In this post, I will try to provide detail information about Gangtok tour packages, Sikkim tour packages including lachung and visit zero point yumthang valley tour packages, what to see, how to reach, hotels etc. Gangtok, Lachung and Yumthang tour is the most common tour for any Sikkim tourist. When we reached Lachung the sun is nearly coated by cloud. The dusk & rain still looking ahead to our arrival as if they can begin their welcome concert. Our bolero crossed the stream through cantilever military bridge. The vehicle stopped by a mountain range. Getting down in the twilight I really observed what ‘desperate beauty’ is. Really nature has taken us in its lap. We entered Lachung a little hill station in northeast Sikkim, India.
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The rain has just started. Our luggage was taken by the caretaker in our room. I have not entered the room yet. Just waiting on the wooden balcony still lost in the beauty of nature. Can’t able to remember somewhere I read about mountain –
Tall and bold like a castle,
Looming in the dark.
They rise to a towering height.
As everything beneath, cowers in fright.
Covered in a blanket of silvery mist,
you feel as though kissed,
by the cold bitter wind as it rushes past.
The snow peaked tops are like pure, pristine crystals, timeless, in all their beauty.
Caretakers are now very busy to unload our ration which we purchased from Gangtok.
Let me give you some information about Lachung.
1) British explorer Joseph Dalton Hooker in his, The Himalayan Journal (1855) mentioned Lachung and Yumthang are the two most picturesque places in the whole of Sikkim and had even compared them to valleys of Switzerland.
2) Lachung, located in the North Sikkim district near the border with Tibet.
4) Lachung is about 125 kilometers from the capital Gangtok.
5) The Indian Army has a base camp in the town. Before the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950, Lachung was a trading post between Sikkim and Tibet, after which it was closed down.
6) The town’s economy has been boosted by tourism in recent years as the region has been opened up by the Indian government.
7) Tourists come from all over the world to visit the town between October and May, mostly on their way to the yumthang valley , Yumesamdong (zero point).
8) Most people are Nepali, Lepcha, and Bhutia.
10) During winter the town is usually covered in snow.
11) Only vehicles from tour operators who registered with Sikkim tourism are allowed. Visit Yumesamdong (Zero Point) requires more cost for the vehicle. You need to take a tour package from an authorized tour operator of Sikkim. Click below for few registered tour operators in Sikkim.
Only Lachung / Yumthang / Yumesamdong Valley
Day1: Reach Lachung from Gangtok, overnight stay at Lachung.
Day2: Lachung sightseeing
Day3: Visit Zero Point, Yumthang Valley, return to Gangtok.
How to reach
There is no direct way of going to Lachung and Yumthang Valley – one has to first go to the capital, Gangtok, and get permission to go to the Valley. Yes, everybody needs permission to go to the Valley because of its closeness with the Indo-China border. But the first one has to reach Gangtok. If you are traveling by air, which is getting cheaper nowadays, you shall take a flight to Bagdogra in West Bengal, a town which mostly serves as a connecting point to Sikkim and Darjeeling. From inside the Bagdogra airport, one can get a prepaid taxi to Gangtok for around Rs. 2800-3000.
You can also reach Pakyong airport ( non functional temporarily). Gangtok is 124 km from Bagdogra, and by road, it takes about 4 hours to reach there.
If you are traveling by rail, the nearest railways station is New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal. All major trains going towards Guwahati pass through New Jalpaiguri. Coming from Bihar side, you reach New Jalpaiguri just after passing through the “Chicken’s Neck” that connects NE India, with the rest of India. Gangtok is 148 km by road from New Jalpaiguri.
How we arranged all the papers
So, we reached Gangtok and check into a hotel. After a brief rest, we straightaway head to a travel agency to book a trip to Yumthang Valley. Yes, you have to go through a travel agency or tour operators and fill out a form, with two passport-size photographs, and a photocopy of your voter-id card, for each passenger. But don’t let that put you off, because you won’t have to move a finger apart from filling out the form – everything else will be taken care of by the travel agency. Also, even if you have permission to visit the Valley, the permit for the vehicle to go will only come in the morning of the day you are going to travel. That is because of the weather and frequent landslides that block the roads. Only if the route is clear, and the safety of the travel assured, the authorities give a green signal to go.
If you are going to take a shared vehicle, there are two packages available for Yumthang. One is the two days, a one-night package which is very popular, and the other one is three days, two nights. The one-night package costs Rs 5000 to Rs 10000 per person, which includes travel, stay overnight, and all the meals during the tour. Not a bad deal! The two-night package costs around Rs 8000 to Rs 15000 per person depending upon the hotel, vehicle, and food you choose.
The only problem is that many a time, there are not enough takers for the two-night package and the shared vehicle will not go unless all the seats are filled. So you might be forced to take the one-night package. There is a third option, to book a vehicle just for yourself, plus the other things in the package. That comes to around Rs 25,000 for the two-night package. The next morning the travel-agent phoned us to tell that the permission has been granted. We pack our luggage, check out of the hotel, and head for the vehicle. If you are going to Yumthang, travel light!
Day1: Reach Lachung from Gangtok, overnight stay at Lachung.
In our case, we started a bit late in the morning (around 10 a.m.) from Gangtok. Our journey begins on the hilly road, among verdant green mountains, with milky mountain brooks irregularly streaming down the slopes. The journey is quite pleasant. After 66 km drive, we reached the small township called Mangan. At Mangan, we stopped to have our lunch.
Packed lunch arranges by Gangtok hotel which has puri, egg curry, mixed veg, salad, and sweets. Then we reached Chungthang which is only 22 km before Lachung and is the nearest town. We have taken a halt for tea here and watch the lovely confluence of the rivers Lachung and Lachen which then join the river Teesta. Nearby there is a sacred stone (Naydo) having footprints of Guru Padmasambhava. We visited the Chungthang Monastery. The monastery has a rich collection of rare Buddhist paintings.
Along the way, the river Teesta assisted us and we have seen a number of waterfalls and mountain springs. The distance looks easy, it takes about 7 hours by Bolero to reach Lachung from Gangtok. Although most come and stay at Lachung to visit Yumthang valley and Zero Point the next day before returning to Gangtok, you should not miss out on the opportunities which Lachung itself offers. You have to carry your ration from Gangtok or you may include it in your package.
In the room
As time passes I was really feeling chilled due to the high altitude and downpour. I really got scared when I heard my wife was screaming loudly. As I entered our room my wife hugged me up so tightly that I was about to fall. She was literally frightened & shivering. I saw near about six bats are flying in the closed room. Immediately I called caretaker boy, who came and opened all doors and windows and all bats disappeared. The room was totally made up of wood having a king size bed which is enough for two adults. One tea-table and two sofas were also there. The room has attached a well-cleaned bathroom. But the major problem was electricity.
The hamlet is majorly based upon solar power. In the meantime, a caretaker boy came. I asked his name for the first time. He told his name is Krish Subba and he is the proprietor of the house.Oh. Shit. I have done the mistake, I thought he is the caretaker. He invited us for dinner in his dining room which would be closed within 8 pm. I and my wife became more proactive, asked him why not now? Why we will wait for 8 pm? He mentioned his wife preparing food which will take another half an hour. I asked him, hesitatingly whether it……..means…….. That…….. means……. Whisk……. means whiskey is available or not? He replied smartly, “available but local one”. I told him to arrange that for me and we became ready for dinner.
We entered the dining which attached with kitchen, all made up of wood and well decorated with shikkimis showpieces. Krish’s wife Kavita was the cook. They had two kids. Both were boys. The dining room had a Japanese like sitting arrangement. One cot and a small table were there. Both of us sat there. I ordered two pegs of Shangri la whiskey with veg pakora. My wife ordered for tea only. In the meantime, Kavita joined us and my wife started asking about kids education.
As Kavita told their kids were not interested in studies my wife, teacher by profession started making them understand about the importance of education. I also added a few points to my wives’ deliberation as she could continue and in the meantime, I could finish my next two pegs. I didn’t want to be in the sub-therapeutic level. We finished our dinner around 8.30 night with roti, sabji, chicken curry and salad.
Day2: Lachung sightseeing
Next day early morning I woke up. I came to our balcony. The Sun was about to rise. I was observing the Himalayas with my unblinking eyes. The Himalayas! A name with a lot of resonance. A visit to this place and you would leave with a respect for the land. The sheer size, the mountain range, and ice caps. It was way better than any theme park can bring. It was Mother Nature at its best. That was what I call a vacation. There were trails to follow-up the mountains, rivers, and lakes. But there were more trails to follow and to enjoy this place. A lot of memories stayed off this place with me. Some in pictures, some in videos, and some in thoughts. Great! Long live the Himalayas.
We finished our breakfast and visited a few places in Lachung. Although most come and stay at Lachung to visit Yumthang valley and Zero Point the next day before returning to Gangtok, you should not miss out on the opportunities which Lachung itself offers.
1) Lachung Monastery (or gompa)– It had wonderful wall murals also several ancient statues. The monastery held a religious dance on 28th and 29th day of 10th Buddhist month (December).
2) Carpet Weaving Center– where you could see the local ladies weaving exquisite woolen carpets. The center was open on weekdays between 8 am to 4 pm.
Post lunch we visited a local market to meet local people. They were mainly Bhutias, Lepcha, Nepalese and Tibetans. We saw our driver gossiping with one senior person. He introduced the senior person with us. The old man told his name was Namgyel. He started telling the history of Lachung. Over a century ago, Lachung was a popular spot for spiritual practices. The Samten Choling monastery built in the year 1850 which was the year of metal dog holds much religious significance.
Buddhist worshipers who visited the monastery are said to be blessed with much happiness. In 1930, the monastery received many interesting additions such as a sculpture of Buddha, a sculpture of a Guru, a sculpture of Chenrezig, and Kangyur and Tengyur texts. These additions are bought from Tibet in order to help spread Buddhism in the region. In 1983, the monastery was restored and transformed by the Lamas. As a result of this renovation, the monastery hosts all the major ceremonies in the region.
In night within 7.30 pm, we completed our dinner and went early to bed as we had to started early the next day.
Day 3: Visit Zero Point Yumthang Valley, return to Gangtok.
We started early for Yumthang & Yumesamdong (Zero Point) around 5 am. Yumthang valley is about 25kms from Lachung located at an altitude of 11,800ft and took about 1.5 hours of drive. Further up and about 23kms from Yumthang at an altitude of over 15,000 ft was the place Zero Point (also known as Yumesamdong).
Yumesamdong: It took another 1.5 hours from Yumthang by vehicle (about 3 to 3.5 hours from Lachung). This was where the civilian road ends and you can’t drive any further and hence the name Zero Point. A short distance away from here was the border with China and tourists were not allowed to go any further beyond the Zero Point.
While the road was quite disloyal, the rewards are overwhelming. Zero Point or Yumesamdong was the place where three rivers meet with surrounding snow-clad mountains and offering stunning scenic views. You could often see yaks grazing in the snow. There was hardly any vegetation in Zero points other than some stretches of grassy land which became visible when the snow melts. Zero Point was the place which remained snow covered for the most part of the year. So if you wanted to see and enjoy the snow, then visit Zero Point and you wouldn’t likely be dissatisfied.
At Zero Point you would find a few temporary stalls where locals were selling snacks Maggi noodles, eggs, chana masala etc. You can get tea/coffee (and surprisingly even alcohol). There were no toilet facilities there though. Note that due to the high altitude of Zero Point, oxygen in the air was low and could be breathing problems for few. So you should avoid visiting the place with an asthmatic or an infant.
I would recommend that on the second day, begin early within the morning and 1st visit zero point. That was because the weather conditions there could change any time and in the afternoon the visibility may not be as good as in the morning. On your way back, visit Yumthang Valley and Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary. Also, visit the tiny native market in Yumthang and scan through the tiny stalls selling garments and knick-knacks. Try out some noodles or omelet and tea.
Yumthang: The name Yumthang Valley means ‘Valley of Flowers’. So you knew what to expect. But the name would were additionally acceptable if it said ‘Valley of Rhododendrons’. Because the valley exposed a dense bed of rhododendron flowers for miles and in many different colors like purple, blue, red, pink etc. The rhododendrons bloom between March to May. We visited the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary which spans across 34 square kilometers area here near Lachung and had over 38 different varieties of rhododendrons. State Forest Department holds International Rhododendron Festival here annually between March to May during the peak flowering season.
Yumthang Valley was extremely scenic, with green slopes covered with trees, yaks grazing in the flower-spangled grassy plains below, and a river flowing right through the valley. The serene and peaceful air of the Valley could not be described in words. A single visit there could leave the visitor in an enthralled state for weeks.Other than the wonderful views of vast valley of flowers, Yumthang also offers lovely views of the mountain peaks such as Pauhunri and Shundu Tsenpa forming the backdrop of the river Teesta.
Before entering the Yumthang Valley, a pedestrian pathway leads through a small bridge and reached Yumthang Hot Spring. You would get to walk for a few thousand yards to reach the recent spring. In such a chilly climate, this surprisingly natural warm water came as a pleasant surprise. The water was rich with sulfur and said to possessed good healing and medicinal value. The spring water here directed to a hut and couple of pools inside so that one could take a healing bath here.
Where to stay
There were several hotels in Lachung. In Yumthang you could stay at Government of Sikkim Guest House (contact person Pipon- 9474843035). It’s quite difficult to contact hotels in Lachung and Lachen over the phone and make reservations. It’s better to go through one of the many Sikkim Tourism registered tour operators who can make the bookings and arrange for necessary permits. You can follow this link http://www.sikkimstdc.com/ProtectedResources/Booking/Booking.aspx
Best time to visit
April to May could be a nice time to travel because the rhododendrons were fully blooming. Another good time was during Losar festival (held between February to March). That was when the locals in their full traditional costumes eat, drink and do many cultural shows. Beginning of December was also a great time as yould can see the monks performing mask dance at Lachung monastery.
What to carry
If you were heading for snow in Zero Point, then rent an overcoat, a pair of gloves and snow boots from Yumthang market. Also, carry enough warm woolens in all seasons as it can be biting cold at the higher reaches. Carry all of your medication notably for any high altitude sickness. There are no ATMs here, so carry enough cash.
We return to the hotel, rest a bit, and have an early lunch, and start the drive back towards Gangtok.
On the now I have started talking with my driver Norbu, which means “jewel”.He was a Tibetan but now settled in Gangtok. From him, I came to know about ” Fraternal polygamy in Tibet ‘. Polyandry was a form of Polygamy where a woman took two or more husbands at the same time. Tibetans, Serpas, Ladakhis and other Himalayan people in remote areas still practice polyandry, a custom in which a woman could have two or more husbands. Many cultures apply spousal relationship, the custom in which a man had more than one wife, but Polyandry was very rare.
In Tibet the husbands were often brothers, that was why it was most commonly called “Fraternal Polyandry “. Norbu said his wife’s mother had four husbands, all of them were brothers. I wanted to ask him a lot of detailed questions about his own experience with Polyandry but felt it was too nosy and intrusive. In any case, my driver didn’t see anything strange about the arrangement. Later I came to know in most cases husbands were brothers.
Sometimes children were not sure who their real father were. Tibetan women had traditionally lived with one brother at a time whereas the others were away fighting, herding, trading or spending time in a monastery. The oldest brother was usually considered the daddy of the kids, who seek advice from all the brother-husbands as a father. The custom believed to have evolved to make the inheritance of property an easier process and prevent the breakup of plots of land .
The drive back was uneventful, but shorter because of the downhill travel. We broke the journey for tea and snack and continue again. We reached Gangtok in the evening and check into the same hotel that we left. As we laid in our beds after a hot shower, the beautiful flowers of Yumthang Valley and its serene slopes refuse to leave our minds eye. Hours after arriving, we still roam about in an enchanted state.
To know more about Gangtok/Lachen/ Gurudongmer, click below-mentioned link
Last updated on 09.02.20