Serene and nostalgic South Sikkim lies at an altitude of 400 mtr to 2000 mtr with refreshing views of agricultural fields and terraced slopes. Namchi (meaning Sky high), is the capital of South Sikkim District and is about 78 kms from Gangtok and 100 kms from Siliguri. With some of the oldest monasteries, places of religious significance, breathtaking beauty and new touristic developments it has become an integral part of Sikkim Tourism. South Sikkim is an ideal place for modern day travellers looking for new destinations, as it is the ultimate Green Escape which is yet to be captured by the typical modern tourism concept.
How to reach ?
- South Sikkim is easily accessible by the road, you do not necessarily require an SUV or Heavy duty vehicles to get around most of the places. You might encounter minor landslides but you’ll do just fine. However it is advised that travellers take TA’s suggestion.
- The closest Railway Station is NJP Railway Station, West Bengal which is located at a distance of 98 km from Mangan.
- The nearest Airport for South District is Bagdogra Airport in West Bengal which is located at a distance of 105 kms from Namchi, the district headquarters of South Sikkim.
Places to Visit
One of the newest offerings to the Hindu pilgrims is the Char Dham Sikkim, which is located in Solophok hill which is 5Kms away from Namchi Town. Not only does Solophok Hill have a magnificent view of Mt Kangchendzonga, the place also has a religious and historical significance, as it is believed that visiting this place washes away one’s sin. Lord Shiva’s 100ft statue is the main attraction and is a great piece of architecture. Also, there are 12 Jyotirlingas which are the replicas of the originals. Hence, one can take Darshan of all 12 Jyotirlingas at one location. Char Dham is regarded as the must visit destination especially for Hindus pilgrims whilst at Sikkim.
Tendong hill has become popular amongst the tourist as a trekking destination. Tendong hill has a historical significance for the Sikkimese people, it is believed that Tendong (which means upraised) hill upraised itself during a severe flood and saved the people during the great flood. Tendong hill treak is popularly known as a leisure walk trek taken to rejuvenate oneself, it’s a short one day trek which takes about 6 hrs which is to and fro from Damthang. The trek is full of flora and fauna and provides breathtaking views of the Kangchendzonga, the Chola peaks, Singalila Range and the plains of North Bengal.
Samdruptse – Padmasambhava Statue
A short distance uphill from Namchi, on Samdruptse hill stands the world’s largest statue (118ft) of the Buddhist Padmasambhava, who is seated in the Bhoomisparsha position which is the appropriate one for deliverance of sentient beings in the present age, roughly equal to Kali Yug of the Hindus, or the dark age. It is an incredible feat of engineering, founded in 1997. The views are spectacular from the location and the statue can be seen from across many places in Sikkim and Darjeeling. The foundation stone of the Statue is laid by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on 22-10-1997. There is also a Rock Garden just few kilometers up from the town on the way to Samdruptse. The Rock Garden displays a wide variety of Flora and is a local recreation and picnic spot. Visit this blessed location and get cleansed.
Temi Tea Garden
Temi Tea Garden is popular amongst tourists not only for being the sole Tea Garden of Sikkim, but also for its visual treat for the Nature Lovers. The plantation is lined by tall trees with mauve-colored flowers on one side, and the metaled road turned sharply and parted the garden in two halves, It is a spectacular scenery, to be precise. For photographers, nothing can possibly be better than this amazingly quiet and peaceful place where only Nature reigns. Take some time out of your busy schedule if you are visiting South Sikkim and visit this beautiful Tea garden, which produces Tea, which has/is becoming popular all over the world for its quality.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Sikkim, Ravangla lies at an altitude of 7000 feet. It has several short nature trails and treks to Menam hill and Borong to offer, as well as a trek to Sharchok pephu, one of the four sacred caves of Sikkim. Popular amongst the tourists is also the monastery at Kewzing, which is the only one owing affiliation to the Bon religion. In addition, the newest offering is the Buddha Park. A majestic statue of Lord Buddha Stands at a serene location just uphill from the little town, this was established to mark the occasion of the 2550th birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha.
Ravangla is situated at the base of Menam hill, whose 3,116 metres-height affords one of the undisturbed views of the Greater Himalayas, and on a clear day the sharp-eyed can even look out at the plains of north Bengal on the other side. The beauty of its landscape and its location as a transit point to nearby destinations has made Ravangla a must-visit place.
Approx 17 kms away from Ravangla, Borong is located at an altitude of 5800 feet and is popular amongst tourists as the perfect destination for nature lovers. The trek trail, originating from Namchi or Dhamthang to Tendong – Ravangla Maenam – Borong (5-6 days) is one of the most interesting trails scaling all the hill tops along the route. With Himalayan Mountains situated at the backdrop, Borong offers an ideal place for those seeking peace and tranquility. Apart from trekking, you can go for bird-watching as Borong is home to a wide variety of birds like the scarlet minivet, the black magpie and the Himalayan pheasants.
Envisioned to be one of the top tourism destinations in Sikkim, Yangang is 20 mins drive away from Ravangla. The place itself is blessed with natural beauty and is home to the beautiful Manem hill, Tigday-cho lake, Gurung Monastery (one of the oldest Buddhist monastery). If you are looking for authentic village tourism, peace and tranquillity coupled with adventure sports then Yangang is an ideal destination. The ongoing development works such as construction of Cultural park, Lepcha Heritage centre, Sikkim University and the mighty Sky-Walk bridge project is expected to propel the destination not only to the national level but to place Sikkim Tourism firmly onto the global tourism map.
SIKKIM TRAVEL TIPS
From my observation on the maiden trip to sikkim i wish to state the below for the benefit of all.
1. Sikkim is a real shangrila and unlike other commercial destinations like ooty or darjeelig. Let us keep it as such.
2. It is exceedingly sparsely populated and there are no landgrabbing builders or fancy five star groups building resorts to commercialise the place, nor any real estate rat race. It is populated with tribals and monks who follow a primary occupation, or at the most a poor govt job or as a resort worker.
3. Sikkim is such a quiet place that you can hear your breath and you need to just whisper to be heard. Let us maintain this serenity by not holding obsecene drunken parties or karaoke competitions, which was my experience at the cherry resort at darap. Courtesy an obscene group of several attention seeking adults Sikkim is not a casino hillstation.
4. Tourism persay does not promote economy. It fattens the rich resorts. Remember sikkimese waitresses and cooks dont go home for the night during seasons. In their parlance going home at the end of the day is a day off. Never mind the service tax, tip them generously.
5. The sweet guileless smiling faces of sikkimese is a thing to be etched in your heart.
6. When i questioned the driver as to why no one has a bath at any of the waterfalls, the reply was not on account of ecological amiability, govt orders etc, simply because the sikkimese are exceedingly shy people.
7. Sikkimese girls are sweet, pretty and dressed in wester attire, but not easy, they are shy and have high moral standards.
8. Sikkim is a no smoking state, dont leave behind stubs carelesslessly to start a wildfire.
9. In your entire trip sans gangtok pelling or jorethang you are unlikely to encounter cars before or behind your own vehicle, you might just see a few of the locals trying to hitchhike
10. Sikkim has a sparse and lean police as crimes pretty rare, morals need not be enforced by the law.
11. If hiring a travel agency, pls ensure that your driver has taken his meals on time through the resort. It so happens that travel agencies pay their people a paltry sum of less than 4000 INR be it drivers or office clerks. Either of them slog 13 hours a day and are always on a war footing. The drivers might get a daily allowance, but may end up saving the money by skipping their lunch, as they are from poor families, if so pls get them their meals. Pls keep a keen eye for such subtle things for some of the locals are too proud to confess their hunger.
12. Try buying the local souvenirs like chinese cups, local bakery products. For instance the Lotus bakery near the pemayangtse near pelling gives out its proceedings to educate the poor sikkemese children. The chances are hight that sikkimese shops can give you back the change for either they dont do much business plus they lack proper coins and notes, if it is a paltry sum, let them get to keep it.
13. Sikkimese are a proud but shy lot, let us not be condescending enough to pat their heads and give the chidlren snacks etc. Education is rare and when present, incomplete.
14. Sikkim is not for the hedonist but the for the solace seeker.