In a state where the most difficult terrains have been tamed and homestays are as common as rhododendron flowers in spring, can one still find places that can be termed offbeat and experiences that are handpicked? Come and find out.
Let’s avoid the word offbeat and simply describe this journey as an unorthodox tour of Sikkim.
The perfect balance between ensuring that stunning places which have a heavy tourist footfall aren’t missed, but there are enough punctuations where you will be left alone at the behest of nature.
Homestays in lesser known valleys and resorts overlooking crispy clouds would shelter you during this tour.
From tasting authentic Bhutia, Lepcha and Nepali cuisine, to experimenting with varieties of organically brewed variations of beers and wines, this tour of Sikkim can compel those who may have already seen Sikkim come back for a renewed perspective.
The journey starts from Lingtam, a village at about 5000 feet with pleasant weather, crisscrossed by gushing streams, serving as an ideal stop before reaching the high altitude destinations in North Sikkim. Gurdongmar lake and Yumthang valley will fill your albums but before that, a farm stay in the protected village of Dzongu in North Sikkim will steal your heart. The trip ends with a group dinner and some karaoke at Gangtok!
Day 1 - A village that has been hosting travellers for generations
You probably haven't heard of this little village that used to be a hub of activity during the days of the old silk route. What you see today and frequented by tourists, the 'Zuluk' loops didn't exist back then.
But Sikkimese traders from all over used to come down to Lingtam with their donkeys and halt at this place for the night, before beginning their journey up the steep mountains, their burdens carried by their beasts.
As the elders of Lingtam recall, the concept of homestays existed even then as the people of Lingtam would host them for the night, feeding them copious amounts of 'chang' (millet beer) and other Bhutia delicacies.
You will walk into the subtropical piece of historical land and the hospitality of the homestay hosts shouldn't surprise you. This is not the usual way one enters Sikkim, but nothing is usual about this itinerary as you will find out.
Stay - Today you rest in the homestay surrounded by a thick forest and secluded from the town by a gushing stream. The homestay is only accessible by foot and it can be spotted only by those who like venturing into the unknown. Overnight at Dhungkar homestay.
Day 2 - Village hike and riverside nap
When you are visiting the hills it is always a good idea to earn your meal. That is what today is about. As we hike up from the homestay through a beautiful forest trail, passing through cardamon fields. On this walk, the guide will talk about and pluck out herbs every now and then if the group is keen to on some floral trivia.
A simple but delicious lunch awaits us upon our arrival hosted by a local family. After stuffing yourself, it is time to hike down and drive to the riverside where all we want you to do is - sleep. Yes, pick a rock that you like, take the pillow, and take a well-deserved nap, with the gushing sound of the river serving as a lullaby.
Evening time is family time and your hosts await to receive you and serve some splendid ‘chang’.
Overnight at Dhungkar homestay.
Day 3 - You don't go to Dzongu unless it invites you
Amidst deep valleys and lush forests of the Himalayas lies Dzongu, an almost virgin territory with a scanty population of Sikkim’s native inhabitants, the Lepchas. In between these dense jungles and gorges cut by glacial streams rests the beautiful property accessible only on foot or aboard a 4 by 4 vehicle. Munlom resort is your home for the next 2 days.
Dzongu in North Sikkim, as the locals believe, can be described as a path to heavenly land. That it comes under the newly declared world heritage site of Kanchendzonga National park only validates the spiritual, cultural and natural significance of Dzongu.
Today have lunch and explore the village on foot.
Overnight at Mulom nature resort Dzongu.
Day 4 - Riverside picnic, pick your wild veggies and cook them!
After breakfast, it is time to head out for a walk and have a genuine picnic by the riverside. Walk leisurely, by letting the forest take you over. Apart from looking down at the deep gorges that the river Rongyong has cut its way through, every now and then you may be distracted by some fantastic bird with iridescent plumes flying across the windshield. After about an hour’s walk, we will come across the riverside.
It's a great idea to carry a few beers, chill them by dipping them in the river and take a swim yourself. You can help the team in plucking the wild veggies which will be served for lunch. Later we can watch the sunset before returning to the comfortable beds at Munlom.
Overnight at Mulom nature resort Dzongu.
Day 5 - Halt, rest up before driving up to 18,000 feet the next day
Today is all about waiting for the next day and hoping that you will be allowed to the sight of the elusive Gurdongmar lake.
Why elusive? Well because we have not yet been fortunate enough to see the lake. If it was landslides in September, it was excessive snow in March. But we believe that this time the lake will grant us its blessings. There is barely a way to put the beauty of the lake in words. Let’s leave to the end of the of the trip?
Sleep early today, as we have an early wake-up call tomorrow.
Day 6 The day of scaling mind-numbing heights and end the day at a most pristine village
4 am we should be up and fresh like daisies. Today is a day that requires us to follow some caution. Hydration, slow walk and munching on calories. The beauty of the lake can cause severe excitement leading us to want to jump for joy. But we’d rather not. At such an altitude it is important to be a little careful.
The drive to Gurdongmar lake will take approximately 3 hours one way and we need to be back to Lachen for lunch.
Post lunch we will move towards Lachung and the day couldn’t end on a better note or at a better place. Bichu village in Lachung, as you will find out, is the perfect way to ensure we stay out of the territory where all the tourists usually throng before they head to Yumthang valley.
Spend the night chatting about your experience since we have to leave at a more human time tomorrow. Another stunning landscape awaits at Yumthang valley.
A side note on the food served at this homestay is something we are holding back on, as we want you to tell us how you like it, cause we love it. The homestay host is quite a knowledgeable person and if you have questions then he definitely will have the answers.
Day 7 - Seeking pleasure in the drive and not the destination, and group dinner in Gangtok.
As cliched as it may sound, it is important to keep this in mind today -it is the journey that matters and not the destination. The honest truth is that North Sikkim’s beauty isn’t exactly a secret. Tourists in huge numbers usually throng the region and most of them gather at the final
destination, making it a little, very crowded. But we have figured a way to work around this.
Go to the final destination but seek your pleasure and moments of solitude on the drive. Stop at bends that overlook the river. Take photos at open meadows which tourists don’t think worthy of a stop. And have a good playlist.
We head back to Bichu village for one last sumptuous lunch with the hosts. And then it is time to drive to Gangtok, freshen up and get dressed for the final dinner. We dare say dress well, since walking the streets of MG Marg is no less than walking a ramp!
Sonam Delek Hotel
Day 8 - Fly out
Ideally we would like to have a last breakfast at this specific cafe- The Coffee shop before you start the journey back to the airport. Ideally, you should book your flights anytime after 2 pm from Bagdogra.
The Trip ends at breakfast.
You should book this trip if you
● Want to see Sikkim from a different perspective, one that doesn’t involve us taking you around Gangtok, since that you can, should do on your own
● Love the idea of homestay hospitality
● Want to visit one of the highest l