If there is one place in Sikkim where we would love to go back again and again, then it would be Yumthang Valley. Known as the Valley of Flowers of Sikkim, Yumthang Valley along with Lachung are some of the most beautiful places in Sikkim. Each changing season changes the landscape and beauty of the place. And Yumthang is simply stunning in all the seasons. Because it is here you will get to see the gorgeous views of the snowy peaks along with the rivers flowing along the valley. And if you happen to visit during the spring, the entire valley is full of blooming flowers and rhododendrons. There is nothing that could stop anyone from falling in love with Yumthang Valley.
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Such is the beauty of Yumthang Valley, that Dr. Joseph Hooker in his ‘Himalayan Journal’ of 1855 mentioned that Lachung and Yumthang are the two most picturesque places in entire Sikkim. He even compared them to the valleys of Switzerland. We are not particularly fond of comparing two destinations and giving them names. We believe each place is beautiful in its own rights. Our visit to Yumthang Valley was quite a serendipitous one and I will share the experience here. Usually a trip to Yumthang Valley and Lachung is combined with Lachen and Gurudongmar Lake and it was the same with us.
Where is Yumthang Valley Located?
Yumthang Valley is located in North Sikkim at an altitude of about 3500 metres. It is about 140 km from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. However, you cannot complete the journey from Gangtok to Yumthang on a single day. Usually, you start from Gangtok and stop for the night at Lachung, a small town before Yumthang Valley. The next morning you should visit Yumthang Valley and further to Zeo Point ot Yumesamdong.
Why should you visit the Yumthang Valley?
I can think of so many reasons to visit Yumthang Valley. Let me tell you one by one.
Yumthang Valley is a dreamland.
Located at an altitude of 11800 feet (3500m), the valley is surrounded by snow-covered mountain peaks such as Pauhunri and Shundu Tsenpa as the River flows across it. This makes for a breathtaking sight. This place is definitely a high point of Sikkim tourism!
Valley of Flowers of Sikkim
Yumthang Valley is also known as the Valley of Flowers. The place is said to be located at the end of the tree line, the altitude above which there are no trees. This makes the flora of the region unique. Yumthang Valley not only has trees and rhododendrons but all numerous low growing Himalayan flowering shrubs. The valley is full of a dense bed of rhododendrons and various flowers for miles and miles as far as your eyes can see. And the rhododendrons are of different colors – red, yellow, pink, white, purple and blue. During the flowering season, the whole area is ablaze by the colors of the rhododendrons. The flowering season is from March to May. Yumthang Valley is actually the home to the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary.
Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary
The Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary is located in the Yumthang Valley of North Sikkim between an altitude of 3048 to 4575 m. The sanctuary is surrounded on the east by Chuba-Sagochen ranges, on the west Chomzomei Tso extending to the Lava Pass. Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary covers an area of 43 sq km and has about 38 varieties of rhododendrons. Once you enter through the gate of the sanctuary, there is a board that has the pictures of the types of rhododendrons blossoming here. The Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary is miles ahead of its competitors in Sikkim like Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary, Zema in Lachen just because of its sheer variety and colours. March to May is the peak flowering season in the sanctuary.
Apart from the rhododendrons, you can also see other species of flowers like Potentillas, Saxifrages, Primulas, Aconites, Poppies, Primroses, Cinquefoils, Cobra-lilies and many more. During the season the vast stretch of the valley has a dense bed of rhododendrons and other flowers for miles. And each of the flowers is as beautiful as the other. The photographer in you will go crazy taking pictures of each of them.
Bird activity is also seen during the flowering season. However, if you want to venture into birding, do take a local bird guide with you. You might see some rare Himalayan birds like Ibis, wood Snipe and Himalayan Monal.
Yumthang Hot Spring
The Yumthang Hot Spring is also a great place to visit. Even in a cold climate, the spring has naturally warm water. Just before entering the Yumthang Valley, there is a pathway that goes all the way to a hanging bridge over the Yumthang Chu (river). Prayer flag flutter in the wind over the bridge. Once you cross the bridge, there are a few stairs that would take to 2 huts from where the water from the hot springs is directed to pools. You can take a bath in the pools.
Still not convinced to visit Sikkim? Take a look at these awesome photographs of Sikkim.
Zero Point or Yumesamdong
Further up the Yumthang Valley is the Zero Point. It is another 23 km from Yumthang and at an altitude of 15000 ft. The road to the Zero Point or Yumesamdong is quite treacherous but once you reach there, the views are quite rewarding. It is a place where three rivers meet amidst the snow-clad mountains. The Zero Point is mostly covered by snow all throughout the year.
It takes about another 1.5 hours from Yumthang Valley. This is where the civilian roads end and hence it is known as Zero Point. A little further away is the Indo-China border. However, civilians are not allowed to go beyond the Zero Point or Yumesamdong.
There is a couple of hot springs in Yumesamdong as well. Donki La (a mountain Pass) is located at Yumesamdong. It is the pass that connects Lachen and Lachung at an altitude of 18400 feet. However the pass cannot be accessed. You can simply enjoy the lovely views of the stark mountains at Zero Point.
Yumthang Valley has different beauty in different seasons
Yumthang Valley is most beautiful in the flowering season that is in spring and continues to the beginning of summer. During the winter months, Yumthang is a snow-covered wonderland. Monsoon brings greenery and freshness to the region. In short, Yumthang Valley is gorgeous all the time.
Finally, Lachung is a picturesque town on the way to Yumthang Valley located at an altitude of 8610 feet. A quaint mountain town, the place has its own attractions. Lachung means the “small pass” as opposed to Lachen that means “Big Pass”. From Chungthang, the road bifurcate, one goes to Lachen and the other to Lachung.
The residents of Lachung are known as Lachungpas and are mostly Bhutias. At Lachung you can visit the Lachung Monastery and the Carpet Weaving Centre where the local handicrafts are displayed. The Carpet Weaving Centre is open on weekdays between 8.00 am to 4.00 pm.
Our experience at the Yumthang Valley
Our North Sikkim trip was full of surprises and wish-fulfilment. North Sikkim was on our wishlist for a long time. Surely, it is true that if something comes late in your way, then it must be special. It started with a wonderful view of the Gurudongmar Lake and then our visit to the Yumthang Valley was simply out of the world. We visited North Sikkim during April solely with the intention of viewing the colourful and blooming rhododendrons in the Valley of Flowers. But what did we see instead? A clear blanket of snow all around, soft, cotton-like snowfall that made the atmosphere so Christmas like! And yes, we are not complaining. It is always so great to be surprised and when travel reveals such beautiful surprises, then there is nothing like it!
Yumthang Valley Itinerary
Day 1: Gangtok – Mangan – Lachen
We started from Gangtok towards Lachen early in the morning. We decided to visit Gurudongmar Lake first and you would probably do the same thing. We had booked an entire car for this trip for 3 days. If you are a solo traveller, you can ask the travel agent to club you with other travellers. It will save you some money. Also remember, visiting North Sikkim requires a permit.
The distance between Gangtok to Lachen is only about 100 km but it takes almost 6 hours to reach because of the bad conditions of the roads. Our car took the route through Phamtam and we stopped briefly at the Seven Sisters Falls. Do not confuse this with the Seven Sisters Falls at Cherrapunji. They are different. The next stop was at Singhik Viewpoint near Mangan.
The journey continued till we reached Chungthang, from where the road bifurcates. Chungthang itself is a beautiful place and has a Gurudwara. The road towards the left goes to Lachen. We took it and continued our journey towards Lachen.
Day 2: Lachen – Gurudongmar Lake – Lachung
The next day, we started for Gurudongmar Lake early in the morning. You can read our experience at Gurudongmar Lake and Lachen in the separate article. After a great trip to Gurudongmar Lake, we returned to Lachen, had our lunch and started towards Lachung.
When I was in college, the name Lachung attracted me a lot for no apparent reason. Since then, I had always thought of visiting the place. And now going to Lachung was a wish come true. We reached Lachung at 3 PM and settled down in our hotel.
We went out to explore the small and picturesque village, but unfortunately, rain played spoilsport. It started raining and we had to return to our hotels. While we could not explore Lachung as much as we would have wanted, but the rain was actually a blessing in disguise for us.
Day 3: Lachung – Yumthang Valley – Lachung
We started early towards Yumthang Valley. Last night it had rained but the morning was bright and crisp. At the lower altitudes, we could see a few blooming rhododendron plants. But most of the flowers had withered because of the rain the previous night. We were a tad bit disappointed. After all, we had come to Yumthang Valley specifically during April to see the colorful rhododendrons. It would be a disappointment if we did not see any.
But a surprise awaited us!
Just as we approached the Yumthang Valley, we saw snow everywhere. The rain last night had definitely thwarted our wish to see the blooming rhododendrons, but it definitely opened new vistas for us (quite literally). We were introduced to a land of white snow. The pine and fir trees were all snow-covered and looked just like Christmas scenes we have seen so many times in Hollywood movies! I never thought that I would see such a landscape in India in April! It was a dream come true moment for me.
The snow on the road made it difficult for the cars to move, but after moving at snail’s pace we were finally in the valley. And it was pure bliss! We were happily playing in the snow, throwing snowballs, shaking the trees and what not! I must have behaved like a crazy little kid! There was snow everywhere we looked. The shops were renting gumboots. It is better to rent a boot if you do not have proper shoes.
We had a lovely time at Yumthang. Though we could not go to the Zero Point, the experience we had was totally worth. While returning, we stopped near the hot spring. We crossed the iron bridge with prayer flags, walked through the slippery snow to the hot spring.
The Failed Trip to Zero Point (Yumesamdong)
After enjoying like crazy kids in the Yumthang Valley, we finally decided to start towards the Zero Point. Of course, our driver friend had to coax us a lot into it. We started our journey towards the Zero Point After a few kilometers ahead, we found that the road was blocked because of snowfall on the last night. Because of excessive snowfall last night, cars were not allowed to the Zero Point.
Well, were we supposed to feel disappointed that we could not visit Zero Point? Somehow, we were not. We both were quite happy with our snowy tryst to Yumthang valley. So we returned back. After having hot momos and Maggi from the stall, we were back to our car for our journey back to Lachung.
Nature had stored in a surprise for us even this time. The sun was up and the weather was quite sunny and lively. As we descended, we saw a few rhododendrons blooming. Of course, it was not like the usual blooming, but it was great to see the rhododendrons when we thought that we would not see anything! So it was both the snow and the rhododendrons for us. We were indeed lucky!
So yes, this North Sikkim trip was full of surprises for us. After Yumthang Valley, we visited another wonderful place Dzongu that was definitely not in our plans.
How to Reach Yumthang Valley?
The nearest town is Lachung, 25 km from Yumthang Valley. Lachung is another 116 km from Gangtok. At both Yumthang and Gurudongmar, only vehicles from tour operators who are registered under Sikkim Tourism are allowed. So it is better to opt for a combined tour package for Yumthang Valley and Gurudongmar Lake. The packages are usually for 2N/3D.
A permit is required to visit the Yumthang Valley. You can get the permit from Gangtok itself. Your tour operator will arrange for everything.
If you want to visit the Zero Point, an excess of Rs.2500/- is required to be paid to the driver (as on May 2017). This is Sikkim Tourism approved rate and is not included in the package.
It is recommended to get your North Sikkim trip arranged through a travel agent. Public transport to Lachung is non-existent. You will get shared sumos to Mangan, but after that, it is quite doubtful. Even if you manage to reach Lachung somehow, you will not get any public vehicles to Yumthang Valley. If you are travelling alone, talk to the travel agent to tag you with similar travellers looking for travel partners. You will save a lot of money in this way.
How to reach Gangtok?
The nearest airport to Gangtok is at Pakyong. But flights to Pakyong are not yet regular. Bagdogra is the next nearest one. From Bagdogra, you will get private cars to Gangtok. If you are looking for shared transport, then you have to come to Siliguri SNT stand from where you will get buses and shared sumos to Gangtok. The nearest Railway station is New Jalpaiguri. You will get both private and shared vehicle from NJP or Siliguri to Gangtok
What is the best time to visit Yumthang Valley?
If you want to see the flowers, visit from March to mid-June. The peak flowering season is from kid-April to May. But you cannot predict the weather in the hills. We had visited during April but did not see flowers. Instead, we enjoyed a totally exotic view of the snow.
The monsoon between June and September sees Yumthang Valley in a different way. It is greenery everywhere. Till late July, you can also see small Himalayan flowers blooming as well. However, reaching Lachung becomes a bit difficult during the monsoon season because of frequesnt landslides.
Winters in Yumthang Valley
You can visit Yumthang Valley in the winter months to enjoy the snow-covered landscapes. At November, you can get snow in the valley. However, December and January are usually very cold in the area. Although, Yumthang Valley can be visited all throughout the year, sometimes the roads remain closed during winters because of excessive snowfall. Zero Point is definitely hard to visit during December – January.
Suggested Itinerary of North Sikkim
Only Lachung and Yumthang Valley
- Day 1: Gangtok – Lachungn. Stay at Lachung for the night
- Day 2: Lachung – Yumthang Valley – Zero Point – Yumthang – Lachung – Gangtok
Start early by 4 AM and proceed towards the lake. On the return stop at Chopta Valley. Have lunch at
Gurudongmar Lake and Yumthang Valley from Gangtok
- Day 1: Gangtok – Lachen. Stay at Lachen for the night
- Day 2: Lachen – Thangu – Gurudongmar Lake & Chopta valley – Lachen – Lachung.
Start early by 4 AM and proceed towards the lake. On return stop at Chopta Valley. Have lunch at Lachen and proceed towards Lachung. Stay at Lachung for the night.
- Day 3: Lachung – Yumthang Valley – Zero Point – Lachung – Gangtok
Start early (by 7 AM), visit Zero Point, then stop at Yumthang Valley, return back to Lachung to have lunch and then proceed back to Gangtok. You can also stay back at Lachung and start towards Gangtok the next day.
It is recommended that you visit Lachen and Gurudongmar Lake first and then Lachung and Yumthang Valley.
Pocket Pinch: Indicative cost of Gurudongmar Lake – Yumthang valley – North Sikkim tour package
The cost of North Sikkim tour package can vary according to high and low season, category of hotel and the category of car you choose to travel.
A 3 days/2 nights tour package from Gangtok to Lachen (Gurudongmar lake) and Lachung (Yumthang Valley) can cost around Rs 25,000.00 for 2 persons in high season for a mid-range package. This would include your stay in a mid-range hotel in AP plan, local sightseeing on the way in a vehicle like Sumo, Bolero or Max. In low season, the same package might cost around Rs. 20,000.00. The cost includes the permit fees, accommodations, vehicle and food. Before finalizing ask for what is offered in the package.
Please note that an extra amount of Rs. 2500.00 per vehicle is needed if you choose to visit Zero Point from Yumthang Valley.
You can also opt for group tours to Yumthang Valley. Usually, upto 8 tourists are taken in a single vehicle. A shared trip can cost you about Rs. 2500.00 – 3500.00 per head for a 1N/2D visit to Lachung and Yumthang Valley.
For a 2N/3D group trip to both Gurudongmar Lake and Yumthang Valley, it might cost you about Rs. 4500.00 to Rs. 5000.00 depending on the season.
Where to stay in Lachung?
There are a number of hotels, homestays and resorts in Lachung. While your tour operator can book your stay as per your budget, you can also book it yourself. A few good accommodation options in Lachung are:
- Yarlum Resort
- Snow Lion Mountain Resort
- Le Coxy Hotel
Lachung and Yumthang Valley Travel Guide (FAQs Answered)
Q. Is a permit required to visit Yumthang Valley?
You will need a permit to visit Yumthang Valley and any part of North Sikkim. The permit can be obtained only through registered travel agents in Sikkim. You have to get the permit done at least a day before starting your trip to Lachung.
Foreign tourists will require a Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit North Sikkim. All foreigners should travel in a group of two or more in protected areas wherever allowed. Solo foreigners are not permitted in protected areas. Additionally, foreigners should apply for Protected Area Permit through tour operators who are registered with the Sikkim Tourism Department. These permits are usually checked at various places.
Q. How is the mobile connectivity at Lachung and Yumthang Valley?
You will find a network in Lachung, but the data connectivity can be poor. There is no network beyond Lachung at Yumthang Valley.
Q. What are the food facilities at Lachung?
There are a few restaurants selling food at Lachung. Your hotel or homestay will usually provide all the meals. You can try the local alcohol in Lachung. You will get them in any local shops.
Q. Are there any ATMs in Lachung?
There is an SBI ATM in Lachung. But it is always better to carry cash from Gangtok.
Q. What to carry for my trip?
Carry enough woollens for your trip. If you wish to visit the Zero Point in snow, you can hire gumboots from Yumthang Market. Carry enough cash for your money requirements. The ATMs are not all that reliable in these areas.
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