Yumthang is a valley in the high reaches of Himalayas. It is
not just any destination. All the way to it Sikkim spreads her natural
The Road To Yumthang
As one drive northwards from Mangan, the headquarters of the northern district of Sikkim, along an excellent winding road hugging the steep forested hillsides, the snow-covered ranges of north-Sikkim welcomes the visitor by unfolding at every corner, a new vista.
One can see the first misty view of Mount Kangchendzonga the
moment one turns a corner and entered the village of Singik. Yet,
enticingly, she does not let the onlooker see her full form; a filmy shawl
of blue haze covered her from her feet deep in the valley right to her
lofty head in the blue sky. It was obvious that on clear days, the view of
the peak's 'profile' from this vantage point would be gorgeous.
The Sikkimi Countryside
The next village Naga, like Singik, is typical. A few wooden houses with corrugated galvanized sheet iron roofs, some grocery shops, and a school are lined along the roadside, while the rest of the houses were planted along the hill side, both above and below the road. Two short stretches of the road, and one is out of the village and amidst the forests. The air over here is crisp and fresh with the smell of pines.
Another typical called "Tung" and then one will reach Chungthang. Chungthang is a small habitation in a cup like valley, surrounded on all sides by towering hills. Though its altitude is only 500 ft, it is much colder than Mangam. The heavy, cold air remains slumbering in he valley till late morning. It is only when the sun is high up in the horizon and its warm rays pierce deep into the valley that the lazy, cold wind and mist slowly depart.
The main importance of this place is that it is at the confluence of two valleys and two main rivers of north Sikkim: the Lachung Cho and the Lachen Cho, the latter commonly known as the Teesta. We would be following the Lachung Cho for the next part of the journey.
To the Sikkimese and the members of the Indian Army, Chungthang is a place of major religious significance. The Sikkimese believe that guru Padmasabhava had rested in this place and left three footprints for his devotees on a solid piece of rock. The guru also scattered some rice on an adjacent land, where till today, notwithstanding the height and the cold, paddy is grown efforts to replicate this phenomenon in adjacent fields have reportedly failed
The Sikh members of the Indian army believe that the footprints are those of Guru Nanak and so also are the main figures in the wall paintings inside the nearby monastery.
The road from Chungthang toward Lachung takes one into another world. This is the area inhabited by the Lachungpas, a hardy mountain people who consider themselves quite different from the Bhutias and the Tibetans. The lush green, terraced hillsides, even in winter, were a testimony to the grit and determination of these people.
Lachung is the last habitation on the road to Yumthang a monastery; hidden high on the hillside overlooked a settlement of Lachungpas and barracks of the Indian army. The mountains on the other side of the valley rose up to snowy heights. In the distance, one could see the impressions of a track that was once used by traders to cross over from Tibet with their mules laden with Chinese silk.
Kangchendzonga National Park
Crossing a check gate where visitors entry permits was checked, one enters the Kangchendzonga National Park. The climb is gradual but very interesting as soon one is greeted by snow, lying white and pristine over the green forest floor and covering a few treetops. The jagged, rocky slopes to our left glistened in the sunlight at places forming glaciers where the gradient was right. The mountains to our right were covered with dark green pines; the snow line being much higher.
Yumthang is a valley at 12,000 ft. Its location is awesome. Nature is at her expressive best. Snow clad mountains all around looking down on this high valley full of colour. The valley floor is covered with wild, yellow flowers and violet Primulas, while the hill sides are vivid and glowing with multicoloured Rhododendrons.
The best part about travelling in Sikkim is that even while one is travelling one is actually passing through beautiful places. Each place could be the destination for a lovely ethereal holiday.
By Air & Road: Sikkim is very well connected by
air from New Delhi and
Kolkata . The
nearest airstrip is at Bagdogra, in neighbouring West Bengal. A taxi drive
from Bagdogra to Gangtok, the capital of
Sikkim takes about 4-½ hours or a little more depending upon one's
inclination to linger on the way and enjoy a cold drink or tea or the
mountains. From Gangtok, it is 3 hrs to Mangan, from which one's journey
By Rail & Road: Visitors can travel by rail from Kolkata up to New Jalpaiguri. Gangtok is about 15-km by road from this place. Taxis are available at the station for hire.
Excellent hotels catering to all tastes are available in
Gangtok. Information on these can be obtained from the Sikkim Tourism
Department, Gangtok or from Sikkim Tourist
Information Centre, New Sikkim House, 14 Panmchsheel Marg, Chanakyapuri,
New Delhi. Accommodation in Mangan is limited but available.
Foreigners visiting Sikkim need to procure a permit from the tourism department, Gangtok. Tours have to be under taken through an approved tour operator, and for a group of at least four persons. Hence, a planned halt at Gangtok, on the way to north Sikkim is recommended.