Sunday, January 29, 2023


Everything you need to know about planning an EPIC trip in Sikkim

The trip to Sikkim was a memorable adventure. We will always remember the glittering glacial lakes and endless pastures. There…

By Chan , in Travel , at January 23, 2023

The trip to Sikkim was a memorable adventure. We will always remember the glittering glacial lakes and endless pastures. There were waterfalls everywhere. Quiet monastery towns. And scenic drives on some of our worst roads.

Beautiful sights around

  Sikkim is a state in India’s North Eastern region. It is only sometimes on tourists’ radar. It should. It has so many things to offer visitors. Its natural beauty will be hard to describe. Pelling and Gangtok have beautiful hotels and other sights to make your holiday memorable.

The journey can be difficult because of the poor infrastructure, particularly in North Sikkim. If this makes you anxious, you can skip North Sikkim to visit Gangtok or Pelling on your Sikkim trip. Or, opt for a trip in India to Ladakh, India (similar panoramas, better infrastructure). If you are an adventurer, here is our itinerary to cover Sikkim’s main attractions.

ITINERARY TO TRIP TO SIKKIM

  • Day 1: Fly to Bagdogra Airport, then transfer to Gangtok
  • Days 2 and 3: Explore Gangtok & the surrounding areas
  • Days 4-6: North Sikkim Tour: Visit Gurudongmar Lake, Lachen, Lachung
  • Day 6: Yumthang Valley, Gangtok transfer
  • Day 7: Transfer to Pelling
  • Days 8-9: Explore Pelling & the Surroundings
  • Day 10: Bagdogra Airport Transfer and Flight Back Home

These drives are too good to pass up.

BUDGETING TO SIKKIM

Valid October 2017: Expenditure for a 10-day trip for a couple is INR 90,000. (PS1000). This amount will vary depending on the airport you fly from and which hotels you choose. Here’s the breakdown

  • Flying (New Delhi- Bagdogra), INR 12000 per Person
  • North Sikkim Tour (2N/3D), including transfers, hotels, and permits, INR 25000
  • Bagdogra Airport to Gangtok Private Transfer INR 33500
  • Bangkok 1-Day Cab Rental for Sightseeing INR 2500
  • Gangtok- Pelling Private Transfer INR 4000
  • Rent a cab for sightseeing in one day INR 2500
  • Pelling-Bagdogra Airport Private Transfer in a Big Car (please don’t opt for a small car that has low clearance for this stretch of road, it is terrible) INR 4000
  • Hotels in Gangtok or Pelling – This is up to you, but we recommend setting aside at least INR 4000 to get a comfortable hotel.
  • Miscellaneous meals, entry fees, etc. INR 6000

GETTING AROUND in SIKKIM: CABS & ROADS

Sikkim doesn’t allow self-driving as there aren’t any rental cars. Although you could rent a car in a neighboring state, driving it from Sikkim is impossible. You will need multiple permits to access different places. We recommend booking transportation through a local agency to arrange tickets and taxi unions for you.

No matter if you pick a company that we recommend or your family/friends recommend, ensure that you have written confirmation that the type of transfer you selected (private/shared), what kind of car will be provided (4×4, 2WD, etc.) and a list indicating any additional inclusions (e.g., Cost of permits, day trips, etc. to avoid paying more later.

After reading many positive reviews on Tripadvisor, we booked all our transfers and North Sikkim tours with Galaxy Tours. We felt at ease because they were responsive online. We chose private transfers and a 2N/3D North Sikkim Tour. We were not completely satisfied with the service, but we would recommend them.

Sikkim is best to rent a larger and more comfortable car.

DAY-By-Day BREAKDOWN A TRIP TO SIKKIM WITH LOTS of TIPS

  • Day 1 – Fly to Bagdogra Airport, then transfer to Gangtok

On this day, you’ll arrive at Bagdogra airport. Expect a chaotic mix of tourists, taxi drivers, and agents as you exit the airport to collect your luggage. Although you can pick up a taxi on the spot, we recommend booking ahead.

  1. You are confident that you are in good hands and can rely on someone to hold you responsible for anything.
  2. It is unnecessary to spend time looking for a taxi and then bargaining on the spot.

A private Gangtok transfer should cost between INR 3000 to INR 3500, depending on whether you book a taxi right there or in advance. This Cost will be significantly lower if you opt for a shared transfer. You can expect a pleasant journey from Bagdogra Airport in Sikkim to Gangtok, with some bumps.

Accommodation in Gangtok

Gangtok has a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget. We chose to stay at a boutique hotel with a unique history. Elgin Nor Khill was the Royal Guesthouse for the King of Sikkim. Although it has been converted into a hotel, its grandeur remains intact. The lobby is filled with artwork and artifacts reflecting Sikkim’s rich culture. You could choose a room in the older, more traditionally-furnished wing or the modern wing that boasts clean cuts and contemporary furnishings. At check-in, we were welcomed with cherry liquor and big smiles. This continued throughout our stay. Elgin Nor Khill’s staff truly stands out. It was a great place to stay!

Be aware that the hotel is right next to Paljor Football Stadium. This location is excellent if you love the sport, but it can be annoying if not.

Beautiful room in Elgin Nork Hill Gangtok

  • Days 2 and 3: Explore Gangtok & the surrounding

Gangtok, the largest Sikkim town, is the ideal place to visit East Sikkim’s sights and sounds. There are many great restaurants in this bustling city. You can spend your time in Gangtok tasting local food and sipping local black tea while you observe the locals going about their day. Also, take the opportunity to visit some of the most impressive sights in the region. These are some of the places we recommend in Gangtok.

  • Take a stroll along MG Road. You can pick up souvenirs or sample local food like momos (steamed dumplings) and Thukpa (a hearty soup made with noodles).
  • You can find delicious momos (steamed dumplings) at Taste Of Tibet or up the stairs at Momo Roll Corner. These two hole-in-the-wall eateries can be found on busy MG Road. There are many momo shops in this area. We tried many, but these two were our favorites. You can grab a quick snack or meal on the move from this super-cheap place.
  • For breakfast or brunch, you can visit Bibliotheque or Bookman’s B&B cafe for a more relaxing place.
  • Spend an afternoon at The Tibetology Museum and get to know Buddhism better. Also, I learned about the monasteries of the region. You can combine it with a visit to Rumtek Monastery.
  • We recommend renting a car for one day if you are not planning to visit North Sikkim. (See the budgeting section for estimated prices) and visiting the various sites around the area, including the shimmering Tsomgo/Changu Lake or Tashi View Point. If you are visiting North Sikkim, you can skip these sights as there will be many waterfalls, glacial lakes, and panoramic views points.

Gangtok Walking Around

  • Day 4: North Sikkim Tour – Drive from Gangtok To Lachen

Let the fun begin (and your back pains). You will spend over 12 hours per day driving your rental car along roads that don’t deserve to be called roads for the next three days. So make sure you have snacks, music, and optimism.

Lachen is reached by an 8-hour drive, which requires waking up early and a long but scenic drive. Lachen, a small village, is the ideal place to stop the journey between Gangtok Lake and Gurudongmar Lake. Lachen is filled with nature’s wonders. Stop at waterfalls and brooks to take photos, or enjoy a cup of tea at a tiny restaurant with stunning Himalayas views. The roads in North Sikkim could be in better shape so that you will be exhausted. You have an exciting and long day ahead of you.

Such beautiful sights are to be expected.

Stay and eat in Lachen.

The price of the North Sikkim Tour includes basic accommodation and meals. We have discussed this in the budgeting section (INR 250000/PS300). Be aware that the accommodation is basic and small. There are no electricity or heating, poor bedding, and unreliable electricity. The hosts are friendly and will always provide hot water or extra blankets if you require them.

We recommend a North Sikkim Tour for those who enjoy comfortable accommodation. This includes a cab driver and driver, and you can book accommodation independently. You could also choose to stay at the Apple Orchard Resort, Lachen. We heard fantastic things about the hotel, even though it was closed then.

Day 5 – Visit Gurudongmar Lake, and stay in Lachung.

To make the exciting journey to Gurudongmar Lake (one of the world’s most remote and highest lakes), you will need to get up at 3 a.m. It takes approximately 5 hours to travel from Lachen. Because most roads in the area are gravel and pebbles, you will spend most of your time off-roading. The stunning mountain views will make you forget everything. You will be beckoned to submission by the bright blue skies and crisp mountain air as you approach Gurudongmar Lake. Before you know it, you will look at a sparkling water body surrounded by mountains and glaciers. You are here; this is it!

You can only do a little at 18000 feet other than to stop and marvel at the beauty of nature. Remember to take a few photos to capture the moment for posterity. Gurudongmar Lake is a stunning sight and a highlight of any trip to Sikkim. You should stay at most 30 minutes here due to the low oxygen levels at high altitudes. Then, you’ll drive another long and beautiful road to Lachung, where you’ll spend the night.

We are two at Gurudongmar Lake

If you feel fine, go down to the lakeshore

Stay and eat in Lachung.

The price of the North Sikkim Tour includes basic accommodation and meals. We have detailed the budgeting section (INR 25000/PS300). Lachung is larger than Lachen and, therefore, more developed. The hotel that is included in the tour costs only $125. It’s a basic hotel, but it’s OK for a night or two.

North Sikkim Tour is for you if you are looking for comfortable accommodation. It includes a driver, a cab, and accommodation booking. You could also stay at the Yarlam Resort, Lachung. You can spend a few nights here with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Leave the hotel sooner than you need.

  • Day 6 – Yumthang Valley and Zero Point. Return to Gangtok

On your North Sikkim tour, your third and final day will see you visit many exciting places. Yumthang Valley looks especially beautiful in April when it is covered in purple flowers. It also offers stunning views at other times. If you are interested in seeing snow, continue to Zero Point. This place is beautiful and dramatic in winter, but it’s best to avoid it during summer. Stop and admire the waterfalls as you travel back to Gangtok.

We particularly enjoyed Bhim Nala Falls, also known as Amitabh Bachan Falls. We opted to skip Nathula Pass so we could avoid the many day-trippers who stop at these falls at the same time. We were the only ones there and had a wonderful time. We were still amazed at the terrible roads in North Sikkim. We arrived in Gangtok exhausted and sore. However, more than a hot shower and a hot meal is needed to solve the problem.

Wow, what a magnificent waterfall

  • Day 7 – Transfer to Pelling

You are mistaken if you thought that your experience with Sikkim’s treacherous roads was over. We recommend you get up early and enjoy a leisurely breakfast before heading to Pelling, the monastery town. Although the drive to Pelling is bumpy, you will be amazed at its peacefulness once you arrive. Spend three days exploring monasteries and following waterfalls around Pelling.

Accommodation in Pelling

The BEST was saved for last! We found a beautiful property in Pelling and couldn’t believe that it hadn’t been included on the ‘100 hotels you must see before you die” list. The Elgin Mount Pandim, a luxury experiential property, was once the King’s summer home.

The rooms are spacious and well-equipped, and the meals are delicious. The outdoor spaces are the main attraction of your stay. The 8-acre private farmland surrounding the hotel building overlooks beautiful Himalayan peaks, including Mt. Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain. Spending hours staring at the views while sipping a coffee or cocktail is straightforward. The hotel was the same for every guest we met.

The hotel is conveniently located near the Pemayangtse monastery, away from the bustle of Pelling. If you have the budget, we recommend that you stay there. The lowest prices can be found here.

View from your room over some of the most stunning mountain ranges

What is the best place to have evening tea?

  • Days 8-9 – Explore Pelling and the surrounding

Three days of North Sikkim’s tour is sure to exhaust you. We recommend you take Day 8 to rest and enjoy the mountain air. You can also visit the beautiful Pemayangtse monastery nearby or bird watch in Elgin Mount Panim if you decide to stay there. You deserve to take the time to enjoy Sikkim’s natural beauty and linger over delicious meals.

Rent a car to explore Sikkim’s last day. You could take a full-day trip to see the many waterfalls and monasteries in the region. If you have yet to see the Pemayangtse monastery, this is a great time to visit it. We had seen so many waterfalls throughout Sikkim that we decided to rent a car for a short time to see the famous Kanchenjunga Falls and Rimbi Falls. The Kanchenjunga Falls are stunning, especially in the monsoon months. If you are a keen photographer, we recommend leaving your hotel before 8:30 a.m. to reach Kanchenjunga Falls. This will allow you to avoid crowds.

Star trails above Mt. Kanchenjunga

Pemayangtse Monastery

Savi at Kachenjunga Waterfalls

Relax and reminisce about the ten days of adventures you had in Sikkim last night.

  • Day 10 – Transfer to Bagdogra Airport, and return flight.

Although you may be rested and energized, the roads of Sikkim have the last laugh. The Pelling-Bagdogra highway is the worst in Sikkim. This 140-kilometer stretch should be covered in at least 9 hours. You will encounter potholes, gravel roads, and squelchy soil. We’re not trying to discourage you.

As you fly home, take the time to enjoy Gurudongmar’s seductive waterfalls, dancing waters, and the most friendly and charming locals.