In line with the vision of border tourism, the northeastern state of Sikkim, particularly North Sikkim, is planning to welcome foreign tourists in the twin villages of Lachung and Lachen to boost the economy and attract international tourists. As per reports, the state government, led by Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang, will formally request permission from the central government for this initiative.
Aiming for 'Sema Darshan' development, the state government has recognised the tourism potential of these two border villages, which receive many tourists during peak seasons from March to May and October to December.
It's important to note that foreign tourists who want to visit Lachen, located near the Sino-Indian border at an altitude of 2,750 meters, require an Inner Line Permit (ILP) issued by the Union Home Ministry due to its proximity to the border.
Lachung is a scenic village near the Tibetan border, dotted by the Lachung River. It has the 19th-century Lachung Monastery, set amidst apple orchards. Close by, the Yumthang Valley hosts the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, a haven for various rhododendron species. This valley is famous for its waterfalls, pine forests, and natural hot springs.
Near Lachung is another beautiful village called Lachen, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and forests. It is the starting point for exploring Chopta Valley, the famous Gurudongmar Lake, Lhamu Lakes and many other tourist spots. The two villages collectively contribute to the state's economy through tourism. Opening up to foreign tourists will significantly boost this revenue, benefiting local businesses and economic development.
Before heading into the Yumthang Valley, take some time to visit the Yumthang hot spring. You'll need to walk a few thousand yards to reach the hot spring. The water is full of sulfur and is believed to have healing and therapeutic properties. There are huts and a few pools where you can soak and enjoy a hot bath in this natural spring.
Zero Point, located about 50 km from Lachung, is near the border, so not everyone can access it easily. Despite its popularity, one of the most exciting things to do in Lachung is embarking on a multi-day trek to Zero Point. Found in Yume Samdong, this area is surrounded by snow-covered mountains. It's a hotspot for travellers in Sikkim and a significant part of Lachung tourism, attracting people worldwide.
Gurudongmar Lake is one of the highest lakes globally, 17,800 feet above sea level. While it's an ideal destination for summer trips, it also draws many visitors during winter because a portion of the lake remains unfrozen. A day trip to Gurudongmar Lake, about 3 to 4 hours away from Lachung, is one of the best experiences.
Bhim Nala and Naga Falls have multiple levels, and reaching these beautiful spots in North Sikkim requires a few kilometres of trek through rugged terrain. It's a great place to relax and appreciate the wonders of nature.
See the snow-covered mountains, valleys, and pine forests at Mount Katao in Sikkim. It's a must-see natural wonder in the region and a thrilling activity in Lachung, especially for trekkers and adventure enthusiasts. During spring and summer, you can enjoy the sight of rhododendron, poppy, and primula flowers. In the winter, when it snows, you can also participate in activities like skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing.
Samten Chorling, or Lachung Monastery, is a significant Buddhist religious site. This architectural gem was constructed in 1850. Surrounded by mountains and inhabited by Buddhist monks, visiting this monastery is worthwhile. Make sure to come here during the annual mask dance festival performed by the Lamas, one of Lachung's most famous and vibrant celebrations.
When you're in Lachung, consider spending a day in Chungthang, where the Lachung and Lachen rivers converge. Here, you can visit a sacred stone called Naydo, believed to bear the holy imprints of Guru Padmasambhava. There is also Chungthang Monastery, which houses rare Buddhist paintings and sculptures.
Neighbouring countries like Bhutan, Tibet, and Nepal influence Sikkim's cuisine. It blends local and regional flavours, featuring soups, dumplings, stews, meats, and vegetables. Some traditional delicacies include Phagshapa, a spicy pork fat dish stewed with radishes. Another dish is Gundruk, made from fermented mustard, cabbage, or radish leaves and can be used in soups or as a side dish. Sinki is similar but made from radish roots. Kinema is a soybean dish high in protein, often served with rice. Bamboo shoots are loved in Sikkim, used in curries and known as tama curry, often seasoned with turmeric.
To reach Lachung and Lachen, reach Sikkim's capital, Gangtok, first. Before setting out, obtain an Inner Line Permit (ILP), a mandatory requirement for North Sikkim. From Gangtok, you can hire a taxi or opt for a shared vehicle to reach Lachung, which is 6-7 hours away. If you wish to head to Lachen, it is about a 2-hour drive from Lachung. Remember that road conditions in this region can be challenging, especially during the winter months, so it's wise to follow local guidelines and ensure you have the necessary permits.