Drive to the picturesque Lachung in North Sikkim
Sikkim’s natural beauty bowled us over in Pelling and we found the people very hospitable, gentle and helpful. Lachung was one of the key highlights in my mind during my Sikkim visit in April 2016, having heard that North Sikkim is the most beautiful of the four districts of Sikkim !
The distance of 120 km from Gangtok was covered in around 6 hours, with breaks. Our research told us that the drive to Lachung is very adventurous and picturesque. You can check out this video for a fair account of the road conditions. You will experience driving over running streams and witness innumerable waterfalls along the way. I am thankful that we did not encounter any landslides or traffic pileups.
After a light breakfast in Gangtok, we commenced our journey towards Lachung.
Traveling through the picturesque mountainside, our first pit stop was at Butterfly Park, about 20 kms from Gangtok. The fall derives it’s name from the numerous butterflies that are sighted here during breeding season in May. We were pretty excited about the waterfall since it was the first of the many we were yet to encounter. We walked over a running stream on the road to reach the waterfall.
There was a small, neat tea joint with a Pay toilet, overlooking the valley. The lady running the shop was extremely friendly. I got chatting with her while sipping tea and realized that her 10 year old son walks 4 kms to school everyday. During vacations, he visits his grand parents, who live about 10 kms away, on foot , ALONE ! I was in awe of these folks living in the mountains, with all the hardships, happy and content.
We started on our onward journey and decided that the next stop would be Naga falls. Here’s a photo walk through of the enchanting drive to Naga Falls.
We stopped at the quaint town of Mangan (66 kms from Gangtok) for lunch. It was raining, so we even bought an umbrella here, which served us well. With a quick bite of noodles – yes they are omnipresent and quite well made, we resumed our journey and came upon Naga falls on the main road. It flows beneath a bridge (and sometimes over) that connects the two hill range.
There was a small tea place run by a young couple. They told us that this fall derives its name from a namesake village a few kms away, where the young couple lived. Interestingly, the husband left the serene hills for a better life and reached Tumkur, Karnataka for his engineering. He could not adjust to the non-mountain life and his health took a beating. He now prefers selling tea to practicing engineering, OUCH !
The next stop for us was Chungthang, a small town situated at the confluence of the two rivers Lachen Chu and Lachung Chu, giving rise to the mighty Teesta !
Chungthang is a historical town. It is believed that Guru Nanak have also visited this place. We could spot the golden shine of the Guru Nanak Lama Gurudwara. We could also spot the Indian Army’s presence and a big hydel power station under construction.
From Chungthang, the road bifurcates – 26 kms on the left takes you to Lachen (translating to Big Pass) while 22 kms on the right takes you to Lachung (translating to Small Pass). Our onward journey took us to the right bifurcation and will baited breath we were looking forward to the much touted “Amitabh Bachchan Falls” 🙂 . The falls massive height is the reason it is nicknamed after one of the tallest Bollywood hero.
Its actual name is Bhim Nala Waterfalls. Bhima, one of the five Padavas brother in the Mahabharata, is said to be huge in built and very strong. During monsoon, this waterfall must be just that – a sight to behold. Even in the summer, the fall had plenty of water and the sound of the water crashing to the ground could be heard from afar.
After a short halt, we were now keen to reach Lachung. It was getting close to evening and we wanted to reach before it got dark. I did not realize that my favorite part of the route was yet to come ! Have a look. I just loved these rocks cut into the mountain and the deep deep gorge below
Finally we were getting close to our destination
Recipe for happy travels – Travel tips
- Due to Lachung’s proximity to China, entry to North Sikkim is only possible via a guided tour and must be booked in advance
- Travel permit must be organized in Gangtok 1-2 days before the actual travel date
- All travel is done on vehicle with 4-wheel-drive as the roads are bad and subject to frequent landslides. Our Innova refused to come and we had to switch to a Xylo for this leg of our trip
- Keep some extra warm clothes handy as the temperature in Lachung cab be below zero degree Celsius at most times
- Carry sensible walking shoes and explore the hills by foot. The air is refreshingly clean and you will come back super rejuvenated !
- Lachung visit is normally combined with Lachen and Gurudongmar lake. We did not opt for it due to time constraint and young kids. The oxygen levels at the lake is quite low and can affect kids and old people.
- 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
- 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 better months.
P.S — > I had taken a 10 night Yatra package Sikkim-Darjeeling: Scenic Glory & Monasteries and customized it for my need. We had an Innova all to ourselves and the driver was good. For North Sikkim, a Xylo was provided.