West Sikkim is one of the most popular tourist spots in Sikkim, with Pelling being the most popular town. It is divided in three parts-Upper, middle and lower Pelling. It seems that this place has entirely been developed for tourism because the road is lined with hotels and restaurants. In this post, I will share the places to visit in West Sikkim, how to reach there and where to stay.
Darap village and Dentam village are located a few kilometers away from Pelling.
How to go around sightseeing?
- Book a cab(private or shared) through one of the many tour operators in Pelling. An entire day sight seeing will cost you Rs. 2500 or Rs. 2800. You can however, ask the tour operators to call you if they find another group interested in going for sightseeing as well. The tour operators call you back to tell you if another group contacts them as well. We were joined by two other girls traveling together and paid Rs. 1400 for the same. The tour included Darap village, Rimbi waterfalls, Orange rock garden, Kanchendzonga falls, Khechoperi lake, Changey falls, Pemyangtse monastery , Dentam village(from a distance) and Singshore bridge.
- Two of the major attractions, Pemyangtse Monastery and Rabdentse ruins can be covered by walking. I saw a couple of tourists on cycle, maybe you can rent a cycle, however, you may encounter steep gradient in many places.
This scenic village is 7km from Pelling. People here grow cardamom. We walked through this village for about 10 minutes and went back to the cab however, spending a few days in this beautiful village would be ideal. Cardamom plants are tall shrubs with flowers growing at the base, just above the soil.The driver told us that these flowers turn into cardamom in about 3-4 months.
Rimbi Waterfalls/ Kanchendzonga waterfalls/ Changey waterfalls
Entrance fee for Kanchendzonga falls: Rs.20/person
I am clubbing the three together. If you are trying to fit everything in one day, I recommend not spending much time on these.
Orange rock garden
Entrance fee: Rs. 20/person
A winding downhill walk through a garden brings you to the Rimbi river. Here, you can soak your feet in the ice cold water, feel the refreshing breeze on your face and watch the river flow past and make eddies at a distance.
The driver will show you Dentam village from the top and claim that it looks like the map of India, but none of us could see any similarity so we agreed and moved on. It’s just a tourist trap, they are just adding a point. If you are staying longer, maybe you can visit it and appreciate it better.
Also known as the wishing lake, Kechoperi lake is a sacred lake for the Buddhists. Many legends are associated with it and the water of this lake is considered therapeutic. A 15 minutes leisurely walk through the serene tropical forest will take you to the lake. It is shaped like a foot print and the Buddhists believe that it is a blessing from Goddess Tara.
Legend of the Khecheoperi Lake
The legend says that the place was once a grazing ground, full of stinging nettle. Native Lepchas use bark of the nettle for various uses. Once a Lepcha couple saw a pair of conches from the air embed themselves into the ground, that led to the formation of this lake after violent shaking. The lake is considered to be the abode of Tshomen Gyalmo, chief protective nymph of Dharma, blessed by Goddess Tara.
You can pay your respects at the shrine. There are a large number of fishes in the lake.
Trek to the top of the Khecheoperi lake
You can trek to the top to see the lake. It is from this vantage point that it looks like a footprint. Based on your stamina, the walk can take anywhere between half an hour to an hour. There is a beautiful monastery at the entrance.
Admission fee: Rs. 30/car(parking fee)
About 5 km from Pelling is the highest suspension bridge in Sikkim and second highest in Asia. It connects two gorges, greatly reducing the travel time. Singshore bridge offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. It is open everyday from 6AM to 6PM.
It is the first skywalk in India and there is a huge statue of Avlokiteshwar close to it. You can visit it if you have time, but don’t be disheartened if you are unable to see it.
Sanga Choeling monastery
We could see this monastery only from the outside as it was already late. It was built in the late 17th or early 18th century by Lama Lhatsun Chempo and is a part of Buddhist pilgrimage.
Entrance fee: Rs. 20/person
A pleasant walk will take you to the Pemyangtse monastery. From Upper Pelling, walk in the direction of Gayzing and you will reach there in about an hour. It is a very prominent Buddhist monastery of the Nyingma order and controls all other monasteries of the same order. It was built 1705 by Lama Lhatsun Chempo.
Interior of Pemgyatse monastery
The monastery is triple storied.
The first floor is dhukhang or the prayer hall.
The second floor is Guru Lhakang & Kagyur Lhakang (Hall of the holy text).
The third floor, Zhangthokpalri has the model of Celestial Palace as seen by Guru Rinpoche in his dreams. The third floor also has a collection of artifacts like parts of the original monastery made of wood, old drums and trumpets, lamps, costumes worn by performers during religious celebrations, old vessels and some artifacts from the Chogyal dynasty. The view of the mountains from the monastery is spectacular.
Entrance fee: Rs.25/person
It is located 3 km from Pelling in the direction of Gayzing. The ruins are not a part of any tour and you will have to go on your own. Rabdentse was the second capital of Sikkim, the first being Yuksom.
Take the quiet and scenic walk through the Sidkeong Tulku bird park leading to the ruins of the palace from the 18th century. An attack by Nepal had the then Chogyal Tenzing Namgyal flee to Tibet. After the Indo-Sino treaty was signed in 1793, his son Tsudphud Namgyal returned to Sikkim. He shifted the capital to Tungogng due to the proximity of Rabdentse to Nepal.
The ruins are surrounded by well maintained, lush green lawns and the view of the mountains is stunning. I highly recommend that you visit this place.
How to reach Pelling?
A shared cab from Jorethang, will bring you either to Gayzing, the nearest prominent city or Pelling for Rs. 120/person. Taxis to Gayzing are more frequent. A shared taxi will cost Rs. 50/person from Gayzing to Pelling. On our way back we booked a shared cab from Pelling to Jorethang through a tour operator for Rs. 200.
Other places/treks of interest in West Sikkim
Apart from the places that I have mentioned, there are plenty of other places that you can visit. A trek through the Hilley- Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary will give you some amazing views of the rhododendron flowers. You can visit Yuksom, which is apparently also the starting point for the trek to the base camp of Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world.
From Pelling, we went back to Jorethang to go to Namchi. To read about South Sikkim, read my blog post Exploring South Sikkim- Namchi, Damthang, Ravangla.