We all have that one person in our life who looks beautiful no matter when you see them. Dear DoW Readers, Yumthang Valley is pretty much that person for you. An all-throughout-the-year place, it has become a hotspot destination. Let’s learn about this gorgeous place of North Sikkim in this Yumthang Valley travel guide article.
The valley is breathtakingly beautiful during spring when the Rhododendrons go on a blossoming spree. It becomes a fall land during autumn with temperatures bordering coldness and a winter wonderland during later part of the year.
Tourists from all around India are attracted to see the carpet of snow on the trees, road and around the river which is almost close to freezing temperatures.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Yumthang Valley of Flowers
The natural bounty bestowed upon the state of Sikkim is beyond words. One can find Alpine vegetation of North America, Europe – all of it in Sikkim at various altitudes. Vegetation at each altitude is different – Yumthang Valley at an altitude of 3500 m is more of a sub-tropical broad-leafed Rhododendrons or coniferous vegetation.
When I traveled to North Sikkim, I was spell-bound to see a flat valley surrounded by lush green mountains on either side, grassy alpine meadows leading to Yumthang River (a tributary of River Teesta) flowing in the middle of it. You can take a short walk to the river, sit on its banks and enjoy the beauty while having a picnic lunch.
There are several shops selling hot soups, tea, Maggi and souvenirs near the parking area. You can climb on the slopes to view the wildflowers in the valley.
During winters, the main attraction is a visit to the Yumthang Valley Zero Point – a place where snow is available aplenty. There is no civilian route beyond the Zero point. The location alters between seasons.
It is usually just after Yumesodong about 13 km from Yumthang at an altitude around 4500 m. It takes around 45 minutes to an hour to reach Zero Point from Yumthang and is a separate taxi rate costing 2000 INR extra for the back and forth journey. When I went first, it was just near a bridge, another time it was several kilometers after the bridge.
The route to Zero Point is very beautiful, similar to Zuluk route. As we gain altitude and take turns, a different perspective of the valley becomes visible. Soon, the green lands leave way to the cold desert-like snowy mountains that we often see in Ladakh.
Once we reach Zero point, taxi waits for an hour or so while we play with ice, build sculptures or simply throw snowballs at your friends.
There are several make-shift shops selling hot teas and Maggie which is a must have at Zero Point. Enjoying the beauty of mountains on the backdrop of clear blue skies while cold wind brushes your face is something you will remember for a very long time. Since this is at a high altitude, please make sure you do not over exert yourself and take precautions for AMS.
Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary
Established in 1984, this sanctuary covers an area of 43000 hectares. It has an elevation in the range of 3000 m to 3700 m. It is home of the endemic Rhododendron Niveum, the State Tree and several other species of Rhododendrons. Situated along the West of Chumbi Valley in Tibet, it is surrounded by towering snowy mountains.
Rhododendrons go crazy during the flowering season (Mar to Jun) and the entire valley is flooded with color riots. Flowers of all shapes and colors imaginable blooms as if a bomb exploded and covers the entire area. Imagine this – a rhododendron flower you are seeing is so beautiful, so is the one you saw earlier and so will be one you will see next. You will have a hard time photographing each one of them.
Birds’ activity in the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary is very high during the flowering seasons. Please do not venture into high altitudes of the sanctuary on your own. If you are interested in birding, take a local bird guide to spot the rare Wood Snipe or Ibisbill. Himalayan Monal and Blood Pheasants breeds in the higher altitudes of the sanctuary.
Few mammals found here are Red Panda, Musk Deer and Himalayan Weasel. You can visit e-Bird website to check birding data for this sanctuary. Many breeding birds are affected by disturbance by people in form of noise pollution, higher influx of tourists and its subsequent result of throwing garbage and increase in usage of firewood.
Please be environmentally conscious when you visit any Himalayan place next time. Please carry your own refillable water bottles, bring back your litter and leave minimal ecological footprints.
Just near Yumthang valley is naturally occurring hot springs. From the parking lot, a short walk leads us to an iron bridge. Crossing the Yumthang River on the bridge is a good experience. As I walk past the fluttering prayer flags, I see the full glory of Yumthang Valley.
A few steps climb takes us to two huts (one for men and one for women) where water from the hotsprings is routed to tanks for convenience. One can take showers in the pipes or from the tank. Hotsprings are well known for their medicinal properties with high Sulphur and one cannot help but wonder at the natural phenomenon.
A small picturesque monastery located in Lachung is peaceful much like other monasteries in Sikkim. 4 – 5 km from the main town of Lachung, you can cover it if time permits. If you have already seen Rumtek or other bigger monasteries earlier, Monastery at Lachung might be a little disappointing. But like all monasteries, it compensates for awesome views of the hills.
How to Reach Yumthang Valley
You can keep Lachung as your base while visiting Yumthang Valley. It is a small village overlooking the mighty mountains at an altitude of 2900 m. It is 125 km from Gangtok. Know all about getting a room with a view in Lachung in the accommodation section of this article.
I still remember watching one of the mesmerizing sunsets I have ever seen from my room, sipping a hot tea. The snow-clad mountain in front of our hotel was turning into a golden yellow color and slowing into a spectacular explosion of orange-pink-red hues that faded away along with the last light of the day.
I was staying in Lachung on a Diwali night and it was a bonus to watch sky shots crackers burst in the sky. If you dare to venture out of your room bearing the cold night, you are rewarded with billions of stars shining upon you. I literally thanked the stars for our Diwali blessing.
- By Road – Lachung can be reached by hiring a taxi from Gangtok. It takes about 5 to 6 hours from Gangtok depending on the number of stops.
- By Train – Nearest railway station if New Jalpaiguri (NJP). You need to catch a shared jeep/private taxi from NJP to Gangtok which is 3 hours away. From Gangtok there are many shared and private jeeps available for Lachung.
- Day 1 – Reach Kolkatta/NJP. Taxi to Gangtok
- Day 2 – Gangtok sightseeing (half day). Travel from Gangtok to Lachung. Overnight Lachung.
- Day 3 – Lachung – Yumthang Valley – Zero Point – Lachung
- Day 4 – Lachung – Gangtok – NJP/Kolkatta
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood, And looked down one as far as I couldThe Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
If you don’t want to feel like the poet Robert Frost, and you have couple of days extra, Lachen is nearby Lachung (around 2 hours). Lachung and Lachen are two roads that diverge from Chungthang. 22 km away from Chungthang is Lachung and Lachen is 28 km away. Lachen is the base for magnificent Gurudongmar Lake.
- Day 4 – Lachung – Chungthang – Lachen
- Day 5 – Lachen – Gurudongmar Lake – Chopta Valley – Gangtok
- Day 6 – Gangtok – NJP/Kolkatta
Where to Stay at Yumthang
Many options available for stay at Yumthang valley or Lachung. Here we list few of them and the first two hotels have beautiful views right from their windows.
- Hotel Tenzing Retreat – A hotel with views of the snow mountains. Though rooms require some climbing up and down, it makes up for the Mountain View. For more details please check their website.
- Apple Valley Inn – a value for money hotel with good food, wonderful views and decent rooms/amenities. For more details, please contact them at 03592-214903. Their Kolkatta office number is 033-22251522/ 9830443616.
- Yarlam Resort & Spa – The only luxury hotel of the region with a specialty bar and a spa. Tariff: 7000 INR to 20000 per night. You can reach them at 03592-281663.
- Etho Metho by RightClique is a 3-star property with tariff ranging from 5000 to 10000 per night. You can reach them at 099714 96422.
- Lachung Continental (A Jain Group Hotel) is a 2-star Property. Tariff ranges between 1500 to 4000 per night. They are reachable at 06295685224.
Best Season to Visit
To view the flower blooms of Rhododendrons, March to mid-June is the window with peak flower occurring in late April and May. To enjoy the snow go in winters October and November. Since it borders with Tibet and being at a high altitude it becomes very cold in December – January period.
During monsoons, reaching Lachung might be difficult due to frequent landscapes but once the Rhododendrons blooms are over, small Himalayan flowers start flowering in June – July during the monsoons.
Based on it you can decide on the best time to visit Yumthang Valley.
There is no tower reception in Yumthang Valley. BSNL and Airtel works a little in Lachung. You will definitely embrace the Digital Detox that Yumthang has to offer.
If you are looking for a snow retreat and isn’t too commercialized yet like Shimla or Manali, Yumthang is the place for you. If you are looking for a pleasant weather and greenery, Yumthang is the place for you. Whichever season or way you package Yumthang valley; it is a feast to the eyes.
This Alpine Valley nestled in the Himalayas is an all-time favorite and can be clubbed when you take an extended weekend trip to Gangtok or as part of the longer North Sikkim trip. If you have any questions please leave a comment here.
I hope this travel guide of Yumthang Valley helps you plan your trip to this beautiful place.
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