About North Sikkim

North Sikkim is a district of the Indian state of Sikkim. Its district headquarters is Mangan. The district is the largest of the four districts of Sikkim. The landscape is mountainous with dense vegetation all the way up to the alpine altitude before thinning out to desert scrub towards the northern tundra. Numerous waterfalls astride the main road make the trip to this district extremely picturesque. India has earned itself a slice of heaven in the form of North Sikkim. Snuggling the Himalayas, this beautiful part of a Northeastern Indian state is a place unlike any other in the country. The breathtaking view of Mount Khanchendzonga, the fragrance of variety of flowers, the quietness of sparkling lakes and the gurgling of rivers like Teesta make North Sikkim a destination that no nature lover should miss. The people are mainly of Lepcha and Bhutia descent. Other groups include the Tibetan community. It also has one of the lowest populated regions of the state. Roads are in a poor condition owing to the frequent landslides. North Sikkim is home to the red panda (Ailurus fulgens), a vulnerable species. This animal is the pride of Sikkim and is also the State Animal. It is generally found between heights of 2000 m to 4000 m. It is as big as a domestic Siamese cat (approximately 2 ft long), has a triangular shaped face with a stripe on its cheek, with red fur and black eyes. It has a sprinkling of white on its back and chest. The tail is bushy, black or brown in colour and long like that of a skunk.They generally live on treetops. In 1977 North Sikkim district became home to Khangchendzonga National Park, which has an area of 1,784 km2 (688.8 sq mi).[10] It shares the park with West Sikkim district. It is also home to the Shingba (rhododendron) Wildlife Sanctuary, which was established in 1984 and has an area of 43 kms. Main attractions in North Sikkim are - Lachen & Lachung. Guru Dongmar Lake, Yumthang Valley, Yumesamdong, Katao and numerous waterfalls, North Sikkim is a paradise for Nature - lovers.


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Lachung

Lachung is one of the most exquisite villages in the valleys of North Sikkim. It is located in the North Sikkim district near the border with Tibet. Lachung is at an elevation of about 9,600 feet (2,900 m) and at the confluence of the lachen and Lachung Rivers, both tributaries of the River Teesta. The word Lachung means "small pass". The town is approximately 125 kilometres (78 mi) from the capital Gangtok. Embraced by snow - capped mountain peaks, breath-taking waterfalls, sparkling streams and apple orchards, Lachung has been described as the "most picturesque village of Sikkim" by none other than Joseph Dalton Hooker in his definitive, The Himalayan Journal (1855). Sprawled across the banks of the Lachung Chu [river] which slices the village in two, Lachung is famous for its apples, peaches and apricots. The entire valley gets a completely different look in winter when wrapped by thick layer of snow. A small monastery, Lachung Gompa, built around 1880, adorning a solitary hilltop is a perfect place for meditation. One can also go to the handicraft centre which has exquisitely woven rugs and blankets.

The town's economy has been boosted by tourism in recent years as the region has been opened up by the Indian government. Tourists come from all over the world to visit the town between October and May, mostly on their way to the Yumthang Valley and the Lachung Monastery. Most of Lachung's inhabitants are of Lepcha and Tibetan descent. Languages spoken here are Nepali, Lepcha and Bhutia. During winter the town is usually covered in snow. Lachung is also the base camp for Rhododendron Valley Trek which starts from Yumthang Valley and ends at Lachen Valley.


Sightseeing in & around Lachung

Yumthang Valley

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Yumthang Valley is a grazing pasture surrounded by the Himalayan Mountains in the North Sikkim district of Sikkim, India. It is at an elevation of 3,564 metres (11,693 ft) above MSL at a distance of 150 kilometres from the state capital Gangtok. It is popularly known as 'Valley of Flowers' and is home to the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, which has over 24 species of the rhododendron, the state flower. Yumthang is closed between December and March due to heavy snowfall. During the spring months, the area blooms with rhododendrons, primulas, poppies, iris and other flora. During the summer months, villagers take their cattle to these heights to graze. Skiing is also conducted in the valley.



Zero Point

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Zero Point / Yumesamdong is a beautiful place to visit during winter or spring. Best time of the year is March - April. During this time the area will be mostly snow covered & road is motor able. Oxygen density here is a bit lower, one should be cautious. From last week of December to May first week it is all covered with snow. The view will even be better and one gets to see the Himalayan Blue Sheep which is extremely rare, grazing on the pasture. Yumesamdong is also known as Zero Pont. Yumesamdong along with Yumthang and Katao make Lachung an extremely attractive travel destination. 

Naga Waterfall

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At a distance of 34 km from Lachung and 82 km from Gangtok, Naga Falls is a beautiful waterfall situated near Lachung in North Sikkim. Situated on Gangtok-Chungthang road, it is one of the waterfalls in Sikkim and among the must visit places in Lachung. Naga falls is one of the longest and the scenic waterfalls with very clean and ice-cold water. It is a multi-tiered waterfall. The main fall is quite far from the main road so one needs to trek on a rocky path to get the view. The place offers a panoramic view of snow-capped mountains all around. During monsoons the flow of water becomes extremely heavy and even dangerous.

Seven Sisters Waterfall

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Seven Sisters waterfall is located about 32 km away from Gangtok on the North Sikkim Highway. The name is given to this waterfall as it supposedly falls in seven stages. The fall changes direction seven times i.e. has seven bends, but only three are visible from the ground. This serene waterfall, seen in three distinct tiers has a small footbridge crossing over the stream to give the tourists a better view and photographic break. A further climb up the steps leads to another kaleidoscopic view of the waterfalls. To facilitate the tourists to savour the pristine beauty and to be with nature, Tourism and Civil Aviation Department has set up a waiting shed and cafeteria where they can take a break and shoot pictures. The fall is a must see picturesque beauty of Nature.

Lachung Monastery

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Cuddled amid the beauty of apple orchards with an amazingly tranquil aura, Lachung Monastery is one grand architectural pride of Lachung valley. Located at a height of nearly 2750m above sea level, it serves as a base for Green Lake Trekking and other mountaineering adventures in Sikkim. Lachung Monastery is an ancient Nyingma Buddhist Gompa positioned at the confluence of the Lachen River and Lachung River, tributaries of the Teesta River. A famous mask dance is organized every year in the monastery. A prayer wheel at the entrance of the Monastery welcomes tourists to the Handicraft and Handloom Centre. The statue of Guru Rinpochi or Guru Padmasambhava is seen within its premises. 

Bhim Nala Falls

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At a distance of 13 km from Lachung, Bhim Nala Falls is a gorgeous waterfalls situated at Khedum village near Lachung in North Sikkim. This is one of the tallest waterfalls in Sikkim and among the popular places to visit in Lachung. Located on Chungthang - Lachung road, Bhim Nala Waterfalls is also called Amitabh Bachchan falls due to its height. The water is falling from very high mountain and it looks like a three stage waterfall. The sound of water dropping can hear from far off. There is a tea shop and a small view point just opposite the falls which offers a beautiful view of the fall.

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Katao - The Switzerland of India

Nestled in the northern part of Sikkim, at a distance of 144 km from Gangtok and 28 km from Lachung, Mt Katao is one of the most stunning sights imaginable. Perfect for adventure lovers who like skiing, snow tubing, snowboarding, and grinding during the winter season, the surreal mountain provides a splendid view to its onlookers. However, to enter this area, a permit is required from the army since the place where Mt Katao is located at a military base.


Covered with natural vegetation including poppy, rhododendron, and primula, the base ground of Mount Katao comprises of numerous adventure sports activities. This amazing place is situated at an elevation of 15000 feet and remains covered in snow almost throughout the year. There is a zero point situated nearby which provides some spectacular views. 


The best time to visit Mount Katao is from March to June. However, in order yto enjoy skiing and snowboarding, winter months of December to February are ideal to visit. Katao is known for being the rival of Yumthang in terms of scenic beauty. Blessed with enthralling beaty, Katao is often known as the Switzerland of India.

Lachen

Lachen is a town in North Sikkim district in the Indian state of Sikkim. It is located at an elevation of 2,750 metres. The name Lachen means "big pass". The town is being promoted as a tourist destination by the Sikkimese government. The town forms the base to the Chopta Valley and Gurudongmar Lake. An annual yak race, the Thangu is held here in summer.

Lachen is about 129 kilometres (80 mi) from the capital Gangtok, and can be reached via a six-hour road journey. A short two-day-long trekking route also connects the Yumthang Valley to Lachen. It has a population of around 1,000. Lachen has its own system of rules and regulations known as Dzumsa. The heads of the Dzumsa are known as Pipon and Gyenbos. Situated at an altitude of 8500 ft. Lachen is alluring in its simplicity. It stands on a grassy and bushy flat land separated by deep gorges of river Lachen-Chu, from where rise the pine-clad mountains with their snowy peaks and black cliffs. The village comprises of less than 200 houses, earlier inhabited only during winters by their owners who spend their summers on the alpine pastures bordering Tibet tending to their yaks. The town commands a panoramic view of the Himalayan Mountains and is abundant in wildlife. The valley has almost everything a traveller could wish for: a land of fairs and festivals, snow-clad mountains, lakes, valley of flora, fauna and a vibrant local culture. The original inhabitants of the area are called Lachenpa. The area is restricted for foreigners, but special passes can be procured in advance. To the north there is the old town of Thangu where the daytime temperature varies from 4 to 12 degrees Celsius (40 to 55 °F), even in the months of June and July. Gurudongmar Lake can be reached from Lachen, a sacred lake in the Great Himalayas Region.

Sightseeing in & around Lachen

Gurudongmar Lake

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Gurudongmar Lake is among the important high altitude lakes of Sikkim as well as of India. Situated at a height of 17,800 feet, it is considered one the most sacred lakes by the Buddhists and Hindus alike. With its majestic emerald blue water, Gurudongmar Lake is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and a glacier which shares its name with the lake. The view of Mt. Siniolchu, Mt. Khangchendzonga and the surrounding mountains is breath-taking, especially with the snow clad mountain which look like it's freshly painted. During spring, the valleys are filled with flowers especially Blue Poppy which is very rare species. According to a legend, since the lake used to remain frozen most of the year, it was not possible to use its water for drinking purposes. When Guru Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Dongmar, passed by while returning from Tibet, the local residents approached him for providing source of water. The Guru touched and sanctified the lake, and thus, even in extreme winter, a portion of the lake does not freeze. Since the water of the lake is said to have curative properties, visitors carry the 'blessed' water in bottles. 

Gurudwara Gurudongmar

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Gurudwara Gurudongmar is located near Gurudongmar Lake. It is believed that first Guru of Sikhism Guru Nanak Devji visited the place during his trip, Udasi to China and Tibet. A Gurdwara was constructed in the eighties to commemorate Guruji's visit to the place. The present Gurdwara structure was renovated by Jawans of 22 Sikh Regiment (Indian Army) during own tenure from December 2009 to May 2011. It is believed that Guru Nanak Devji dug with his walking stick at the place where ultimately the stick has grown into a tree which has trunk in stick shape and the leaves are below the rounded trunk which looks like the handle of stick. An Amrit kund was also made to appear there by Guruji. It is also said that the yak grazers approached Guru Nanak Dev ji with a request, that they do not find water in winter as it gets frozen all over, temperature falling down to - 35 degree C. The Guru hit the perpetually snow-covered Gurudongmar Lake with his stick to provide water to the grazers. The ice melted giving way to crystal clear water. Since then the whole water of the lake is stated to never freeze. The people of the area consider the water of the lake as nectar.

Thangu Valley

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Thangu, situated at an altitude of 13,500 ft. is a beautiful village which is about two hours ' drive from Lachen. It is a comfortable village where the tourists usually choose to relax before they proceed to Guru-Dongmar Lake, Muguthang or Cho Lhamu Lake.The ideal time to travel to this place would be between the months of May and June, during which, the entire valley gets decorated with vibrant alpine flowers and the heavy snow covers up these beautiful beds of flowers in the cold months between October and March. In Thangu, one can catch a glimpse of the rows of trees and as one goes more upwards, the beautiful view of Tibetan Plateau begins. For people who are nature lovers, Thangu is a perfect gateway. The spectacular hiking trails from Thangu to places like Chopta Valley and Muguthang enhance the beauty of the village. Since Thangu is near the border between India and China, there is also a big military base present in Thangu.

Chopta Valley

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Chopta Valley is a popular tourist destination in North Sikkim. The valley can be reached from Lachen on the way to Gurudongmar Lake. Lachen is the place where you are most likely to stay overnight if you are traveling to North Sikkim destination of Gurudongmar Lake.The valley of flowers as it is known is a riot of colors during summer months. As you approach the valley, you can see the tall trees of Lachen area slowly going away and smaller shrubs becoming more common. Beyond Chopta valley greenery wanes even further and the pasture turns quite devoid of vegetation. From here the mountains starts to barren and sharp contrast to green Sikkim hills where you have spent the last few days.

Lachen Monastery

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Lachen ‘Ngodub Choling’ Monastery is located about 28 kms from Tsunthang Sub Division Office. It was built in 1858 A.D. with 8 monks. This Gonpa was first a small hut by built by Lama Karchen Dorje Drak. Later, Gelong Gonpu from Solo Khombu, Nepal came here. He was a student of Lama Karchen Dorje Drak. During his stay the old hut was dismantled and replaced with a new mud structure in the Earth dog year. He also stayed for three years and returned to Nepal. During this period the Gonpa had 10 monks. The number of monks in the Gonpa increased with time. It was fully reconstructed in the year 1977 with financial assistance from State Government. Now it is one of the major recognized monasteries in northern Sikkim.

Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary

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The Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary is located in Yumthang valley in North Sikkim. The sanctuary is surrounded on the east by Chuba-Sagochen mountain ranges and on the west by Chomzomei Tso that extends till the Lava Pass. The sanctuary covers an area of around 43 sq.kms, which comprises of several species of rhododendrons and lies at an altitude of 3048 to 4575 m. There are around 40 different species of Rhododendrons that lend the park a colourful look during the spring season. In addition to this, there are various other trees like Potentillas, Saxifrages, Primulas, Aconites, Poppies, Gentians and many more.