When you read the name of the trek or look it up on the internet, in all probability you will be reminded or be informed of the Panch Pokhari Trek that lies on the Eastern Himalayas in Nepal. But there is a beautiful trek route with the same name in Sikkim that people hardly know of.
While there are many other popular treks in Sikkim like Goecha La that are walked upon by a huge number of trekkers every year and are considered one the Topmost Treks in the Himalayas, this lesser known trek route is truly a hidden gem in Sikkim.
About Panch Pokhari Trek
‘Panch Pokhari’ translates to ‘five lakes.’ On this route, you’d be accompanied by enchanting greenery and panoramic views of the Kanchendzonga ranges. What makes this trek unique is the fact that it is not frequented by many people as it is the case with other trekking routes. There is no tinge of commercialisation and there are very few trek organizers who are mostly locals, giving you an experience of community-based tourism.
The trailhead of the trek is Phamthang, a secluded village in South Sikkim and the nearest town to the base village is Ravangla. Even though Phamthang is the base of the trek, it will be ideal to consider staying at Borong, another village which lies about 10km before Phamthang and has several homestays and options for accommodation.
The trek route cuts through Reserve Forests and Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary which opens up possibilities of spotting a Red Panda or Himalayan Black Bear.
It takes 3-4 days to ascend till Panch Pokhari – the five gorgeous fresh water lakes situated at an altitude of 14166 feet surrounded by snow capped peaks of Himalayan ranges. The view from Panch Pokhari is dreamy enough to make you feel that you have landed up in a magical world. From the highest point of the trek, it takes 2-3 days, depending on your capacity to descend back to the base – Phamthang.
The difficulty level is moderate and it takes 5-6 days to complete this high altitude trek.
Best time to go for Panch Pokhari trek
The best time to trek to Panch Pokhari is the months of April and May. During this time the various species of Himalayan flowers are in full bloom and the mountain villages are dotted by multiple shades of rhododendrons, making the sceneries reach an epitome of beauty. The exceptionally beautiful Himalayan flower Rheum nobile, locally known as ‘Sikkim sundari’ also blooms on the trek route during this time. The height of these flowers range between 3-5 feet and are fascinating to look at.
The time between August and October too is a favourable time to go for this trek. The skies are clear offering stunning views of the snow clad mountain ranges.
Winter months of November-February should be avoided as the route is covered in snow and the weather becomes extremely chilly.
How to reach Borong
- The nearest airport is Bagdogra Airport.
- The nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri.
By private/reserved vehicle
- From Bagdogra or New Jalpaiguri, you can directly reach Borong by a private cab. The charges would be INR 4000 approximately.
- If no cab agrees to take you till Borong, ask them to drop you at Ravangla. The cost should be between INR 3000-3500.
- From Ravangla, take a second cab till Borong, that’d cost you around INR 1000.
- The journey would roughly take 6 hours including a halt.
- If you wish you to travel by a shared vehicle, head to SNT bus terminus in Siliguri from the airport or railway station.
- From SNT bus terminus there are shared sumos available for Ravangla that’d cost INR 250 per person.
- Upon reaching Ravangla, take a private cab till Borong, which would cost you around INR 1000. There are little chances of getting a shared cab from Ravangla to Borong as it is a secluded hamlet.
Panch Pokhari Trek – Detailed Itinerary
Day 1: Borong – Phamthang – Aloo Tar
There is a motorable road till Phamthang so you can choose to cover this 8-10 kms by a car. The probability of finding a cab instantly in Borong is bleak and hence it is advisable to sort this out with your homestay host or trek organizer.
From Phamthang, the trek towards the first campsite starts where walk for about 5 hours to reach Aloo Tar. The trail is impressive and is covered with chestnut and oak trees. You would reach this site by late afternoon and can spend the next few hours to explore the area.
Day 2: Aloo Tar – Chandu
On day 2, you begin walking towards Chandu which is about 7 kms from Aloo Tar. This trail takes you through alpine forests and you get to see rhododendron forests. As you reach this campsite by afternoon, you can have your lunch and rest at an altitude of 9242 feet.
Day 3: Chandu – Gairi Orar
Day 3 is a long walk where you reach your last camping site, Gairi Orar where you’d camp at an altitude of 11286 feet just below the five lakes. Upon reaching, you can explore the vast alpine meadows or take rest to prepare for your final ascend on the next day.
Day 4: Gairi Orar – Panch Pokhari – Gairi Orar
The most waited day is finally here where you walk the last stretch of 9 kms with a halt in the forest of Majnagi Kharkha, to reach Panch Pokhari, the highest point of your trek. You could start very early on this day so that you get to spend some time by the lakes. When you reach Panch Pokhari, you’d realize that the view is worth the climb. The crystal clear waters of the five holy lakes will leave you mesmerized and it will be difficult for you to make your way back.
By afternoon, you can start to descend back to the campsite in Gairi Orar where you’d spend the night.
Day 5: Gairi Orar – Chandu
You take the same trail to climb down to the campsite at Chandu and spend the night on fifth day of your trek.
Day 6: Chandu – Aloo Tar – Phamthang – Borong
Pick up your pace on the last day of descend and descend down to Phamthang through Aloo Tar. You can choose to spend the night at Phamthang if arrangements can be made or may travel back to Borong.
Major attractions around Borong
After you finish your trek you may add in a few days to experience the vibe of Sikkim. Some may want to rest in the village while some may want to explore a few more places. A few of the nearby places of interests are listed below:
You must have come across this place on the day you had arrived. Once you finish the trek, you may head over to Buddha Park which houses a 130 feet high statue of Buddha and a beautifully maintained garden. This is the most popular tourist spot in Ravangla.
Doling Monastery and Seven Mirror Lake
About 6 kms from Ravangla, lies Doling Monastery and Seven Mirror Lake, away from the attention of tourists. This secret spot in South Sikkim has a very interesting story attached to it and it is believed that the footprints of deity Kanchendzonga’s Horse is still in the premises. There is a tiny lake in front of the monastery which is surrounded by prayer flags.
Located in Kewzing, Bon Monastery is one of the only two monasteries in India that belongs to Bon Sect. You can head to this monastery and have a look at the paintings of the Bon deities and well preserved scriptures of this sect.
Where to Stay in Borong
Recommended trek organiser
You can contact Mr. Deepak Thapa from Eco Tourism of Dhupi Karjee who has been organizing sustainable treks on the principles of eco-tourism while promoting lesser known destinations in rural Sikkim.
- Contact number: 8172041495
- Whatsapp number: 9600327819
Things to carry on the trek
Depending on what camping gears your trek organiser provides you, you will have to plan your part. But the basic trekking gears you should have in your bag are:
- Trekking Poles
- Raincoat and raincovers for rucksack
- Water resistant shoes
- Extra socks
- Munchies, snacks and energy bars
- Reusable water bottles
- Head Torch
- Personal Medical kit
- Tissue paper and toilet paper
- Hand Sanitizers
- Sleeping Bag (if you don’t want to use the one provided by your trek organiser)
- Indians do not need a permit to enter Sikkim but Foreign Nationals need an Inner Line Permit to enter Sikkim.
- You must be well accustomed to high altitudes and be moderately fit to go on this trek.
- It is not advisable to do this trek independently as it is not yet explored at great lengths and maps are not available yet.
- You could plan the trek through a trek organizer (check the recommendation) and plan the night stays and campsites accordingly.
- It’s advisable to plan the trek during the spring season –April and May, to experience the best of this trek.
- If this is going to be your first trekking experience, do have a look on How to get ready for your first Himalayan Trek.
To know more about how to plan a trip to other places in Sikkim, check this detailed Sikkim Travel Guide.
If these offbeat trekking experiences interest you, you must also check this guide to Hatu Peak Hike.And don’t forget to Pin this detailed guide about Panch Pokhari Trek for future reference.
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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.