With picturesque landscapes, surreal skies and snow capped mountain peaks, North Sikkim is a destination, the beauty of which cannot be described with words. The entire region is located in a close proximity with China’s Tibet autonomous region and thus is a protected area. The high altitude lakes, secluded villages, holy caves and serene valleys will leave you speechless at every twist and turn on the journey.

A winter morning in the village of Lachung in North Sikkim

While North Sikkim is a sought-after destination to experience a snowy vacation, a lot of travelers often face a lot of confusion on whether they can take their kids to North Sikkim or not, how to book their trip and where to get the permits from. I’d attempt to break down every possible detail about North Sikkim in this blog and share my personal experiences, with a hope that it’d come in handy when you plan a trip to North Sikkim.

 

How many days do you require to visit North Sikkim?

The usual North Sikkim circuit is covered by tour operators on a 1N/2D or 2N/3D package. With that, you’d have to add two extra nights in Gangtok, as you cannot start your journey on the day of arrival or depart on the day of reaching back to Gangtok. The same applies if you wish to explore other parts of Sikkim before or after visiting North Sikkim.

In case you find a tour agent offering you a customized trip including offbeat destinations of the area, you may opt to spend about five days in North Sikkim. Two additional nights in Gangtok to be added as usual.

 

How can you book your trip to North Sikkim and get necessary permits?

It should be noted that North Sikkim is a Protected Area and parts of it falls under Restricted Area (Thangu, Gurudongmar Lake). One needs a Protected Area Permit to travel to North Sikkim which can be obtained only against Voter ID or Passport.

Please Note that Aadhar card, Driving license and Pan card are NOT ACCEPTED.

You can opt to take a shared package of either 1N/2D or 2N/3D which would cost about INR 1500 and INR 3000 per person, respectively. The costs may vary depending on the season and demand. These packages are inclusive of travel, accommodation and three meals, which is quite cheap for the experience that awaits you. The shared part is only about the vehicle where you may be allotted seats with other groups. The accommodations are private in twin or triple rooms.

If you’d want a vehicle only for yourself, the cost goes higher by about four times. The bigger your group is (six to ten), the cheaper the cost per person would be. But for instance, an exclusive package for 2N/3D for four people in an Innova would cost around INR 32,000 or more.

As you book your trip, the tour operator would ask for your documents (Voter ID/Passport + a couple of passport size photographs) and make arrangements for the necessary permits.

Prayer flags fluttering against the backdrop of the snow capped peaks in North Sikkim

 

How to plan for your trip to North Sikkim – A step by step guide

Step 1 – Book your tickets to Bagdogra Airport/New Jalpaiguri Railway station. Upon arrival, you would have to reach Gangtok.

Step 2 Book an accommodation in Gangtok for the day of your arrival and the night after reaching back to Gangtok.

Step 3 You could start looking for tour operators online to book a package for North Sikkim but my personal experience would suggest you to make bookings in person as it cuts down the costs. There are plenty of tour agents in MG Marg area and across the entire city of Gangtok and you can enquire directly and book your trip. (For shared trips, the facilities of accommodations provided by all tour operators are same, so being choosy wouldn’t make a difference)

Step 4 – Book your package (either online or in person) and hand over the necessary documents required for permits.

Step 5 – If you have opted for a shared trip, make sure you reach the taxi stand early to grab the best seat. You’re good to go now.

 

What to see in North Sikkim

LACHEN

Bird's eye view of the village of Lachen

With a bumpy ride covering 121 kms from Gangtok, it could take anywhere between 6-8 hours to reach Lachen, depending on the road conditions. Situated at the height of 9000 ft, Lachen is a quaint village, secluded on a mountain top. You could hike up to Lachen Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries of Sikkim or take a walk along an unknown trail. The best way to explore this village is to go by foot and expect nothing. It is the generous smiles on the faces of the locals and a mesmerizing sunset that will remain etched in your memory.

 

GURUDONGMAR LAKE

Gurudongmar lake happens to be the major highlight of North Sikkim. This gorgeous lake, situated at 17,800 ft and surrounded by snow clad peaks of the Himalayan ranges is a treat to the eye. The sun rays on the sparkling clean water and colourful prayer flags fluttering all around the lake, makes it look absolutely dreamy.

A surreal view of Gurudongmar Lake in the month of April

The lake is also considered holy by the locals. According to legends, there used to be no source of water in the area as the lake remained frozen throughout the year. Locals prayed to Guru Padmasambhava and he touched the lake, which now never freezes even during winters.

People who have any difficulty with breathing should avoid visiting this place as oxygen level goes down and it’s often difficult to breathe. The journey to Gurudongmar Lake starts somewhere around 4 AM from Lachen and travellers are expected to head back to Lachen before 10 AM as the weather conditions start to become rough post 10 AM.

 

LACHUNG

Wooden houses in Lachung that have been converted into homestays

The other village which serves as the base to proceed towards other destinations in North Sikkim is Lachung. It’s a quiet and serene village from where you can head to Yumthang Valley, Zero Point and Katao. You’d mostly be spending your evenings and nights in Lachung after a day’s trip to the above mentioned places. The laid back life of Lachung is what makes it special. The fire woods stored at the entrance of every house, huts offering magi, tea and local alcohol and the snow covered peaks serving as a backdrop to this quaint village, altogether makes the village appear as a wonderland.

 

YUMTHANG VALLEY

The calming sight of Yumthang Valley

Yumthang Valley, also known as a ‘valley of flowers’ is a paradise in all sense. Also home to Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, this breathtaking valley, on an elevation of 11,800 ft, changes colours every season – from various shades of rhododendrons making the valley look like an artist’s colour palette in Spring to completely white with snow during winters. A visit to this unique valley is a must on your trip to North Sikkim.

 

ZERO POINT

Literally marking the end of roads, zero point is a treat to the eyes

Yumesamdong, commonly known as Zero Point is basically a point where the roads end. This place has nothing in specific but the vibe of the place and the sight of Teesta river curving between the mountain ranges is enough to leave you in awe of nature’s beauty. Usually, Zero Point is not included in a package and one may pay the driver an extra amount of INR 2000 approximately (for an entire vehicle consisting 10 people) to take them to Zero Point if time permits.

 

KATAO

The beautiful snow capped peaks of Mt. Katao is known as Switzerland of India for all good reasons.

Katao, 28 kms away from Lachung is one of the most scenic places to be visited in North Sikkim. One would have to start their journey from Lachung to reach Katao, a heavily guarded area because of the closeness to Indo-China border. This spot is often termed as Switzerland of India because of its unparalleled beauty. There are a plenty of activities like snowboarding, skiing, snow tubing and stone grinding that awaits in Katao for adventure seekers.

 

DZONGU

Dzongu, an offbeat destination in North Sikkim is not yet known to many. The region falls under the Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve and is rich in medicinal plants and herbs. Dzongu is inhabited by the Lepchas, who believe to have descended from the mountains.

The experience of watching sunrise from Dzongu is incomparable. The snow capped peaks of Kanchendzonga appears to be at a stone’s throw away. You may even take a hike to the river bed at Passingdang, visit the natural Hot spring and spend some time with the local people while sipping on millet beer, made in almost every household. The charm of the place lies in the warmth provided to the guests by the local people. You’d surely come back with fascinating stories after a visit to Dzongu.

 

North Sikkim Travel Itinerary

5  Day North Sikkim Road Trip Itinerary

If you go by the shared trips, a 2N/3D package is what will suit you best. The itinerary would roughly look like this:

    • Day 1: Arrive at Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri and head to Gangtok. Spend the evening in Gangtok and stroll around in MG Marg.
    • Day 2: Start from Gangtok and reach Lachen. Explore Lachen monastery and rest in the evening.
    • Day 3: An early morning drive to Gurudongmar Lake and return to Lachen. Transfer to Lachung in late afternoon and spend the night in Lachung.
    • Day 4: Explore Yumthang Valley and Zero Point and return to Lachung. Post lunch, head back to Gangtok.
    • Day 5: Leave for Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri early in the morning. Your flight/train should be scheduled post 3 PM.

 

7 Day North Sikkim Road Trip Itinerary

If you can manage to find a customized trip or an exclusive trip, you may go by the following itinerary:

    • Day 1: Arrive at Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri and head to Gangtok. Spend the evening in Gangtok and stroll around in MG Marg.
    • Day 2: Start from Gangtok and reach Lachen. Explore Lachen monastery and rest in the evening.
    • Day 3: An early morning drive to Gurudongmar Lake and return to Lachen. Transfer to Lachung in late afternoon and spend the night in Lachung.
    • Day 3: Explore Yumthang Valley and Zero Point (Katao could be an alternative to these two places) and return to Lachung. Spend the night in Lachung.
    • Day 4: Drive to Dzongu, an offbeat destination in North Sikkim and soak the vibe of the village, free from the regular crowd.
    • Day 5: Spend the day in Dzongu to explore the village.
    • Day 6: Leave for Gantok from Dzongu. Reach by 12 PM to have half a day to explore Gangtok. Visit the restaurants/pubs in Gangtok.
    • Day 7: Leave for Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri early in the morning. Your flight/train should be scheduled post 3 PM.

 

Best time to visit North Sikkim

The best time to visit North Sikkim is between October-November and March-April. However, I’d personally recommend the season of spring i.e. mid March onward till end of April as Yumthang Valley blooms with flowers, making it look heavenly.

In the winter and monsoon months, the roads are usually blocked due to heave snow or rainfall thus permits are not issued.

You could also plan your trip during the time when Pang Lhabsol festival happens in North Sikkim. It is a vibrant festival held in reverence to the guardian deity Mt. Kanchendzonga. The festival usually takes place in the month of September. 

A traditional dance held at Lachen Monastery

 

FAQs – Answered

Q. Can I take my own vehicle or drive to North Sikkim?

Ans. No, you cannot take your own vehicle or drive yourself to North Sikkim. It is mandatory to book a vehicle with a registered travel company/tour operator and their driver would take you to the different destinations in North Sikkim. 

Q. What kind of permit is required to travel to North Sikkim?

Ans. A Protected Area Permit is required to travel to North Sikkim which is taken care of by the tour operator through whom you’ve booked your trip.

Q. Can I book my accommodation myself in North Sikkim?

Ans. Not really. The packages offered by tour operators are inclusive of travel+accommodation+meals. The accommodations in North Sikkim are anyway basic, with similar amenities in all the places. But if you book an exclusive/luxury package, of course the accommodation gets upgraded to a better one.

Q. Is it compulsory to book a package to travel to North Sikkim?

Ans. Yes. The only way to travel to North Sikkim is to book an all inclusive package through a registered travel agent, without which you would not be issued a permit.

Q. Are bikers allowed to go to North Sikkim?

Ans. Yes, bikers do travel all the way up to Gurudongmar Lake at 17,800 ft. The bike rentals arrange for the necessary permits and the accommodation can be booked by your own, with the suggestion of the bike rental company.

Q. Can I expect a good cellular network in North Sikkim?

Ans. No. The network is really poor in North Sikkim. Calls can be made once in a while but do not expect internet to work.

 

Travel Tips for visiting North Sikkim

    • North Sikkim is a completely plastic free zone so make sure you dispose all plastic packets/bottles before you leave for North Sikkim.
    • Always be prepared of the cold. The temperate often reaches minus degrees making it unbearable
    • While traveling to Gurudongmar lake, carry some munchies. It would help you to not run out of breath.
    • Avoid taking senior citizens to North Sikkim. The terrains are rough and the ride is very tiring.
    • Children below 10 years of age are not granted permits to travel to North Sikkim.
    • Carry enough cash while starting your journey from Gangtok. You would not find any ATM on the way or in North Sikkim, except for the only one populated place Mangan, the entry point to North Sikkim.
    • To know more about the regulations visit the official website of Sikkim Tourism.

 

Recommended travel partners for North Sikkim

 

To know more about the other places that you can cover in Sikkim, read this one-stop Travel Guide for Sikkim. And if Sikkim is a place where you want to be for a longer time, check out these destinations for an experiential stay-cation.

 

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30 Replies to “The North Sikkim Travel Guide”

  1. Thank you for putting up necessary details to keep in note will making the itinerary, would love to visit this wonderful places.

  2. Have always been in love with sikkim. Thanks so much for all the required information. This will definitely help me when planning the trip

  3. Did sikkim in 2018, but couldnt do north sikkim as we didnt get permits. They refused to let us ride to the north due to weather conditions. One of my biggest regrets!

    1. Yes, weather is a bummer at times. You should schedule your trip around April-May, if you happen to return some time. It will be worth a visit.

  4. This is a very useful guide to North Sikkim. Last time we were in Sikkim, we could not do this part of Sikkim. However, we plan to do so at the earliest. We are really enthralled by the prospects of visiting Gurudongmar Lake, Lachung, Lachen, and Yumthang.

    1. North Sikkim is a place that requires a whole vacation and planning in itself. You’d be having a great time if you travel slow in North Sikkim. Hope you guys make it there soon.

  5. Incredible photos! I would absolutely love to visit Sikkim. Your blog has definitely inspired me to add these places to my over flowing bucket list. This certainly looks like a nature lover paradise.

    1. Sikkim is such a mesmerizing place that I would want to visit there again and again.
      Your post has so much in detail that it’s just the right recipe for me to plan my travel at the earliest.

      1. Thank you so much! Yes, that’s the same way I feel about Sikkim. Having been there more than 3 times, I wouldn’t mind going again.

  6. This is an incredible itinerary and detailed write up about North Sikkim. I have a dream to do a slow travel in entire Sikkim and soak the beauty of the place. Your post is superb and I’m going to pin it for my sikkim travel.

    1. Slow traveling in North Sikkim is a dream that I too have. Haven’t quite figured out how to make that possible because of the existing restrictions and norms. But maybe someday soon.

  7. I was planning to visit Sikkim but the terrain always deterred me. I would like to know, is it good for people who are suffering from motion sickness? Please do let me know.

    1. For people with motion sickness, traveling to North Sikkim might be a bit too tiring and uncomfortable as it involves continuous long journeys. However, you could plan and visit Gangtok and South Sikkim. The terrains are comparatively smoother and roads are good. Check about places in South Sikkim here.SIKKIM – A one-stop Travel Guide

  8. Hey Michelle, firstly that’s one epic guide to North Sikkim. I didn’t know about permits, the story of Guru Padmasambhava and the lake that never freezes, and even the hot water springs. It’s indeed breathtaking. Must visit this place soon.

    1. I think words fall short when I try to express about the beauty of North Sikkim. If you haven’t been to Sikkim and ever plan on being there, do spend a few days in North Sikkim.

  9. Zero Point is definitely on my list of places to see. I have never been to Sikkim before and this is a great guide that provides me info about the North Sikkim. My best friend visited there and she said it was absolutely amazing. I do hope this pandemic ends soon so we can all start planning these places.

    1. Oh, you should definitely visit Sikkim then, after situation gets better. Do keep North Sikkim in your itinerary. It will be an unforgettable experience.

    1. Not sure if the lockdown makes a difference or not. People are usually allowed to stay there for only 20-30 minutes or so because of the low oxygen level and thin air. But nature does have its own way to heal and gets better when left on its own. I wouldn’t mind going back another time.

  10. Such a beautiful and mesmerizing place! Thanks for sharing a detailed itinerary for different days options. This is definitely going in the bucket list. I’ve been to Assam and Meghalaya and would really like to go to North Sikkim as well.

  11. Aah! High plateau, Himalayan mountains and the snowy cover to almosteverything there… your creative content actually made me have a virtual quick tour today hah! I have visited few places of North Sikkimand it’s still fresh in my mind now. Your descriptive writing helped more to recall.

  12. What an incredibly comprehensive guide, Michelle. After reading this post, I can’t think of any other doubts/ queries one might have for visiting Sikkim. You’ve covered all necessary points very well. Saving this for later. Thanks for sharing this with us!

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