North Sikkim


North Sikkim presents the very quintessence of beauty in Sikkim. Northern Sikkim is the area where the mountain tops seem to touch the sky. Many passes, valleys and waterfalls as well as mountain springs add to the beauty of the region.
North Sikkim tourism presents the visitors with an experience that is absolutely unique. Largely a restricted area, a special permit is needed to visit most parts of this northernmost district of Sikkim.

North Sikkim Cities



Mangan is the biggest of the North Sikkim cities where the district headquarters of the North Sikkim district are established. Mangan, despite being an administrative city, is noted for its picturesque character. Located about 4000 feet above sea level, this town is at a distance of 65 km uphill from the state capital of Gangtok. The other important town of North Sikkim is Chungthang. It shares the picturesque quality of all North Sikkim areas.

Tourist spots of North Sikkim

North Sikkim district is noted as a popular tourist destination. A large area of North Sikkim shares its border with China and therefore is a politically sensitive zone. Many places of this region cannot be reached without a special permit from the government of Sikkim. Usually, conducted tours organized by the various tourist agencies with their bases largely in Gangtok, is the best way to travel in North Sikkim. The Thangu, Nathula Pass tour is one of the most famous tourist circuit; as is the Lachung, Yumthung, Yumesamdong circuit. Other significant tourist attractions of North Sikkim are Lachen, Phodong and Singhik.

Lachen

Lachen in North Sikkim is a picturesque little valley around 9,000 from sea level. The village has only about 150 houses and are inhabited by the local Lepcha community for whom animal farming and yak husbandry is the chief occupation. Close to the Chinese border, Lachen usually serve as the base for the adventurers who wish to explore the highest peaks of the region.

The road from Lachung goes in two different directions. While one goes towards Yumthang, the other moves to Lachen. Lachen of North Sikkim is a beautiful village in the valley of the river Lachen. The flat land of the valley provides a great opportunity to have a panoramic view of the greatest mountain peaks of the Himalayas. It takes about six hours by car from the capital city of Gangtok to reach Lachen. Lachen is a prominent feature in the North Sikkim itinerary of any visitor.

Lachen at North Sikkim itself is of exquisite beauty. But it is often used by travelers as a gateway to some of the most exquisite spots in the upper reaches of the Sikkimese mountain. The most important getaway is the Chopta Valley, which equals the Yumthang valley in its floral splendor. In the winter, the snow covered mountains provide a view that is grand and sublime. Many explorers to the high Himalayan mountains often use Lachen as the base of their expeditions. Lachen is also a great trekking destination. A trek from Lachung to Lachen is preferred by many visitors because it provides an opportunity to experience the splendors of the mountain from a very close quarter.

Lachung

Lachung is a picturesque village in the lap of the magnificent Himalayas of North Sikkim. Usually serving as a base for tourists to Yumthang, Lachung of North Sikkim is known for its abundance of grand rhododendron trees. The mountains are covered by mist, the valley is quiet and the tranquility is unsurpassed. No doubt, it is often considered to be the most beautiful village in Sikkim. The village previously had only one small village. However, presently, with a steady increase in the number of tourists to the area, many hotels and lodges have come up with basic necessities well catered to.

Lachung in North Sikkim is at a height of above 8600 ft. It is about 50 km from Mangan, the district headquarters of North Sikkim. Lachung has the famous Shingba Rhododendron sanctuary. It has great many grand rhododendrons trees, which bloom in monsoon. The flowers, along with the countless orchids that grow on the mountains around the region, give entire Lachung a feel that is quite unique. Lachung at North Sikkim also has a beautiful monastery. The Lachung monastery atop a mountain peak, is a wonderful place for meditation. The winter changes the very face of Lachung, covering it in a thick carpet of snow. That too is of unsurpassed beauty and the number of visitors to Lachung in winter is also increasing by the day.

Lachung feature prominently in most guided tours that start from Gangtok and reach Yumthang. It is usually used as an overnight halt. A few wooden lodges and guest houses have come up in the recent years, to cater to the needs of the visitors. Though life is hard on these high mountain slopes, yet the hosts make sure that the visitors get the maximum possible comfort during their stay in this place.

Gurudongmar Lake

Sikkim is a land of Buddhism. But Gurudongmar Lake is primarily a pilgrimage destination for the Sikhs. During his third journey, Guru Nanak visited this place to provide support to the Karmapa Nyingmapa sects who were forced out of Tibet by the Gelugpa sect. His footprints, a water carrying utensils and a robe is still preserved in Lachen Gompa, a place nearby. There is also a gurudwara at Gurudongmar Lake commemorating Guru Nanak's visit. The lake is named after Guru Dongmar, who is popularly known as Padmasambhava.

The conflict between the Indian Army and the Sikkim Government in 1990 is also an important event in the history of Gurudongmar Lake. The issue of the conflict was the construction of the gurudwara. But in present time, the lake has earned the name 'Sarva Dharma Sthal', that is, it has become the house of worship for all religions.

Geographically, Gurudongmar Lake is located at an altitude of 18,000 ft and is one of the highest lakes in the world. The lake is posited on the north of the Khangchengyao Range. Being on so high altitudes, the water of the lake remains frozen from November to May. But the interesting fact of the lake is that a part of it remains in liquid state round the year. It is said that Guru Padmasambhava had touched and blessed that particular place.

Gurudongmar Lake is about 20 minutes ride from Thangu. But special permits are needed to be shown at the Army check post at Giagong. To visit Gurudongmar Lake the tourists must follow certain things- to carry medicines like Deryphyllin and Coca 10, to avoid over excitement and loud conversations and descend immediately in case of any discomfort.

Yumesamdong

North Sikkim is predominantly a place of military presence. Consequently, the tourists get access to limited parts of North Sikkim. Beside Yumthang, Gurudongmar and Chopta Valley,Yumesamdong is one such tourist spot in North Sikkim.

Yumesamdong of North Sikkim is posited at an altitude of 15,300 feet above sea level. It is about 26 kilometers from Yumthang, another famous place in North Sikkim. It takes almost an hour drive to reach Yumesamdong from Yumthang. This drive is as scintillating as the place itself. The drive through the serpentine mountainous amidst the rugged terrain of Sikkim is a life-time experience. Since the place is in close vicinity to the international border between India and China, a special permit is required to visit Yumesamdong.

Yumesamdong is basically a valley with green grazing patches. The most important essence of the place lies in the fragrance of the Azalea. Azalea, also spelt as Ezilia, forms an important source of income to the locals. They form the raw material out of which local people manufacture incense sticks. There are as many as fourteen hot springs in Yumesamdong. These springs are rich in sulphur content and is helpful for curing skin diseases.

Being posited at high altitude, Yumesamdong in Sikkim remains snow laden throughout the year. So it is advisable to taken precautionary measures before a trip to Yumesamdong. But for trekkers, the more it is challenging, the more it is alluring. The route from Yumesamdong to Yumthang is one of the favorite among the trekkers. The trekking starts from Yumesamdong and descends to Yumthang, at an altitude of 3485 meter through Phuhun Ri at 7125 meter and Donkya Ri at 6190 meter.

Thangu

Thangu in Sikkim is located at an altitude of 13000 feet. Thangu is about 30 kilometers north of Lachen. Since it is located at a high altitude, the place remains snow covered for most of the time. Specifically from October to March, the land is shrouded with the white blanket of snow. But this whiteness turns to a collage of numerous shades in May with the commencement of the blossoming season. The alpine forests in Thangu is acclaimed as natural beauty fresh from the hand of God.

In a tour of Sikkim, if one gets torn with the hectic schedules and the hustle and bustle of tourist spots, Thangu of Sikkim would definitely provide the breathing space. On the lap of mother nature, the atmosphere of Thangu is absolutely serene and tranquil. Not too many tourists visit this place, probably for its tedious journey. But one who makes it, realizes that even a thousand miles journey is worth the efficacy of the place. There is only a small hamlet at Thangu, inhabited by the local nomadic tribes. The green valley of Thangu is trespassed and criss crossed by a number of streams and rivulets, the most important of them are Chopta Chu, Thangu Chu and Lassur Chu.

Though Thangu at Sikkim is preferred by nature lovers, it has become the mecca to the adventure-maniacs. Thangu presents them with every opportunity of exploration. The routes from Thangu to Chopta Valley and Muguthang are among the most preferred trekking routes in Sikkim. The rivers in Thangu are ideal for white water rafting. Angling and fishing are also practiced in these rivers.

Chopta Valley

The stock in North Sikkim's repertoire of wonders never seem to fall short. Every single aspect of Sikkim- its mountains, its vegetations, its lakes, waterfalls, springs, monasteries seem to surpass the substance of the other.Chopta Valley is perhaps its own competitor, every time it tries to become more enthralling, more attractive. Chopta Valley in Sikkim is situated at an altitude of 13200 feet above mean sea level. By road, Chopta Valley is about 20 minutes ride from Thangu. Actually, Chopta Valley acts almost as a gate-way to more high altitude tourist spots like Thangu or Gurudongmar Lake. Special permits are required to visit these places as they are politically sensitive places for being close to the international borders.

In Chopta Valley, one can walk on the frozen rivers. Such places abound in Sikkim, but most of them are inaccessible to ordinary tourists. So Chopta Valley of Sikkim provides them the platform to enjoy such a thrilling experience. The place changes its look entirely during the spring and the summer season. The white scenery all around gets transformed into a palette of rioting colors. The vegetation in Chopta Valley is comprised particularly of orchids, rhododendrons and other high altitude plants.

While majority of the tourists remain satisfied with their visit to Tsomgo Lake and Yumthang, Chopta Valley at Sikkim is mostly frequented by trekkers and adventure-lovers. The trekking route from Chopta Valley to Muguthang valley is one of the most challenging one in Sikkim. Muguthang valley is located at an altitude of 15500 feet. These places are criss-crossed by a number of rivulets, mainly fed by the snow-capped mountains. Except for few Tibetan nomadic, the place is primarily devoid of any habitations.

Mangan

Mangan in Sikkim is located in 27.52 degree north latitude and 88.53 degree East longitude. The town is situated at an altitude of 3950 feet, 65 km from the state capital, Gangtok. The temperature of the place varies from 28 degree Celsius in summer to a minimum of 5 degree Celsius in winter.

Mangan is the district headquarter of North Sikkim and the nearest airport from Mangan is Bagdogra in West Bengal, 124 km away. The two nearest railway stations are at Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri, 114 km and 125 km from Mangan respectively. By road, Mangan is connected by metaled road with Gangtok, Siliguri and Kalimpong.

In Mangan, the market place is located on the highway comprising of variety of shops. The district collector and other Governmental Departments function at district collectorate, situated at Pentok, 2 km uphill from the market place. On the way to Pentok, one comes across the Mangan Senior Secondary School and the public ground. From Pentok, the tourists can enjoy the view of Mount Siniolchu (a range of mount Kanchenjunga).The views of Kanchenjunga from Pakshep (2 km) and Singhik (4 km) near Mangan are also something unique to the place.

Other places to visit in Mangan are Hee-Gyathang, Barfok and Lingdong. These are small hamlets under Dzongu area separated from Mangan by Teesta river. Apart from the scenic landscapes of Mangan, there are also a couple of monasteries in Mangan. They are the Phensong and Phodong Monastery. The former was built in 1840 by Lama Jigme Pawo. It is considered only second to Pemayangtse monastery for the Nyingmapa sect. The Phodong Monastery at Mangan is considered to be one of the six main monasteries of Sikkim.

Phodong monastery

Phodong is one of the greatest attractions of North Sikkim. It is 28 km from Gangtok and is noted for its wonderful monastery. Phodong monastery is located in the middle of the breathtaking beauty of North Sikkim and is one of the most revered monasteries of Sikkim.

Buddhism is the state religion of Sikkim. It has been practiced in the state with great devotion right from the early days of the state's inception. Given the wonderful natural beauty of the state, there are many Buddhist monasteries in Sikkim of unsurpassed natural beauty.Phodong monastery at Sikkim is one of the most prestigious monasteries of Sikkim.

Phodong monastery is located at the vicinity of the picturesque village of Kabi Langchuk. It is a Budhhist seat of learning and worship. The actual building of the Phodong monastery in Sikkim is old and the original building was in a state of decay. As a result, the entire monastery had to be rebuilt in the recent years. After the reconstructions were completed, Phodong monastery became one of the most beautiful monasteries of the Buddhist world. The greatest attraction of this monastery are the wonderful murals that decorate the walls of the monastery. These paintings, painted with strict adherence to the Tibetan Buddhist iconography, not only have great decorative value, but are also imbued with great theological significance. The Phodong monastery of North Sikkim houses 260 monks. At different levels of learning, the resident monks of Phodong monastery in Sikkim, receive regular instructions in the various intricacies of Buddhist theology and philosophy.

Yumthang Valley

The bantam domain of Sikkim houses the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary which is cradled in the humongous and craggy lap of the Yumthang Valley which in turn lies in the northern frontier of the state. The eastern and western wing of the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary at Sikkim are on the other hand flanked by a pair of formidable knolls. To be precise, the Chuba-Sagochen hammocks bound the eastern facet of the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary in Sikkim and the Chomzomei Tso extends across the western periphery.

Another spectacular sight available to the eyes at the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary of Sikkim is the sprawling rivulet regarded as the Yumthang Chu that spans across the verdant landscape of the delectable valley that houses it. The Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary in Sikkim is also very easily accessible from any remote nook of the state as it only takes approximately 7 hours to reach Yumthang from the capital city of Gangtok.

As the name suggests, the most abundant taxonomic group that has sort of become the identity of this sanctuary are the absolutely delightful Rhododendron trees belonging to at least 40 exotic species that cover most of the landscape of the sanctuary. Amongst other species of plants that also share the limelight with the opulent Rhododendron trees are the Saxifrages, Primulas, Gentians, Poppies and Potentillas.

A large number of wild beasts have also opted to dwell in this magnanimous sanctuary. They primarily include Goral, Blood Pheasant, Tiger-Civet, Common Hill Partridge and many more. Amongst these beasts , the Tiger-Civet is considered to be on the brink of total extinction from the face of this world.

Last Updated on : 22/04/2013

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