Lachung Circuit :
About 52-km from Gangtok lies Mangan, the head quarters of North Sikkim, the largest district of the state. Mangan is famous for large-scale organic farming. The town serves as the gateway to Lachung and Yumthang~ two most picturesque destinations in Sikkim that are rightfully compared to the valleys in Switzerland.
The journey from Mangan to Lachung offers a scenic experience as the vehicle along the banks of riverTeesta and beautiful waterfalls standing in greetings at regular intervals. The prominent among them is Bhim Nala, aka Amitabh Bachchan Waterfalls as a scene of the film 'Ankhen' starring the superstar was shot here.
The first break comes at Chungthang near the confluence of Lachung and Lachen rivers. It is also the point from where a diverted road leads to Lachen ~ another valley of flowers.
There is a sacred stone at Chungthang having footprints of Guru Padmasambhava or Rinpoche ~ often referred to as the “second Buddha.”A visit the Chungthang Monastery surrounded by stone houses and large edifices are worth the time. It has rich collections of rare Buddhist paintings.
Some 22-km drive from Chungthang and one is at Lachung~ the picturesque mountain village that stands bifurcated by Lachung river. Lachung means "small pass". The village is at an elevation of 9,600 feet and is the place to halt for a night before the trip to Yumthang the next morning.
Lachung is famous for its apples, peaches,and apricots. At Lachung a must see is Lachung Gompa, a monastery built in 1880. It is situated amidst apple orchards across the river.It has wonderful wall murals and ancient statues. Also, visit the Carpet Weaving Center where you can see the local ladies weaving exquisite woolen carpets.
Next comes Yumthang ~ the Valley of Rhododendron flowers ~ located at some 25-km from Lachung. Yumthang is at an altitude of 11,800 feet. It is a vast stretch of flowering valley for miles replete with a dense bed of rhododendronsina variety of colors like purple, blue, red, pink, and so on.
Precisely, because of the vast bed with high mountains serving as the backdrop, that Younthang is compared to Switzerland. The Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary located nearby is home to over 38 different varieties of rhododendrons. Sikkim forest department holds International Rhodendron Festival here from March-May every year.
Other than the valley of flowers, Yumthang offers a splendid view of the mountain peaks Pauhunri and ShunduTsenpathat formthe backdrop to theTeestariver flowing at the bottom.Yumthanghas a hot spring by its name. The spring water has rich medicinal value and is directed to thepools inside a hut for tourists to take a bath.
A further upward travel for 23-km will lead to Yume Samdong, which is more popular as Zero Point. Located at an altitude of 15,000 feet, it is called Zero Point because there is no road beyond this place which stands on the border of China.
Yume Samdong remains snow covered for the most part of the year. It is the meeting point for three mountainous rivers with snow-clad mountains standing in the surroundings. The scene is really breathtaking!One can often see yaks grazing in the snow.
Near to Yume Samdongis Katao, a valley sparsely covered with poppy, primulas, and rhododendron.
In India, you have several areas that enjoy the autonomous status and have special rules to protect the political and land rights of tribal communities. But ever imagined of a protected area to safeguard the culture and way of life of a community?
Well, that’s Dzongu in North Sikkim ~ a reserve for the Lecha community.Lapchas are the aboriginals of Sikkim and have lived here for centuries. This made the erstwhile monarchof Sikkim to notify Dzongu as a reserved area for the community.
Lepchas believe, if one spends his life in nobleactivities, he is rewarded by eternal bliss in Mayal Lang, that is, heaven. The community considers Dzongu to be 'The Bridge to the Mayal Lang.”
The attachment to Dzongu is such that when the Sikkim government decided to build hydropower projects on river Teesta here, the entire community rose in protest. Their hunger fast that ran for months made the government to scrap the project.
Dzongu is a triangular region surrounded by Teesta river to the south-east, Tholung Chu river to the north-east, and by mighty Mt Khangchendzonga to the west. It borders the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve.
The terrain of Dzongu is amazing. There are icy cold rivulets that must be crossed to enter hot water springs. Then there are luscious green forests full of exotic flora and fauna. As many as five natural waterfalls dot the area covered with dense vegetation. Paddy fields and cardamom plantations make up for the surroundings for the villages.
In order to visit to reach Dzongu, one needs a special permit issued at Mangan, some 52-km from Gangtok. After this, one needs to travel for about 20-km from Mangan to reach Dzongu. Tourists are also required to book a homestay accommodation in advance.
But you need not worry! Global Connection will take care of everything from permit to transport to accommodation. While at Dzongu, one has a host of activities to embark on.
Start with a visit to Hee Gyathang in Lower Dzongu. It is a small natural lake, considered sacred by the Lepchas.Then trek to Pentong to catch a close view of the snow-capped mountains.
A visit to the Traditional Lepcha House Museum at Namprikdang, near the confluence of Teesta and Rongyung Chu rivers, is worth the time and energy. The museumis a real-life model of traditional Lepcha house with a museum inside. The surroundings are replete with a wide variety of butterflies.
Dzongu has as many as five waterfalls at a short distance. Of them, Lingzya falls is the best and is popular for bathing.
One cannot but miss an opportunity to be at Keushong, considered the most pristine place in Dzongu. It has a very beautiful lake and hills all around. Keushong remains covered with flowers in the summer.
Located some 20-km from Passingdang, on the way from Mangan to Dzongu, is Tholung Monastery. The monks put out on display the rich treasures of the monastery every three years. There is a beautiful cane bridge in the vicinity.