Sikkim, India’s first fully organic state, is undoubtedly a box of treasure. Serene Valleys, crystal clear waterfalls, rhododendron sanctuaries and high altitude lakes add up together to offer to its guests a wide array of experiences. Even though Sikkim is a tiny state bordered by Nepal, Bhutan and China’s Tibet Autonomous region, even a month long vacation would fall short to explore the state to its entirety.
Sikkim receives a great number of travellers every year but most of them limit themselves to the touristy destinations. Apart from the towns of Sikkim that have gone through several layers of development, there are a bunch of destinations that are yet to be explored. Tourism in these offbeat destinations in Sikkim runs on the models of community and eco-tourism and thus people opting to go to these hamlets must travel responsibly.
Whether you are planning to head to Sikkim for the first time or have already been there, having a look at these unexplored getaways in Sikkim will only increase your wanderlust. So read further to know what awaits you in untrodden paths of Sikkim.
Hidden Gems in Sikkim
With abundance of nature and splendid views of the Himalayan ranges, Yangang is a lovely offbeat destination in South Sikkim. This lesser known settlement is situated at a distance of a mere 15 kms from Ravangla and 75kms from Gangtok, two most popular destinations in Sikkim. The village resides on a hilly terrain from where you can have a clear look at Bhaleydunga Hills and the Teesta River Valley meandering between the mountain ranges. Spending a couple of days at Yangang would teach you the beauty of slow and self sufficient village life.
How to reach Yangang
- Bagdogra airport is the closest airport to Yangang and New Jalpaiguri is the closest railway station.
- In all probability you’d be traveling towards Yangang either from Gangtok or from Ravangla, which can be covered by a private cab.
- To travel from Gangtok by a shared cab, you need to break the journey at Singtam. First take a cab to Singtam, then to Yangang.
- If traveling from Ravangla, a shared cab might not be frequent so it’s advisable to take a private cab to save time.
Suggested Stays in Yangang
Things to do in Yangang
- Take a tour of the lush green paddy fields in Yangang.
- Drive to Mangzing Waterfall.
- Spend a quiet day at the local monasteries.
- Go for a trek to Maenam Hill.
- Savour some lip smacking momos and other Sikkimese delicacies made with home grown vegetables.
- Explore the village with your hosts.
Kewzing, a quaint hamlet in South Sikkim is situated 10 kms away from Ravangla and about 80 kms from Gangtok. The village, occupied by families of Lepcha and Bhutia communities, runs several homestays in their traditionally constructed wooden houses. Kewzing is blessed to have been surrounded by monasteries on all four sides, including one at a close proximity. The hamlet has opened its doors to travelers very recently and runs on the principles of community based tourism. You could spend your vacation in Kewzing by exploring the chestnut forests and cardamom plantations, watching a hundred or more species of exotic birds and experiencing a legendary hospitality amidst bounties of nature.
How to reach Kewzing
- The closest airport is Bagdogra and railway station is New Jalpaiguri.
- Private cabs can be taken from Bagdogra, Siliguri, New Jalpaiguri or Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim at INR 3500 approximately.
- To travel from Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri/Gangtok by a shared vehicle, first reach Ravangla, and then take a cab to Kewzing.
Suggested Stays in Kewzing
Things to do in Kewzing
- Watch the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Pandim and Mt. Narsing every morning.
- Walk to Kewzing Monastery and engage in conversations with the monks.
- If you want to go for a longer walk, head towards Bon Monastery and Doling Monastery.
- Take a guided bird watching tour.
- Take cooking lessons from your hosts and taste Sikkimese snacks and beverages.
- Spend half a day at Ravangla’s very famous Buddha Park which houses a 130 ft high statue of Buddha, set against a marvelous backdrop of Himalayan ranges.
A serene destination in West Sikkim, Sribadam holds a treasure full of nature’s gifts that is not yet discovered by the mass. The village, comprising of about 300 houses, is set amidst forests, monasteries and beautiful lakes. Several mountain streams flow through this place and taking a dip in the crystal clear waters would be a thrilling experience. The homestays in Sribadam aim to preserve Sikkimese traditions and promote community tourism. The Phurpa Tordo Puja and Cham Dance that takes place in Sribadam’s Nyingmapa Palyul Dechen Gawelling Monastery in the month of December are one of the most popular festivals of Sikkim, so if you can, plan your trip during this time to experience the cultural extravaganza.
How to reach Sribadam
- Bagdogra airport is the closest airport and New Jalpaiguri is the closest railway station to Sribadam.
- From Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri/Gangtok, you can take a private cab to Sribadam that’d cost you around INR 3500.
- If you want to travel by a shared vehicle from any of the above mentioned places, first reach Jorethang by a shared cab and then take another cab to Sribadam.
Suggested Stays in Sribadam
Things to do in Sribadam
- Visit Phuntsok Choeling Monastery and its meditation centre in Sribadam.
- Spend some time by the waterfalls and two natural lakes – Baishi Pokhori and Jhor Pokhori.
- Go for hiking or mountain biking through the forest trails.
- Join the locals to learn about the process of producing wine, extracting wild honey and trout fishing.
- Head to Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary and Singshore Bridge – Asia’s second largest suspension brigde for a day’s tour from Sribadam.
The gateway to Kanchendzonga National Park and the base for famous Himalayan treks like Goecha La and Dzongri, Yuksom is an idyllic destination in West Sikkim where you would encounter Sikkim’s unknown history. Yuksom was the first capital when Sikkim was an independent nation and the coronation of the first King is said to have taken place in Yuksom in 1641. The village is dotted with several ancient monasteries, enchanting lakes and forest trails where you could leave off for a short hike. With several homestays that have now opened up for hosting guests, Yuksom can be said to be a perfect example of eco-tourism.
How to reach Yuksom
- Bagdogra Airport is the nearest airport from Yuksom while New Jalpaiguri is the closest railway station.
- You can take a private cab to reach Yuksom from Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri or other towns in Sikkim like Gangtok, Ravagla or Pelling.
- To travel by a shared cab from Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri, you have to first travel to Jorethang and from Jorethang another cab will take you to Yuksom.
- From Gangtok, you can break the journey at Pelling to explore few places and Pelling and then take a shared cab next day to Yuksom.
Suggested Stays in Yuksom
Things to do in Yuksom
- Take a tour of Norbu Gang, the Coronation throne of Namgyal Dynasty.
- Spend a few hours at Kathok Monastery and watch the fluttering prayer flags making an enchanting sight at Kathok Lake.
- Drop in at Dubdi Monastery which is considered to be the oldest monastery in Sikkim, established in 1701 during the reign of Chogyal Namgyal.
- Take a drive to Kecheopalri Lake, popularly known as the wish fulfilling lake. On the way, take a halt at Kanchendzonga Falls. Do not miss out on the ropeway ride over the waterfall; it almost gives us a mini zip-lining experience.
- Go for a trek to Kanchendzonga National Park and spot endangered Himalayan species like Sloth Bear and Red Panda.
Another fabulous offbeat destination in West Sikkim that is gradually making its place on the tourism map of Sikkim is Mangalbarey. This is an ideal place to land up for a stay-cation in the hills of Sikkim and enjoy a laid back life amidst the infectious vibe of nature. Several mountain peaks of the Eastern Himalayas like Mt. Narsing, Mt. Tolung and Mt. Simvo are located bang opposite to Mangalbarey and clear views of the same can be enjoyed every day right from your window. If you’re looking forward to spending a vacation where you feel as if you’ve found a new home in the mountains, Mangalbarey is the place you need to be in! The friendly locals and hospitable hosts would make your trip the most amazing one.
How to reach Mangalbarey
- Bagdogra Airport is the nearest airport and New Jalpaiguri is the closest railway station to
- From Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri/Gangtok you can take a private cab till Mangalbarey.
- To travel by a shared cab, first reach Jorethang from any of the above mentioned places and then take another cab to Mangalbarey.
Suggested Stays in Mangalbarey
Things to do in Mangalbarey
- Hike through the village roads till Lhuntse Monastery, which was built around 1850 A.D.
- Take a tour of the organic farms in your homestay.
- Relish on the best of Sikkimese cuisines, all made with home grown vegetables.
- Explore the village like a local and discover serene hidden spots not listed on the map.
Situated within the Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve, Dzongu is a picturesque village located in North Sikkim. With no tinge of commercialization, Dzongu is an ultimate travel destination for people who love to bond with unadulterated nature and local communities. This village is a Lepcha Reserve Area and is inhabited by the Lepcha community, who are believed to be the original inhabitants of Sikkim. Most of the major areas in North Sikkim are not open for foreigners but Dzongu is that one place which is open for foreigners as well. Both Indian and foreign nationals need to get a permit to enter Dzongu, which can either be arranged by your homestay or you can get them done yourself from the tourism office in Gangtok or Mangan. You can also add a couple of days to spend in Dzongu after you travel to North Sikkim.
How to reach Dzongu
- Bagdogra Airport is the nearest airport to Dzongu while New Jalpaiguri is the nearest railway station.
- Private cabs can be hired from Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri/Gangtok to reach Dzongu.
- To travel by a shared cab from Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri, break your journey at Singtam or Gangtok and take a second cab till Mangan. From Mangan, you’d most probably have to take a private cab till Dzongu as shared cabs are not frequent in that route.
- From Gangtok, take a shared cab till Mangan and then take a private cab till Dzongu.
Suggested Stays in Dzongu
Things to do in Dzongu
- Witness a bewitching sunrise against the backdrop of Mt. kanchendzonga.
- Take a hike to the river bed at Passingdang and visit the natural Hot springs in Lingdem.
- Head to Mamtam Lake and spend a quiet hour beside the waters. You could even take a dip if you are not faint hearted.
- Hike to Upper Dzongu through a trail between dense forests and cardamom groves up till Tholung Monastery situated at an altitude of 8000 ft. This trail is best known for spotting birds of the Himalayan region like Crested Goshawk, Rufous-bellied Niltava, and Himalayan Golden eagle.
Situated at a height of 10,100 ft, Zuluk is a sleepy town along the Old Silk Route in East Sikkim. Zuluk used to serve as a transit point for traders traveling between India and Tibet and is now considered one of the best places that offer unparalleled views of the entire stretch of Eastern Himalayas. Free from the regular touristy crowd, Zuluk and the 32 hairpin bends of the Old Silk Route is a famous stretch that bikers love to traverse. To travel to Zuluk, you’d need special permits which can be easily obtained from Sikkim Tourism office in Gangtok through a tour operator or a person having registered commercial vehicle.
How to reach Zuluk
- Reach Bagdogra Airport or New Jalpaiguri Railway Station.
- From Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri, take a shared cab or a private can to Gangtok.
- From Gangtok, either book a package from a tour operator or book a vehicle only from a registered tour operator or vehicle rental. They’d also arrange your necessary permits.
- Shared cabs are not available in this route.
Suggested Stays in Zuluk
Things to do in Zuluk
- While on your way to Zuluk,make a quick stop at Elephant Lake and Heart Lake, two of the most picturesque lakes on this route.
- Watch the most ethereal sunrise from Lungthung Viewpoint.
- Visit Thambi Viewpoint at dawn to get a panoramic view of the 32 hairpin bends of the Silk Route while the first rays of the sun lights up the entire stretch.
- Walk around in the village to catch a glimpse of birds like Satyr Tragopan or the Himalayan Monal.
A picture-perfect village in West Sikkim, Darap is situated at a distance of only 8 kms from its more popular counterpart, Pelling. The culturally rich village of Darap is inhabited by the Limboo community of Sikkim. With lush green paddy fields and cardamom plantations spread over the mountain slopes, and the sight of the majestic peaks of Kanchendzonga make the village of Darap look like a destination straight out of dreams.
How to reach Darap
- First, reach Bagdogra Airport or New Jalpaiguri Railway station.
- Private cabs can be booked from Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri/Gangtok to reach directly to Darap.
- To travel by a shared vehicle from Gangtok, first take a bus or Sumo to Pelling and from Pelling, reserve a cab from Pelling to reach Darap.
- From Ravangla, break your journey at Pelling and reach Darap.
- From Pelling, ample numbers of cabs are available to take you to Darap.
Suggested Stays in Darap
Things to do in Darap
- Hike to Rani Dhunga to experience scenic views of the Himalayas.
- Visit the Rimbi Waterfall, Rimbi Orange Garden and the Karchen Power House.
- Visit the holy cave in Nambu Village where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated.
- If you can plan your trip in the spring season, pay a visit to Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary to watch tons of shades of lovely Rhododendrons.
- Explore the village on foot and soak the charm of the Himalayas as you walk around some 200 year old traditional wooden houses.
- Make a day’s tour to the nearby attractions in Pelling – Pemayantse Monastery, Rabdentse Ruins and Pelling Skywalk.
Initially only known for ‘Borong Tsachu’ – a hot spring in the village, Borong is now gradually emerging as an independent destination for nature lovers and discerning travelers. Borong, situated 18 kms away from Ravangla is well known among Ornithologists as it is home to several species of exotic birds such as scarlet minivet and black magpie, which also makes it a paradise for bird watchers and photographers. If you’d want to take a break from the fast-paced life and spend a vacation away from the maddening crowds of the touristy towns, Borong is the place you’re looking for. Even though it is not too far from Ravangla town, there is a drastic change in the sceneries, which becomes greener for inexplicable reasons as you reach Borong. Inspiring views of Mt. Sinochu, Mt. Pandim and Mt. Kabru will give you company throughout your stay in this alluring destination.
How to reach Borong
- Bagdogra airport is the closest airport and New Jalpaiguri is the closest railway head.
- From Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri/Gangtok, you can reach Borong by booking a private cab.
- You can also take a shared cab from Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri/Gangtok to first reach Ravangla and then reserve a private cab to drop you to Borong.
Suggested Stays in Borong
Things to do in Borong
- Visit Ralang Monastery to have a look at the extensive collection of paintings and thangkas displayed at the monastery.
- Head to Borong Hot Water Spring along the Rangeet River.
- Explore the lush alpine forests in Borong and the monastery in the village.
- Hike to Fatam Village and Barmeli Bridge, two extremely scenic spots located close to Borong.
- Relish on the surreal views of the Himalayan ranges all along your stay.
Okhrey is a tranquil village located along the state borders in West Sikkim which also is the gateway to Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. The village is primarily inhabited by Sherpa and Bhutiya communities who have started several homestays to host guests in their traditionally built houses. You can do absolutely nothing in this hamlet and yet make a bunch of memories. These peaceful hamlets in Sikkim are all about unwinding and striking a chord with nature, where you get lost amidst the mountain streams, forest trails and wildflowers.
How to reach Okhrey
- Get to Bagdogra airport or New Jalpaiguri railway station.
- You can reach Okhrey in a private cab from Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri/Gangtok or any other places in Sikkim.
- To travel in a shared cab from Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri/Gangtok, you have to break the journey at two places – Jorethang and Sombaria. The last leg of the journey from Sombaria to Okhrey is usually covered in a reserved cab as shared vehicles are not too frequent.
- To travel from Pelling, avail a shared cab till Sombaria and then a reserve a cab to Okhrey.
Suggested Stays in Okhrey
Things to do in Okhrey
- Go for a village walk and walk past the swirling prayer flags, mountain cottages and witness spectacular views of the river valley.
- Visit the two monasteries in Okhrey – Ugen Thon Meon Ling Monastery and Latteytar Monastery and watch the monks chant prayers.
- Head out on a short hike to Ribdi, a serene escape near Okhrey.
- Trek to the most talked about Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. You can spend a night at the sanctuary in the tents that are available for guests. You can enquire about the availability to your homestay hosts and ask them to help make an arrangement.
Best time to visit these offbeat destinations in Sikkim
The best time to visit any of the above mentioned places is spring season – the months of April and May. During these months, the flowers are at full bloom, adorning the landscapes with different shades of red, pink and yellow. The temperatures are also pleasant and there are no chances of rain.
The months of October and November are pleasant too and an influx of tourists is seen during this time. The skies are generally clear and views of the Himalayan ranges can be enjoyed during these months.
Winter months are extremely cold and most places receive snowfall.
Monsoon months that starts from June and lasts till September, should be strictly avoided as the roads are prone to landslides.
Things to remember
- Indians do not need any permit to enter Sikkim. However, a permit is required to visit Dzongu and Zuluk as they fall under protected areas. The permits can be obtained against Voters ID Card from the tourism office at Gangtok or Siliguri.
- Foreign nationals need an Inner Line Permit to enter Sikkim which can be obtained from any Sikkim Tourism Office at New Delhi, Kolkata, District Magistrates Office of Darjeeling, Siliguri, and Rangpo.
- It is advisable to carry some cash as these are remote villages and you might not find ATMs everywhere. E-payments might not be an option at most places.
- There are no commercial or luxury hotels in these destinations. All the villages run on the model of community tourism and the inhabitants of the village have converted parts of their homes into homestays. The accommodation is basic but clean and well maintained.
- Do keep in mind that mobile networks might not be at their best in most of these places. While some homestays might have WiFi, some may not. Check your requirements beforehand.
- If you do not have too many days to spend, you must opt for reserved vehicles as taking shared cabs might make you lose a lot of time.
- Be prepared to walk long distances and hike through rough trails as these hamlets are best explored on foot. You can read on how to prepare for a Himalayan Trek and be ready for the adventure well in advance.
- Most of the homestays are self sustainable and zero waste. So, please do not leave plastic waste when you travel to remote locations. The best is to carry reusable bottles and refill them.
- You can check Wizzride or NE taxi to book your cabs beforehand and save time.
If you have not traveled to Sikkim earlier, this One Stop travel guide for SIKKIM will definitely be able to help you plan your trip better.
Apart from Sikkim, there are many Offbeat Destinations in the Himalayan regions of West Bengal which you may want to know about and add to your trip.
Hailing from the foothill town of Siliguri, Michelle takes immense interest in storytelling, through words and photographs. Having a home so close to the mountains is what she considers a gift. A law student at present, she often takes time out to travel to the mountains and pen down her experiences. She believes in giving back to the community through volunteering in local projects and strongly supports community tourism.