Singelela-Goechela Trekking: To the foot of Kangchendzönga
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The 8586-metre-high Kangchendzönga is the third highest mountain in the world. It rises majestically above Sikkim. This 8000-meter peak marks the border between Sikkim and Nepal. We go on an exciting circular trek on an unusual route to this mighty ice giant. The way there leads along old shepherd’s paths, the way back we take the classic route. Along the way, we enjoy the fantastic mountain panorama with numerous snow and ice peaks. The highest point of our trek is the Goecha La, which is almost 5000 meters high. Here we have the third highest mountain in the world within our grasp.
In terms of landscape, Sikkim is one of the most varied regions in the Himalayas. Below the high snow peaks, Sikkim is very green and a botanical paradise with dense forests, rhododendrons, orchids and giant ferns. The former kingdom of Sikkim, which now belongs to India, lies between Nepal and Bhutan as well as India and Tibet and is also culturally enormously varied. Before and after the trek, we visit the most exciting places in Sikkim.
- 22-day trekking on ancient paths of the Yak herders
- Beautiful view of the 8586-metre-high Kangchendzönga
- Crossing several passes between 4000 and 4950 meters
- Large monasteries and small villages
- Former Kingdom of Sikkim
Important note: The costs are based on a Zurich-Delhi return flight price of CHF 750, which has been the average flight price in recent years. Since the corona and energy crisis, flight prices have fluctuated greatly and can also be significantly higher, especially the shorter the flight is booked. We charge the actual flight prices at the time of booking. If the flight costs are lower than CHF 750, the travel price will be reduced by the difference and if they are higher, the travel price will be increased. It is also possible to book the flights yourself. In this case, CHF 750 will be deducted from the tour price.
We recommend booking the tour early. Flights are often half the price or less compared to last-minute flight bookings.
It is possible to book a single room and tent for a surcharge. In some accommodations (depending on the tour in small hotels, guesthouses, with local families or in monasteries), space is often limited and a single room cannot be guaranteed. This applies in particular to lodges in Nepal, where there are usually no single rooms available at all. This circumstance is taken into account in the single room supplement and does not entitle you to a price reduction.
If you would like a double room/tent but no room partner of the same sex can be found, you will receive a single room/tent. In this case, Himalaya Tours will pay half of the supplement and you will only be charged half.
(Meals included B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)
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.
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
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
Sikkim’s indigenous people and shaman ceremony
After breakfast, we drive to Rumtek on the opposite side of the valley. From our accommodation, 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
Today, the Kagyu monasteries of Rumtek are on the program. 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 not only received asylum from the King of Sikkim, but also land and support for the construction of a new monastery in Rumtek. His home monastery in Tsurphu in Tibet served as the model for the building. 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. 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. Afterwards, a varied drive takes us first through 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. The journey then continues uphill to the town of Ravangla. 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
«Freed from all our sins»
After a leisurely breakfast with the family, we have time to explore the village of Kewzing. On the onward journey, we visit the Tashiding Monastery, which stands on a cone-shaped mountain. Next to the monastery, there are several chortens. It is said that just seeing these chortens frees us from all our sins. We can try this out! The prayer walls with the mantras artfully carved in stone are beautiful. Unfortunately, the stonemason who created all these works of art passed away a few years ago and it is often difficult to find successors for this ancient craft. We drive past villages which are mainly inhabited by Nepalese ethnic groups. At the village of Rinchenpong, a dirt road leads the last kilometer to our accommodation, a typical Bhutia farmhouse. If we feel like it and don’t arrive too late, we take a half-hour hike to a viewpoint near the farmhouse.
Overnight stay in an easy farmhouse lodge in Rinchenpong (1600 meters). (B,L,D)
Drive time 2 – 3 h, hike 1 – 2 h
We set off early today. After an hour and a half’s drive, we reach Uttare, the starting point of our trek. Our crew is already waiting for us. All the luggage is carried by horses or yaks, so it will take a moment to load everything onto the pack animals. Now we are off. We hike uphill through dense forest on a narrow paved path along the Simphok Chu stream. It is our first day of trekking and so it is particularly important not to set off too quickly. We reach a clearing in the forest with several houses, Alp Chitre. The last section up to the top of the pass on the Singalila Range is steep and we have to earn the breathtaking view. We are here on the border with Nepal, and on a clear day we can enjoy a spectacular panorama westwards to Nepal and eastwards to Sikkim. We stay here in Chewa Bhanjyang for the next two nights. This is important for good acclimatization, as we are already over 3000 metres high.
Overnight stay in a tent in Khiva Bhangjang (3200 meters). (B,L,D)
Driving time 1 ½ h, trekking 4 – 5 h, ascent 1050 m, descent 50 m, walking distance 7 km
Ascent of Singalila Peak
Today we have the opportunity to hike southwards along the Singalila ridge up to Singalila Peak (3685 m). On a clear day, we are rewarded with a tremendous view of the surrounding 7000 and 8000 meter peaks. In the north, this is the third highest mountain in the world, Kangchendzönga. The name Kangchendzönga comes from the Tibetan language and can be translated as “The Five Treasuries of the Great Snow”. The hike is optional and it is also possible to spend a day of “dolce far niente” at the camp instead and enjoy the mountain panorama from there. to acclimatize well to the altitude. We can relax in the camp and enjoy the magnificent mountain scenery.
Overnight stay in a tent in Chiwa Bhangjang (3200 meters). (B,L,D)
Optional hike of 4 – 5 h
Well recovered, we continue today. We climb northwards along the ridge of Singalila and hike through large rhododendron forests. These only bloom in spring. Our path leads us up and down and always along the border, with Nepal on the left and Sikkim on the right. The snow and ice peaks of Bhutan can also be seen in the distance to the east. After a long day of trekking, we reach our camp.
Overnight stay in a tent in Dhor (3700 meters). (B,L,D)
Trekking 6 – 7 h, ascent 850 m, descent 350 m, walking distance 14.5 km
Sunrise over the Himalayas
After yesterday’s long day, today is a slightly shorter stage. But it’s still worth getting up early. We climb up to a viewpoint before sunrise. If the weather is clear, we can see from here how the first rays of sunlight reach Kangchendzönga, Mount Everest and many other mountain peaks. Today we continue along the mountain ridge. We hike over several small passes and marvel at the fabulous panorama around us. Shortly before the shepherd’s settlement of Pare Megu, we cross the last and highest pass of the day. At the top of the pass, the colorful prayer flags flutter in the wind. This is said to carry the prayers to the gods who live on the Himalayan peaks. Our camp is a little further down in the flat pastureland on Nepalese soil.
Overnight stay in a tent in Pare Megu (3900 meters). (B,L,D)
Trekking 4 – 5 h, ascent 450 m, descent 250 m, walking distance 8 km
Past the mountain lakes
We are also in the border area between Sikkim and Nepal today and the trail continues partly on the Nepalese side. From the camp we climb up to another pass. The landscape now becomes more open and the tree line is now below us. Passing small mountain lakes, we reach our camp on the banks of the Lam Pokhari mountain lake, where we find ourselves back on Indian soil. Today we sleep at an altitude of over 4000 meters for the first time.
Overnight stay in a tent at the Lam Pokhari mountain lake (4300 meters). (B,L,D)
Trekking 4 – 5 h, ascent 650 m, descent 250 m, walking distance 8 km
Our first high pass
Up to this point, we have already crossed a number of mostly smaller passes. Today, our first high pass is on the agenda. From the camp, we head up to the Daphebir Pass. This has an altitude of 4600 meters. On today’s stage, too, we repeatedly have beautiful views of the mountain giants in front of us, which we get closer and closer to. On the descent from the pass, we reach the tree line again and hike the last stretch through the forest to the Gomathang clearing. Our camp for today is set up on this grazing ground of the local Yak herders.
Overnight stay in a tent in Gomathang (3800 meters). (B,L,D)
Trekking 5 – 6 h, ascent 300 m, descent 800 m, walking distance 6 km
Forests and pheasants
After spending the night below 4000 meters, today is mostly uphill. So we start the day with an ascent over wooded slopes. It’s worth keeping an eye out for birds today. With a bit of luck, we may encounter Himalayan glossy pheasants or blood pheasants. The latter is Sikkim’s national bird. The Kokling Pass at 4250 meters is the highest point for today. After descending from the pass, we climb back up to our campsite in Pangding.
Overnight stay in a tent in Pangding (4300 meters). (B,L,D)
Trekking 6 h, ascent 800 m, descent 300 m, walking distance 10 km
Fantastic mountain panorama
From Pangding, we climb into a side valley where we cross a mountain stream and then set off on the leisurely ascent to Dzongri. Numerous colorful prayer flags flutter in the wind here and mark the place where the gods meet the earth, the people and the yaks. From up here we have a wonderful view of the surrounding mountain panorama. Not only Kangchendzönga can be seen on a clear day, but also the 6000-metre peaks of Kokthang, Rathong and Kabru Dome. We pitch our tents on a beautiful alpine meadow. If you still have the energy and desire, you can climb the 300 meter higher Dzongri Peak for an even better view of the mountain panorama. From here onwards, we are on the main route of the Goecha La trek and so the next few days are no longer as lonely as the previous ones.
Overnight stay in a tent in Dzongri (4000 meters). (B,L,D)
Trekking 3 ½ – 4 h, ascent 600 m, descent 900 m, walking distance 10 km, optional hike 2- 3 h
Turquoise-blue Lake Samiti
We hike mainly up the valley. We continue over some glacier moraines to our camp in Lamuney at around 4,200 meters. Here we can take a trip to the turquoise-blue Lake Samiti, which can be reached in around 45 minutes. Overnight stays are currently not permitted at this former campsite for environmental reasons, which we naturally respect. It is a very charming place, surrounded by rhododendrons and fir trees. If we prefer to rest a little after arriving at the camp today, we will have another opportunity to see Lake Samiti tomorrow on the way to Goecha La.
Overnight stay in a tent in Lamuney (4100 meters). (B,L,D)
Trekking 5 – 6 h, ascent 450 m, descent 350 m, walking distance 8 km, optional hike to the lake 2 h
Up to Goecha La (4950 meters)
We start early in the morning to admire the sunrise from the first good vantage point. We climb up to a viewpoint 4700 meters above sea level. This is often the last permitted point for trekkers. However, depending on the conditions, you may even be allowed to go all the way up to the 4950-metre-high Goecha La. At the top of the pass, colorful prayer flags flutter in the wind, carrying prayers to the gods on the summits. We enjoy the silence and the view of the third highest mountain on earth to the full. Thanks to the early start, we have the time. This is followed by a long descent back to Thangshing, where our cook is already waiting for us with a delicious snack.
Overnight stay in a tent in Thangshing (3950 meters). (B,L,D)
Trekking 7 – 9 h, ascent 850 m, descent 950 m, walking distance 19.5 km
On narrow paths down to Tsokha
After days of trekking in uninhabited mountain terrain, we reach a permanent settlement again for the first time, the village of Tsokha. This former Tibetan village was founded in 1961 by Tibetan refugees, but is no longer inhabited today. Situated on a small plateau, the village offers a beautiful view over the surrounding hills and valleys. On a clear day we can see the almost 6700 meter high mountain Pandim. We enjoy the “thicker air” and the warmth down here at 3000 meters. We sleep one last night in our tents.
Overnight stay in a tent in Tsokha (3050 meters). (B,L,D)
Trekking 6 – 7 h, ascent 200 m, descent 1100 m, walking distance 11.5 km
Back to Yuksom
We walk downhill through the narrow Rathong Valley. The path leads through partly dense, semi-tropical forest and is a nice contrast to the last few days in the stony heights of the pass. Back in Yuksom, we celebrate our successful trek with our local team, perhaps with a “Chang”, a home-brewed beer made from millet.
Overnight stay at the guesthouse in Yuksom (1750 meters). (B,L,D)
Trekking 6 – 7 h, ascent 150 m, descent 1400 m, walking distance 11.5 km
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, the most sacred place where the coronation of the 1st king took place in 1642. Under a gigantic cedar tree (Cupressus 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 3 – 4 h
Large statues, temples and rice fields
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 wonderful view of Kangchendzönga and other snow-capped mountain peaks. From the monastery, we walk to the Chenrezig statue, which was completed in fall 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 unique wooden sculpture carved out of wood. The monastery was involved in the royal government during kingdom times and played an important role. Its name means “the all-encompassing, perfect lotus”. Around midday, we drive on to Turuk in the south of Sikkim. If we feel like it, we will visit the third and oldest of the three large statues, the statue of Guru Padmasambhava on Samdruptse Hill, before Namchi.
In Turuk, we are guests in the family home of a Pradhan family who originally immigrated from Nepal.
Overnight stay in the family house in Turuk (1200 meters). (B,L,D)
Drive time 5 h, hike 2 h
Back to Delhi
This morning we drive to Bagdogra, where our journey comes full circle. From here we fly back to Delhi. We are hoping for good visibility so that we can admire the Himalayas and their high peaks once again. In Delhi, we have a “wash’n change room” at our disposal where we can freshen up for the flight back to Switzerland.
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.
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.
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.)!
- Tour guide
- Overnight stay with local families
- Overnight stay in a tent during the trek
- Food and drinks
- Services included
- Services not included
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.
- 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.
In Delhi, Gangtok and Rumtek we spend the night in a good guesthouse or mid-range hotel. In other places, 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). We try to find the “best” accommodation in each case.
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 an oven for heating in the kitchen. Meals are prepared by the local family and we have the opportunity to enjoy truly local food.
Our expectations of comfort should be rather modest, but in return we have an insight into the life of a local family that is unfortunately denied to most travelers.
Overnight stay in a tent during the trek
On the trek, we spend the night in dome tents with two side entrances from Jack Wolfskin. Luggage can be stored in the awning or inside the tent. We have tested most of the models available and the one we have chosen is the best compromise in terms of comfort, wind stability and ease of pitching.
We have also included a dining, cooking and toilet tent. Folding chairs and tables are available, as sitting on the ground for long periods of time is usually tiring for us Europeans. Of course, we also have all the crockery, cutlery, cups etc. with us.
Food and drinks
In the hotels and restaurants we have various vegetarian dishes and often also dishes with meat to choose from. During the trek, we will eat mostly vegetarian food. However, there are also generally various dishes to choose from. We take lunch with us as a cold lunch, but it can also be a hot meal prepared in the morning, which we carry with us in thermos flasks.
Drinks in the hotels and restaurants are not included (except breakfast drinks). Boiled water or tea can be bottled during the trek, and we also have a Katadyn water filter with us. Tea, coffee (instant) and hot chocolate are also available with meals on the trek.
- Flights Zurich-Delhi return in economy class
- Flights Delhi-Bagdogra return in economy class
- Airport taxes and fuel surcharge
- All overland travel and transfers
- 6 nights in a hotel/guesthouse in a double room
- 2 nights in an easy family house
- 1 overnight stay in an easy farmhouse lodge
- 11 nights in a double tent during the trekking
- 1 day room in Delhi on the return journey
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner during the tour, breakfast only in Delhi
- Entrance fees for sightseeing as per program
- Special permit for Sikkim
- Comfortable sleeping tents, dining, cooking and toilet tents, folding tables and chairs, cooking utensils and dishes
- Local English-speaking tour guide plus accompanying team during the trek
- Extensive emergency first-aid kit
- Pulse oximeter for measuring oxygen in the blood
- Oxygen bottle
- Water filter from Katadyn
- 24h-SOS phone 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 120 – 180 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