This year our trip to North Sikkim was full of surprises and wish-fulfilment. North Sikkim was on our wishlist for a long time. Surely, it is so true that if something comes late in your way, then that must be special. It started with a wonderful view of the Gurudongmar Lake and now our visit to the Yumthang Valley was simply out of the world. We visited North Sikkim during April solely with the intention of viewing the colourful and blooming rhododendrons in the Valley of Flowers. But what did we see instead? A clear blanket of snow all around, soft, cotton-like snowfall that made the atmosphere so Christmas like! And yes, we are not complaining. It is always so great to be surprised and when travel reveals such beautiful surprises, then there is nothing like it!
Our Gurudongmar trip was equally wonderful and after leaving Lachen in the afternoon, we drove towards Lachung. When I was in college, the name Lachung attracted me a lot for no apparent reason. Since then, I had always thought of visiting the place. And now going to Lachung was a wish come true. We reached Lachung at 4 PM and settled down in our hotel.
What is so special about Yumthang Valley?
Yumthang is about 25 km from Lachung and is located at an altitude of 11, 800 ft. Yumthang Valley is also known as the Valley of Flowers. As the tree line ends here, the valley is full of a dense bed of rhododendrons for miles and miles as far as your eyes can see. And the rhododendrons are of different colours – red, yellow, pink, white, purple and blue. During the flowering season, the whole area looks like a fiery place ablaze by the colours of the rhododendrons. The flowering season is from March to May. Yumthang Valley is actually the home to the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary.
Further up the Yumthang Valley is the Zero Point. It is another 23 km from Yumthang and at an altitude of 15000 ft. The road to the Zero Point or Yumesamdong is quite treacherous but once you reach there, the views are quite rewarding. It is a place where three rivers meet amidst the snow-clad mountains. The Zero Point is mostly covered by snow all throughout the year.
Our experience at the Yumthang Valley:
We started early towards Yumthang Valley. Last night it had rained but the morning was bright and crisp. At the lower altitudes, we could see a few blooming rhododendron plants. But most of the flowers had withered because of the rain the previous night. Just as we approached the Yumthang Valley, we saw snow everywhere. The rain last night had definitely thwarted our wish to see the blooming rhododendrons, but that was also a blessing in disguise. We were introduced to a land of white snow. The pine and fir trees were all snow covered and looked just like Christmas scenes we have seen so many times in Hollywood movies!
The snow on the road made it difficult for the cars to move, but after moving at snail’s pace we were finally in the valley. And it was pure bliss! We were happily playing in the snow, throwing snowballs, shaking the trees and what not! I must have behaved like a crazy little kid! There was snow everywhere we looked. The shops were renting gumboots. It is better to rent a boot if you do not have proper shoes.
We had a lovely time at Yumthang. Though we could not go to the Zero Point, the experience we had was totally worth. While returning, we stopped near the hot spring. We crossed the iron bridge with prayer flags, walked through the slippery snow to the hot spring. After having hot momos and maggi from the stall, we were back to our car for our journey back to Lachung.
Nature had stored in a surprise for us even this time. The sun was up and the weather was quite sunny and lively. As we descended, we saw a few rhododendrons blooming. Of course, it was not like the usual blooming, but it was great to see the rhododendrons when we thought that we would not see anything! So yes, this North Sikkim trip was full of surprises for us. After Yumthang, we visited another wonderful place Dzongu that was definitely not in our plans.
How to Reach Yumthang:
The nearest town is Lachung, 25 km from Yumthang Valley. Lachung is another 116 km from Gangtok. At both Yumthang and Gurudongmar, only vehicles from tour operators who are registered under Sikkim Tourism are allowed. So it is better to opt for a combined tour package for Yumthang Valley and Gurudongmar Lake. The packages are usually for 2N/3D.
A permit is required to visit the Yumthang Valley. You can get the permit from Gangtok itself. Your tour operator will arrange for everything.
If you want to visit the Zero Point, an excess of Rs.2500/- is required to be paid to the driver (as on May 2017). This is Sikkim Tourism approved rate and is not included in the package.
Best time to visit:
If you want to see the flowers, visit during March to May. But you cannot predict weather in the hills. We had visited during April but did not see flowers. Instead, we enjoyed a totally exotic view of the snow.
Want to plan a trip to North Sikkim? You may contact us for details.
You may also like:
- Things You Wanted to Know Before Travelling to Sikkim
- Roaming at Rinchenpong
- Barsey – A Walk among the Rhododendron Trail
- Rabdentse – Ruins of an Ancient Capital of Sikkim
- Things to do in Gangtok, Sikkim