North Sikkim

You'll need to join a tour to explore the outposts of the Yumthang Valley, where traditional Lepcha villages huddle beneath mountains that rear steeply towards Tibet.

Phodong

The renovated early 18th-century monastery is 1 km above the north Sikkim Highway, about 2 km before Phodong village. It is a pleasant walk up to the little-visited gompa where friendly monks show you around; the track is accessible by jeep. A further hike of 2 km takes you to Labrang monastery of the Nyingmapa sect. Below the track nearby is the ruined Palace of Tumlong, the capital of Sikkim for most of the 19th century.

Lachung, Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary and Yumthang

Recently opened to tourists, Lachung sits among spectacular mountain scenery at 2400 m and acts as a gateway to the increasingly popular Yumthang Valley. Still run on the traditional democratic Dzomsa system, the village is a stronghold of Lepcha culture, though the daily influx of tourists from Gangtok and the rapid construction of lodges to accommodate them has begun to take its toll. Permits are required for foreign tourists, which travel agents arrange as part of a tour, along with vehicle, driver and accommodation.

The road north to Yumthang passes through the
Rhododendron Sanctuary
, which has 24 of the 40 rhododendron species found in Sikkim, along with attractive aconites, gentians, poppies, saxifrages, potentillas and primulas. June/July is the best time to see these and other high-altitude alpine flowers growing in the wild.

The attractive valley slopes of
Yumthang
are surrounded by mountains. The alpine meadow near the tree line is a seasonal grazing ground for yaks. A few minutes' walk from the main road beyond a log bridge over the river Lachung are sulphur hot springs.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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