Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip

8th Sep 2018
Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar
Day 1

Few days back, I decided I needed a break and so, I took one. This was first time I was going on a solo trip and I must say, I loved it. Except that I wanted at least a week’s break, nothing else was planned.

Here’s a quick summary of the trip:

Days: 8

Cost (Excluding to and fro from Mumbai):Rs. 9000 [Link for detailed cost is at the bottom]

Places covered: North Sikkim and Darjeeling

Points covered:

Sikkim: MG Road Market, Tsomgo / Changu Lake, Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir, Nathu La Pass, Lachung, Yumthang Valley, Zero Point, Hot water Springs

Darjeeling: Tiger Hill, Dali Monastery, War Memorial, Windamere Hotel

Bagdogra airport (or New Jalpaiguri [NJP] Railway station) to Gangtok

==>Bagdogra Airport to SNT Bus Stand

==>SNT Bus Stand to Deorali (Sharing or Bus)

==>Deorali Stand to Gangtok (Sharing)

Bagdogra Airport to SNT Bus Stand [35-40 minutes based on traffic]

After you land at the airport, you’ll find many taxis and rickshaws near the airport exit. DON’T take a cab from there for Gangtok. They’ll charge you Rs. 3000-3500 for Gangtok (you will be the booking the entire cab, called as “reserve cab” by locals. Makes sense if you are going in a group). Instead, walk a little and get out of the airport parking area (5 minutes of walking). See image:

Take rickshaw from here

Photo of Mumbai Airport (BOM), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India by Sandesh Patkar

Here you’ll find autos which will take you to SNT Bus Stand for Rs. 200 (They will start from Rs. 400, bargain a little but they won’t go below Rs. 200.)

SNT Bus Stand to Deorali [5.5 hours to 6 hours]

From SNT Bus Stand, you can either take the bus to Deorali or a sharing taxi. The cost for sharing taxi (Sumo, Xylo or Bolero) is Rs. 250 whereas bus ticket costs Rs. 150. In a sharing taxi, they take 10 people (2 front, 4 mid, 4 at the back). It’s a long journey so if possible, try to sit in the front or middle seat. Apart from the difference in cost for tickets of bus and taxi, a taxi will get you there 1 hour early as compared to bus. Even though it is a long journey, the road to Deorali from Siliguri is scenic. Since I went in September, I also got to see quite a few waterfalls on the route.

En route Gangtok

Photo of Sikkim National Transport (SNT) Bus Terminus, Ward 3, Janta Nagar, Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Sandesh Patkar

Deorali Stand to Gangtok [10-15 minutes]

Once you get down at Deorali stand, there will be many cabs to take you to Gangtok. Again, don’t take a reserve taxi as it will cost you Rs. 150. Ask for a sharing cab which costs Rs. 20 till Rumtek Taxi Stand. My hotel (Hotel Juniper Tree) was at a walkable distance from here. If yours is a little far, you’ll get a sharing taxi from here or you can continue in the same taxi from Deorali. Make sure you tell him where you want to go as Rumtek Taxi Stand is the default taxi stand and they’ll charge more if you want to go anywhere else.

Staying in Gangtok

I stayed at hotel Juniper Tree which as I mentioned earlier is near Rumtek Taxi Stand. I booked the hotel online. Since I was on a budget trip, I first checked hotel prices on Trivago which showed me lowest price for this hotel on Goibibo (5238346 : Use my referral code to earn Rs. 150 GoCash while signing up.)

I was in Sikkim for 5 days (4 in Gangtok and 1 in Lachung). I did not book the hotel for four days straight. Instead of doing that, I booked the same hotel on a daily basis because there are places in Sikkim to visit which you have to stay there for 1 or 2 days depending on where you are going. So if you book it on a daily basis, you’ll save money. Also, since nothing was planned, it was better this way. It gave me more freedom to do whatever I want.

Also, when you complete a stay on GoIbibo or other similar apps, you get rewarded with there money. Hence, the cost is less compared to the first day.

Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar

Network coverage in Gangtok: All networks

Tips for sightseeing in Sikkim

After check-in at the hotel, I rested for some time and then went out to search for tour packages. I wanted to visit Changu / Tsomgo Lake, Baba Mandir and Nathu La Pass (India-China Border). When you go to the tour agents, tell them that you want a sharing package. Sharing package will have a Bolero or a Sumo and 10 people in it. Again, if possible try to sit in middle or front seats as you’ll have to travel a lot for sightseeing.

Since Sikkim is a tourist place, you’ll find lots and lots of tours and travels. After searching for some time, I decided to go ahead and book my trip for the next day with Chirag Tours and Travels.

For Changu Lake, Baba Mandir and Nathu La Pass in sharing, it was Rs. 800. Before you book your trip for sightseeing anywhere, speak to the locals to know the normal price. For these 3 points, some tours and travels had told me Rs. 1000. Remember that I had gone in off-season and during season, the prices would be higher than this (double or more than double).

Day 2

Tsomgo / Changu Lake

We left from Rumtek Taxi Stand at around 8:30 AM. Changu Lake is at a height of 12,313 feet and the road to it was completely covered by fog. There were some times when it wasn’t that foggy and I could click such photos.

Photo of Tsomgo Lake, Sikkim, India by Sandesh Patkar
Photo of Tsomgo Lake, Sikkim, India by Sandesh Patkar
Photo of Tsomgo Lake, Sikkim, India by Sandesh Patkar
Photo of Tsomgo Lake, Sikkim, India by Sandesh Patkar

It took us approx. 1.5 hours to reach Changu Lake. The lake looks beautiful sitting between two mountains. It’s windy up there and when we went the temperature was around 8-9 C. It’s better to take some warm clothes with you wherever and whenever you go in Sikkim.

Changu /Tsomgo Lake

Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar

At Changu Lake, you’ll find many people offering photos and rides on Yaks. They charge Rs. 100 for photo and Rs. 200 for riding the yak. It’s just a small round in the lake vicinity so don’t expect much. I did not do it but it is quite popular.

Changu /Tsomgo Lake

Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar

The water is so clear!

Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar

Stop looking at me :P

Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar

Network coverage: All networks

Nathu La Pass (India-China Border)

It took us around 35-40 minutes from Changu Lake to Nathu La Pass. Nathu La Pass is located at a height of 14,140 feet.

Nathu La Pass

Photo of Nathu La, Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sandesh Patkar

The temperature here was 4 degree C when I visited it and it drops below 0 degree C at night. There is low oxygen here and there were few people who were having altitude sickness. But, if you walk at a slow pace with breaks in between, you’ll do just fine.

The taxi took us to the Nathu La Pass and dropped us a little before the actual border as cars are not allowed there. You walk from there till the border (less than 5 minutes).

The border is just a wired fence. Put your hand on the other side of fence and just like that, you are in China. Just like Indians go and visit the border, so do the Chinese. There were a lot of Chinese tourists on the other side and we were waving at each other. The Chinese side of the border is at a higher ground so we can’t see much of there side. But we did get to see some of the Chinese army men in the region. Make sure you talk to the Indian army men posted there. They are really sweet and don’t at all mind talking with the tourists.

At Nathu La Pass, the army runs a café for tourists. Make sure you have tea and Momos there. The tea and momos were one of the best I had there.

Network coverage at Nathu La Pass: All networks

Note: At Nathu La Pass, photography is strictly prohibited. If anyone sees you clicking a photo, your mobile will be confiscated.

Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir

This was the third and last point for the day. Captain Harbhajan Singh was a soldier in the Indian Army. He was martyred in a battle at Nathu La during the 1965 war of India and China. According to legend, Captain Harbhajan Singh came in the dreams of soldiers and told them to build a shrine for him. It’s believed that Baba protects and warns the Indian Army about threats even today. Also, if any soldier is not in proper attire, he receives a slap from Baba Harbhajan. The water kept here is said to cure people from illness and hence, many people leave bottles of water in the mandir.

Photo of Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple, East Sikkim, Sikkim, India by Sandesh Patkar

After this, we came back to Gangtok at around 4:00 PM. The share taxis are not allowed inside Gangtok city after 9:00 AM and hence, the taxi left us just outside the city. You can easily get a shared cab (Rs. 20/- per person) till Rumtek Taxi Stand or wherever you want to go.

I took some rest, freshened up and went searching for the next trip.

Network coverage at Baba Mandir: All networks

That was my Day 2 of travelling in Sikkim.

Yumthang Valley, Zero Point and Hot Water Springs package details

I was confused if I should cover Yumthang Valley and Zero Point or I should go to Gurudongmar Lake. For Zero Point, it was 1N/2D package and for Gurudongmar Lake, it’s 2N/3D package. Due to time constraint, I decided I’ll cover Yumthang Valley and Zero Point. I again booked from the same tours and travelers.

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sandesh Patkar
Day 3

We went to Bajra / Vajra Taxi Stand at 11:00 AM and left from there around 11:30 AM for Lachung. It takes 6 hours to reach Lachung from Gangtok. The whole of Sikkim is scenic and you’ll find many waterfalls on the way. We reached Lachung at 6:00 PM. This journey was very tiring as we were 10 people in the taxi for 6 hours (with few breaks in between). After I reached Lachung, I checked-in at the hotel (simple rooms with geyser) and rested till the dinner time.

The dinner was okay-ish (Veg and Non-Veg). You can’t expect anything fancy here but if your stomach is upset easily, I suggest you get yourself biscuits or something because the next day also involves a lot of travelling. There were three couples in the hotel who faced problems due to the food.

Network coverage in Lachung: Idea (No Data), Airtel (No Data), Vodafone (No Data), BSNL (Data and calling), Jio (No network)

Early morning scenes, Lachung

Photo of Lachung, Sikkim, India by Sandesh Patkar

Alright, day 4 also has lots of travelling but the places you visit make it all worth all that travel.

Day 4

Yumthang Valley

From Lachung is another 2.5-3 hours to Yumthang Valley. The road to Yumthang Valley from Lachung is really bad. It’s so bad that in some places, there is no road at all. The driver said that it was due to the rains and the road is better during other times. If you did not get warm clothes, then at Yumthang Valley you get them on rent. The temperature here was around 8-9 degree Celsius.

Yumthang Valley

Photo of Yumthang Valley Yumthang, Sikkim, India by Sandesh Patkar

Here are some more photos from Yumthang Valley...

Yumthang Valley

Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar

Yumthang Valley

Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar

Teesta River

Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar

Teesta River

Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar

Network coverage at Yumthang Valley: Idea (Only calling), Airtel (Only calling), Vodafone (Only calling), BSNL (Data and calling), Jio (No network)

Zero Point

After spending some time at Yumthang Valley, we left for Zero Point a.k.a Mini Switzerland. It takes another 2 hours to Zero Point from Yumthang Valley and the road from Yumthang Valley to here is same as before. If you did not get warm clothes and did not take them on rent at Yumthang Valley, you are going to regret it here because the temperatures here are around 2-3 degree Celsius.

Zero Point

Photo of Zero Point Yumthang Valley, Sikkim, India by Sandesh Patkar

Zero Point

Photo of Zero Point Yumthang Valley, Sikkim, India by Sandesh Patkar

Zero Point

Photo of Zero Point Yumthang Valley, Sikkim, India by Sandesh Patkar

A not so safe bridge

Photo of Zero Point Yumthang Valley, Sikkim, India by Sandesh Patkar

Mountains everywhere, a river flowing by and greenery everywhere. Every kid’s drawing of a scenery.

Network Coverage at Zero Point: Only BSNL (Data and calling)

Hot Water Springs

Hot Water Springs is 1 hour from Zero Point. The unique thing about this place is that, while the surrounding temperature is at 9-10 degree Celsius, the water springs in this place are boiling hot, hence the name. This is true even in the winters when the entire region is covered in snow. The locals throw coins in one of the springs and according to them, if you can get out the coin from that boiling water, whatever you wish will come true. Do try it if you go there.

Hot Water Spring

Photo of Lachung River, Sikkim by Sandesh Patkar

Some more photos from here...

Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar
Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar
Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar

From hot water springs we left for our hotel in Lachung and then to Gangtok. I reached Gangtok at 9 PM.

Network Coverage at Hot Water Springs: BSNL (Data and calling), Idea (Only calling), Vodafone (Only calling), Airtel (Only calling), Jio (No network)

If you don’t mind spending more or sitting in cramped up spaces for hours at a stretch seems like a no for you, I suggest you take a private taxi.

Day 5

Gangtok to Darjeeling

Gangtok to Deorali [15-20 minutes]

You’ll get share taxis for Deorali stand at Rumtek Taxi Stand. Sometimes, the drivers at Rumtek Taxi Stand refuse to go to Deorali stand. In that case, walk a little towards MG Road and you’ll easily get a taxi from there.

Deorali to Darjeeling Taxi Stand [2-2.5 hours]

From Deorali, share jeeps go for Darjeeling from morning 6AM – 3PM only. After 3PM, there is no means of transportation for Darjeeling from Gangtok because the route is foggy and hence, quite risky for driving.

Staying in Darjeeling

I stayed at Hotel Tower View after reaching Darjeeling. Like before, I first checked for prices on Trivago and booked using GoIbibo as it was cheapest and I already had GoCash+ rewards from my previous booking. Including cashbacks, the hotel cost me around Rs. 450 a day.

View from my hotel room

Photo of Hotel Tower View, Tungsung Basti, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India by Sandesh Patkar

I had kept this day for just chilling and I did exactly that. I slept till 5PM and then went out to explore Darjeeling and get info about tours and travels for places to visit.

Check out this really cool timelapse shot by me:

Network coverage: All networks

I went to Mall road and Windamere Hotel and just kept walking and walking till it got dark…and then walked some more. Do try the Darjeeling Tea on Mall road. I found that the best ones were the ones available for Rs. 10 by roadside sellers with a kettle. Northeast India is known for its football craze so I was not surprised to see a giant LCD screen in the middle of the Chowrasta playing live football matches.

Football match at Chowrasta, Mall road

Photo of Mall Road, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India by Sandesh Patkar

The Windamere Hotel is a colonial-era hotel in Darjeeling available for stay (prices start from Rs. 15,000 a day). Built in the 1800’s, it is one of the heritage hotels in India. If you are in Darjeeling, do visit it.

After talking with few tours and travels, I came to know that there are no dedicated packages for sharing taxi/jeep in Darjeeling. So it was either shelling out Rs. 1,200 or finding other solo travelers to share the cost. I obviously chose the second option.

Day 6

I wanted to see sunrise from Tiger Hill, Dali Monastery and War Memorial. In order to see sunrise from Tiger Hill, you need to reach there by 5AM. Since I also had to find travelers to share the costs, I woke up early and headed out for the taxi stand at 3.30 AM to find other travelers. I met a solo traveler from Israel and a couple from France who were also searching for someone to share costs. Before heading out, I thought it would be hard to find travelers but it’s pretty easy since it took me hardly 15 minutes.

Tiger Hill

We left for Tiger Hill at 4 AM and reached there by 4.45 AM. We were the first ones to reach and hence we got ourselves a good place to see the sunrise. The reason for the sunrise here to be so special and famous is that you get to see the Kanchenjunga mountain range from Tiger Hill.

You need to be lucky in order to see because more often than not, clouds block the view. We weren’t so lucky and all we could see was this

Tiger Hill covered in clouds

Photo of Tiger Hill Sunrise Observatory, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India by Sandesh Patkar

Instead of this

Photo not taken by me

Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar

Hope you get to see it when you visit it!

Darjeeling War Memorial

After Tiger Hill, we went to the Darjeeling War Memorial. This memorial honors the Gorkha soldiers who have fought in wars post-independence. The Batasia Loop garden, where the memorial is located is beautiful. If you plan on taking the toy train, then there’s no need to visit this separately as the toy train stops here.

Jai Hind!

Photo of Batasia Loop, West Point, Darjeeling, West Bengal by Sandesh Patkar

Dali Monastery

Druk Sangag Choling Monastery, more commonly known as Dali Monastery is one of the largest Buddhist monastery in Darjeeling. It’s located on a hill top and the view from here is quite mesmerizing.

The view from Dali Monastery

Photo of Dali Monastery, West Point, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India by Sandesh Patkar

Some more photos...

Dali Monastery

Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar

Dali Monastery

Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar

Dali Monastery

Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar

You’ll see many monks here (Duh!) going on about their business as usual. Talk to them. They are very friendly and would love to tell you more about Buddhism and the monastery. They’ll share about their life here and are equally curious to know about your life and how it is completely different than theirs.

Pembo, here since 12 years!

Photo of Sikkim – Darjeeling Solo Trip by Sandesh Patkar

That’s Pembo. When I asked him does it bother him that pesky tourists like me want to take a photo with him and talk to him, he replied, not the exact words because I’m writing it from my memory,

“Not at all. It’s not just a photo. These are memories which you’ll take with you wherever you go. I am glad to be a part of it. In fact, I love talking to everyone. I get to know their stories and travel with them by word of mouth.”

I had planned to take the toy train ride but due to some problem, the train was not running on that day.

I got back to hotel room by 9 AM. Slept for some time, had lunch and roamed Darjeeling for rest of the day.

Day 7

I had a nice breakfast at my hotel and then around 11-ish I left for taxi stand to leave for Siliguri.

I had a flight to catch from Bagdogra airport the next day at 12 PM. Instead of leaving Darjeeling early morning on the next day, I decided to leave on day 7 itself. The main reason for doing so was that it was rainy season and sometimes, if it rains heavily, the taxis stop and wait for rain to reduce a little. Plus, in mountainous regions, there’s always a risk of landslide. If you are going during monsoon, make sure you take this into consideration.

Darjeeling to Siliguri [2.5-3 hours]

Sharing taxis for Siliguri leave from Hotel Ramada, Gandhi Road which is quite famous and was near from my hotel. Taxis also leave from Taxi Stand on Hill Cart Road, Chauk Bazaar. Based on your location, you can decide where to go. The cost for Darjeeling to Siliguri is Rs. 150 per person.

Travelling by sharing taxis is a great way to meet fellow travelers and on my trip from Darjeeling to Siliguri, I met Marieke who was from Germany. We had a great time knowing each other.

It generally takes 2.5-3 hours to reach Siliguri but due to bad roads because of heavy raining a day before, we took 4 hours to reach. There was a family in the taxi who might have missed their flight because of the delay. I reached Siliguri at 3 PM.

Staying in Siliguri

The sharing taxi will drop you at SNT Taxi stand in Siliguri. Since I only wanted a place to crash, I asked the nearby rickshaw wallas for a cheap hotel to stay at. They suggested me some places and I stayed at Nest Guesthouse. It’s an okay place for one night.

Day 8

Back to Mumbai!

Click here for detailed cost of travel (Takes you to a Google Sheet)

If any queries, feel free to comment. :)

*All images and videos shot by me unless mentioned otherwise.*

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