During my 63 day stay in Sikkim, I tried to visit every corner of this beautiful state. Considering the Indian geography, lifestyle and culture, the whole state is an offbeat travel destination. I am going to list my favourite places; keeping aside the popular ones. They are beautiful too.
This list is for those who want to travel the unconventional path. The places; villages mostly, offer a unique experience, which might mean shedding off the regular city comfort.
Also Read : The best trek in Sikkim!
Aritar is my favourite place in East Sikkim. For someone to wants to explore the East district, this can be the best start. Gangtok-Rangpo-Aritar-Zuluk-Nathang-Gangtok is the perfect circuit.
Located on the Silk route, Aritar is lesser travelled to. The main attraction here is the lake. I was elated to find it all to myself (on both days). I hiked to the Gompa and the statue of Lord Buddha which is at the top of the hill offering the lake view. Something about this place is calming. Lack of tourists did help. The temperature doesn’t get too low making it a place suitable for everyone.
Things to do: Walk around the lake, hike to the monastery and Mankhim which is also the best point to view Mount Kanchenjunga on a clear day
The name ‘Zuluk‘ was etched in my mind for years. I had heard of the Zig-Zag route, the route with the 32 hairpin bends; most of which is visible from a couple of viewpoints. These viewpoints are less than an hour’s ride from Zuluk. And while I had seen them online, I was lucky enough to witness them in person considering the weather I encountered.
Zuluk is a small village in the East which was enveloped in clouds during my stay of 2 days. The weather is unpredictable here. A clear day would give great views of the mountains on either side.
Things to do: Walk around and explore this hamlet, visit the Shiva temple
Nathang is similar to Zuluk except that it is colder. The mountains open up providing a clearer view in all directions. The people are warm and I absolutely loved my stay here even though it was freezing. Sunlight hardly hit the ground for a few minutes. People who can’t bear the cold should avoid it.
Things to do: Walking around and exploring would be the best thing, visit the monastery and the temple, climb the hilltop
4. Tarey Bhir
Tarey Bhir is a gem. Most people are unaware and I would like it to be that way. But the place was made for tourists and it should be enjoyed.
Tarey Bhir is a ridge on a high cliff. The long stairway to heaven stretches along the edge of the hill taking you to the top. On my visit here, I was amazed and wondered why it wasn’t thought of before. I haven’t yet come across such a path anywhere in India that gives you a 180-degree view of the mountains.
Things to do: Witness the sunrise, walk the whole length of the wall
Located in the West district, Rinchenpong is one of the best places to get the view of Kanchenjunga and other snow-capped mountains. A quiet little town with a couple of beautiful monasteries, this is the perfect place to unwind. Less than 10 minutes distance is Kaluk, which is relatively crowded but nevertheless a beautiful town too.
Things to do: Hike to the monasteries and poison lake
I got to know about Uttarey from the locals. It is gradually emerging as the trekkers’ hub. There are treks starting from a day to a fortnight here. Treks that take you to Singalila National Park, Goechala and even the Green Lakes. The roads leading to this place are broken but the people are warm.
Things to do: Hike through the villages to the Tenzing Hillary park, visit the Indo-Nepal border
I had my best time in Chayatal. In my couple of days stay, I explored cardamom fields and walked around the village. West district is popular for it’s cardamom and Chayatal is filled with them. Gardens bloom with colourful flowers and tourists are an uncommon sight.
Things to do: Explore the cardamom fields, visit the huge statue of Mahatma Srijungha, trek to Versey
70kms from Gangtok, Dzongu holds the status of a special reserve for the Lepchas. A cluster of villages, a visit to Dzongu requires a permit from District Administration Office, Mangan. It is a protected area for the Lepchas who are considered to be originated there. I stayed at Passingdang village which was beautiful but I absolutely loved Lingthem which is filled with paddy fields and offers the gorgeous sight of the Kanchenjunga.
Things to do: Take a dip in hot water springs at Lingdem village, interact with locals and understand more about the Lepcha community, visit the Dzo-Tyium festival, explore villages
9. Thangu Valley
Anyone who plans a trip to Gurudongmar lake has to go through Thangu valley. And while most people halt at Lachen, I also put up for a couple of days here. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, this place is a visual delight. The gushing river makes it even more appealing. But then, staying here may not be everybody’s cup of tea. It gets unusually cold and windy. I spent most of my time here in the kitchen.
Things to do: Walk around the little village, visit the highest dosa point
Best time: March-April, October-November
Stay: Homestays are common in Sikkim. That gives you an opportunity to closely interact with the locals which is also the best way to know and experience the culture and food.
Places I could not visit: Rolep, Borong and Versey which are still underrated. Versey is known for it’s rhododendron sanctuary and that makes April the best time to visit.
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