PLACES OF INTEREST
North Sikkim - Lachung
Nestled in a fertile valley with lush vegetation and a river traversing its basin and set amidst apple orchards and lofty peaks on both sides, this idyllic mountain village permeating an ethereal alpine glow. In earlier days, Lachung was the quintessential weekend getaway for the local Sikkimese but only those with the appropriate connections to acquire a temporary permit to enter this restricted zone. Now, with entry procedures relaxed, visitors from around as well as from afar have easy access to this scenic alpine village at 2550m/8600ft, has transformed itself into a must-see spot for holiday-makers.
Lachung was once famous for its Cox’s apples but that seems to have died with the changing generation, nevertheless you can still catch the sight of some remaining trees, unseemingly barren and leafless in winter but radiantly flowering at spring. An immense rock-face towers above western slopes of the valley while the eastern side reveals a more benign perspective of a forested hill rising between an array of jagged snow capped peaks. All around is tranquility unsurpassed in a landscape of pretty painted cottages with prayer flags fluttering in the breeze. The Lachung Chu is a beautiful river that emerges from the melting snow high above. The village spreads widely and encompasses both sides of the river.
Families still cherish their yaks and yak herders still adhere to the age old tradition of migrating with the herd in search of green pastures as well as that of keeping away from heavily snowbound areas. In winter the yaks are driven down to altitudes as low as the village itself or even lower, but in summer, they head high up into the remoteness of the Tibetan Plateau. Surprisingly too, the village has retained its ancient tradition of the ‘dzumsa’, a unique self-government system where a head-man known as the ‘pipon’ is elected to chair the community where all disputes are settled in a very democratic manner.
The Lachung monastery plays an important role in the spiritual solace of the native Lachungpa, and to the outsider it is better known for the famous mask dance festival that it hosts each year prior to the Sikkimese New Year, Losoong.