Sikkim tour

Here is a comprehensive Sikkim tour guide. Sikkim is land of glaciers, alpine pastures, rhododendron, monastery, snow, tea gardens, herbs. It is extremely tourist friendly state of India. Because it is close to international border hence Indians need permit.  Tourism and Civil aviation department issue permit to visit certain attractions. While all foreign nationals need Inner Line Permit (ILP) to visit any part of the state.

Day wise break up of 8 day trip

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Itinerary of 8 day Sikkim tour

Indians need permit for below attractions in Sikkim tour:

  1. Gurudongmar lake
  2. Yumthang valley
  3. Zero point
  4. Tsomgo lake
  5. Baba mandir
  6. Nathula pass

Foreign nationals get permit only for below listed attractions: 

  1. Gurudongmar lake
  2. Yumthang valley
  3. Zero point
  4. Tsomgo lake

Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Myanmar and Nigeria nationals do not get any permit.

Most noteworthy, only Indians can visit Baba mandir and Nathula Pass.

Documents needed for permit in Sikkim tour 

  1. Passport (mandatory for foreign nationals)
  2. Indian nationals need IDs containing address like voter ID etc.
  3.  Passport size photograph (3 pics are required)

Permits are issued only through local tour operators. Hence I chose Sikkim Tours and travels for permit.

Click here especially for Travel tips

Why is Sikkim an ideal holiday spot?

  • Endless landscapes exhibiting natural beauty
  • extremely safe destination
  • humble, helpful and trendy locals
  • If you wish to explore a remote corner

How to book hotel in Sikkim?

I used MakeMyTrip to book hotel using “Book Now Pay Later” feature. As a result I did pay for hotel booking in advance.

Budget: 1200-1500 INR/hotel

Day 1: Reach Gangtok and check in to hotel

How to reach Gangtok, Sikkim

By Air: Siliguri (IXB) or Bagdogra (IXB) is the nearest airport.

From airport prepaid taxi are available to Gangtok. The price of prepaid taxi is fixed hence I paid 2200 (Indian rupee) for a private taxi in December 2016.

Travelling time between Gangtok and Bagdogra is 4.5 hours.

To be continued in next blog…

 

North Sikkim tour

Visit to North Sikkim need minimum 3 days. My trip included visit to Gurudongmar lake, Yumthang valley and Zero point. Click here for Sikkim tour – Part I

Interesting facts about Sikkim:

a)Vehicles of other Indian states are not allowed in Sikkim for sightseeing . Vehicles of other states can enter the state only to drop off the passengers at their hotel/home. Drivers should very well know the local routes and respect army restrictions which is otherwise a punishable offence.

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Facts about Sikkim

 

Day 2: Beginning North Sikkim tour by reaching Lachen (base village for Gurudongmar lake)

By road is the only available mode. Private or shared cabs can be hired from Gangtok. I chose for private cab from Sikkim Tours and Travels. Travel time between Gangtok and Lachen is 7 hours covering distance of 95 KM.

Why special visit to a lake:

i. It is one of the highest lakes in the world located at an altitude of 17,800ft

ii. It’s proximity to Chinese border

iii. It’s sacred nature due to the legends associated with Guru Padmasambhava and Gurunanak.

We were riding on SUV owing to the difficult terrain that was waiting to be conquered. Sikkim has mountainous terrain with lush greenery and waterfalls all over.

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Stopover for lunch en route to North Sikkim

Gangtok was windy at 19°C while in Lachen mercury had dipped to 11°C. Our body had to acclimatise both to mountain sickness and the temperature. We had early dinner in Delight hotels Royal Lachen and marked it end of day.

Day 3: Our ascent to Gurudongmar

We began our journey at 4 in the morning when temperature was negative and we were shivering. It took 4 hours of treacherous ride through snow clad peaks to reach the lake.

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Food available on way to Gurudongmar:

Since oxygen level and temperature is low around the lake, it’s essential that one should not have empty stomach.

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Food available on the way to Gurudongmar lake

The locals will let you buy the least quantity of liquor which will make you feel at ease with the temperature.

I was admiring the locals for hospitality, adherence to rough surroundings, hard-working nature, zeal to stay at native place and still make a beautiful today and better tomorrow.

15 Km before the lake is Indian army base camp.

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Snow covered mountain on the way to Gurudongmar
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North Sikkim tour

I bought handful of coffee mugs as a small token of saying THANK YOU.

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Gurudongmar lake

An interesting fact about this lake is that a part of it never freezes and devotees carry sacred water in containers.

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It is advisable to return to Gurudongmar lake army base camp max by 12 noon as the oxygen level dips further. We stayed at the lake for about 45 mins and began our descent to Lachen. During descent we saw alpine pastures covered with rhododendron tree all over. This state has maintained its raw form and is still flourishing.On reaching the hotel in Lachen, had lunch and left for next stop, Lachung.

To be continued in next blog

Trip to Sikkim – Unwind ME

Previously in this story

We quickly checked in to the hotel as it had already been a long day. We made hotel bookings of entire trip through MakeMyTrip using their feature “Book Now, Pay Later“. This gave us the flexibility of confirmed booking without paying anything and cancelling it anytime up to 2 days before the check in date. Our decision of bringing in ample cash was right. In the nation gripped with the wave of demonetisation, everyone was grabbing every opportunity to get hand on the paper currency.  We were asked to pay for the room tariff in cash. We were happy as we had already anticipated this situation and were prepared for it. Upon enquiring about the North Sikkim tour transportation, hotel staff at the reception desk told they’ll connect us to the local tour operator.

First look at the room and it was nicee… Check out the room pics here.

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I always check the washroom first at any hotel/guest house. That way I ensure if the place has been cleaned properly before check in, it was super clean here. I grabbed the in-house restaurant menu and there came another pleasant surprise. The menu was full of vegetarian dishes whereas I was expecting that there may be just handful of them.  We quickly ordered for room service. Meanwhile our probable tour operator came in to meet us. Our idea of this holiday was not to rush anywhere.

Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to relax – Mark Black

We wanted to see whatever was feasible by spending as much time as we want at a particular place of interest. We had a chat with the operator and decided that we’ll take private cab for our first leg of journey as North Sikkim terrain was extremely rough and in the next 3 days we’ll see the second highest lake in India, Yumthang valley and Zero point the last outpost of civilisation.

Cost and tour operator details

I called up my parents to inform that I’ve reached Gangtok and as usual they said “Enjoy”. I stood by the window for a while to feel the air. Although it was cold but it was pure. There was something beside the hotel which I could not figure out what it is as it was dense dark outside. But far away Gangtok city was glistening in lights. I allowed this cool breeze to fall on me till the time dinner came in. Surprisingly, I was not interested in watching television or browsing internet on my mobile although WiFi connection was available. Something magical had already started to happen. 🙂 After having yummy dinner, quickly went off to sleep wrapping myself in a cosy blanket with wind passing in from time to time. Yes, that’s how winters are in North and East India. No matter how thick your blanket is but the cold air will find their way into your rooms.

Sun rises from the east, it was an early morning for me next day. I could hear some voices outside the window. I got up to see what I couldn’t the previous night. It was a football stadium and a group of boys were enjoying themselves in a match, game extremely popular in East India. All of sudden it clicked that I was in home state of Baichung Bhutia ,God’s gift to Indian Football.

And what a place to build the stadium, under the shelter of mighty Kanchenjunga, third highest mountain in the world.

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I turned back all happy and went downstairs to the reception to hand over the documents needed for permits. As we were to leave for Lachen by 9.30 AM; a town which acts as night halt for tourist intending to visit Gurudongmar lake, we got ready and had delectable complimentary breakfast at the hotel. By the time we were done with it, our cab had reached the hotel and driver had the required permits. Talking about the cab, since next 3 days would take fitness, stamina, endurance test of not only us but also the vehicle, so we had Mahindra Xylo, a beast at our service.

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Rainbow among pure air

We checked out, loaded luggage in the CUV(crossover utility vehicle) and embarked towards Lachen.

To be continued in next blog…

 

Attachment with the detachment

Previously in this story

In today’s world we can literally see any place without being there. The endless number of IP addresses listing the itineraries, photographs, video, forums and but of course social media has covered every corner of the planet where human reach is possible. Amidst this I thought to keep this holiday simple. Since I left the planning on Priyanka, I decided that I won’t browse through internet for any photograph or video of places that we were going to visit. I wanted my imaginary painting to turn into reality only through what my eyes were about to witness.

We were about to take this trip at the time of demonetisation.  Oh yes, it was a game changing scenario in India. Big currency notes were marked as illegal in the first week of November 2016 and there was shortage of cash across the country. ATM were going dry minutes after they were being refilled and banks had massive queue in front of them. Government was insisting on the usage of plastic currency and digital transactions but both of us were not sure that how useful cards will be in one of the remote corners of the country. We decided that we’ll withdraw cash from banks and carry at least 30K in currency notes.

I told my parents about my plan just couple of days before I were to leave. First words from them were Achha hain, ghoomo and enjoy karo“. “It’s good, travel and have fun. Yes, my parents are super cool especially when it comes to travel. Also these words of encouragement were so much-needed as this was going to be a trip taken by only 2 girls. That’s a big thing in India. I’m also very lucky considering the fact that my roommate was also supportive. Days passed by and 1 night prior to leaving, I started packing. My heart was thumping with excitement and the child within me was grinning like anything 😀

To know what all I packed please visit here

I left from Pune on 16-Dec and reached Bagdogra on the same day by tea time. As travel time between Bagdogra and Gangtok is 4 hours, had heavy meal at the airport restaurant. We hired a private taxi to Gangtok from the airport, now I was eager to have the first look of the state. Bagdogra falls under the jurisdiction of West Bengal. In about  half an hour, hill ranges began on both sides of the road. We had taken the aux cable from the cab driver and were playing Bollywood tracks. Here came an interesting turn,  the driver seemed native of Sikkim and he had not utter a single word till now. All of sudden he picked up the lyrics of the song and started singing, we were taken by surprise. I asked him what all language do native people speak and he replied “Hindi, English, Bengali and Nepali“. It was a stunner as being at the far-flung corner I was expecting a local language.

I heard water gushing somewhere near and for the first time saw emerald blue colour water. I asked the driver and he told that it’s Teesta river. It’s source is Gurudongmar lake and the river flows through Sikkim and West Bengal before merging into Bay of Bengal. At around 4.45 PM IST, it was near dusk and by 5 PM it became dense dark. We were still around 3 hours away from Gangtok and the magic is strongest between dusk and midnight at these detached zones. I had heard about unusually short days in European countries but haven’t seen any till now. At that point I knew that next few days will definitely be treat to eyes and I was glad at not browsing through the web for visuals of this place.

Let Magic Happen

We entered Gangtok by 8.30 PM and  it took us another 1 hour to locate and reach to our pre-booked hotel. Why? GPS is not very effective in Sikkim; even in the capital city due to proximity with international borders. On our way to the hotel, passed by the famous Sikkim-Manipal university. In the darkness of the night, surrounded by hills and on the banks of Teesta river, the entire university was gleaming with the lights. First look of the campus and I thought “How lucky the students are who get the chance to become part of here?“.  In spite of narrow, curvy and arched roads, Gangtok has footpaths across the city and the locals judiciously use them. Oh yes another thing that I noticed was that local people no matter what may be the age were fit and trendy.

To be continued in next blog….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trip to Northeast India- Wait ends

Previously in this story

I took separate trips to Rajasthan and Kerala in the monsoon of 2015. Time passed by, I joined another organisation after taking a break of 3 months. I wasn’t sure that if I want to re-join IT sector. A friend convinced me with the suggestion of giving myself span of 2 months in the new organisation and if I don’t feel good, I can start looking for something new.

I decided to give it another shot but time stopped at professional space. The good thing about it was to raise a toast to the job that was paying the rent and sponsor my short trips. The feeling that there is so much to see and I should not miss any chance to  explore the world and endless landscapes had long seeped in. In Oct 2016′ an old roommate of mine discussed the idea of taking a trip to SIKKIM.  It took me less than 10 seconds to say yes. Thanks to the world of internet and increasing trend among Indians of posting their travel experiences and details, she had found an itinerary consisting of places to visit and number of days needed.

I was thrilled at the prospect of my long pending dream taking shape. No way I was letting this opportunity go, we decided to take it in 3rd week of December so that we can escape the shooting fares during Christmas and New Year. Also it will give us at least a month and half to sort out the logistics.

I immediately called up Tuts (friend with whom I discussed first the trip to north east) and told him about this trip. He was married by now so I invited his wife too to join us. He too became super excited but had to deny considering that he already had leave plans during later that month. I remember his wife’s words (“Aap ab pehle jaa rahe ho, dekhna ye kitne dino tak rote rahenge“) (“Because you’re going first and it was a dream for both of you, he’ll cry for next many days“)

Keeping the online itinerary as base, Priyanka (old roommate) drew a map on paper indicating the cities/towns we were about to cover. Gangtok, capital of Sikkim turned out to be base city for this trip. She took on the responsibility of planning the entire trip. We decided that it will be 9 day trip including the travel from our respective locations. As both of us were living in west and south India, we decided that we’ll travel by air till nearest airport to Sikkim which was Bagdogra, a town in the state of West Bengal.

In the first week of November, she looked for the flights from Pune and Bangalore and ensured that we were reaching Bagdogra in the gap of 1 hour. We booked the flights at the same time and once I had the tickets in my mail-box, I was so overwhelmed that a tear just stopped at tip of my eyes. Both of us were shouting in joy over phone as first step was taken on sealing the trip. Now there was no looking back.

Next 1 month passed away quickly. I told my friends at office about it and they were excited too. Keeping the hand drawn map, online itinerary and reviews on TripAdvisor as reference, Priyanka fixed the itinerary by deciding the towns/cities to visit, number of days at each town and booked the hotels. Sikkim does not have app based cab services. Through online forums, we knew that North Sikkim was going to be most difficult part of the journey. We decided to keep things simple and explore the transportation once we reach Sikkim. As there were certain places to visit which were expected to be covered in ice, we took extra precaution to ensure that we’ve right kind of clothing. Priyanka carried the medications especially for motion and altitude sickness considering that we were going to an altitude of 18K feet to see second highest lake in India. I went ahead with carrying the eatables which included sealed packets of namkeen, dry fruits, cup noodles, chocolates and digestive tablets like Hajmola. We carried eatables anticipating that there may be times we do not get a food joint.

Visit the below links for logistic insights

Continue reading “Trip to Northeast India- Wait ends”