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Sikkim—a Delicate Balance Between Scenic Beauty and Ecological Hotspots—Exquisite Destinations

Updated on November 13, 2019
Prantika Samanta profile image

Educated as a microbiologist, trained as an editor, a quintessential nomad soul grounded to the earth. Loves anything that touches her soul

The road to Gurudongmar Lake, North Sikkim, India
The road to Gurudongmar Lake, North Sikkim, India

What Makes Sikkim a Favorite Holiday Destination?

Sikkim is an Indian state in northeastern region India. Bordering with Tibet in the north and northeast, Bhutan in the east, Nepal in the west, and the state of West Bengal in the south, it is also close to India's Siliguri Corridor near Bangladesh. Sikkim also plays host to Kangchenjunga, the third highest peak on Earth, and the highest peak in India.

Beautiful Sikkim, India

Why Travel to Sikkim?

Sikkim—a name that is synonymous with lush green sun-kissed mountains, veiled with mysterious soft fluffy clouds, and its extremely hospitable inhabitants. The origin theory of the name Sikkim is that it is a combination of two Limbu words, “su” meaning “new” and “khyim” meaning “palace” or “house.” Lepcha people called it “Nye-mae-el” meaning “paradise.”

Sikkim is indeed a paradise with a rich treasure trove of gurgling waterfalls, wandering clouds, mystic fog, high mountains, stunning lakes, and rich and diverse flora. Undoubtedly, Sikkim is one of the best tourist attractions of India.

Favorite Places of South Sikkim

Namchi and Ravangla are witnessing an increased tourist influx in the recent years.

Buddha Park, Ravangla, South Sikkim
Buddha Park, Ravangla, South Sikkim

Places to Visit in Ravangla

1. Buddha Park

Also known as Tathagata Tsal, the park has a 130 feet high statue of Buddha in the sitting position, seven bowls of water, a conclave, and a museum meditation center with a meditation hall and the museum has a spiral gallery that depicts the life of Gautama Buddha.

Ravangla or Rabong is a small township in South Sikkim located at an altitude of around 7000 feet.

EV Facility and the Beauty of Buddha Park

You can walk or opt the EV (electric vehicle) service to go inside the park from the ticket counter. The vehicle dropped us inside the park. Many vehicles are plying continuously and we boarded one of them that dropped us near the ticket counter.

The mesmerizing scenic beauty of the surrounding, the spectacular landscape of the park, and the calm ambience add to the beauty of the place. The park is quite spacious and green and has designated walkways. While taking a stroll in the park, you can view the mountains. The tour of the park and the museum would take some time.

The lush greenery of the park helps rejuvenate
The lush greenery of the park helps rejuvenate
The place offers a calmness
The place offers a calmness
Talking a stroll inside the park amidst the greenery is a blissful experience
Talking a stroll inside the park amidst the greenery is a blissful experience

Places to Visit in Ravangla

2. Ralang Monastery

Our last stop of the day was New Ralang Monastery or Ralong Palchen Choling. Near to this monastery is the old Ralong “Karma Rabtenling” Monastery (a monastery of Kagyupa lineage), which was built by the fourth ruler Chogyal (King) Gyurmed Namgyal in 1730 AD. It is considered to be one of the important and sacred monasteries of the state.

During 1975 and 1981, the old monastery was reconstructed. The new monastery was built by the 12th Gyatsalb Rimpoche and has precious paintings and thangkas.

The beautiful monastery
The beautiful monastery

Festivals of the Monastery

Ralang Monastery is also known for conducting several festivals annually, such as Pang Lhabsol (in August–September, worshiping of Mount Khangchendzonga), masked monastic dances (in August–September and December), and the Mahakala Dance (in November).


Distance and Time Required to Reach Ravangla from Various Places by Road

Place
Distance (approximately in kilometers)
Time to be taken (approximately in hours)
Pelling
52.2
2.5
NJP Station
122.0
4.5
Bagdogra Airport
126.0
4.5
Namchi
26.0
1.0
Gangtok
68.0
3.0

Stunning Lakes of Sikkim

The lakes of Sikkim offer breathtaking views that allure the travelers from far and wide. Some of them are considered to be sacred and revered by the locals. They are ecologically significant as well.

Gurudongmar Lake is always the focal point of tourist attraction in North Sikkim because of its splendor and the scenic beauty of the surrounding landscape.

Maintaining the sanctity, tranquility of the lake, and its ecological balance is the responsibility of the travelers.

Khecheopalri Lake

Situated near Khecheopalri village in West Sikkim, the lake is considered to be a sacred lake and is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus. It is originally known as Kha-Chot-Palri (meaning the heaven of Padmasambhava). Its shape appears like a footprint from the vantage point.

There are many legends around the lake, which is also known as a wish fulfilling lake,

The beautiful lake resembling the shape of foot print
The beautiful lake resembling the shape of foot print

The lake's local name is Sho Dzo Sho, which means “Oh Lady, Sit Here.”

The Lake with Religious Significance

The Pelling–Yuksom road leads to the lake situated at an altitude of around 5,600 feet. It is around 34 km and 150 km away from Pelling and Gangtok, respectively.

The lake is significant from the biodiversity perspective and known for ecotourism and is declared as a protected lake by the government owing to its high religious significance. The lake is home to many fishes and trans Himalayan migratory birds visit the lake.

The sacred lake
The sacred lake

Pathway from Entrance to the Lake Amidst the Lush Green Surrounding

A short walk of around 15 minutes from the parking area or the entry point through the forest took us to the lake. The shops at the entrance sell primarily biscuits and tea.

A lake jetty leads to the front of the lake from where prayers are offered and tourists can feed biscuits to the fishes in the lake. The fluttering prayer flags, amazing scenic beauty, and stunning lake create a peaceful ambience that rejuvenate the mind and body.

Many fishes inhabit the lake
Many fishes inhabit the lake

Lampokari/Aritar Lake

Located at an elevation of 4,600 feet above the sea level in Aritar, East Sikkim, the shape of the lake resembles a human foot (or boot). The shape is clearly viewed from the vantage point of Mankhim (the nearby hilltop).

The lake is around 1120 feet in length and 240 feet wide and surrounded by lush greenery and is one of the oldest lakes of Sikkim.

The water of the lake is green in color that matches perfectly with the surrounding. It was originally a natural lake but artificial embankment was provided later.

The green lake amidst the pine vegetation
The green lake amidst the pine vegetation

Pathway, Shrine, and Boating

We walked around the lake on the pathway and it took some time to take a complete round of the lake. While walking, we came across a small shrine built on the bank of the lake.

Many sitting places are built for visitors of the lake along its bank to enjoy the beauty of the place. You can feed puffed rice to the fishes in the lake and the swans. There are stalls around the lake that sells the food.

The other attraction of the lake is boating, but it has specific timings.

Aritar is approximately 63 kilometers from Gangtok, approximately 3 hours of drive.

Aritar is an ideal stopover for travelers heading to Silk Route from Kalimpong.

Elephant /Kupup/Hatipokhari Lake

Situated at an altitude of around 13,000 feet and surrounded by lofty mountains, the lake, also locally called Bitan Cho, offers a mesmerizing view.

Its shape resembles an elephant and hence called Elephant Lake.

The shape of the lake resembles an elephant, hence the name Elephant Lake
The shape of the lake resembles an elephant, hence the name Elephant Lake

Dzuluk or Zuluk or Jhuluk or Jaluk

Zuluk is an offbeat destination in the lower Himalayas in East Sikkim and located at an elevation of 10,000 feet. It is a small hamlet on Old Silk Route.

Traders from both India and Tibet in the past used this route (starting from Pedong in India to Lhasa in Tibet) for trading silks, wool, and other materials.

Zuluk has gained fast popularity among the tourists for the beauty it offers.

The Road to Zuluk—32 Hairpin Bends

The road to Zuluk is an astounding spectacle and an absolute masterpiece of engineering. The road has 32 hairpin bends and the zigzag pattern can be clearly viewed from the vantage points.

An ocean of clouds and Mount Kanchenjunga accompanied us al the way to Zuluk. The place remains covered by snow during the winter, but various rhododendrons adorn the place during the summer.

The road remains closed for the tourists during the winter, so plan your tour accordingly. Trips during monsoon are not at all advisable.

What a beauty, 32 hairpin bends
What a beauty, 32 hairpin bends
Serenity dominates the place
Serenity dominates the place

Zuluk—Thambi View Point

Before entering the road to Zuluk, there is an army check post where our permits and other papers were checked.

After driving for a while, we stopped at Thambi View Point (around 11,000 ft) to get a better view of Mount Kanchenjunga. There were eateries as well. The point is close to Zuluk and well known for sunrise views.

Thambi View Point to view Mount Kanchenjungha
Thambi View Point to view Mount Kanchenjungha

Zuluk—a Restricted Area

With the place being close to the China border, it has restrictions for visitors. Domestic tourists approaching from Kalimpong can get the permit from Rongli through the registered tour operator.

Documentation for adults include Passport, Driving License, or Voter Card and for minors include the birth certificate, the photocopies of the concerned original document, and recent photographs of each member traveling.

However, the place is not opened for foreign nationals owing to security reasons.

Gnathang Valley

Ascending further we reached Gnathang Valley, a beautiful valley that remains covered with snow in winter and with flowers in summer, at an altitude of about 13,000 feet.

The view of the valley from the road is spectacular and the place is governed by serenity.

The road further goes up to Old Baba Mandir.

The view point from where you can see Gnathang Valley
The view point from where you can see Gnathang Valley
Gnathang Valley at a distance
Gnathang Valley at a distance

Good to Know

1. Gangtok to Zuluk via Tsomgo Lake

Travelers can choose the route from Gangtok to reach Zuluk via Tsomgo Lake, New Baba Mandir, and Gnathang Valley. But the road may be closed during winter and rainy season due to snowfall or landslides.

2. Kalimpong to Zuluk via Rongli Bazar

Travelers can also reach Zuluk via Kalimpong, Algarah, Pedong, Reshikhola, Aritar, and Rongli Bazaar.

We stayed overnight at Algarah and Aritar before heading to Zuluk for acclimatizing ourselves to avoid breathing problem owing to higher altitude and low oxygen levels.

Suggestions

Kalimpomg is close to NJP Railway Station or Bagdogra Airport. Staying overnight at Padamchen can be a good choice, however, it is better to consult the tour experts.

We hired a dedicated private car from a registered tour operator to visit these idyllic destinations.

Our tour plan was designed by a tour expert who suggested us the best time to visit these destinations, the routes, hotels, duration of the trip, eateries, and shopping places.

Distance and Time Required to Reach Zuluk from Other Places

Place
Distance (approximately in km)
Time to be taken (approximately in hours)
Gangtok
90.0
4.0
NJP Station/Bagdogra Airport
160.0
6.0
Kalimpong
90.0
3.5
Pelling
150.0
7.0
Darjeeling
140.0
5.0
Aritar
41.3
2.5
Pakyong Airport in Sikkim is the nearest airport and Zuluk is around 4-hour drive from the airport.
Mountains hidden in the ocean of clouds
Mountains hidden in the ocean of clouds

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Prantika Samanta

Comments

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    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      9 days ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you so much.

    • profile image

      Priya 

      9 days ago

      Nice one

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      9 days ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you so very much. Sikkim is blessed with mountains, valleys, waterfalls, lakes, and many more.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      9 days ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you, Arpita, please do visit Sikkim.

    • profile image

      Arpita 

      10 days ago

      Just Wow!!! to your article and SikKim..

      I Have visited only one place long back during my school days but now it's a must visit to the other places you have described so so so beautifully.

    • Niks007 profile image

      Niks 

      10 days ago from India

      I m in love with the valleys and mountains of Sikkim just by looking at those photographs. Truly, an elaborated article about Sikkim. It makes the readers visualize the place.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      10 days ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      10 days ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      10 days ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you, Murali, so much. Indeed, it is a beautiful place and worth visiting.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      10 days ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      10 days ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you, Natasha.

    • Natasha Tungare profile image

      Natasha Tungare 

      10 days ago from India

      Such an amazing and informative article! Moreover the photographs catched my eyes!

    • profile image

      Saurav 

      10 days ago

      Nice one..

    • hmkrishna profile image

      Halemane Muralikrishna 

      10 days ago from South India

      Yes, wow - Sikkim is the paradise on earth for the tourists. In your article you've given minute hints to enjoy the components of the heavenly beauty. Photos of Sikkim valleys, lakes, Zuluk, etc. are all very good eye catching ones. You've not left any stone unturned. Great contribution, Ms Prantika. Those who read your article will make it to his bucket-list. A complete article in all aspects.

    • Suchismita pradhan profile image

      Suchismita pradhan 

      10 days ago from Odisha

      Your writing and pics took me on a virtual tour of the place.

    • Vinita-Amrit profile image

      Vinita Amrit 

      10 days ago

      WOW! You and Sikkim both are amazing.

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