Briefing through how we did a 7 day trip for 20k in Sikkim (2016)
The land of unknown beauties…
After getting out of college and landing on white-collar jobs, the first thing we did was to plan a trip. One that would be different from the usual college trips, one that would stay close to our heart for quite a long time. And after all search and research, we ended up ourselves in Sikkim. The teeny tiny state that shoulders along with Nepal and Bhutan.
Even though Sikkim is the second smallest state, and the one with the least population, we couldn’t cover everywhere. So please do a bit more research, if you have enough time to explore during your visit to Sikkim. I would brief on how we did our trip, which was one week long, exclusively for Sikkim.
We started from Bangalore, a group of six, in train. On the way to Sikkim, we did a stopover at Kolkata and Darjeeling for a day each. It was on the third day afternoon, we left Darjeeling, to Gangtok. It is a 3-hour long drive from Darjeeling to Gangtok through the hills. We booked a Xylo, from Darjeeling for ₹ 2500 to Gangtok.
Day Trip of Gangtok (Day 1):
Stay – Hotel Green Retreat, which we booked using Makemytrip app.( ₹ 100 per head per night).
Activities for the day – 10 point sightseeing in Gangtok. ( ₹ 1800/- for Maruti Eeco 6 seater) , Stroll through M.g Marg.
Food – ‘Khan uncles’, which is just 200m walk from the marg. Do pay a visit to the hotel, if you are someone who loves Bollywood.
Pro Tip – I would suggest you find a stay near m.g marg, as we had to pay ₹ 150 for a cab back to the hotel each time.
Day Trip to Nathula Pass & Tsomgo Lake(Day 2):
Fares – ₹ 800 per head in Shared Xylo/Boleros or Private Boleros at ₹ 6500.
Pro-Tip – To get to Nathula, we have to get the permits the previous day itself. The hotel where you stay can arrange it for you if you give your identity card copy and 2 photographs. Also, make sure that you don’t plan Nathula on Mondays and Tuesdays as it remains closed. You can rent gloves and snow boots for ₹ 50/- per piece near to Nathula Pass.
Descriptive Details of the trip – We started off the journey from the upper taxi stand at 9:30. By 12:30, we were at Nathula pass. The Indian soldiers greeted us warmly and invited people to do handshakes with the Chinese soldiers on the other side of the border fence. Yes, we made handshakes with China ;). At 14600 feet, and freezing temperatures, there exist a tea stall as well. We could do snow gliding, making use of the small mountainous rise at the pass. Another exciting feature is that we can get certificates for our visit to Nathula. It costs ₹ 60/- per head and no one would want to miss that.
As we were short in time, the driver skipped Baba Mandir. Do search about the history of Baba Mandir, it’s quite a read. Next stop was on the way back, the Tsomgo lake. You get to do yak rides over a hill, but we just hired a yak for ₹ 200 and took pictures sitting on top of it. Yaks are such calm creatures. Also, the Tsomgo offered a breathtaking view.
We returned back at around 3, had noodles from the shop where we hired the boots and left for Gangtok. The same routine again, M.g marg by 5, roam around, khan uncles at 8 and a cab back to the hotel.
The next day, Friday was the day we were waiting for. As booked with Khangri tours and travels, they picked us up from the hotel at 9.a.m. for the North Sikkim tour of 4 days and 3 nights.
North Sikkim Tour (Lachen, Gurudongmar Lake, Lachung, Yumthang) Days (3 -6):
Pro-Tip – To explore north Sikkim, you have to go with an authorised tour operator recognised by the Sikkim government. If you want to go along with your vehicle, it seems like you require 3 level of permits and some more other herculean tasks awaits you. I haven’t checked much on it, as the route required high skilled driving expertise.
Fares – We booked the package off 4 days 3 nights for ₹ 48000/-, which turned out to be ₹ 8000 per head. You can also try booking 3 days and 2 nights, and see all the places like Gurudongmar, Yumthang valley, Yumesangdong, Zero point etc.. But it might be a bit hectic.
Descriptive Details –Regarding north Sikkim, I don’t want to spoil the surprise. So better I would keep mum… I would just provide a glance at it, as all you have to do is to travel along. Everything from food, stay and sightseeing would be taken care off by them. Our tour guide cum driver, Agya Pampa, was an amazing person and explained everything that came around, from their culture, history, flora and fauna, winters, tribes etc… Just shoot every query that comes to your mind to your driver :).
Day 3 – Travel from Gangtok to Lachen. 6 hours journey. You can make a pitstop at Chungthang and enjoy the valley. Highly recommended, it’s worth it. As that day there’s nothing else apart from travelling. We were given very good homestay and the food was great.
Day 4 – Woke up at 4 a.m and started off to Gurudongmar Lake. It’s 65km from Lachen, 3-hour journey. At halfway point, we had our breakfast at Thangu, at around 6. A kind lady cooked us noodles from a small hut there. We were all busy sitting near the fire. This was how it looked outside.
Pro-Tip – For Gurudongmar, we had 3 layers of top wears, a thermal, a shirt and a jacket. 2 layers of bottom wear – a thermal pant and a Jean. And 2 pair of woollen socks and normal shoes. Don’t run around there by the lake, just walk at a normal pace, as some might feel breathing issues.
After about 1 hour of journey from Thangu, we reached Gurudongmar lake at around 8. The temperature was -10°c and altitude stood at 17800 feet. You can see the Tibetan plateau on one side. I let the picture describe it all…
We left the place and headed back to Lachen. Had our lunch and headed to Lachung. There too we were given a homestay cum lodge. The food included non-veg/veg and was very really good.
Day 5 – Lachung to Zero point. On the way, you can hire snow boots and gloves at ₹ 40. We couldn’t reach zero point as the road was blocked with snow and were 4km short. On the way back you can see Yumthang valley from Yumesangdong.
On our way back to Yumthang, we had our first snowfall. We sat there and cherished the moment for 45 minutes. Next stop was at a hot spring, coming out of an earthen pipe and had the familiar hydrogen sulphide smell. By 3 we reached back to the hotel, had lunch and passed of the day playing poker.
Day 6 – As on day 3, the day was just about travelling back to Gangtok. Play all the amazing songs you have, and dance and sing to the mood. That’s all that you can do. Reached Gangtok by 2, and we gifted our guide a selfie stick :).
Day 7 – Gangtok City Self Explorations ( Buffer Day)
Pro-Tip – The next day was a buffer day, as we had kept it. so that we won’t miss the flight back to Bangalore even if some roadblocks or landslides happen. Not trying to scare you, just saying :D.
Descriptive Details for Last Day -We bought postcards from a book shop there, and send it to all the loved ones from Gangtok post office. The cards would cost mere ₹ 15/- or ₹ 10/- and the stamps at ₹ 5/- for domestic and ₹ 15/- as per international regions. Roam around in all market, explore local cuisines, have the local beverage ‘Chang ‘… And feel the pulse of the city. This time we stayed at
Fares – Stayed at Hotel Marigold nearby m.g marg at around ₹ 400/- per head for 2 nights. The rooms were a bit oldish but adjustable. The last day came by and we took a Xylo, to Bagdogra airport from Gangtok. It cost us ₹ 2800/- for the vehicle.
So that’s it. Kudos. Have an amazing trip ;).
Self-care – Get a good pair of thermals, as you will be wearing it all the time in North Sikkim. Lipbalms can come in handy as well. Also, get something comfy to cover your ears, like some woollen caps. If you are backpacking don’t carry a lot of clothes.. just 3 pairs would do. But do carry a lot of inners. Blankets and heater facilities will be available in most of the hotels.
Other tourism options – For the extremists, a lot of treks are there in Sikkim. The one to Kanchenjunga base camp is famous and it’s a 9/12 day trek. Also, pristine villages too exist, as in Pelling, Kalimpong, Boro, Warsi etc.. Zuluk is another place. There’s nothing that Google won’t know. So better ask him or experienced ones out there on the web.
Original Content - https://www.muditayogi.com/2020/09/27/sikkim-where-nature-smiles/