YUMTHANG VALLEY – A SYMPHONY OF FLOWERS
So, you have already seen and done all you can in Gangtok during your Sikkim vacation. Then it is high time to venture a little further, to discover the special enchantment of the ‘Valley of Flowers’. Between March and May, the valley puts on a stunning display of colors, when thousands of rhododendrons start blooming. Gradually nature wakes up to cover the slopes in shades of red, pink, and purple until the whole valley seems to swim in color. No wonder visitors have traveled from far and wide to see this picture-perfect display.
The road to the Yumthang Valley travels via Lachung, 62 miles/100 km from Gangtok. The main object of a visit to Yumthang Nature Sanctuary is of course the magical flower show, but everywhere you turn, the views are gorgeous. Teesta River adds sparkle to the scene as it flows peacefully through the valley, past the Shundu Tsenpa and Pauhunri Peaks. There are more waterways, Puniya Chu and Yumthang Chu are two offshoots, and many a fisherman has cast his line into their waters with the hope of catching a fish.
If you suffer the cold, there is the perfect remedy; hot springs will warm you up in no time, while its healing water will soothe away any aches and pains. For an injection of spirituality, visit the Shiva Temple in the vicinity. Another popular destination is Zero Point, 16,404 ft./5,000 m above sea level, and well above the timberline, covered in a carpet of snow right through the year. The views here are absolutely superb, drawing the eye over the beautiful Tibetan plateau. Lachung town is worth a visit, and although you will spend about six hours on the road from Gangtok, the amazing scenery along the way makes time fly by. Stop for a while at the junction where the two tributaries, Lachen Chu and Lachung Chu meet up with the Teesta. There you will find Naydo, the sacred stone embedded with footprints of Padmasambhava, the Tibetan guru, also known as Rinpoche.
The culture of Lachung village is quite unique. The inhabitants refer to themselves as Lachungpas and are Bhutias, of Tibetan ancestry. All social disputes and other problems are settled by the Dzumsa, a self-governing, autonomous body. You will find monasteries galore in this region, so if you have to limit yourself to just a few, start with the colorful, ancient Lachung Gompa. Two metal dragons greet you in the prayer hall, and the murals are stunning. The second choice is Chungthang Monastery, with its interesting collection of unique Buddhist Paintings. Pass by the Carpet Weaving Center to watch local craftsmen create beautiful woolen carpets.
Anyone in need of a short getaway will relish Lachung and the Yumthang Valley’s serene beauty, exquisite floral display, and interesting cultural heritage. An immersion its such natural beauty will make you look at the world with different eyes.
How to get there: The nearest airport is at Bagdogra, then take the 4-hour drive to Gangtok. From here you can take the road via Chungthang to Lachung.
Where to stay: Make Lachung your base and explore the Yumthang Valley from there. Several guesthouses offer comfortable accommodation, while the Season House has wonderful views of Yumthang Valley.
Important information: Due to its proximity to the China-Indian border, visitors to Yumthang need permits for this region. Stop at any of the travel agencies in Gangtok to obtain the necessary documentation. Proof of ID and 2 passport photos are required.
✓ The Valley of Flowers is an absolute must. Take time to wander around the meadows and mountain slopes to feast your eyes on the marvelous show of rhododendrons and many other wildflowers. Singba Rhododendron Sanctuary covers an area of 13 sq. miles/34 sq. km and has almost forty varieties of colorful rhododendrons.
✓ Relax in a hot spring. Before you reach Yumthang Valley there is a short walkway that leads to the Yumthang Hot Spring. It is said that its water, rich in sulfur, heals ailments and aches. Bathing huts and pools are also available.
✓ Taste the local food. Food is part of the culture, so try some of the regional delicacies, like tea momos, a wonderful combination of hot Sikkim tea accompanied by delicious potato momos. Many traditional dishes include ingredients foraged in the area, for instance, nettles and ferns. The result is an interesting, unusual culinary experience, which every adventurous food lover should try.
✓ Fish for fish. Set aside one morning or afternoon to try your luck in the Teesta River or one of its tributaries. There are few better places for angling enthusiasts than here in these scenic surroundings.
✓ Go shopping. The artisans of Sikkim specialize in woven carpets, and other wool products, the ideal reminder of your wonderful vacation in the splendor of the Yumthang Valley.
Some Images From Our Trip To Yumthang Valley