Planning a trip in summer means planning a trip to a hill station. We were initially planning for Himachal and started planning for a week’s trip. We were planning a trip for 3 people as we did for our last Ladakh trip. But some of our very close friends suggested for the trip to Sikkim. As we knew that Sikkim is least populous state and it hosts the highest peak of India we thought to give it a try first. But this time we got a team of 4.
Sikkim did not have its own airport when we travelled there, so we booked train tickets in W/L category. We planned our trip from 29th April to 6th May. It is very difficult to get confirm tickets at this point of time in very short notice. The best way to go there is by air to Bagdogra airport and then take a cab. Or go by train to Siliguri or NJP and then take a cab. For us air ticket was untouchable at that point of time. Unfortunately our ticket was not confirmed and also we failed to get Tatkal ticket. We were left with only two options either cancel the trip or go by Bus. As trip booking was already done we took the 2nd option. We booked the bus ticket from Kolkata to Siliguri. The ticket cost was 1350/- per head on MMT for AC Volvo bus. We were little worried for the bus trip but we had no other choice. We boarded the bus at 6:00 p.m. from Esplanade bus stand and it was supposed to reach at 6:00 a.m. on next day. The bus was only late by 1 hr which is very usual. The ride was very smooth, I mean you can sleep comfortably at night.
Routes and Rates:
- Air : CCU – IXB (Bagdogra) 2120/- if you book 2-3 months before.
CCU – PYG (Pakyong, Sikkim) – 2750/-
- Train : HWH / SDAH to NJP – AC 3 tier – 850/-
- Bus : AC Volvo – Esplanade (Kolkata) – Siliguri – 1350/- per head.
We reached at around 7:00 a.m. on 30th April’ 2018 and one swift Dzire was waiting to peak us up. The car journey was very nice through the hills and around the rivers. The day was cloudy and there was little rain fall on the way.
We reached Gangtok, the capital of the state at around 1:00 p.m. We checked in the hotel and after completing the formalities we went outside right away. This is not because we wanted to explore the place, but because we were very hungry.
Restaurant : Chopsticks, MG road.
On the plate: Pork ribs with honey chilli chicken chicken sekewa (local Sikkimese dish. Bite size boneless chicken pieces tossed lightly in a tangy spicy saucy gravy)
Grilled chicken on brown sauce served with boiled veggies and buttered white bread sandwiches, Mixed noodles,Triple fried rice.
We travelled from Gangtok to Lachen. It takes around 6hrs including bio and food breaks. On the way a number of mesmerizing waterfalls will compel you to stop and click a few shots. Most famous being Seven sister water falls and Naga water falls.
Overnight is generally spent at the hotel in Lachen. Plenty of options available, though most are budget hotels with lodging and fooding facilities. But the amenities are pretty basic. You get hot water, hot beverages on arrival and hot meal early evening. Most lodge rooms do not have TV. Wifi is kind of a distant dream.
Take rest well whole night as the next day starts as early as possible, preferably by 5/5.30am. The roads are pretty bad. And rain often worsens scenario. Clouds appear from nowhere every once in a while and obstruct the majestic scenery. The journey is bone cracking and mesmerizing.
From Lachen we went to Chopta valley and kala pathar which is 58 kms approximately on left. And on right, way goes for Gurudongmar lake (70kms).
Its recommended to go to kala pathar first. At Kala pathar you get vast stretches of snow. With bits of Black rocks visible here and there.Mandatorily carry sunglasses, as sunlight at high altitude and also the rays reflected from snow is harmful for eyes.
Gurudongmar lake located at the altitude of around 5100metres is one of the highest lakes in the world. Its remote location and the accessibility is a concern for many. But still thousands of enthusiasts visit this place every year. The atmospheric air is very thin at such high altitude and many people have respiratory problem here.
Its recommended to any person with normal biological conditions to avoid staying here not more than 10/20mins there. For those who feel vulnerable to the altitude sickness, but still enthusiastic for visiting the place, Diamox should be taken before climbing such altitude (please consult with your physician before consuming). Patients with respiratory problems, heart and lung problem are advised to avoid the trip without proper consultation with specialist physician. Our cheat code medicines: Avomine, whenever we felt slight hint of nausea.
After coming back from Gurudongmar lake at noon we had our lunch at the same homestay. After 1 hour rest we started for our next location – Lachung.
Hotel Pemagang(where we stayed) in Lachung is one of the hotels located at one of the highest points at Lachung. The whole valley is visible at day and night, with clouds floating all around the lofty hills. Be it the starry nights of the glistening waterfalls in daylight, the view is truly mesmerizing.
The silent valley at night with stars above and lighted homes glowing like distant fireflies below left us speechless. The constant gushing of flowing water from a number of streams and brooks added the perfect melody.
Plenty of options available for staying from budget friendly to deluxe ones.
From Lachung : zero point around 50kms, yumthang around 25kms. Valley of flowers falls on the way to yumthang. April May is not the best time to visit valley of flowers . There were more flowers before that with red blooms all over,
Zero point is snowcapped. Snow boots, and heavy down jackets recommended. It can get really chilly if its a windy day. Its not a big deal to face the chill if one comes with proper clothing.
We came back to Gangtok directly from Zero point. Our car broken down on the way and we could reach Gangtok at around 8 p.m. We stayed at MG road for the night and was ready for the next day trip.
We had plans for new Baba Mandir and Tsomngo lake on the next day and halt was planed at Dzuluk. But permit for Nathula and Tsomgo lake was not available.
And our cab and driver both had some issues for which we practically didn’t visit any place other than Rumtek monastery. If you are a fan of Satyajit Ray and his renowned sleuth Feluda you must know this place already.
And as the vehicle troubled us in more than single way, we managed to reach Aritar late at night, at around 11pm.We were damn exhausted. Nonetheless excited for the next day for Dzuluk trip.
We got a good breakfast at the home stay and was ready for the trip. Our driver was super cool. As he understood that we could not visit Tsomngo lake, he offered us to go to the place, of course with extra charge.
After getting the permit we started for Zuluk. It is well known as old silk route having zig zag roads with 72 turns. The view from Thambi view point was beautiful. You have to cross through Padamchen wildlife sanctuary to reach here. You can find some birds and special types of flowers in the sanctuary.
After this we headed for Tsomngo lake. But before reaching that place you have to cross two more places- Gnathang valley and Kuppup. Both places are very cold. People can stay in the home stays of Gnathang valley but it is very very cold place. Kuppup is always covered with snow but the ride through the road is simply breath taking.
On the way we visited Old Baba Mandir and new Baba Mandir. People who usually visit Gangtok do not get chance to visit Old Baba Mandir. But this one is the actual Baba Harbhajan Singh mandir. It is a must place to visit if you get chance.
In between you can get a view of Elephant lake. As the shape of the lake is like a shape of elephant it is called so. it is situated in the middle of snow capped mountains.
After visiting the above places finally we reached the Tsomngo lake. It is very popular place. you can take ride in Rope way here. We can also take pictures riding on a Yak. The other side of road goes directly to Gangtok. We had to come back to Zuluk though skipping Nathula pass which is on the way back but very near to the lake.
Place to visit in Zuluk and Aritar – Que khola falls, nothing outstanding if you have already visited Seven sisters and Naga falls – Padamchen wildlife sanctuary – Zuluk- Lung thim- Gnathang valley – Kupup-Tukla – Elephant Lake – Changu/ Tsomgo lake.
This was our returning day. We thought to start early though our train was as evening at 6 p.m. But there was a heavy rainfall and we had to wait. Things get messy if you have heavy rainfall here. Landslides are very normal. Though we were very luck to not have one. Returning time also you can enjoy scenic beauty of Sikkim.
Sikkim provided us one of the most satisfying trip till now. Though we faced many troubles with our car and had to wait for long long time, the beauty of the place outplayed all the troubles we had. We will surely have another visit to this place soon to explore more.
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