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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . . .
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.
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 . . .
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 . . .
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.
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.
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 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.
Khangchendzonga, viewed from the Green Lake