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Friday, 11 May 2018

Yumthang Valley, (North Sikkim) . A Place I Would Love to go Back to Someday

    Early morning,6.30 ,we had hit the road already.We head for the Yumthang valley and Zero

Point.The morning mist slowly reveals the beautiful scenery around.My eyes look around for the

bright red in the landscape through the morning haze.With just a few blooms appearing occasionally,I

explain to myself  repeatedly that I have yet not reached that place where the rhododendrons bloom

en masses .Red,purple and violet,I relay my  latest gained knowledge of the varied colours  of the

rhododendrons to the people in the car.We were driving through the Shingba Rhododendron

Sanctuary of North Sikkim.I soon realize that I am a bit early for the bloom.The correct time for

them is actually a month later when the entire valley turns to a red plethora of the state flower.


   I gaze steadfast outside the window of the car as the harsh chill outside reminds me that we are

ascending to an altitude of about 12000 feet. Zig zag roads with rough edged  boulders lie on either

side.I look around with a little wonder, that there could be beauty in such chaos.Nothing seems to be

in order except the serpentine road,that we are driving on .In spite of the elements being the same ,every

place could be so different,I perceive.The road to Rohtang was so unlike this and Kinnaur had a

totally different character.We  drive through a flat land with sharp peaks rising all over the place.

   The purple primulas vie for attention in the otherwise brown landscape,with the pine trees

growing in isolation dotting the landscape.Piles of hard snow lay under the trees in patches.

With absolutely no trace of habitation,we drive on to what seems like eternity.Till a place comes

where we see many cars parked in rows alongside. We see many warm clothing and knick-knacks

were being sold.We had reached the the market place of the Yumthang valley.The river Yumthang(a

 tributary to the renowned river Tista of North Bengal.) meanders through the ranges carving out the

valley bathed in shades of green.
 It is time for some quick breakfast in the asbestos roofed rooms in the Yumthang market place and

get ourselves ready for the snow at Zero Point. Zero Point is the place after which the civilian road

ends,before the Chinese border.

 Maggie,momos or bread omlette,the choice is very obvious,at such a remote place.

 READ HERE-  My experiences at the Gurudongmar Lake,North Sikkim


  Meanwhile, the bells ,chimes and the  items of feng shui at the stalls remind me of

Mcleodgang.,but every moment my thoughts get disrupted by the commotion of the tourists

around.Local Sikkimese girls pull out jackets and gum boots of the correct size from sacks ,as they

rent them out for the snow at Zero point.

In the intervening time ,I hastily click some memories of the valley

quite apprehensive of the weather on the way back. An array of prayer flags flutter in the breeze

along the river bank creating the best ever frames for me.



   With this short break ,the journey continues.The landscape turns to white as we ascend further.The

snow seems to be quite clean ,probably there was snowfall last night.Kids,and adults run out of their

vehicles on impulse to play in the snow.

It had been only fifteen to twenty minutes on the snow,when my kids run back to the car.They had

frostbite,in spite of the gum boots,little breathlessness is felt too. However the coffee sold there helps

to get back things in place.

We board the car,and get ready to descend,though there is a long queue of cars.It is practically a

traffic jam on the mountains.However there are lots of goodies sold right beside the road to keep

ourselves busy.The quintessential Maggie or the boiled chana made the Sikkimese way,with

steaming hot coffee.


We had risked an overcast sky all morning ,and and experienced light snowfall while returning from

Zero point.Under such circumstances we assumed it be more suitable to come down soon.I returned

with a heavy heart at not having a good sight of the rhododendrons.Though I had a memorable time

at Zero Point ,on the snow. The kids had enjoyed playing in the snow too.The rhododendrons would

bloom a month later,somewhere in the beginning or mid May,but the snow at Zero point might reduce by then.

You can't have the cake and eat it too.Can you?

A plant found above the tree line,having  very good smelling leaves,used for incense usage by the local people.Our driver picks up some branches to carry back home.

Zero Point

Loved this in the cold

How to reach
 We started for Yumthang valley after a night halt at Lachung.Yumthang valley is about 25 km from

Lachung and takes about 1.5 hours by road.Yumthang valley is at an altitude of 11800 feet and is

home to the Singba Rhododendron Sanctuary,also called the Valley of flowers.Towards mid May the

entire valley bursts in a riot of colours for the rhododendrons. Since we could not get snow in

Yumthang,we had to proceed till Zero Point which is another 1.5 hours drive from Yumthang,with an

additional rupees 300 per person.Zero point is at an altitude of 1500 feet and 23 km from Yumthang.

It   is the place after which the civilian road ends and hence the name.

The air gets rare there and it is not advisable for kids below 5 years or elderly people to go there.

When in Zero point keep your activities to the low to restrict breathing difficulties.


Tourists are not permitted to North Sikkim without a permit by the Tourism Department of Sikkim.It

can be issued by submitting 3 passport sized photographs and photocopies of  photo identity cards a

day before.You can get it done through any travel agent.In our case it was done by our hotel manager.

Since the roads thee can be very challenging,only Sikkim government registered vehicles are allowed

though private vehicles are also allowed..

The North Sikkim trip
Start from Gangtok - night stay at Lachen - visit Gurudongmar Lake-back to Lachen - lunch at  

Lachen- leave for Lachung - night stay at Lachung -visit Yumthang Valley and Zero point -lunch

at Lachung - back to Gangtok.


This is a 2 night and 3 days package and is charged per person,at the rate of Rupees 3000 per

head(rates vary slightly between travel operators).This includes food and lodging and vehicle

charges. Vehicles leave from Gangtok on a sharing basis.One can even book the vehicle for yourself

if you are traveling in a bigger group.If you wish to visit Kalapathar on the way to Gurudongmar

Lake (we did not opt for this considering weather conditions) or Zero Point after visiting Yumthang

valley,(as we did), you shall have to make an additional payment of Rupees 300 to the driver at the

spot.The trip is undoubtedly little hectic,moreover children below 5 years and adults above the age 
of 60 are not allowed to the Gurudongmar lake.

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