Best of North Sikkim tour & package:

The area and geography:

Before getting into the North Sikkim tour package let us get a brief idea about North Sikkim. District wise North Sikkim is by far the largest area within the Indian state of Sikkim, yet the least travelled. In fact it comprises a whooping ~ 60% of the entire state of Sikkim. However with some travel restrictions, it remained a complicated and a mystery to both travellers and tourists till recent. North and eastern part of north Sikkim form the international border with Tibet/China.

Gangtok to North Sikkim tour road map

We will literally follow Teesta River to its origin, tracing its two northerly tributaries, Lachung and Lachen (in Nepalese a river is called “Chu”, e.g. Lachung Chu). From their confluence at Chungthang we will visit Lachung valley and to its head at Yumthang and Zero point. Similarly through Lachen valley to its head at Gurudongmar lake.

What is there in North Sikkim tour?

Quite naturally this large area has many places to visit and explore. North Sikkim has fantastic potential as a tourist destination, albeit in a sustainable way. There are dense evergreen alpine forests, rhododendrons and magnolias, wide or hidden valleys, rivers and waterfalls, high snow mountains and lakes. Additionally the northern territories of North Sikkim District fairly resembles to that of Tibetan plateau  be it by looks or in its people. Its easy to divide it in three parts.

Gangtok and around:

In the beginning we will spend couple of nights in Gangtok, while visiting some sightseeing to Rumtek monastery and Tashi view point. Also this helps in the acclimatisation for high altitude tour awaiting us.

Lachung, Yumthang valley, Katao:

In our trip one major attraction is Lachung town, which is fairly large and nestled in a wide valley. Multiple streams unite in this valley for form Lachung river. There are ample option for stay here ranging from budget lodges to premium cottages.

Lachen, Thangu valley, Gurudongmar lake

On contrary to Lachung, Lachen is very small town inside a narrow valley with one short stretch of main street/shops. However the valley widens at Thangu, an opportunity for locals for Yak grazing. From here on the terrain will be similar to that of Tibet and Ladakh, a dry and arid high altitude plateau. Surroundings are breathtaking with several snow capped mountains and peaks.

As they say “a picture is worth a thousand words”, here we try a visual representation of our North Sikkim tour.

Teesta valley ahead of Mangan town
Lachung Valley: North Sikkim
At Yumthang
At Zero Point Yumthang Valley: Snow is common here above 15000 ft
Towards Katao valley
On the way to Gurudongmar
Different landscape around Gurudongmar lake
Gurudongmar during summer
Gurudongmar lake: Frozen by November
Thangu valley

Additionally hiking options inside north Sikkim are very limited and burdened with several permit requirements and associated charges. On top of that, heavy logistical expenses translates trekking an indeed expensive affair in North Sikkim.

So it is compelling enough to plan a car sightseeing tour in this region. In our opinion it is  a must for tourists and hikers alike, who wish to explore offbeat and unseen north Sikkim.

North Sikkim tour Highlights:

 Duration: 7 days and 6 nights, Bagdogra to Bagdogra/NJP.

Airport: Bagdogra International Airport (IXB); Note: Newly opened airport at Pakyong (Code: PYG) near Gangtok remains often closed due to weather conditions.

Rail station: New Jalpaiguri (NJP)

Seasons/Best time to visit: March to May (Spring/Summer) and Oct to Dec (Autumn/Winter),

Any Prerequisite? This tour reaches really high altitude. People with lung/heart/breathing/asthma problem must consult with doctor prior to the trip. Prior high altitude tour is a plus.

Major Places covered: Gangtok, Lachung, Yumthang valley, Zero Point,  Katao, Lachen, Thangu valley, Gurudongmar Lake.

Total driving distance: 800 Km

Highest Point: Gurudongmar Lake ~ 5180 m/17100 ft; Yumthang Zero Point ~ 4650 m/15250 ft.

Further Option: You may add Dzongu valley.

North Sikkim tour itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive Bagdogra airport or New Jalpaiguri railway station by noon. Drive to capital city of Sikkim, Gangtok (~ 1650 m/5400 ft), 130 Km and may take 5 hours.. Initial drive is through the lovely Himalayan foothills  and then following Teesta river, upstream on lower hills. Check in to hotel/homestay.

Day 2: Today we will spend around the city, sightseeing by car, including one or two monasteries. Evening around mall road. This will also help you to acclimatise for the tour ahead. Hotel/lodge/homestay.

Day 3: After breakfast we drive to Lachung, 120 Km. On our way we will visit Kabi Longstok and Seven Sister Waterfalls. Have your lunch at Mangan, small district town of North Sikkim, about 65 Km from Gangtok. Lodge/hotel/homestay accommodation at Lachung.

Day 4: Explore Lachung and around. After breakfast visit Katao valley and return to Lachung for lunch. 50 Km round trip. In the afternoon explore Lachung or just relax around Lodge/hotel/homestay.

Day 5: After breakfast drive to Yumthang Valley and further to Zero Point, back to Lachung for lunch. Around 100 Km drive. After lunch drive to Lachen, 50 Km away. Lodge/hotel/homestay.

Day 6: Start very early in morning (by 3 am) to Gurudongmar Lake at ~ 5180 m/17100 ft, 60 Km further up. Stop at Thangu for a quick tea break. Explore the lake in the morning. Drive back to Lachen for lunch. In the afternoon drive to Gangtok, 120 Km, 4 to 5 hours. Check in to hotel/homestay.

Day 7: Today after breakfast we drive back to Bagdogra or NJP in 5 hours. Trip ends here.

Important note:

  • You need to reach on your own to Bagdogra or NJP latest by noon on Day 1. Return to Bagdogra NJP by noon or early afternoon on Day 7.
  • It is possible to add or modify the itinerary to explore places like Dzongu valley.
  • Withdraw any required cash from Gangtok. Number of ATM in north Sikkim is less and maybe cashless when you need.

Best time to visit North Sikkim:

There are two seasons to visit North Sikkim like the rest of Sikkim.

  • Spring/Summer: March to May – You will get lot of residual snow at or above 15000 ft during spring and even till the beginning of summer. Weather turns misty from April and bloom with Rhododendrons and other flowers which is a speciality of Sikkim
  • Autumn and winters October to December – After monsoon weather becomes clear and produces great views of valleys and high mountains. During November you will witness the leaves changing hues with fall colours.

Monsoon is heavy and spans long. Avoid travelling from  the month of June to September.

Expected temperature and suggested clothing:

Due to its high altitude nature you will feel cold weather conditions. It is important to carry proper warm clothing during your tour.

Spring & Summer (March to May): Earlier this season, colder will be the temperatures. Although in March and April you will get cold conditions, especially at Yumthang and Gurudongmar lake. Morning temperatures can be well below freezing (0°C). Temperatures may plummet to -10°C depending on weather conditions.

Autumn & Winters (October to December): Later this season, colder will be the temperatures.Usually the session beginning after monsoon is on an average colder than spring and summer. Clear weather conditions and onset of winter make things chilly. Expect -10°C to -20°C feels like temperature in the winters, especially if its windy.

Three layers of clothing that we recommended in these type of high altitude tours, evermore when you are outside the car.

  1. A quick dry base layer (Dry-fit t-shirt).
  2. A warm jacket (Double layer or Fleece jacket ) as middle layer.
  3. A windproof cum waterproof with hood as the outer layer.

North Sikkim permit requirements and documents needed:

Sikkim, and especially North Sikkim has stringent tourist entry requirements and associated permits. This implies for both Indian and foreigners.

Foremost, you can only visit to North Sikkim with a registered tour operator, who is listed in Sikkim. That said, as a tourist you have to book a package tour. No worries, there are many companies offering so.

Always carry a a valid photo identity proof with address on it, e.g. original Voter ID, Aadhar, Driving licence and photocopies. Also carry at least 4 copies of recent passport size of you.

Foreigners are not allowed to visit Gurudongmar but till Thangu. Check here the details of various permits required in Sikkim for Indians and foreign nationals.

Note: It is possible to drive your own car to North Sikkim, with prior permits.

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Highest Point5180 m/17000 ft

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