Route, Sikkim

Road to Tibet

Serpentine snow-strewn roads, the admirable Kanchenjunga and its range, the historical Jelep-la leading to Tibet and a variety of geographical terrain – from Sub-Tropical Pine forests to the high-altitude Sub-Alpine Forest, then to the red barren Tibetan cold desert

Ancient Trade Route - National Museum, New Delhi (India) Archive

Ancient Trade Route – National Museum, New Delhi (India) Archive

This route connecting Tibet to the plains of Bengal is used from the ancient time. Though there is no proof of the silk trade through this route, it is now commonly known as “Old Silk Route”. During 1884, Britishers explored the possibility of trade routes to Tibet through the Lachen Valley. The Britishers started building of roads in Sikkim. This was viewed with suspicion by Tibet and in 1886, some Tibetan militia occupied Lingtu in Sikkim near the Jelep-la pass. On May 1888, the Tibetans attacked Gnathang below Jelep-la but were driven away. In September of the same year, the British called for reinforcements. And the Tibetans were pushed back from Lingtu. The Britishers appointed Claude White as the first political officer to Sikkim during 1889 and Chogyal Thutob Namgyal was virtually under his supervision. The growing Russian influence in Tibet, the British sent an expedition in 1904. The expedition met with resistance from the Tibetan army, which was defeated, and a treaty was dictated by Col. Younghusband on Tibet. The Treaty secured monopoly trading privileges in Tibet for the British. The so-called Zig-Zag road, with multiple blind turns and bends, is actually Younghusband Track named after Col. Younghusband.

Trip Highlights
  • Admire the extraordinary landscapes of the route, from the lush green forest of Terai to the red barren mountains of Tibet.
  • Venture into the crystal blue Bitan Cho Lake at Kupup
  • Gaze up at the dazzling Kanchenjunga from Thambi view-point.
  • Discover many layers of culture, habitat and religions from the ethnic people of Sikkim
Itinerary – 8 Days
Day 1 – Kalimpong

Pick up from NJP and transfer to Kalimpong. Around 70km from Darjeeling, Kalimpong is located on a ridge connecting the two hills, Deolo and Durpin, which overlook the Teesta river. The weather remains pleasant throughout the year owing to the low altitude. Buddhist monasteries, old churches, and temples coexist in a cheerful society. Kalimpong is known for its flower and orchid nurseries. Overnight stay at Kalimpong.

Day 2 – Echey

Transfer to Echey. Echey (Icche Gaon / Icchey) is a small Himalayan village located 16 Km away from Kalimpong, at a height of 5,800 Ft. This small green village is blessed with panoramic view of Kanchenjunga range and nearby moist vegetation. In the evening, you can go for a nature walk in the forest. Overnight at Echey.

Day 3 – Mankhim, Aritar

After breakfast, transfer to Aritar. Located in east Sikkim, Aritar is steeped in history and natural beauty. A breathtaking view of Khangchendzonga only adds to the many natural riches that Aritar is blessed with. The Lampokari Lake at Aritar surrounded by lush greenery is considered one of the oldest in Sikkim. A short journey leads you to Mankhim, which offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountain range. The Aritar Gumpa is one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim belonging to the Karma Kagyu lineage order of Tibetan Buddhism. Stay either at Aritar or at Mankhim.

Day 4 – Dzuluk

After breakfast move towards Rongli for permit and then move towards Dzuluk (Zuluk). On the way, visit Padamchen, Lingtum and Kuikhola falls. Located at 10,000ft, Zuluk is a tiny hamlet in East Sikkim with a population of around 500 people. In the evening walk to the helipad and enjoy the sunset on the hills. Overnight at Zuluk

Day 5 & 6 – Gnathang

Early morning sunrise trip to Thambi Viewpoint. Come back have breakfast and start your journey towards Gnathang (Nathang). On the way, see the zig-zag road, Lunthung, Thambi viewpoint and reach Gnathang Valley. In the evening visit the Krishna Temple and the age old monastery at Gnathang. Overnight at Gnathang Valley. Next day, After breakfast, start your sightseeing trip to Old Baba Mandir, Kupup Lake, Menmecho Lake*, Tukla Valley, Jelep la Pass*, Yak Golf Course and Ice Hockey Field. In the evening walk around Gnathang Valley. Overnight stay at Gnathang.

Day 7 – Gangtok

After breakfast start your journey towards Gangtok. On the way, visit the New Baba Mandir and Tsomgo Lake. Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, at an altitude of 1,800 mt., is perched on the southern side of a hill. The palace fringed around with buildings and the bazaar, form the nucleus of the city. There are different altitudes in the city itself and the pagoda-like beautiful houses here are more or less scattered and nestled in parks and the green of the trees. The hills, parks and the lush trees with Kanchenjunga looming large in the distance, give it a magnificent setting. Now it is a busy center of trade and commerce and its bazaars are ever thronged with its colorful people.Overnight stay at Gangtok.

Day 8 – End of trip

Transfer to New Jalpaiguri Rail-head or Bagdogra Airport in Siliguri. Tour Ends


Cost

For 2 Pax – 18600 per person
For 4 Pax – 15400 per person
For 6 Pax – 13400 per person


Prices are per person, double/triple occupancy and dedicated transport. Food is included for stays in Echey, Aritar/Mankhim, Dzuluk and Gnathang . Permit charges at Rongli included. Non guided tour. Air / train fare, room-heater and À la carte food orders are not included. Indicative price – subject to change.


Road to Tibet

Customization

You may customize this plan to fit your schedule. Minimum three nights are required. You can substitute Echey with Sillery, another tiny village and Mankhim with Reshi. You may also descent from Ganthang to West Bengal side. Optional extension is possible like West Sikkim (Yuksom, Varsey) or North Sikkim (Lachen, Lachung – will be hectic) or tea gardens in Terai (Makaibari).


Disclaimer

Not suitable for ‘typical’ honeymooners. Less baggage means more comfortable travel. No washing of clothes – wear denims. Mind-boggling cold in winters, so come prepared. Homestay cancellation is almost impossible, for hotels, their cancellation policies applicable.

Health and Risk

You’ll spend three nights at elevations up to 9600 feet and travel as high as 14,009 feet by rough, often stiff, dusty roads. Travelers should be physically fit. This trip is not suitable for those with a respiratory, cardiac, or circulatory disorder or a disability that limits mobility.

Entrance to the trip is regulated by Indian Army and Border Road Organization. All travelers need proof of Indian citizenship and other documentations to get a permit.

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Accommodation

There are hotels at Kalimpong and Gangtok. We prefer family run, independent hotels, preferably little away from the crowded city center. For the rest of the trip, you will stay at home-stay with the owner family. Rooms in these homestays are very basic but clean, and always with western style toilets. Generally, these rooms have two or more beds – a best fit for close relatives or friend group. Those with extreme privacy concern should not stay there.

Food

At homestay, you will get pre-fixed veg or non-veg food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Food choice is limited but it is freshly cooked and tasty. You would like it, if you are not someone like Ego. In cities, there are good restaurants in and out of the hotel with a variety of cuisine and price range.

Transport

We call them MUV in India. They are heavy vehicles suitable for India bumpy hill roads. Mainly manufactured by Mahindra and TATA, having a seating capacity of eight heads. Mahindra Bolero, Mahindra Maxx and TATA Sumo variants are most common. They are powerful but not very comfortable. Recently, more comfortable cars like Toyota Innova, Chevrolet Enjoy are becoming popular. Choice of car mostly depends on the availability.


Source: R. K. Mishra, J. Kiranmai, “State Level Public Enterprises in Sikkim: Policy and Planning” Concept Publishing Company, 2007
Sharma, Eklabya, et al. “A boon for mountain populations: Large cardamom farming in the Sikkim Himalaya.” Mountain Research and Development 20.2 (2000): 108-111.