“Go the extra mile, it’s never crowded there” this quote by Wayne Dyer had inspired me to add the less explored town of Lachung in our Sikkim itinerary. After a few days of enjoyable experience in the capital city Gangtok, it was now time to experience the natural beauty of Sikkim up in the snow clad mountains. The town of Lachung is located at a distance of approx 100 km north from Gangtok and is accessible only by zigzag roads that leads you all the way up through the cute Sikkimese villages. As soon as we entered this town, nature greeted us with beautiful snow-clapped mountains and captivating scenery all around and it was at this point that I realized that the five hours zigzag road journey was totally well worth it!
Things to do in lachung
Zero Point – Yume Samdong
15,300 feet! Yes that is the elevation level of Yume samdong popularly known as Zero point. Filled with snow throughout the year, the oxygen level is low just the the temperatures. This place is named “Zero Point” because it is the last point and there is no motor able road after this place. Due to its proximity to the Chinese border, the visitors are prohibited to go beyond Zero point. No vegetation grows at this altitude and it’s all just snow everywhere. Apart from playing in the snow, you can see confluence of three rivers at such high altitude with surrounding snow covered mountains. Few stalls here sell snacks, Maggi noodles, eggs, tea/coffee (and even alcohol! Shh it’s a secret!) Fancy drinking alcohol at 15000 ft? There are no toilet facilities here though.
Note: Since Zero point is located at a high altitude, oxygen level is quite less thus causing breathing problems. Please ensure proper health before you decide to visit.
The natural scenery of Yumthang valley or the Sikkim valley of flowers has the ability to take you back to your childhood days and makes you reminiscence the usual scenery drawing made by you which contained mountains, sun, a river and some houses and trees. The natural backdrop of this valley contains Teesta river, yaks, hot springs, the mighty mountains, the colorful flowers and small houses around the valley. Yumthang valley is the base for Zero point and it is here you must take a halt to rent & wear the correct gear to go up at higher altitudes. One can walk or sit at peace at the valley to admire the view with a hot cup of tea along with some maggi or momos.
A protected sanctuary filled with approx 40 main varieties of Rhododendron trees is a vast expanse of forest essential to maintain the region’s bio-diversity. This sanctuary lies between Yumthang Valley and Zero point and as you go through the sanctuary to reach Zero point, you will see plenty of flowers in different colors like white red, pink etc. that will instantly lift up your mood. It’s a great place to hear and watch Himalayan birds which is why plenty of bird enthusiasts are attracted to this sanctuary every year. ‘The International Rhododendron Festival’ held from from March to May attracts plenty of visitors to admire and learn more about the bio-diversity. Please be respectful towards nature & do not litter and pluck flowers from these trees.
An offbeat place in Lachung not plenty of people are aware about is the Khanda Waterfall. This waterfall freezes in winter and during rainy season it just overflows. Amazing isn’t it? Imagine having to watch a freezing waterfall! It is just like time has stood still. These waterfall provides a beautiful backdrop for photography and videos and is absolute remote and tranquil spot so much so that sometimes you can have the entire waterfall to yourself. Most of the time the area near the waterfall is covered with snow thus adding icing to the cake. One must visit these waterfalls if you are adventurous enough and wish to do something offbeat in Lachung.
Katao Middle Point – Switzerland of Sikkim
A bit ahead of Khanda waterfall lies the Katao middle point which gives picturesque view of the mountains and its surroundings. This point is covered with snow most of the year and is situated at an elevation of 15000 ft. The katao middle point is so beautiful that it is popularly known as the Switzerland of Sikkim and one feels as if they might have reached heaven. Also an offbeat place just like Khanda waterfalls, sometimes you have the whole view for yourself but ensure to carry sufficient warm clothes as the temperatures can go extremely low.
1) Special permits (Protected Area Permits) are required from the Government to visit all the places mentioned above.
To visit Lachung, Zero point, Rhododendrons sanctuary & Yumthang Valley, one can obtain these permits from either of the following places – Gangtok tourism office, District Administrative center at Mangan or Chungthang Sub-Divisional Magistrate’s office.
To visit Khanda waterfalls and Katao Middle point, one needs to further obtain permissions from The Indian Army.
2) The best place to stay in Lachung is at the Apple Valley Inn (You may book from the link). I stayed there and everyday I woke up to the unbeatable views of snow clad Himalayan peaks.
3) Majority of the places are located at a high elevation and hence please ensure proper health before you decide to visit any of the places.
4) Carry plenty of warm clothes and basic medications for your journey as the temperatures can go quite low even during the day.
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