Nestled in the laps of the mighty Himalayan range, lies Lachung, a small mountainous village under the district of North Sikkim. A peaceful village perched at 9000 feet above sea level (approx.) is famous for being the gateway to Yumthang Valley, and Yumesamdong a.k.a the Zero Point. Every year tourists flock here to witness the grandeur of the Himalayas and the beauty of its flora and fauna.
The Journey: The best option is to take a car or bike from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Its about 110 kms of drive from Gangtok to Lachung. We saw very less biker gangs on this route as compared to Ladakh or Spiti and bike repairing shops are very scarce as well. Protected Area Permit is needed to travel to these parts and the same can be obtained from Gangtok through any registered tour operators. From Gangtok, drive towards Mangan. You should re-fuel here as there are no petrol pumps or proper garages after Mangan. From Mangan, take the road towards Chungthang. From Chungthang, the route forks and leads to Lachen-Gordongmar and Lachung-Yumthang. There is a police check-post after Mangan where a copy of the permit needs to be submitted. Word of caution, the road from Mangan to Chungthang can get very tricky, especially during the rainy season. We visited Lachung during the last week of June 2019 when monsoon had already set in and portions of roads had been swept away and reduced to rubble by the waterfalls and rain. It’s always advisable to follow the District Magistrate and State Police of Gangtok’s tweets on their Twitter handles and check with local travel groups before starting your journey.
The road from Chungthang to Lachung is full of pristine waterfalls that cascade down from the mountains. As we did a bike tour, we really enjoyed getting sprayed with the cold water throughout our ride. Lachung river, which originates somewhere in the Himalayas beyond Lachung, gushes down and meets Lachen River near Chungthang and gives rise to the mighty River Teesta. Chungthang also has a Dam and a Hydro-Electric Power Plant which you can view from the road.
Yumthang and Zero Point: The Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary in Yumthang Valley hosts the Rhododendron festival every year from April to May. Its also known as the “Valley of Flowers” as around 24 different varieties of rhododendron bloom here every year painting the whole valley in hues of red, orange, pink and purple. To enter Yumthang valley, you will need to submit another copy of the travel permit the Indian Army check-post after Lachung. Another round of verification is done before Yumesamdong “Zero Point”, which is situated at an height of 15000 feet approx. You might be lucky enough to find some snow here, even in the month of June. The roads are often full of boulders or stream waters, specially during the rainy seasons. The entire drive is very enjoyable and you get breathtaking views as you drive through the green valleys.
Where to Stay: Lachung is full of multiple hotels and lodges, including the highly acclaimed Yarlam resort. Our advice would be to stay near the Army check-post as you will get a good view. Two-night stay is advisable as the drive to and from Gangtok can get be tedious.
Not to be Missed: Tongba/mandokpenaa thee is an the indigenous alcoholic drink made from millets. Its available in all local shops in Lachung and is fermented in a wooden vessel and sipped using a wooden straw.
Also, we were lucky enough to catch a few late bloomers during our visit despite April and May being the prime season for Rhododendrons.
Hope you enjoyed reading about our experience ! You can find more pictures on our Instagram account. Keep Trotting !