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Yumesamdong Highway
Beyond Yumthang - day excursion to Yumesamdong

North Sikkim

The Sikkimese often contend that North Sikkim is as beautiful as Switzerland. You may hear it when you get there, or see it repeatedly mentioned in various brochures and guide books. Why? Several decades earlier, a European guest of our late king had passed a remark to that order, and now the legend lives. True to this erstwhile visitor’s remark, many others after him have also reiterated the fact that North Sikkim is indeed truly beautiful.

Although much of North Sikkim can be toured with ease in the comforts of surface transportation, the remarkable Green Lake region offering a unique trekking experience does call for several days of rigorous walking with logistical support of a camping outfit. The rewards of this trek are fantastic close up views of Mount Kanchenjunga and another Himalayan beauty, Mount Siniolchu proclaimed by many zealous international mountaineers to be the most beautiful peak in the world. Visit North Sikkim if you are in quest of an exhilarating holiday experience.

The journey to the North follows the North Sikkim Highway, an adventurous drive through high hills and deep river valleys that ultimately ends up in the foothills of the Himalayas where gentle meadows overlook snow-clad rocky mountains. The ever-changing views along the way include rustic wayside hamlets surrounded by terraced fields, monasteries, torrential mountain streams with lush green forests everywhere.

Kabi Lungchok
Situated 17 kilometers from Gangtok along the North Sikkim Highway, this is the historical spot where blood brotherhood was solemnized between the Bhutia chieftain Khey Bum Sa and the Lepcha priest king Thekong Tek in the days of yore. Beneath a canopy of a dense virgin forest is a memorial stone pillar that marks the spot.

Kabi Lungchok
Kabi Lungchok

Phensong Monastery
Situated 27 kilometers along the North Sikkim Highway is the Phensong Monastery. It was built in 1840 by Lama Jigme Pawo, and is regarded second only to the Pemayangtse Monastery for the Nyingmapa sect. It holds its annual chham on the 28th and 29th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan Lunar calendar.

Phensong Monastery
Phensong Monastery

Phodong Monastery
One of the six premier monasteries of Sikkim, Phodong Gompa is situated 38 kilometers from Gangtok. This monastery belongs to the Karma Kagyu sect and was built by Chogyal Gyurmed Namgyal in 1740.

Labrang Monastery
Just four kilometers from Phodong is the Labrang Gompa, a monastery unique among all others in Sikkim for its unique architectural design.

The Dzongu hills of North Sikkim, an area largely inhabited by Sikkim’s indigenous Lepcha people had been proclaimed a special reserve for its occupants since the times of monarchy in the state, with the rule still in effect even today. More . . . <Hyperlink>

A small hamlet some 70 kilometers along the North Sikkim Highway from Gangtok, Singhik perhaps offers the most magnificent view of the Khangchendzonga range. More than anything else, it is the viewing angle from this position that enhances the beauty of of Sikkim’s guardian deity.

Kanchenjunga Range from Singhik
Khangchendzonga from Singhik

An idyllic mountain village set amidst apple orchards and lofty peaks on both sides, Lachung at an altitude of 2,500 meters above sea level permeates an ethereal alpine glow. Peopled by a hardy stock of Bhutia who pride in calling themselves Lachungpa, this is a unique settlement having its very own self-governing body called the zumsa where all local disputes are settled by consensus. More . . . <Hyperlink>

Set at an elevation of 3575 meters above sea level, the Yumthang Valley is Sikkim’s undisputed natural paradise that is easily accessible via road. (There are of course many more areas in Sikkim that surpass Yumthang’s scenic grandeur, but these remain off the beaten track.) In the summertime the attractive scenery of this area reaches its zenith when an immense variety of alpine flora of cascade the meadows, hills and the valleys. More . . . <Hyperlink>

Set at an altitude of 2750 meters, slightly higher than that of Lachung, Lachen too has its apple orchards and alpine views. Lachen is the starting point to some of North Sikkim’s most interesting treks.

Gurudongmar Lake
Yet another dazzling Himalayan spectacle that is accessible by road in North Sikkim is the high altitude lake of Gurudongmar. One of Sikkim’s highest lakes, it is set at an altitude of 17,100 ft / 5,148 m. and lies on the northern side of the Khangchengyao Range high in the Tibetan Plateau. The stream emerging from the lake is one of the sources to the Teesta River.

The lake remains completely frozen from November till mid-May except for one small part of the lake which is said to have been touched and blessed by Guru Padmasambhava. Held sacred by the Sikkimese Buddhists, its waters are supposed to have healing properties.

Gurudongmar Lake
Gurudongmar Lake

Green Lake
To the unfamiliar, and at the mention of the name, Green Lake, it is quite likely conjure an image of a beautiful high altitude emerald water body, but sadly this no longer holds true. By the turn of the last century, this lake had disappeared completely. In 1899, D. W. Freshfield observed the phenomena (of the dry bed) in the midst of the Zemu and the Green Lake glaciers.

Mount Siniolchu
Mount Siniolchu viewedfrom the Green Lake

However, all that is offset by the superb close-up mountain-views from here, especially that of Mount Siniolchu, a symmetrical marvel of nature considered by many mountaineering veterans to be the world’s most beautiful peak. And of course, another glorious sight of Mount Khangchendzonga, but this one is definitely a pick above the rest. A spectacular close-up of the world’s third highest mountain barely 10 kilometers away reveals almost every minute detail on its surface. The smooth outlines that one is so accustomed to while viewing it from afar now appears more like a razor’s cutting edge while along the slopes coarse chunks of granite protrude above the snow cover unmasking this indomitable mountain’s mold.

Kanchenjunga view from Green Lake
Khangchendzonga, viewed from the Green Lake

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