Sikkim sees some of the highest tourist numbers in October and November. North Sikkim boasts of some of the most spellbinding views of the Himalayas. The village of Lachung, in particular, is a prominent fixture in tourist itineraries, especially because it serves as a gateway to the high-altitude Yumthang Valley. However, due to the recent incident of flash floods in the region, travellers had to cancel their plans. In a recent announcement, tourism authorities said that several roads have been restored and Lachung has been made accessible.
“Lachung is now accessible after successful completion of road restoration efforts,” said Tourism and Civil Aviation Department Secretary Prakash Chettri. "The scenic destination can be reached through an alternative route via Dzongu-Shipgyer and will be open for tourists from December 1.” He extended a warm welcome to all tourists planning to visit Lachung-Yumthang in northern Sikkim, saying that the alternative route, via Dzongu-Shipgyer, will take an additional 16-17 km to reach Lachung.
With that in mind, here's a guide to the serene Himalayan beauty of Lachung.
Lachung, also known as "the big pass," is surrounded by sky-touching peaks, gurgling streams, and gorgeous orchards. British explorer Joseph Dalton Hooker called it the "most picturesque village of Sikkim" in his seminal work "The Himalayan Journal" (1855). Located at an altitude of 8,610 feet and nestled on the banks of the Lachung chu (river), the beautiful hamlet is one of the few places in Sikkim that continues to follow a unique system of self-governance called the Zumsa.
With a dramatic backdrop of pine-clad mountains and peaks covered in snow most of the year, Lachung is filled to the brim with jaw-dropping beauty. You can take a much-needed break here, and let your body and mind relax on hikes and slow walking trails among the pines.
Across the Yumthang River is the Lachung Monastery, a two-storey gompa established in 1880, belonging to the Nyingmapa sect. Its murals are stunning and definitely worth the trip. The monastery houses a statue of Guru Padmasambhava, believed to be one of the founding fathers of Tibetan Buddhism. Every year, a ceremony is hosted on the 28th and 29th day of the Tibetan Calendar (usually in December).
Timings: 8am - 5pm
Lachung is well-known for its apricots, peaches, and apples. The Lachung Chu river splits this village in two, and apple, peach, and apricot orchards are dotted throughout the village's landscape.
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.
Lachung offers access to some of the most gorgeous spots of North Sikkim, including the surreal Yumthang Valley, renowned for some of the most stunning variety of wildflowers found in India. It is also located above the climatic "treeline." Obtaining required permits in advance of your visit is necessary. We recommend that you pack everything you'll need, including cash, medications, and woollen clothing. 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.
The Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary is located in Yumthang, spanning 34 square kilometres and 2,564 metres in elevation. The rhododendron varieties found here are protected as a natural reserve. Yumthang is one of the places with the greatest concentrations of flower species, including primulas, poppies, iris, geraniums, and others.
Yume Samdong, sometimes called Zero Point, is located 14 kilometres ahead of Yumthang Valley. This is the place to gaze slack-jawed at the jagged peaks that rise towards Tibet, perched at an astounding 15,200 feet. The furthest point that visitors can go is this one. Keep in mind that during the winter, snow frequently blocks the road entirely.
You can choose from a variety of stay options, from homestays to hotels and resorts such Yarlam Resort which has deluxe rooms and suites, LCD TVs with satellite channels, a well-stocked library, snooker and pool room, and multi-cuisine restaurant and a bar. If you're looking for a cosy and comfortable place to stay, Bayul Homestay is a great option. This two-room homestay serves delicious homemade meals and brew local wine from wild blueberries.
Lachung is approximately 125 kilometres from the Sikkim capital of Gangtok. The nearest airport is Pakyong Airport (IATA: PYG, ICAO: VEPY), a seasonal domestic airport serving Gangtok. The nearest railway station is at New Jalpaiguri in Siliguri, West Bengal. The only way to get here is by road. You can drive from Gangtok, or take a bus or taxi. The drive is through mountainous terrain, and it take around 5 to 6 hours due to reach.
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. 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.