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Places Of Interest In Sikkim

North Sikkim

Yumthang Valley, Yume Samdong & Zero Point

Yumthang Valley in North Sikkim lies 140 km north of Gangtok and is situated at an altitude of 11,800 ft (3782 mts) close to the Indo-Tibetan border. Lachung which is 24 km away provides the base for exploring Yumthang Valley and its upper snow clad regions by Jeep. The drive to Yumthang goes past picturesque Singba Rhododendron Sanctuary which comes to life with different colours of rhododendrons, primulas, poppies, iris, orchids and other flora during the flowering season. A beautiful river runs through the center of the valley. There are natural hotsprings, rich in sulphur and believed to have miraculous healing power.  The Valley also offers views of a stunning array of peaks with Pauhunri and Shundu Tsenpa. Yumthang is closed between December and March due to heavy snowfall.


Driving a little further and higher from Yumthang Valley lies Yumesamdong  & Zero Point at above 15,300 ft (4663 mts). There is heavy snowfall from December to May.


Lachung

Lachung is situated is a beautiful remote Bhutia Village along the Lachung River Valley. At an altitude of 9,610 ft. (2,926 mts), it is 110 kms from Gangtok and is the base from where one can explore Yumthang Valley and its upper regions. The Indian Army has a forward base in the town.


Before the annexation of Tibet in 1950, Lachung was a trading post between Sikkim and Tibet, after which it was closed down. The town's economy has been boosted in the last decade by tourism.  The region has been opened up by the Indian Government allowing tourists from all over the world.


Lachung has beautiful streams, waterfalls and apple orchards and makes for a perfect start for exploring the region further. It also has a beautiful monastery across the river which is a focal point of all religious functions of the local residents. Visitors can get a glimpse of the religious functions performed on auspicious occasions.


Lachung also has a unique self - governing body/Panchayat system called the Dzumsa which has a major say in all civil matters under its jurisdiction. It is also noteworthy to mention that Lachung has been described as the "most picturesque village of Sikkim" by the famous British explorer Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker in his definitive, ‘The Himalayan Journal’.


Gurudongmar Lake

Gurudongmar is one of the highest lakes in the world, located at an altitude of 17,100 ft (5,210 m). It is less than 5 kilometres south of the Indo – Tibetan border and close to Tso Lhamu Lake, the source of the Teesta river and also the highest lake in India.


It is truly a sight to behold and be awestruck @ 17100 ft.


The lake is considered one of the most sacred lakes by Buddhists and Hindus alike. It remains frozen throughout the year. The lake is named after Guru Padmasambhava – an Indian Buddhist Saint who brought Tantric (Vajrayana) Buddhism to Tibet and the Himalayas in the 8th century.


According to a legend, since the lake used to remain frozen all the time, it was not possible to use its water for drinking purposes. When Guru Padmasambhava passed by, the local residents approached him for providing source of water in the area. The Guru obliged, and it is believed that a portion of the lake touched by him does not freeze even in the extreme winter. The water of the lake is considered sacred


Due to the extremely inhospitable surrounding terrain and the difficulties associated with reaching the lake, there are only a handful of visitors each year. It is a few hours drive through Thangu Valley/Chopta Valley from Lachen which forms the base to explore Gurudongmar. Visitors are advised to start very early in the morning and be out of the cold desert by 12 noon as the weather is very hostile. The road leading to the lake is closed in winter.


Lachen

Lachen is situated at an altitude of 2,728 m/ (9000 ft). Chungthang Valley is the diversion from where one can drive either to Lachung or Lachen. The drive to Lachen runs close to the beautiful Teesta River which begins its journey from Tsolhamu Lake close to Gurudongmar Lake.


Lachen serves as the base to explore Gurudongmar Lake, Chopta Valley, Mugugthang and also the Green Lake & Zemu Glacier Treks.


Phodong Monastery & Tumlong Ruins

Phodong Monastery lies at a distance of approximately 28 km from Gangtok on the way to North Sikkim destinations like Mangan, Lachung and Lachen. One of the six most important monasteries of Sikkim, Phodong dates back to the early 18th century and was established by the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Presently, it boasts of being one of the most beautiful monasteries in the state and serves as the residence of approximately 260 monks.


The monastery also has a rich collection of ancient murals. The annual festival at the monastery takes place on the 28th and 29th day of the tenth month of the Tibetan Calendar (usually December). The celebrations of the festival include the performance of religious dances.


Close to Phodong Monastery are the ruins of the Tumlong Palace. Tumlong was the capital of Sikkim before it was destroyed in an earthquake. In about 1894, Sir Thutob Namgyal, the then Chogyal (monarch) shifted the capital from Tumlong to the current capital, Gangtok.


The Archaeological Survey of India is presently engaged in restoring the former palace.


Dzongu

Dzongu is a special Lepcha reserve declared by the then Chogyal (monarch) of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal in 1960. It borders the Khangchendzonga National Park and Biosphere Reserve offering panoramic views of Mount Khangchendzonga .


It has beautiful steep hills and river valleys, with the icy cold mountains above the reserve. Most Lepcha villages are situated where Mt Khangchendzonga can be viewed.


It is not easily accessible to all tourists, as special permits are required to be obtained. However, the process is not difficult and tourists interested in virgin forests and dense groves, glacial streams and native culture of the Lepchas will definitely find Dzongu to be very memorable. It is truly a botanist’s paradise with a diverse range of plant species.


Most accommodations available are home stays.



















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West Sikkim

Yuksom

Yuksom means the ‘meeting place of three wise lamas (monks)’ who are said to have come from three different directions and crowned the first Chogyal (monarch) of Sikkim in 1642 A.D. It was the first capital of Sikkim. The coronation site of the first monarch of Sikkim at ‘Norbugang’ sits on a stone throne.


The Chogyal established the first monastery of Sikkim in 1701, at Yuksom known as the Dubdi Monastery. It is a beautiful monastery situated on a hilltop. It has been restored by the Archeological Survey of India.


Yuksom is situated at the border of Khangchendzonga National Park and serves as the base for the Dzongri & Goechela trek close to the foot of Mt. Khangchendzonga.


It has a beautiful monastery, lake, waterfalls and is a perfect village getaway with a lot of options for short hikes in between meals.


Gupta Restaurant, at the village center is highly recommended for all meals which include the likes of enchiladas, pancakes, momos, pizzas and simple Indian food!


Pelling, Pemayangtse Monastery & Rabdentse Ruins

Pelling is situated at an altitude of about 2105 mtrs (6840 ft) and offers fabulous views of Mt Khangchendzonga and its sister peaks. It has many hotels with accommodation ranging from budget to star hotels.


Pemayangste Monastery is situated on a hilltop close to Pelling. It is the most important monastery of the Nyingmapa order & was built in the late seventeenth century by Lama Lhatsum Chenpo, one of the revered Lamas who is said to have performed the consecration ceremony of the first Chogyal (monarch) of Sikkim. It is one of the premier monasteries in the State, having been entrusted with the task to perform all religious functions of the erstwhile monarch. The monastery houses numerous religious idols & other objects of worship, most of which are priceless because of their antiquity.          


Rabdentse was the second capital of Sikkim & was established in the late seventeenth century by the second Chogyal (monarch) of Sikkim. It was abandoned towards the end of the eighteenth century and shifted to Tumlong in North Sikkim. It has been restored by the Archeological Survey of India.


Tashiding Monastery

Tashiding Monastery is said to be built in 1717 by Ngadak Sempa Chembo, one of the three lamas who had performed the consecration ceremony of the first Chogyal (monarch) of Sikkim. It lies on top of a symmetrical single hillock above Tashiding and surrounded by the Kewzing, Ralang, Pemayangste, Rabong and Dubdi monasteries. It belongs to the Nyingmapa order of Tibetan Buddhisim.


The legend associated with the monastery goes that Guru Padmasambhava shot an arrow into the air to select the place where he would sit in meditation. The place where the arrow landed, eventually, became the site of the Tashiding Monastery. The monastery stands encircled by traditional, chortens and mani (stone plates) with "Om Mane Padme Hum" inscribed on it.  The stone plates are the work of the master craftsman, Yanchong Lodil, who came to Tashiding from Tibet as a young boy.  The chortens, preserving the relics of Sikkim Choygal and lamas, stand at the far end of the complex. Out of the numerous chortens, the most significant one is the 'Thong-Wa-rang-Dol'. Literally meaning 'Saviours by mere sight'.  This chorten is believed to cleanse the soul of any person who looks at it!


The annual festival of the monastery, known as the Bumchu Ceremony, is held on the 14th and 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan Calendar. The ceremony, which is held at midnight, attracts devotees from far and wide.


Khecheopalri Lake

Khecheopalri Lake, originally known as Kha-Chot-Palri (meaning the heaven of Padmasambhava), is a sacred Lake for both Buddhists and Hindus and is believed to be a wishing lake. It is shaped like a feet of a goddess and is believed to be the footprint of the residing Goddess Tara Jestum Dolma.


Located about 34 kilometres from Pelling and situated at an altitude of 1951 meters (6400 ft) this sacred lake is well hidden & surrounded by dense forests. The local name for the lake is Sho Dzo Sho, which means "Oh Lady, Sit Here." The lake, ensconced in the midst of the Khechoepalri hill, is also considered a sacred hill and preferred retreat for meditating lamas.


Interestingly, it is widely believed that, birds industriously pick up fallen leaves that fall and float on the lake.



Barsey / Hilley

The Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary is situated in the Singalila Range at an altitude of 10,000ft forming a natural border with Nepal and Darjeeling Hills in the west. The sanctuary is spread over 104 sq. km and can be reached from three points, Hilley, Dentam and Soreng.


 The most popular entry is Hilley which is approachable by road. Barsey is only a short trek of 4 kms on a bridle footpath shaded by different species of flowering rhododendrons.


Rinchenpong, Kaluk & Chakung

While Pelling & Lachung are the popular destinations in Sikkim, Rinchenpong, Kaluk and Chakung in West Sikkim are rather the underrated ones. The best views of Mt Khangchendzonga and its sister peaks can be seen from these places which are close to each other.


At Rinchenpong, there is even a park dedicated to Rabindranath Tagore as he had visited the area and stayed at the rest house. There are numerous village trails and hikes to monasteries, view points and villages. Accommodation can range from simple hotels, budget resorts and village home stays.

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South Sikkim

Temi Tea Garden

Tea grown in Sikkim is famous by its brand name ' Temi Tea '. Temi Tea estate is a picturesque tea garden located in Temi, South Sikkim and is one of the best tea producing tea estates in the country. It was established in the year 1969 with an estimated area of 437 acres and run by the Government of Sikkim. The tea garden spreads out on a gentle hill slope originating from the Tendong Hill and provides a magnificent view.
A visit to the garden en-route to South & West Sikkim, could be a rewarding experience.


Ravangla

A relatively new tourist spot in south Sikkim, Ravangla (Rabong) is situated at an altitude of (6,800 ft.) and saddled on a ridge between Maenam Hill (10,600 ft) & Tendong Hill (8,530 ft.). It is the sub-divisional headquarter high).


Places of interest include the town monastery and the Tibetan Refugee Settlement Camp. The camp houses a carpet centre where one can buy fine Tibetan style woolen carpets.


Visitors can also seek blessings of the Buddha at the Sakyamuni Buddha Park. An initiative of the people of Rabong in wanting to promote it as a Buddhist Circuit destination, the park houses a giant statue of Lord Buddha. Inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to commemorate the 2550th birth anniversary of Lord Buddha, His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasaamvara, the 19th Supreme Patriarch of the Kingdom of Thailand has also kindly offered the "Most Precious Relics (Ringsel) of Lord Buddha" to the Sakyamuni Buddha Park. In addition, relics from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea are also been offered to this magnificent park.


Trekking and hiking enthusiasts can indulge in an overnight guided trek to Maenam hill to capture the beautiful sunset, sunrise and view of the majestic mountain peaks.


Ralang Monastery

Ralang  Monastery lies 13 kms from Ravangla. Established by the Kagyupa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, it was built in 1768 AD. It is believed that the 9th Karmapa, head of the Kagyupa sect, blessed the site of the monastery with grains of rice thrown from Tibet.


“Pang Lhabsol” the worship of Mt. Khanchendzonga & “Kagyed Chaam”(masked dances) are held every year at the monastery.
         

Samdruptse, Solophok & Namchi

Samdruptse and Solophok are situated in around Namchi, the second largest town of Sikkim and the headquarters of the South District.


Samdruptse, literally means ‘wish fulfilling hill’ in the local dialect. Situated  a little above Namchi on top of the hill, it houses an open gigantic 135 ft. tall statue of Guru Padmasambhava, overlooking the open skies, mountains and valleys below. It is a glowing tribute to the patron saint who blessed Sikkim in the 8th Century.


Solophok situated in an adjacent hill is a re-creation of various famous temples of India and houses a giant statue of Lord Shiva.

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