As a girl, backpacking has been an adventure I have always longed to embark upon and when an opportunity of exploring the beautiful gateway of the Himalayas presented itself, I was not only delighted but also somewhat more than elated. Sikkim has its own charm and is a popular & safe destination for holidaying became my choice of my backpacking trip.
As a girl traveling alone, safety is of utmost importance. Sikkim is bordered by North- East, Nepal, China, Bhutan, and West Bengal. It is the home of Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world. The mixed bag of adventure, scenic view, and challenges in form of experience is a heartwarming experience and vacation one looks forward to.
I planned to take on the entire Sikkim in one trip. I know it is an extremely ambitious attempt. Being a solo traveller means you have no monetary backup except yourself, hence I made a reserve of Rupees 70,000 with the travel duration of 20 days. My objective was to explore, stop and talk to locals, gather stories, memories and experiences that I could look back upon.
Since Sikkim is divided into four major regions East, West, North, and South, I started my journey from the East. I began my journey from Kolkata to New Jalpiguri Station (NJP). From there I hopped on to a shared cab to get to the capital city of Sikkim.
I started my journey from the eastern side of Sikkim, it the administratively important point for the state as the capital of Sikkim, Gangtok is located here. The two divisions of East Sikkim are Rongli and Pakyong. It is a popular pick for the tourist and hence an obvious choice to begin my journey. Different ethnic groups are part of the population like Nepalis, Bhutias, and Lepchas. The temperature is quite pleasing round the year.
STATE CAPITAL GANGTOK
I started my city hoping with a visit to the famous landmarks and majestic Buddhist centers which are a culmination of Tibetan and Buddhist culture.
Rumtek Monastery also known as the Dharmchakra Centre. It was built during mid 1700 under the guidance and direction of Changchun Dorje. In the recent past, the monastery has undergone a renovation with the help of aid received from the royal family. The scenic beauty of waterfalls, majestic hills and beautiful landscape, the gompa is truly an epitome of peace. The massive prayer hall decorated with murals, tangkhas along with majestic statues make it a visual treat.
Next stop was DrulChorten Stupa which was built by Trulshik Pinpoche who was the head of the Nyingma order. The highlights of the place are DorjeePhurba and relics of Kangyur.
If you are bitten by the adventure bug, the trek route for Green Lake Basin Trek and Goecha La Trek is a must on your to-do list of treks in India. It is a recently opened route and is filled with scenic brilliance and there are challenges and permissions you need to keep handy in order to embark upon this adventure of exploring the Trek route to Kanchenjunga, it is advisable to be accompanied by experienced individuals or be part of a trekking company that organizes these treks.
PAKYONG: SERENE ATMOSPHERE
Since I did not plan for this trek on my solo trip to Sikkim, I moved to Pakyong. If you are looking for virgin lands and a serene atmosphere, I firmly believe that Pakyong is the place to visit. You can have a simple vacation of your own.
Local Attractions like Shivalaya temple, Dikling mane-lakhang, Changey monastery and the Monks’ Retreat Centre are the places to see. While visiting these places indulging into the local cuisines is imperative. Trying out local food like Thukpa, momo, chowmien, wonton and gyathuk which are a staple food for the locals can drive the taste buds to the food haven.
RONGLI: LAND OF WATER
It is surrounded by the tributary of Teesta known as Rangpo River. It is a small town located in East Sikkim. It is one of the off-beat destinations. The highlight of the place surely is the Aritar Lake also popularly known as Lampokhri Lake it is one of the oldest lakes in Sikkim. I enjoyed a brisk walk along the clear waterside. You can opt for boating in the lake as well.
The next visit was Keukhola Waterfalls which you do get a glimpse en-route to Rangoli. It is advisable to visit this place during the monsoon season to enjoy the scenic brilliance.
NORTH SIKKIM: SERENE
It is the most scenic in the entire Sikkim region; it shares its border with the republic of China. The region is divided in two sections; one is known as Chungthang and the other is Mangan.
MANGAN: LARGEST CITY
It is the largest city in Sikkim in terms of area and is home to the most number of residents in Sikkim. The city is known as the cardamom capital in the world.
The journey to explore Magan is surely incomplete without the beautiful seven sister waterfalls, best to visit during the monsoons to view the fall in full bloom. It is en-route to Mangan. Next stop was 8 kms from Mangan is RongLungten Lee, it is an exact replica of the famous Lepcha house located in Namprikdang. The artefacts displayed her reflect and showcase the culture of the Lepchas.
MANGAN: LARGEST CITY
As I moved towards Chunthang the beauty of the place is mesmerizing it is located at the confluence lachung and lachen river, it holds a special religious value. According to the local belief, Guru Padmasambhava visited this place and a rock with his footprint can be traced, on which he once rested.
Gurudongmar Lake is one of the highest lakes in the world. I met an old man near the road curve leading up to the lake. He narrated to me the legend around the lake. According to the legend, and it is named after Guru Padmasambhava. During his visit to the lake, the Guru placed his hand on a small part of the lake, being compassionate to the local people, as they pleaded him for not having any proper source of water. Consequently, the ice melted and the locals were provided with ample water. It is a beautiful place to be and is a sheer matter of luck to visit due to weather conditions and terrain.
The valley of flowers of Sikkim is none other than the Yumthang Valley and the ideal season to visit this place is summer, autumn, and spring. A trek to this place, while the flowers are blooming, is truly breathtaking. As I had visited the place during April I just could not take my eyes off the beautiful colors on both sides of the road.
Next on my must-visit list was the Lachung and Lachen monastery both these monasteries are quite popular with the travellers, apart from their religious value they are an example of architectural excellence.
ZERO POINT: SERENE TREK
Finally was the time to Trek to Zero Point, while in Sikkim in order to experience the scenic awe one must visit Zero point. The snow clad mountain peaks and the flocks of grazing yaks will surely help refresh your mind and health, after a hectic and tiring trek.
SOUTH SIKKIM: SERENE TREK
After two beautiful parts of Sikkim it was time to move to the industrialized part to see the hustle and bustle of an industrial town. South Sikkim has the best roads and is divided into two sections Ravong and Namchi.
Namchi as a place has recently gained popularity as a pilgrimage and a popular tourist spot. There are various activities that one can indulge in. I began my journey by witnessing the majestic statue of Guru Rinpoche , it is the largest statue in the world of the guru while visiting Samdruptse monastery.
The pilgrimage journey did continue as I arrived at Char Dham. It was inaugurated by the Sikkim Government in 2011.It is both a pilgrimage as well as a cultural centre. As the name suggests, four of the most revered dhams of the Hindus have been replicated at this centre.
After visiting the holy spots it was time to experience some scenic beauty and I headed for the Temi Tea Garden located in a beautiful place called Ravangla, the Temi Tea Garden does attract a lot of tourist attraction. The perks of being is a tea garden is the scenic beauty and organic tea at your disposal.
The last part of the region was none other than the Bhaichung stadium in south Sikkim. It is a highlight of the place as it is built in honor of the famous footballer BhaichungBhutia.
WEST SIKKIM: TREKKING
Once I completed the major part of Sikkim it turned for the trekker’s paradise. West Sikkim is known for the numerous altitude treks and the adrenaline rush one is looking for. Being full of rhododendron forests, this area of Sikkim amazes the travellers with spectacular views. Gyalshing and Sorreng are the two major divisions of South Sikkim, while Yuksom, Pelling, and Geyzing are some of the most prominent cities.
This city is the capital of West Sikkim and since it is connected to Kalimpong and Darjeeling, it is frequently visited by the tourists. West Sikkim has a trekking experience to offer for all kinds of trekkers. Trek to Vershey is appropriate and perfect for beginners. Vershey is a small sanctuary wherein one can view rhododendron and other variety of plants including silver firs, magnolias, hanging mosses and orchids. Being a solo traveller I felt this trek to be both liberating and scenically pleasing.
Pemayangtse Monastery is one of the most famous monasteries of West Sikkim and the best time to visit this monastery would be during the Cham Dance Festival, which is held during the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar.
Next up on my list was a base camp of Kanchenjunga that is known for its stunning views of the range and the Himalayas. Various high altitude treks are conducted from here. I listened to my adventurous side and opted to experience the second highest bridge of Asia and the highest of Sikkim known as Singshore Bridge and what a breathtaking view it was with mountains around, lush green landscapes and waterfalls
After visiting the bridge I headed for Sangachoeling Monastery which has its own challenges that you need to overcome by following a steep road of 4 kms steep road. The monastery does hold a very important stand in the Buddhist circuit.
It was the first capital of Sikkim and invariably this destination has loads to offer. Name it and it’s there palaces, monasteries and stunning peaks or beautiful waterfalls. It never failed to amaze me, how beautifully balanced this place was.
Norbugang Coronation Throne is an important part of travel plans as historically it has a huge significance as three lamas had coronated PhuntsogNamgyal as the first king of Sikkim. The added perks are the prayer hall, the numerous prayer wheels and the stupa.
The next place of visit for me was Phamrong Waterfalls , it is the highest waterfall of Sikkim located between Gerethang and Yuksom. The best season to visit any waterfall is during the monsoons. The gushing water and the lush green landscape is all you need.
SIKKIM: SURVIVAL GUIDE
Well, now that you know about the different parts of Sikkim in detail, you can plan your visit accordingly. But then, for enjoying a hassle free vacation, you need to be aware of some important information that come in really handy.