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Authentic Sikkim


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Group trips Sikkim – Hiking and culture

Tourschwierigkeit

Easy

Anzahl Nächte in festen Unterkünften

14 x

Anzahl der Nächte im Zelt

None

Maximale Höhe

4000m

Data

Group travel dates from/to Zurich

30.03. – 14.04.2024
optional extension until 21.04.2024

05.10. – 20.10.2024
optional extension until 27.10.2024

Prices

6-8 persons CHF 4’740
3-5 persons CHF 4’940
2 persons CHF 5’350
Small group with max. 8 people
Supplement single room CHF 690

We also offer all of our tours as private tours – at your best time and with your desired program.
Contact us – we will be happy to help you.

Short description

North Sikkim is only visited by a few western tourists and has managed to preserve much of its originality. On this tour, we are guests of local families and stay in easy rooms. We can’t expect luxury, but we do get an insight into the lives of Sikkimese families, which most travelers are unfortunately denied. We are amazed at the hospitality of these people and gain a wonderful insight into village and family life in Sikkim.

This tour focuses on warm encounters, beautiful nature and the ancient Buddhist culture. We go on easy hikes through small villages, to fantastic viewpoints, through idyllic valleys or to lonely monasteries… and we can treat ourselves to a hot bath in a healing spring. This is an extraordinarily varied tour through the unknown north of Sikkim. During the optional extension following the two-week tour in North and East Sikkim, we explore the west of this former kingdom.

Highlights

  • A varied tour to the unknown north of Sikkim
  • Stay and overnight stays with local families
  • Exciting hikes in beautiful nature
  • Lake Tsomgo on the border with Tibet
  • Tour through western Sikkim (optional extension)

Travel program

(Meals included B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)

1. Day

Flight to Delhi

Flight to Delhi, the capital of India. On arrival, passport control and baggage collection. Our local partner is waiting at the exit with a sign saying Himalaya Tours. He will organize the transfer to the hotel or for the onward flight.

Note: Depending on the flight connection and arrival time in Delhi, we will spend the night here in a hotel or fly on to Bagdogra and spend the night in Shiliguri.

Overnight stay in a hotel in Delhi.

Total flight time 8 – 11 hours. Either with a direct flight or with two partial flights with one change.

2. Day

Flight along the Himalayas

Today we fly along the Himalayas to Bagdogra. In fine weather, we can see the 8,000-metre peaks of Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Everest and Kangchendzönga. Our journey to Sikkim first takes us through the lowlands, then we cross a dense forest area and cross the Tista River, whose source lies in the border area with Tibet in northern Sikkim. This is followed by a varied ride past terraced rice fields and lush green subtropical forests. We pass tiny hamlets, bustling villages and deserted jungles inhabited only by communities of monkeys until we reach the town of Gangtok, built on a hillside. This is the capital of Sikkim.

Overnight stay in a hotel in Gangtok (1650 meters). (B,L,D)

Flight time 2 ½ h, travel time 5 h

3. Day

Gangtok – capital of Sikkim

After the long tour, we take it easy today. We set off on foot to the Gangtok bazaar. We enjoy the hustle and bustle and maybe even make a deal or two. The Institute of Tibetology has one of the finest collections of Buddhist literature, as well as a large number of thangkas, bronze figures and cult objects. From there we continue to the Do-Drul Chörten. Traditional crafts are taught at the Cottage Industries Institute. Traditional wood carvings, textiles and bamboo items are also available here.

Overnight stay at the hotel in Gangtok (1650 meters). (B,L,D)

Drive time 1 h, hike 1 ½ h

4. Day

Excursion to Lake Tsomgo

Today we are going on an excursion to Lake Tsomgo. In a two-hour drive, we reach the sacred Tsomgo Lake “source of water”, which is only 5 kilometers as the crow flies from the Tibetan border on the way to the Nathula Pass. During the winding drive, we cross various vegetation zones from lush green to barren alpine. In ancient times, Buddhist monks are said to have interpreted the future here based on the color of the water. Once you have reached the glacial lake, you have the opportunity to try out a yak ride along the lakeshore (not included, can be paid for on site) or to climb up a nearby mountain ridge to almost 4000 meters (45 – 60 minutes each way). In good weather, the ascent is rewarded with a magnificent panoramic view of the Kangchendzönga (8543 m), seat of the patron god of Sikkim and the border area with Tibet. Good, sturdy footwear, warm clothing and possibly hiking poles are required.

Overnight stay in a hotel in Gangtok (1650 meters). (B,L,D)

Trip time 3 ½ h, optional hike 1 ½ – 3 h

5. Day

Magnificent waterfalls in a wild mountain and cultural landscape in the north

The north of Sikkim is the least populated region and the culture of the Bhutias and Lepchas is still lived quite authentically here. The Bhutias and Lepchas are proud of their culture and Buddhist ceremonies play a very important role in people’s lives. On the way north, weather permitting, we visit the famous Tashi viewpoint, from where we can enjoy a particularly beautiful view of the 8,000-metre Kangchendzönga and the Siniolchu and Narsing mountains. At Kabi we stop at the historically important village of Lungchok. The monoliths placed here by the indigenous people mark the brotherhood covenant that the Lepchas made with the Bhutias who immigrated from Tibet in the 15th century. Every year, this sacred place serves the Lepchas as a venue for shamanistic rituals in honor of the medicinal herbs. The journey then continues past the impressive “Seven Sisters” waterfall to the village of Tumlong. On a clear day, we have a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains as far as the 7000-metre Jomolhari, which lies on the border with Bhutan. On the way, we make a stop at the monasteries of Labrang and Phodong.

The tour continues to the village of Rang, where we have lunch. On the onward journey, we pass in front of the bridge over the Tista River. Here we are in a region that can only be visited with a special permit. From here we continue on an adventurous, bumpy road. The bridge to the village of Tingvong was buried by a rockslide in 2016. Since 2018, the village has been accessible again without a boat via the new pedestrian bridge. We leave our vehicle in front of the bridge and are picked up on the other bank by a local jeep cab. During a half-hour drive, we are taken to the family home where we are staying today.

Overnight stay in the easy family house in Tingvong (1450 meters). (F,M,A)

Drive time 4 h, hike 1 – 2 h

6. Day

The Lepcha people

On today’s hike, we discover the area above Tingvong and get to know the local people and their way of life. In the different mountain world of the remote Dzongu region, covered in fairytale-like primeval forests, we gain deep insights into the natural, easy life of the people, whose warmth will enchant us. We hike through terraced fields and from one settlement with traditional houses to the next and, with a bit of luck, experience how the fields are plowed with an ox plough and how firewood and green fodder is collected for the cattle. On the farms we make the acquaintance of the animals. With a bit of luck, we will be invited for a cup of tea along the way. Rushing waterfalls, highly biodiverse forests, secluded, mystical places and the rustic way of life of the warm-hearted people will leave a deep impression on us and remain in our memories forever.

Overnight stay in an easy family house in Tingvong (1450 meters). (B,L,D)

Hike 4 – 5 h

7. Day

Hike to a remote healing spring

Today’s hike takes us through typical Lepcha settlements. On the way, we pass a vegetable farm, cardamom fields and broom grass plantations. Finally, we reach a waterfall and cross a suspension bridge. On the other side of the valley, the path leads us to our destination for the day, a hot healing spring. If you feel like it, you can take a dip in the hot water. There is a bath for women and one for men. Afterwards, we return to Tingvong, where we spend the rest of the day.

Overnight stay in an easy family house in Tingvong (1450 meters) (L,B,D)

Drive time ½ h, hike 2 ½ – 3 h

8. Day

Village life in Lachen

From Tingvong, we are driven back to the pedestrian bridge, then in our vehicle back to the checkpoint and from there on to the district capital of Mangan. From the Singhik viewpoint we have a wonderful view of the Dzongu region and the snow-capped mountains around Kangchendzönga. In Chungthang we turn off into the side valley of Lachen. Here the steep mountain slopes are overgrown with dense forest. In the village of Lachen, where traditional houses made of tamped earth and wood still stand today, we stay with another local family. We eat in the cozy kitchen by the heated oven and have the opportunity to watch our hosts cook over their shoulders.

Overnight stay in an easy family house in Lachen (2700 meters). (B,L,D)

Riding time 4 – 5 h

9. Day

Excursion to Tangu in the far north

Today we drive from the village of Lachen through wild mountain landscapes towards Tangu, the last settlement before the Tibetan border. After about an hour’s drive, we hike up the valley along the mountain stream, past lonely hamlets, potato fields and pastureland. We cover the last part of the route by vehicle. Surrounded by magnificent mountain scenery, we enjoy the spectacular panorama, listen to the murmur of the mountain streams and discover the alpine vegetation. If you still haven’t had enough, set off on a hike of around 1 ½ hours into the idyllic Chopta Valley or uphill into a side valley to the small hermitage where the Frenchwoman Alexandra David-Neel meditated in the early 20th century. This hike takes about 3 hours. We return to Lachen in the evening.

Overnight stay in an easy family house in Lachen (2700 meters). (B,L,D)

Drive time 4 hours, hike 3 – 6 hours

10. Day

The monastery of Lachen and on to Lachung in the north-east of Sikkim

On foot, we discover many interesting things in the village. The women tend their gardens, crush maize, look after the domestic animals in the courtyards or devote themselves to preparing tea and meals. We hike uphill to the monastery above the village and enjoy the fantastic view over the entire valley from here. In the afternoon, we drive back from Lachen to Chungthang and from there to the other side valley to Lachung, where we spend the night at the guesthouse.

Overnight stay at the guesthouse in Lachung (2650 meters). (B,L,D)

Drive time 2 h, hike 1 – 2 h

11. Day

Drive to the high valley of Yumthang

We continue northwards into the high valley of Yumthang. The valley is known for its variety of rhododendrons. Not far from a thermal spring, grazing yaks can often be observed. The idyllic landscape is surrounded by magnificent snow-capped mountains and the riverbanks are adorned with prayer flags. On a hike through the valley, we pass through the rhododendron forest, which blooms in spring, as well as pastures and heaths. We walk back as far as we feel like, the rest of the way to Lachung is covered by vehicle.

Overnight stay at the guesthouse in Lachung (2650 meters). (B,L,D)

Driving time 1 – 2 h, hike 2 – 4 h

12. Day

Return journey to Gangtok and on to Rumtek

Today we return from the far north to East Sikkim. During the journey, we once again enjoy the fantastic mountain panorama with its densely forested slopes and can reflect on the impressions of the last few days. If we feel like it, we make a detour up to Phensong Monastery just before Gangtok. We continue through the already familiar and lively town of Gangtok to Rumtek on the opposite side of the valley.

Overnight stay at the hotel in Rumtek (1350 meters). (B,L,D)

Riding time 6 – 7 h

13. Day

Sikkim’s indigenous people and shaman ceremony

After breakfast, we take a hike on narrow paths across terraced rice fields to a small indigenous settlement. We walk through the village and gain an insight into village and rural life. We are invited to visit the village shaman in a house built on stilts. Here we are allowed to witness a ceremony and enjoy a cup of tea together. We then visit the Lingdum Zurman Kharwang monastery. Inside the colorful complex, the murals tell of important events in the life of the Buddha. The cosmopolitan monastery also has an active monks’ school. The young monks can often be found memorizing the Tibetan alphabet or reciting mantras (powerful prayers).

Overnight stay at the hotel in Rumtek (1350 meters). (B,L,D)

Drive time 1 h, hike 2 – 5 h

14. Day

The monasteries of Rumtek

Today, the Kagyu monasteries of Rumtek are on the program. His Holiness, the 16th Karmapa, head of the Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism, lived here from 1959 to 1981. After fleeing to Sikkim due to the Chinese invasion of Tibet, he received asylum, land and support from the King of Sikkim to build the new monastery in Rumtek. His home monastery in Tsurphu in Tibet served as a model. During the 16th Karmapa’s lifetime, the monastery was an important pilgrimage site for Tibetan Buddhists. The 16th Karmapa is one of the most important reincarnations in the Tibetan Buddhist world and the head of the Karma Kagyu school. The Karma Kagyu school is one of the four main branches of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama is the head of the Gelugpa (Yellow Caps) school. If you follow the road lined with prayer flags, you will come to the original old monastery of Rumtek, built in 1734. It exudes a wonderful sense of tranquillity and is situated on a mountain ridge with a fantastic view of the hills and fields of Martam. A small shrine in an adjoining room is dedicated to the protector of the Kagyu school, Mahakala. However, the figure is covered because of its powerful effect. If we feel like it, we can hike back to the hotel in the afternoon or spend a few relaxing hours in the cozy hotel garden.

Overnight stay at the hotel in Rumtek (1350 meters). (B,L,D)

Drive time 1 h, hike 1 – 3 h

15. Day

Flight from Bagdogra to Delhi

This morning we drive to Bagdogra, where our journey comes full circle. From here we fly back to Delhi, where we have a day room in a hotel. We have the opportunity to freshen up for the return flight and eat at the hotel.

In the afternoon/evening (depending on the flight connection), we drive to the airport, where we check in for our return flight to Switzerland.

Day room at the hotel in Delhi. (F,M,A)

Drive time 5 h, flight time 2 ½ h

16. Day

Back to Switzerland

Flight from Delhi to Zurich. We are back with lots of impressions and experiences in our luggage.

Total flight time 8 – 11 hours. Either with a direct flight or with two partial flights with one change.

Ihr Abenteuer

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Group travel dates from/to Zurich

30.03. – 14.04.2024
Optional extension until 21.04.2024

05.10. – 20.10.2024
Optional extension until 27.10.2024

The times given are generally pure driving or walking times. Breaks, stops etc. are also included. The times given are average values based on experience, but may vary depending on road, trail and weather conditions, the fitness of the participants or for other reasons.
The altitude data (for trekking tours) are based on satellite data. These may vary due to walking alternative routes, climbing additional viewpoints, detours due to weather or trail conditions, etc.
We expressly reserve the right to make changes to the program (due to road, trail and weather conditions, flight delays, instructions from the authorities, water levels or occurrence on the trekking route, etc.)!

Further information

  • Tour guide

    This tour is led by a local English-speaking guide. He knows the country, its people and customs and will also translate for us if we come into contact with locals along the way. They often don’t speak English.

  • Requirements

    • An easy tour with day hikes of 1 – 4 hours (optional extension 1 – 6 hours). All hikes are optional and can also be omitted
    • .
    • The hikes are easy to moderately difficult (analogous to red and white marked mountain trails), in bad weather it can also be slippery, good hiking boots are recommended.
    • We carry our own daypacks on the hikes
    • .
    • Overland trips of 1 – 5 hours, 1 full-day stage.
    • Empathy, flexibility and no fear of contact in easy conditions.
  • Accommodation

    In Delhi, Rumtek and Gangtok, we spend the night in a good guesthouse or mid-range hotel. In other places in Sikkim, the accommodation is much easier. We stay in small hotels or easy guesthouses. WC and shower are usually in the room (in exceptional cases on the floor).
    During some nights we stay in very easy lodges or family houses. Here we can expect no comfort, but a lot of authentic life.

  • Overnight stay with local families

    When staying with local families, we should not expect luxury. The bed is easy, the toilet is outside the room and there is only a stove for heating in the kitchen. Meals are prepared by the local family and we have the opportunity to enjoy truly local food.
    Our standards of comfort should be rather modest, but in return we have an insight into the life of a local family that most travelers are unfortunately denied.
  • Food and drinks

    In the hotels and restaurants we have various vegetarian dishes and often also dishes with meat to choose from. During the hikes, lunch is usually taken as a cold lunch.
    Drinks in the hotels and restaurants are not included (except breakfast drinks). For the hikes, boiled water or tea can sometimes be bottled for a fee.
  • Services included

    • Flights Zurich-Delhi return in economy class
    • Flights Delhi-Bagdogra return in economy class
    • Airport taxes and fuel surcharge
    • All overland travel and transfers
    • 9 nights in a hotel/guesthouse in a double room in India/Sikkim
    • 5 nights in a very easy family house in Sikkim
    • 1 day room in Delhi on the return journey
    • Breakfast, lunch and dinner during the tour, in Delhi only breakfast
    • Entrance fees for sightseeing as per program
    • Special permit for Sikkim
    • Local English-speaking tour guide
    • Extensive emergency first-aid kit
    • Pulse oximeter for measuring oxygen in the blood
    • 24h-SOS telephone from Himalaya Tours in Switzerland and our local partner on site
    • E-visa for India plus obtaining
    • Completion of all formalities for India
    • Preparation meeting
    • Map of Sikkim
    • Platypus bag to be used as bed and drink bottle
    • Hot bed bottle on cold nights
  • Services not included

    • Drinks (CHF 80 – 120 per person, depending on the number of participants, possibly slightly higher for small groups)
    • Lunch and dinner in Delhi
    • Drinks in restaurants, hotels and guesthouses

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