Pelling – A quaint hill station town with an amazing view
Planning for this trip started in January 2016. My son had started learning about the Northern Mountains in school. I was keen to set up my kids’ first meeting with the mighty Himalayas. It all just fell together.
Pelling (West Sikkim) is a quaint, laidback but extremely picturesque hill station town. It is at an altitude of 6,800 ft above sea level. Its calling card is that this is the closest you can get to Kangchenjunga – “the guardian deity of Sikkim” , “the third highest mountain range in the world”, without leaving the comfort of a good hotel. It is an ideal place to let the mind and soul soak in the tranquil atmosphere and take a break from the busy schedule of life.
Some of the places we visited, things we discovered while in Pelling.
1) View of the mighty Kangchenjunga
When we reached Pelling, it was raining which brought along with cloud cover. This view eluded us for about 2 days and I was worried it was a goner ! Until one morning we woke up , peeked out of our room balcony at 5:30 am and were treated to this view. The trip was totally worth it !
2) Khecheopalri Lake
This is one the the sacred lakes (for Buddhists and Hindus alike) in Sikkim and is hidden within the thick forest surrounding it. Khecheopalri means Mountain of blissful heaven. It is believed that birds here do not permit a single leaf to float on the lakes’ surface – Can you not believe it too ?
There are many legends surrounding the lake, adding to its mystery and allure.
- As per the sacred Nesol text, the lake is considered the abode of Tshomen Gyalmo, the chief protective nymph of the dharma
- It is the residing place of the Goddess Tara and the lake is her footprint
- It is considered to be the footprint of Lord Shiva
The lake can be reached after a 10-15 minutes walk through the lovely, lush green tropical forest. The prayer flags along the way add to the piety of the place. You are encouraged to stay silent which adds to the overall tranquil in the woods.
There is a Jetty at the lake leading to the water front from where prayers are offered. The jetty has prayer wheels fixed along with prayer flags and Tibetan inscriptions.
Water of this lake is believed to have curative properties and is used only for religious rituals. The lake is also known as “wish fulfilling lake”.
3) Pemayangtse Monastery
This is the most famous Buddhist monastery in West Sikkim. Built in 1705, it is one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim. This monastery was built for “pure monks” (ta-tshang) meaning “monks of pure Tibetan lineage” and this is still in practice. Only the monks of Pemayangtse Monastery are entitled to the title “ta-tshang”. The monks of this monastery are normally chosen from the Bhutias of Sikkim.
It is located on a hilltop and is amidst the scenic view of snow capped mountains. It was one of the first monasteries we visited and were impressed with the cleanliness and tranquility of the place. The monks went about doing their daily chores. We visited post lunch and were treated to slight rain and low clouds flitting through the monastery. It was an experience to remember.
The monks were friendly and were happy to pose in front of their teachers’ quarters
Apparently, one could see the Rabdentse Palace Ruins from the monastery, which eluded us due to the dense cloud cover.
4) Khangchendzonga Waterfalls
These falls are right on the edge of the road and very approachable. This is the first view of the falls.
Apparently these falls were discovered by a local tourist operator in mid 90s. To get to the actual falls hidden from the roads due to the lush green forests, one could try ziplining (entrepreneurial I must say 🙂 ) or take a ticketed entry (Rs 10 per person) and climb up a set of steps. There are many stalls setup along the way serving hot momos, freshly made short eats, popcorn, tea etc
You will hear and read about many waterfalls in Sikkim. The state is blessed with these water bodies. Wait until you travel to the Northern part of Sikkim. You will know what I mean !
Travel Tips from my experience
- Don’t let motion sickness due to the winding roads spoil your trip. Consult your doctor and be prepared. For me, it was a lifesaver.
- Carry basic medicines with you in a kit. Some places in Sikkim could be very remote with access to medicine a few hours away
- Try and land at Bagdogra in the am, so you reach Pelling before it gets dark (6 pm). It takes almost 5 hours to reach Pelling due to bad road conditions. We had a few anxious moments due to near zero visibility on the roads
- April and May are great months to catch snow at some places in Sikkim. We also encountered quite a lot of cloud cover and rain during the trip. For clear (and assured) views of the snow-capped peaks, September and October are great.
- Trip to Khecheopalri Lake, Khangchendzonga falls, Pemayangtse Monastery and Rabdanse ruins can be combined in a 1 day trip
- If you have enough time, a home stay at Darap Village is highly recommended. One could do village walks, visit traditional houses, attend cultural shows and get to know more about the Limboo people and their culture. We crossed the village en route to Khecheopalri Lake and it looked quite inviting
- You can combine Chagay Waterfalls and Singshore Bridge together for half day trip. It is well-said, don’t go for the bridge, go for the experience. Walking on the bridge, taking in the serene , lush green surroundings and the gentle swaying of the bridge is to be experienced.
- We stayed at Summit Newa Regency & Spa. Highly recommended hotel, neat rooms, great staff, good food and a great view from the balcony.