A Pocket Guide to Traveling Sikkim at Minimal Spending: 10 Days Itinerary

    (Note: The North Sikkim was on a sharing basis of 7 people in a Bolero, food, and lodging included. Day 2, 3, 8 and 9 charges are as a total on a small vehicle. Foreigners can avail of the permits here. Indians are requested to carry identity proofs and passport photos for the Inner Line Permits (ILP)/ Protected Area Permits PAP/ Restricted Area Permits (RAP) which can be availed through local operators, but independent travelers/bikers will be needing this. Nationals from Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, and Nigeria has to apply for the permits through the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.)

    Air as clear as it could be, mopped of all the smoke and pollution. Down the slopes, stepped farming framed the view. Organic farming runs to its full here, under no circumstances it is to be compromised. Hospitality, people offering out homestays in the most homely ways possible. Although the roads are not in good shape, you would often find help on your way. Cars readily giving you passage without honking, habitually stopping by if one’s transport is down. Evenings spent in a reverie, sitting on the benches of a lit and busy promenade of the Capital City. And a stark awe-inspiring landscape always accompanies you like your shadow, everywhere you go. Welcome to India’s very own Shangri-La, Sikkim. The flagstone courtyard of the Himalayas.

    While Sikkim will never fail to amaze you with its minimalistic way of living, it is more the elements of Nature that will resonate with your every footstep through the State. Be it the cascades of Pelling openly hidden amidst the greens or the rugged terrain of the cold desert in the North or the peace redefining itself at the high altitude Gurudongmar Lake, or the snow-covered roads to Nathu-La, Nature will mesmerize you in different attires. And if these are not enough, Buddhist chants will always do its magic on you. The colourful prayer flags, circumambulation of the perimeters of the monasteries while revolving the prayer wheels, the stupas and the inscriptions “Om Mani Padme Hum” literally engraved on the rocks and walls showing you path in case you are lost. To top it all, a constant peak will guarantee that you don’t lose your interest. Mt Kanchendzonga. The third highest peak of the World, and India’s highest will embezzle your heart away, every so often. To make sure it does anyway, visit Pelling. Rinchenpong, even better.

    So, here’s your itinerary to Sikkim on a budget. It covers most places. The silk route and an offbeat Rinchenpong-Kaluk was a matter of more money and time I did not have then. Soon I will be doing them so that I could add it here later on. Till then, your 10-days itinerary to Sikkim awaits.

    On the Way to Gurudongmar @DoiBedouin
    On the Way to Gurudongmar

    Day 1: Visit Gangtok (INR 300 in sharing)

    Gangtok being the capital city of Sikkim is the most populated area of the State. And if one wants a budgeted itinerary, one should opt to visit Gangtok on their first day. Air.  

    Pro Tip: Visit Gangtok on the first day. Try to avail a hotel in the M. G. Marg market area as the taxi stands are located there and all four districts are easily connected to Gangtok. Also, you can visit the market whenever you want. If you are bored in your hotel room you can go for a stroll too. The traffic there, is one way. In case you get a hotel at places other than the market area, your to and fro fare would increase. Connect to the local tour operators at M. G. Marg or at Vajra Taxi stand to visit the districts, on the first day itself as you would need permits to visit the border areas, namely North and East Sikkim. 

    Reaching Gangtok by noon will provide you much time for the first-day local sightseeing. Avail a taxi from the local taxi stand and visit Enchey Monastery at a fare of INR 30 per person.

    Enchey Monastery: Photo by Jayashree Sengupta @DoiBedouin
    Gangtok Nightscape: Photo by Jayashree Sengupta @DoiBedouin
    The day is mostly spent by visiting places and the night is all about staring at the lit-up mountains in front of your hotel windows. 

    Coming back head to Deorali Bazar, where you can visit Namgyal Institute of Tibetology and Do Drul Chorten (closing time- 4:00pm). It’s a little uphill and needs a little walking. Coming down towards the main road you could get the ropeway, hop in and go to M. G. Marg (ticket at INR 117pp). Although it’s a to and fro journey, however, it is better to get down after one trail as that would save the taxi fare or the toil if you choose to walk. And then spend your whole evening at CCD or Baker’s café or walk around the marketplace. Do visit Café Sass and Guff to have a bird’s eye view of the night lit city.

    Day 2: Local Sightseeing (INR 1800)

    The local sightseeing is categorized as 5 points, 7 points and 10 points with the charges as Rs 1200, INR 1500 and INR 1800 respectively. The notable points include the Rumtek Monastery, Ranka or Lingdum Monastery, Tashi View Point, Ganesh Tok, Hanuman Tok, Banjhakri waterfalls, Bakthang waterfalls, and Sikkim Himalayan zoo. Try out the Sikkim attire for a few minutes for rent of INR 50 for a photographic memoir.

    car rates sikkim doibedouin
    Local fares for Luxury Tourist Vehicle

    car rates prevalent in sikkim doibedouin
    Normal Taxi fares

    Pro Tip: Try to finish off by 5:00pm. The places get closed by then. Get hold of a driver on the day before as that would save you time, on Day 2. Start off as early as possible in the morning to cover all the places. And yes try to memorize few words in Nepali. Trust me it helps a lot.

    Day 3: Gangtok- Tsomgo Lake- Nathu La- Gangtok (INR 2500)

    On the way to Nathu La, you would come across two lakes, namely Nathu La Lake and Tsomgo/ Changu Lake. The physical state of the lake varies depending on the season of your visit. You would be mesmerized by a frozen lake during November to Mid-April and a clean lake for the rest of the year. And yes, all through the way, the snow-covered terrain would keep on fascinating you. Nathu La marks the border with China. The terrain is windy and one might have a bit of breathing difficulty here. Walking at a light pace and avoiding any rigorous activity would minimize that. Visit the memorial Harbhajan Singh Baba Mandir and return to Gangtok by evening.

    Checkpost for NathuLa: Photo by Jayashree Sengupta @DoiBedouin
    Check Point for Nathu La

    Pro Tip: Get up early as vehicles are not allowed after 10:00 am to cross the checkpoint to Nathu La.

    Day 4: Gangtok- Lachung (First day of North Sikkim touring) (INR 5000 pp)

    This is one long and tedious journey through trees, waterfalls, and tunnels. On the way, you would come across Butterfly waterfall. It is said, that in autumn it is a dwelling of colorful butterflies. The road bifurcates at Chungthang, one towards Lachung and the other towards Lachen. Lachung valley is situated on the banks of Lachung Chu River and is the gateway to Yumthang Valley.

    Chungthang Valley: Photo by Jayashree Sengupta @DoiBedouin
    Chungthang Valley


    Day 5: Lachung- Yumthang Valley- Yumsamdeong- Lachung

    The destination is the Zero Point or Yumsamdeong where it is literally numb cold. You can feel your fingers getting frozen even inside the gloves. But the view is breathtakingly beautiful. Play in the snow, make a bunch of Olafs, well you will not run short of snow here. And yet again a word of caution, since it is a high altitude place, some excited jumping would easily drain you out. So whatever you do, do it at a slow pace.

    Greeneries along the Lachung Chu: Photo by Jayashree Sengupta @DoiBedouin
    Lachung Valley: @DoiBedouin
    Greeneries along the Lachung Chu and the valley in between the giant mist-covered mountains.

    The journey is through the Yumthang Valley Natural Reserve. The month of April-May blossoms with the rhododendrons. The varied colored blooms are a delight to the eyes. In between, you can have your favorite momo and a cup of tea.

    Through the Yumthang Valley Natural Reserve: Photo by Jayashree Sengupta @DoiBedouin
    Yumthang Valley: Photo Courtesy by Jayashree Sengupta @DoiBedouin
    The vibrant Yumthang Valley Reserve. The vale is sprouted with various colours of purple to red and yellow. 

    Ice flakes on pine cones: Photo by Jayashree Sengupta @DoiBedouin
    Yumsamdeong Snowing: Photo by Jayashree Sengupta @DoiBedouin
    Ice flakes and snow everywhere!
    Pro Tip: Get the boots at Yumthang for INR 50, you will need it in Zero Point. And also bring a flask so that you can carry tea along with you. And preserve nature, do not litter the grounds with plastic disposal.

    Day 6: Lachung- Katao- Lachen

    Katao is towards the east of Lachung while Yumthang and Yumsamdeong on the northern side. It is a military area and the peak i.e. Mt. Katao is not literally visited. However one can view the Lachung valley from the top. The road detour includes few waterfalls, streams and of course snow. From thereon head straight right ahead to Lachen.

    Pro Tip: Since you are staying an extra day at Lachung, get up early in the morning and trek down to the Lachung Chu river side on the first day and visit the Lachung Monastery on the second. You will have your morning walk and could make the most out of your visit.


    Day 7: Lachen- Gurudongmar- Kala Patthar- Gangtok

    Well, save the best for the last. Get up early around 4:00 am in the morning. You are supposed to reach Gurudongmar before 10:00 am. It gets too gusty thereafter. The lake is situated at 17.300ft; a glacial lake and if you visit during February-mid April you would find a frozen lake. The road to Military base camp is too jerky, however beyond that, the road runs through rugged terrain surrounded by white snow-capped mountains and the journey itself becomes beautiful.

    Gurudongmar Lake, the Holy Lake, offer your heartfelt prayers here: Photo by Jayashree Sengupta @DoiBedouin
    Gurudongmar Lake, the Holy Lake, offer your heartfelt prayers here

    Pro Tip: On a slightly unofficial note, try visiting Tso Lhamo Lake which is beyond the Gurudongmar road. The permits are not available, hopefully someday it will be. To be honest I have not visited myself but someday I hope too.

    A slight detour would take you to Kala Patthar. As the name suggests, it is a black rocky mountain all covered with snow. The view from there is seriously spectacular. It is literally snow everywhere. You can even slide in the snow here.

    Way to Kala Patthar: Photo by Jayashree Sengupta @DoiBedouin
    Cherishing Memories: Photo by Jayashree Sengupta @DoiBedouin
    Cherishing Memories at Kala Patthar. You would experience all the colours of geography here!

    The return journey to Gangtok from Lachen is tiresome. Pre-book a hotel at Gangtok because all you need is a night of good sleep for the next day’s journey.

    Day 8: Gangtok- Temi- Namchi- Ravangla (INR 3000)

    From Gangtok, head out for Temi tea Garden. Sikkim’s internationally famous organic tea garden where the road looped through stretches of the tea garden. If you are visiting in October-November you will find cherry blossoms along the roadside adding to the hues of green. From there-on head for Namchi and be prepared to be awestruck by the majestic view of the mighty Kanchendzonga all through the road. The notable point are Chardham and Smadruptse and come all the way back towards Ravangla. The journey ends by visiting Buddha Park or Tathagatha Tsal at Ravangla. All three places showcases large statues of Hindu-Buddhist Gods. This is a spiritual trail amidst the greeneries and clouds.

    Buddha Park all lighted up: Photo by Jayashree Sengupta @DoiBedouin
    Buddha Park all lighted up


    Day 9: Ravangla- Tashiding- Pelling- Yuksom- Ravangla (INR 3000)

    From Ravangla travel to Tashiding and on the way you would come across Bon Monastery. Then head for the Rabdentse Ruins which was the first capital city of Sikkim. The ruins are at the end of a trail that you need to trek. On the way, there is a bird sanctuary that is structured like a Jurassic Park-like structure. Therefrom visit Peymangste Monastery and Khecheoperi Lake. On the way to Pelling, you will come across Kanchedzonga waterfall which is again the main attraction of Pelling. Yuksom is another small village on the hills. It is the base of most of the treks at Sikkim. If you are up for Goechala, this should be your destination. The day would end by your visit to the Phamrong Falls and returning to Ravangla.

    Pro Tip: Beside the Phamrong falls, take the stairs and trail all to the top to enjoy an all-yours time in the fading light of the sun. Trust me, you will enjoy the effort.

    Day10: Ravangla- Siliguri (INR 170 in a bus)

    Take the bus at 7:00 am from Ravangla market. That would give you time to replenish your vacation even on the way-back-to-usual-blues journey.

    So are you up for backpacking Sikkim and worried about the essentials to carry? Here are the helpful tips on how to backpack northeast India

    A Pocket Guide to Traveling Sikkim at Minimal Spending: 10 Days Itinerary @doibedouin
    A Pocket Guide to Traveling Sikkim at Minimal Spending: 10 Days Itinerary @doibedouin

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    1. What a great place to visit! I love your photos!

    2. OMG this is breathtaking, I love snow... I have been behind my husband to convince him for a bike ride to Sikkim :P... let's see if he agrees... this is really amazing!

    3. Mesmerizing captures and a very useful write-up. I am yet to visit North-east and this is like an ultimate guide for my trip :)

    4. So much great information! Thanks for adding in so much detail.

    5. These look like wonderful places to visit. I love all of your photos, but I think the Gangtok Nightscape is my favorite!

      1. Thank you. That is my first try on night photography, so that is my favorite too.

    6. Such a great post with beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing ��

    7. I can't believe we can visit these many places in just more than a week. The sites are spectacular. I wish to have such a trip as soon as possible!

    8. Wow, Sikkim looks like a dream! The pictures you shared made me want to travel here all the more!

    9. Great pics! This looks like a fantastic trip. Great scenery and so vivid! Love it.

    10. The views in the valley are so wonderful. I hope you had fun.

    11. OH I loveeeee Sikkim. I have been to Bhutan and sikkim plus few other north eastern states are on my list. Amazing pictures <3

    12. I loved all these views. I was talking to a friend about a trip to Sikkim just yesterday and was talking about budget. Thanks for this post, sharing it with her right at this moment.

    13. What a great guide! I'm all about seeing more for Less

    14. Your photos are amazing. I cant wait visit Sikkim soon. Thank you for sharing the guide.

    15. These pictures are beautiful! I'd love to visit.

    16. Thanks so much for sharing - I may put a couple of these things on my list!

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