountains. In Feb-March Chopta Valley blooms with colorful flowers and feels like paradise. Thangu Village is the name of the settlement across the Chopta Valley. Further Kala Pathhar (the black mountain) awaits you with lush green landscape and snow in season. An early morning departure and a super-bumpy ride would leave you exhausted as you return to your hotel in Lachen for Lunch. Get some rest and depart for Lachung. (2-3 hours journey). Spend the day at leisure exploring the local culture or just letting the wind caress your face.
Day 3- Lachen to Zero point, Yumthang Valley, Hot Spring and back to Gangtok.
Wake up early to catch the morning beauty. Leave from your hotel with your packed breakfast around 6:30 am and head to Yumthang Valley. (A 25 km stretch). The serene river flowing through the green pasture land with the snow capped mountains in the background is a view to die for. No kidding! Further, the drive through Yumthang Valley seems straight out of a postcard.
Throughout the beautiful journey on the curvy roads dotted with vibrant tree tops, do wave back to the army personnel and make a pit stop at the Army canteen named "Jalebi Point", for hot jalebis and samosas. Zero Point, the last outpost before China Border offers you an out-of-the-world feeling and if lucky you might experience snowfall. It just feels amazing how you made it to the last border post of India with China on the other side.
Return to Lachung for lunch. Soon after drive to Gangtok and end your memorable road trip as you check in to your hotel in Gangtok.
Lachung Accommodation- There are several homestays in Lachung. Dont expect royal hotels in this remoe part of Sikkim. Homestays are cosy, neat and beautiful. We recommend Kalden Residency, run by two friendly sisters. They rooms are bright and pretty, the view from the tiny balcony opens to infinite lines of sky touching the touching the mountains and rivers. Its one amazing place to stay in. https://www.makemytrip.com/hotels/kalden_residency_i-details-lachung.html
While booking your trip, do keep in mind:
-Your package cost must include food, lodging and permissions. At any point in time should the driver ask you to pay for anything, deny.
-Usually Zero Point and Kaala Pathar are not included in the itinerary and they charge Rs 3000 extra for each point.
-Negotiate well and they might include it in your travel plan. It is advisable to skip Chopta Valley and Thangu. (They are just view points and included in the itinerary for the sake of it)
-Your package cost will not include anything extra. Not even a bottle of water. Carry your own sipper.
-Shops sell products at high price (as they have to get things from Gangtok). Stock up with popcorn, dark chocolates and light snacks to beat nausea and hunger pangs. Be prepared for the following in North Sikkim-
-Even in the month of May or June, the weather remains cold.
-Always carry your original documents and a copy with you all the time. You might be asked to prove your identity by Army.
-Do not take pictures of Army cantonments or artillery. Failing to adhere to these might get your phone/camera confiscated. Feel free to get in touch in case you have queries for North Sikkim. Would be more than happy to help.
P.S- This trip of mine was in October 2018 . Also, the post made it to the top post of the day on Indiblogger homepage.