In this post I will be talking about 3 most popular destinations in West Sikkim which are much favoured by backpackers from all over the world- Pelling, Khechuperi Lake and Tashiding. Even if you are travelling on a shoe string budget you could easily get to cover all these areas in one trip. Ideally you need to have a week or two in hand to properly explore these pretty villages.
How to get there
The nearest train station from West Sikkim is the New Jalpaiguri Station (NJP) and the nearest airport is at Bagdogra. Once you have reached NJP or Siliguri you can hire a private car to take you to one of these spots. However you can save a lot of money if you chuck the car and travel in the local transport. There are lots of share jeeps available which would take you to Pelling, Yuksam or Khechuperi for less than INR 200. In case you have missed the jeep then just take a share car to Jorethang (the entry point of West Sikkim) from where you will find transports to all these locations.
The quaint town of Pelling is nestled at an altitude of 2,150 m and lies about 10 km from the district headquarters at Geyzing. This previously virgin territory is now full of hotels and restaurants and attracts tourists from all over the world. In the summer time this tiny strip of town could get really crowded. If you are looking forward to avoiding the crowd and the din then make sure to find a hotel in Upper Pelling which is relatively peaceful. In order to make the most out of your stay in Pelling, try to go there during off season.
Places to Visit
One of the oldest Nyingmapa Monasteries of Sikkim, the Pemayangste monastery comprises of a traditional wood and stone building along with some basic cottages for the monks. Constructed around 1705 this is one of the oldest monasteries of the state. Plan a trip in February to see the fabulous Cham Dance festival held within the monastery complex.
Sanga Choeling Monastery
The Sanga Choeling Monastery is yet another 17th century monastery which lies about 7 km from the Pemayangste Monastery. You need to hike up a 4 km steep trail to reach this pretty gompha. One of the major attractions of this monastery are the old clay statues and the stunning panoramic view.
If you manage to hire a car for sight-seeing then make sure to visit the imposing Kanchenjungha Falls, the misty Singshore Bridge and the nearby waterfall at Rimbi.
Where to Stay
If you want to avoid the thronging crowd then make sure to book a room at Garuda Hotel or the Kabur Hotel in Upper Pelling.
The starting point of the trek to Goechala- the base camp of Kanchungha, Yuksom is a pretty little village which is never crowded with tourists. Mostly frequented by trekkers and backpackers the beautiful village of Yuksom is must visit for the peace loving travellers. Here you can find a handful of midrange and budget hotels along with 3-4 small eateries serving local dishes.
Places to Visit
The Nobrugang or Coronation Throne is the place where the first Chogyal king of Sikkim was crowned. It consists of a pretty park which has a stupa, the throne and a number of prayer wheels. A little walk from the Coronation Throne would take you to the pristine Kathyog Lake which is remarkable for its scenic beauty.
Built in the early 18th century, the Dubdi Monastery is a one and half kilometre steep hike from the Yuksam bazaar. The beautiful trail is dotted with rest sheds where the traveller can sit and enjoy a nice view.
One of the holiest places in India for the Buddhists, the Tashiding Monastery is said to have been visited by Guru Padmasambhava. Situated about 28 Km from Yuksam you can either choose to go there for a day trip or spend a few days imbibing the spiritual atmosphere at Tashiding. There are quite a few backpackers accommodation at Tashiding which provides food and lodging at an affordable rate.
Kangchendzongha National Park/ Zongri Goechala Trekking
One of the toughest trek routes in India the trek to Zongri and Goechala pass would take you through the magnificent Kanchendzonga National Park. You need to visit the trekking office and obtain a permit and hire guide and porters. Since there are not much accommodation on the way, you might need to carry your own provisions and tents. Through the hike is steep and demanding, you will be walking through lush green forests of pine, rhododendron and other Himalayan floras. If you are lucky enough, you might catch a glimpse of a Himalayan black bear, red pandas, marbled cat or musk deer. You can expect to reach Goechala and come back to Yuksom within 7-8 days. However this is a rather high altitude trek which must not be attempted by amateurs.
3. Khechupalri Lake
Khechupalri Lake also known as Khechuperi Lake is a picturesque lake which is about 20 km from Sikkim. This lake full of gold fish is of extreme religions importance to the Buddhists. If you are looking forward to spend an few days here then you need to hike up 2-3 kms to reach the beautiful Khechuperi Village which consists of 5-6 houses. There are a few homestays in this village which offers basic food and lodging at a rather cheap rate. Since there are not much tourist attraction around, you need to spend your time reading, hiking up the nearby trails or going to the little monasteries around.