from Chungthang, 129 km from Gangtok
Lachen or the big pass, which is located 50 km
away from the Chinese border falls within the restricted area of Sikkim’s
A land of plenty, yet unexploited Lachen is recently
opened for tourists; the most welcome one being the entry to the sacred
and biggest Guru Dongmar Lake
in Sikkim. It is the base camp to many fascinating places, like Chopta
Valley (14, 500ft), Alexander David Neil cave, Green Lake trek, Tso Lhamo,
Lhonak Valley, Lashar Valley etc. It is a good acclimatization place for
trekkers trekking up to 15, 000ft and above.
Acclimatization at Lachen is never a bad option.
Staying there, one can take a stroll around Lachen village consisting of
more than 300 traditionally built houses with a monastery at its top.
Another ancient shrine tells you stories of the Nyingmapa school of
Buddhism. Like Lachung, Lachen has also a peculiar system of government
called Dzumsa something unique to the country. Be it collecting taxes or
setting the dates for moving the herds, seeing to the peoples needs or
representing the village to the outside world, every little work in this
village is being functioned through this effective system of government.
In winters, there is snow all around. If visitors
are interested to see monks dance on the ground laden with snows, then opt
for a visit to Lachen in winters (January) when the monks from Lachen
monastery perform their annual chaam.
Life of the 300 Lachenpa families in Lachen
revolve around milking their yaks, making the churpis out of yak milk,
weaving their warm clothes from the wool of high altitude sheep, building
their houses, collecting firewood, making their special shoes out of yak
skin, attending their Dzumsa meetings and dealing with the occasional
tourists who visit the place.
Lachenpas spent their summers at Palung (16,000ft
approx) or Tso Lahmo tending their flocks of yak. They go there in June
and return only in September.
From Gangtok, ten seater vehicles (Mahindra Max or
Tata Sumo) ply daily in the morning to Lachung and Lachen from Vajra,
Gangtok. The journey to Lachen and Lachung takes about six hours and it
will be comfortable to reserve a vehicle, though it is bit expensive
PLACES TO SEE
hours drive Lachen is Thangu. Few minutes from Thangu is Chopta Valley at
an altitude of 13,200 ft. It is a hotspot in alpine vegetation, orchids,
rhododendrons and other high-altitude vegetation. The valley is criss-crossed
by meandering rivers. An adventurous trek through Chopta valley leads to
Muguthang valley at an altitude of 15, 500ft. The high alpine valley of
Muguthang is only inhabitable for rare high altitude ruminants and their
predators. Very few Dokpas settle here for food and for grazing their
Guru Dongmar Lake in extreme north Sikkim draws
many pilgrims from all areas and is surrounded by many remarkable holy
places like Tamding Rangjon, Namjom Truchu and Chorten Nyima. The lake is
worshipped for long life and epidemic free existence in the land.
Infertile women and couples wishing a male issue also seek blessings at
the lake. Sometimes predictions are also made in the lake. The devout, it
is said, get to see the future in the form of letters or scenes on the
lakes water after the required prayers and offerings have been made.
Guru Dongmar literally
means "The Red Faced Guru" and sounds similar to Guru Dragmar, which means
"The Red Coloured Wrathful form of Guru
Padmasambhava". The lake at an altitude of
17,100 ft freezes during winter except at one spot believed to be
specially blessed by Guru Rinpoche.
Tso Lahmo at above 18, 000 ft is about half hour
drive from Guru Dongmar.
Best Time: mid June to August for high altitude
For the scenic views as well as visit to the
lakes, mid March to May and October-November is best time.
8, 610 ft
22 km from Chungthang, 122 km from Gangtok
Lachung or the small pass has being described as
the most picturesque villages of Sikkim by Joseph Hooker in his Himalayan
Journals (1855). An idyllic mountain village set amidst primulas and
rhododendrons and resplendent in its crown of snowcapped mountains,
breathtaking waterfalls and sparkling streams, Lachung at an altitude of
2,500 meters (8,610ft) above sea level permeates an ethereal alpine glow.
Peopled by a hardy stock of Bhutia who pride in
calling themselves Lachungpa, this is a unique settlement having its very
own self-governing body called the Dzumsa where all local disputes are
settled by consensus.
While you enjoy the beautiful nature, pay a visit
to the Lachung Monastery, which belongs to the Nyingmapa School of Tibetan
Buddhism. The monastery which has monks from Lachung display a wonderful
Chaam in the end of the eleventh Tibetan month (January). You can also
visit the carpet weaving centre. Shy Lachungpa girls engage themselves in
churning out beautiful carpets (opened from 8am to 4pm).
Best time to come: Come during Losar (Tibetan New
Year) in March. The Lachungpas deck in their traditional best and gather
at the public ground and eat, drink and make merry.
The celebration is a weeklong affair at Lachung,
North Sikkim. It is a social event where the villagers come to audience
the colourful play depicting fascinating legends and customs of Tibet.
For the scenic views, mid March to May and
October-November is best time.
PLACES TO SEE
Yumthang, 11,800 ft
Yumthang is called the valley of flowers. The
route to Yumthang from Lachung-adjoining the Singba Forest Reserve (has
over 24 species of rhododendrons) has a very picturesque landscape and is
lined with rhododendrons that bloom in different colour at their best
during the month of May. The valley has a grassy plane area in the middle,
a river on the side and a forest Dak Bungalow,
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surrounded all sides by snow clad mountains.
Before entering the valley a small pedestrian
road goes through a small bridge right way which connects the Yumthang
Hot Spring. Hot water rich in sulphur, emanates from a small spring and
is diverted inside a hut where two pools are made for the bathers. In
such a cold place, it is a very pleasant experience to bath in the
water, which is so hot in its natural form.
6 km further north is a Shiv Mandir.
Another 23 km ahead of Yumthang on the broader
part of the Lachung valley are the hot springs of Yumey-Samdong (15,
300ft) on the river Sebu Chu at the foot of the mountain on which lies
the Donkiala pass that connects the Lachung valley to the Lachen valley.
At Yumey-Samdong, three rivers meet providing yet another scenic view.
28 km from Pelling
Bounded by Kalej Khola on the north, Hee River
in the West, Rangeet and Rangsang Rivers in the East and Samdong reserve
forest in the south, Hee-Bermiok offers the tourist, a wonderful
getaway. You can either trek or bike through the Barsey Rhododendron
Most importantly, this area has one of Asia’s
finest trek route. The 33 km stretch up Gufa Dara to starts from Hee
Trekkers can also follow the same route to
Barsey to enjoy the beauty of Rhododendrons especially in April-May. The
trek route is a 14 km trial with 6 ft wide stone soling. The official
trek starts from a destination point, Samatar (2,694 m), a high place
from where the views of the dense forest can be seen.
Route: Line Dara – Barsey – Deoningaley Dhap –
Jhorbotey – Thulo Dhap – Kalijgar – Phoktey – Chewa Bhanjyang – Uttarey.
A village guest house at Gufa Dara is a good
stay option. This double storied building is in RCC framed structure
with brick and stone wall partitions and GCI sheet roofing has been done
up in a traditional fashion to comply with the village houses. The
building has four bedrooms on the first floor with a corridor and
attached baths. A beautiful lake developed in front of the guest house
is an added beauty there.
Road: Hee-Bermiok is about two hours drive from
Pelling. Shared jeeps are available at Pelling or Gyakshing (Rs
PLACES TO SEE
Cave temple at Ahley
On the way to Hee Goan, a flight of cemented
steps lead you to Ahley cave. Prayers are performed here besides
celebrating the Bala Chaturdesi. Views of the mountain ranges you enjoy
walking the stairs is exceptionally wonderful.
Teyongsi Sirijunga Mangkhim
Manghim is a place of worship of the Limboos.
It is a three storey structure with a star shaped object at top called
the Namoksam, representing five power elements such as earth, fire,
water, air and sky. The main altar is based on eight syllables, which
constitutes the eight syllables of Sirijonga – T as Teyongsi, Y as
Sangaraktshak (protector), Ong as Mangkhim, Si as Simahin (without
boundary), Sh as Shiksha (teaching), Ri as Ritiriwaz (tradition), Jun as
Janjagrankarta (awareness) and Ga as Gaon Samaj Kaa Tara (star of the
There are no idols or images of gods inside the
Manghim; but you will find a bust of Sirijunga.
Sirijonga or Teyongsi Sirijunga Tongnam, the
incarnate of King Sirijunga Hang is considered by the Limboos as a holy
spirit since there is a belief that Sirijunga’s soul in the form of
white bird flew towards the sky from the sack in which his assassinated
body had been thrown into the Kalej River at Martam, West Sikkim.
He was an Ongshi group of Phedangma and hence
knew Yuma Samyo Mundhums. While he was in these areas, he wrote a volume
Yakthung Mundhum Sapla, which was preserved in the India Office Library,
London. The volume served as the base for development of early modern
Sirijunga script. Sirijunga was successful in rediscovering and reviving
this lost script. Thus the credit of bringing about mass awakening
amongst Limboos goes to him.
The Secret Flat Stone
Sirijunga Teyongsi is known to preach Yuma
religion and sermons sitting on this flat near the Yuma Samyo Mangkhim
at Hee Goan. During the summer days, he is known to take rest at the
base of the flat stone where there is a cave like shady place, which is
still seen. Moreover, the flat looks taller with subsequent soil erosion
over the years. People dare not tramp on this stone nor loop any plants
and if one does, he may fall ill.
Sirijunga Phukku or Sirijunga Cave
One has to trek for about two hours towards the
cave and Sirijunga Falls crossing through stretches of paddy fields,
orange orchards and the beautiful villages of Lower Martam. But, if you
take a vehicle till the end of the motorable road, then you need to walk
for only about an hour.
Sirijunga cave is very sacred to the Limboos.
It is located at the confluence of Kalej and Reshi Khola where Teyongshi
Sirijunga took shelter. There is a white thick box-like structure seen
from a distance. People believe that Teyongshi Sirijunga used to carry
Limboo manuscripts in this wooden box and carry around wherever he went
for preaching. Belief is there that this is the same box he had kept in
the cave before his assassination. The box like structure is still seen
in the cave, which is slowly being turned into a stone. In reverence,
the Limboos don’t stamp on the cave and worship their saint at the base
where a small platform has been made for the purpose.
On the right side of the cave there are three
beautiful waterfalls in series of about 200 feet. This falls is also
called Reshi Falls as falls from the Reshi River. The middle one is
higher and is nearer to the cave.
People from surrounding area still believe it
as a spiritual guarded place and every year the Limboos of Sikkim, West
Bengal, Bhutan and Nepal come to this place to pay their tribute to the
WHERE TO STAY & EAT
Staying is not a problem in Hee–Bermiok. It has
well developed homestays. Since eco-tourism is being developed in this
region, you will get acquainted with the local culture, cuisine or
For further info, can contact Hee-Bermiok
Tourism Development & Heritage Conservation Society,
Hee Goan; Mob No:
(write-up contributed by Yishey D.)