Yumthang Valley in Sikkim
A word of caution! Beware!
A trip to the Yumthang Valley or the Valley of Flowers in Sikkim can leave you in an enchanted state for days.
Valley of Flowers
This valley is a natural landscape filled with hot springs, yaks, rolling meadows and the Teesta river. It is as if, a painter has etched its expression of wild imagination on to the canvas of mother nature. Surrounded by the Himalayan range and located in North Sikkim, reaching here can be a daunting task for many. This is for good as well because such a thing that brings you unadulterated happiness and is capable to make you think that ‘you should be spending the rest of your life here’ or ‘what are you doing with your life stuck in the traffic or making money!’ shouldn’t be so accessible easily, for humans have a penchant to destruct even the most beautiful of things. There is one another valley of flowers trek in Uttarakhand in India.
Where is Sikkim Valley of Flowers Located?
It is at an elevation of 3,564 meters, approximated 11,693 feet above sea level. It is 150 kilometer from the state capital, Gangtok.
What’s the best time to reach the Yumthang Valley in Sikkim?
The valley is closed from December to March because it receives heavy snowfall during these months. Spring in the valley isn’t pleasant either. However, the hint of the beautiful season starts early, inn late February and by the mid-June, the flowers take over and envelopes the entire landscape. To an artistic eye, it might look like a rainbow of flowers.
How can you reach the Yumthang Valley?
The nearest accommodation can be found in Lachung. There is also a forest rest house in the valley but you might need to check with the management if you are allowed to stay there and make a pit stop. However, the tourists can travel from all the way from Gangtok to Lachung to immerse themselves in the scenic sights. A direct stretch isn’t possible because the weather here is generally unpredictable, the road is bumpy and it becomes dark at 5:00 PM. You need at least two hours from Lachung to reach the valley, which is 125 km from the state capital. After your trip, the day would be almost over and you would require an overnight stay at Lachung before returning to Gangtok. During your road trip to the valley, river Teesta would flow beside you in utmost serenity. You can totally forget the count of waterfalls and springs you would see during this trip.
What makes the Valley of Flowers special?
The valley hosts the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, which in turn is home to the over 35 species of rhododendron. The sanctuary is spread across 34 square kilometers Rhododendron is also the state flower. Besides, you can find iris, primulas, cobra lilies, louseworts, poppies and other flowers to keep you company. During summers, the villagers take their cattle to graze in the flowery green pastures, which is known as yaylag pastrolism. Yes, just exactly you saw in those paintings when you were a kid. Skiing is also available for the tourists during snowfall.
The valley happens to the situated in the tree line, which means an altitude level unsuitable for trees. However, on the contrary, you can see rhododendrons, Himalayan flowers, and trees making this valley of utmost picturesque.
Any possibility of degradation here can’t be overlooked, seeing how this place is giving in to commercialism so quickly.
Best time to visit Lachung/Yumthang
Plan your trip to Sikkim from April to May to see the rhododendrons in full glory. You can also plan your trip when Losar festival is taking place, from February to March. This is also a good time because you can see the locals living their traditions, eating and drinking their traditional food. However, you would have to give the Flower Valley a miss.
The whole area is under Army control due to the proximity to the China border. To visit Lachung and Yumthang, you need to take special permits from Gangtok Tourism office or at Chungthang Sub-Divisional Magistrate's Office. However, it is advised to leave it to the tour operator’s office to make your trip hassle-free and easy.
What to carry
You don’t have ATMs here, so, carry cash! Medicines for allergy, common cold and motion sickness is a must. Carry enough woollen clothes and rent an overcoat, gloves and snow boots from a local vendor.
The Himalayan Journal by Dr. Joseph Hooker compares Lachung and Yumthang to the valleys of Switzerland. If you are in India, it would be such a shame to never visit these places.