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Rural Sikkim: experience the country and its people


sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu Rural Sikkim: experience the country and its people

Group trips Sikkim – Hiking and culture

Tourschwierigkeit

Easy

Anzahl Nächte in festen Unterkünften

14 x

Anzahl der Nächte im Zelt

none

Maximale Höhe

4000m

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.

Data

Group travel dates from/to Zurich

19.10. – 03.11.2024

Prices

6-10 people CHF 4’690
3-5 persons CHF 4’900
2 persons CHF 5’320
Supplement single room CHF 650

Brief description

The small former kingdom of Sikkim lies between Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet and is now part of India. The region ranges from hot, subtropical locations of 300 meters to icy heights of over 8000 meters. An impressive biodiversity can be found here in a very small area. Many of the inhabitants work in agriculture. Fifteen years ago, the small Indian state had the visionary idea of switching to organic farming throughout Sikkim. Today, 66,000 small farmers do not use any pesticides or artificial fertilizers. With this unique project, Sikkim has become a beacon example for many other countries and regions.

Our round trip focuses on beautiful nature, scenic highlights and the life of the locals. We have the opportunity to stay overnight with a local family and thus gain a wonderful insight into village and family life in Sikkim. We also visit the most beautiful monasteries and oldest temples in this culturally very exciting region.
sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu Rural Sikkim: experience the country and its people
sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu Rural Sikkim: experience the country and its people
sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu Rural Sikkim: experience the country and its people
sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu Rural Sikkim: experience the country and its people

Highlights

  • Exciting tour through “biological” Sikkim
  • Overnight stay with local families
  • Nice insight into life and culture
  • Varied nature and landscape
  • Lake Tsomgo at an altitude of 4000 meters on the border with Tibet

Route

sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu Rural Sikkim: experience the country and its people

Best time to travel

sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu Rural Sikkim: experience the country and its people
sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu Rural Sikkim: experience the country and its people

Itinerary

(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. Towards evening we return to Gangtok and continue to Rumtek on the opposite side of the valley. Here we spend the night in accommodation that places great value on ecology. In the large garden, we are sure to learn one or two exciting things about ecology in Sikkim.

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

Drive time 4 – 5 h, optional hike 1 ½ – 3 h

5. Day

Indigenous people, shamans and organic farming

Today we experience an exciting and very varied day and gain a deep insight into rural life in Sikkim. After breakfast, we take a hike on narrow paths across terraced rice fields to a small indigenous settlement. 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. Some of the villagers make their living from farming and we learn exciting things about field work and agriculture. It is impressive to see what easy means are still used to work in the Himalayas. Much of the work is still done by hand. In the afternoon we visit the monastery “Lingdum Zurman Kharwang”. 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 1 – 2 h

6. Day

Old monastery, green tea garden and a visit to a local family

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 Karmapa is one of the most important reincarnations in the Tibetan Buddhist world and the head of the Karma Kagyu school. This is one of the four main branches of Tibetan Buddhism. If you follow the road lined with prayer flags, you will come to the original old monastery of Rumtek, which dates back to 1734. It exudes a wonderful sense of tranquillity and is situated on a mountain ridge with fantastic views 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. Afterwards, a varied drive takes us first to the largest tea garden in Sikkim. The Temi tea garden is known for its excellent, organically grown tea and is an insider tip among connoisseurs. In the evening we reach a typical Bhutia village. Here we are guests in the home of a family and immerse ourselves in the culture of the Bhutia Sikkimese, who originally come from Tibet. We end the evening with a traditional Bhutia dinner in the easy kitchen of our host family, followed by a small cultural performance around the campfire. Of course, a “Chang”, a home-brewed beer made from millet, is a must.

Overnight stay in an easy family house in Kewzing (1550 meters). (B,L,D)

Driving time 4 – 5 h, hike 1 – 2 h

7. Day

Hike through the fields

A beautiful hike takes us past small villages and across fields. We are amazed at how fertile Sikkim is and what can be grown here. The walk takes about two hours. Our destination is the sacred cave of Khangdusangpo, which has been used as a meditation cave for many centuries. Our vehicle then takes us to Tashiding. Next to the local monastery are several chortens. It is said that just seeing these chortens cleanses all sins. We can try this out! The prayer walls with the mantras artfully carved in stone are also beautiful. Unfortunately, the stonemason who created all the works of art passed away a few years ago.

Yuksom is now just a village, but was once the capital of Sikkim. The most popular trek in Sikkim starts from here and leads up to the almost 5,000-metre-high Goecha La pass near the 8,000-metre-high Kangchendzönga. We don’t go quite that high, even though the path to Dubdi Monastery leads steeply uphill on a beautiful hike. Dubdi is the oldest monastery in Sikkim, which was built in 1701.

Overnight stay at the guesthouse in Yuksom (1750 meters). (B,L,D)

Drive time 3 h, hike 2 h

8. Day

Sikkimese organic farming

Today we have a longer hike planned and set off straight after breakfast. There is a lot to see in the gardens around the easy houses, between which we walk uphill. Spring is the flowering season and fall is the harvest time for black cardamom. The 1 to 2 meter high plants are widespread throughout Sikkim and provide local farmers with an important income. The harvested capsule fruits are traditionally dried over an open fire in large stone ovens, giving the spice its smoky flavor. Our route takes us uphill for a good 2 hours to a small village. Here we are invited to a traditional lunch with a local family. Afterwards, the family shows us the terraced plantations on the steep slopes around the house. It’s interesting to see what they grow. In addition to lots of vegetables, there are also roots and plants that are used to make medicine. All agriculture in Sikkim is organic and Sikkim was declared an “Organic State” at the beginning of 2016. Artificial fertilizers, pesticides and genetic engineering are prohibited by law.

Overnight stay at the guesthouse in Yuksom (1750 meters). (B,D,L)

Hike 4 – 5 h

9. Day

Sacred wishing lake Khecheopalri

This morning we visit the coronation site of the first king of Sikkim. A small temple and a huge stupa herald the place where the empire was founded. We take a walk to the Norbugang Chörten, where the coronation of the 1st king took place in 1642. Under a gigantic cedar (Cypressus cashmeriana) stands the stone throne on which Chogyal Phuntsok Namgyal was crowned King of Sikkim by three lamas from Tibet. Lhatshun Chempo gave the king his ancestral name, Namgyal – this was the beginning of the Namgyal dynasty. On our onward journey to Pelling, we take a beautiful hike, mostly uphill to the sacred, wish-fulfilling Khecheopalri Lake. We pass small villages, terraced fields and plantations where cardamom is grown. The original name of the lake was Kha-Chot-Palri, which translates as the “heaven of Guru Padmasambhava”. The small, legendary lake is sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus. From the end point, we continue through a varied landscape of terraced rice fields and remote settlements to a Sikkimese guesthouse below Pelling.

Overnight stay at the guesthouse below Pelling (1700 meters). (B,L,D)

Driving time 3 – 4 h, hike 4 h

10. Day

Mountain panorama and giant statue

If the weather is fine, it’s worth getting up early today and driving to the Nyingma monastery Sanga Chöling before breakfast. From there, we enjoy another fabulously beautiful view of Kangchendzönga and other snow-capped mountain peaks. From the monastery, we walk to the Chenrezig statue, which was completed in the fall of 2018. The newly built complex also includes a skywalk and a gallery inside the statue. At a height of 41 meters, it is the tallest of the three large statues in Sikkim. After breakfast at the guesthouse, we visit the famous 18th century Pemayangtse Monastery with its uniquely carved wooden sculpture. The monastery was involved in the royal government during the kingdom and played an important role. The Pemayangtse Monastery is also called the “Perfect Sublime Lotus”, which means “the all-encompassing, perfect lotus”. From the monastery, we hike to the ruins of the former royal fortress Rabdentse

Overnight stay in the guesthouse below Pelling (1700 meters). (B,L,D)

Drive time 2 h, hike 2 h

11. Day

Through the jungle

Our hike today takes us through a jungle-like forest. We come to a village inhabited by the Gurung ethnic group. This is an ethnic group that can also be found in many places in Nepal. The region is known to be very fertile. Our journey takes us to the village of Dentam, which is not far from the border with Nepal. Here we stop at a cheese dairy. Visits are not possible, but we can stock up on Amul lassies or Gauda cheese if the cheese dairy store is open. We continue past villages which are mainly inhabited by Nepalese ethnic groups. At the village of Rinchenpong, a dirt road leads us the last kilometer to our accommodation, a typical Bhutia farmhouse.

Overnight stay in an easy farmhouse lodge in Rinchenpong (1600 meters). (B,L,D)

Drive time 2 h, hike 2 – 3 h

12. Day

Hike to remote temples

Today we discover the rural surroundings of Rinchenpong on foot. We first hike through an oak forest to a nearby hill where there is a lonely monastery and, if we are lucky with the weather, enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and the Kangchendzönga massif with the mountain giants Pandim, Kabru and Narsing at 1900 meters. Later, we discover the lonely hamlets with their traditional Lepcha houses and experience the rural, natural way of life of the small farmers. In the evening, we have the opportunity to attend the evening ceremonies and evening prayers in the village monastery.

Overnight stay in an easy farmhouse lodge in Rinchenpong (1600 meters). (B,L,D)

Hike 4 – 6 h

13. Day

On to Darjeeling

From Rinchenpong, our tour continues to the Darjeeling region in the state of West Bengal.

On a varied journey, we leave Sikkim and drive to the “tea city” of Darjeeling.

Overnight stay in a hotel in Darjeeling (2100 meters). (B,L,D)

Ride time 4 – 5 h

14. Day

«Toy Train» and «Darjeeling Tea»

In good weather, we set off early in the morning for Tiger Hill (2590 m). We enjoy a spectacular sunrise and a fantastic view as far as the Kangchendzönga massif, the third highest mountain in the world. If the weather is fine, you can see as far as Mount Everest. Afterwards we take the famous “Toy Train”, which was built over 120 years ago. The ride on this narrow-gauge train is an exciting experience. After lunch we visit a tea plantation for which Darjeeling is so famous. The main harvest time is March to October. Depending on the season, there is less activity in November and no tea is harvested during the winter months.

Overnight stay in a hotel in Darjeeling (2100 meters). (B,L,D)

Travel time 2 – 3 h, travel time toy train 2 h

15. Day

Back 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. (B,L,D)

Flight time 2 ½ h, travel time 3 – 4 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

19.10. – 03.11.2024

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 level or occurrence on the trekking route, etc.)!

sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu Rural Sikkim: experience the country and its people
sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu Rural Sikkim: experience the country and its people
sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu Rural Sikkim: experience the country and its people

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 – 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
    • .
    • Sensitivity, flexibility and no fear of contact in easy conditions.
    • Overland trips of 1 – 5 hours.
  • Accommodation

    In Delhi, Gangtok, Rumtek and Darjeeling, we spend the night in a good guesthouse or mid-range hotel. In other places in India, 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 any 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 expectations in terms 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
    • 11 nights in a hotel/guesthouse in a double room India/Sikkim$
    • 2 nights in an easy farmhouse lodge in Sikkim
    • 1 night in 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 according to the 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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